Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 30, 2009
BASEBALL: Take A Ride on the Redding

Anyone who watched the train wreck of Tim Redding's outing today has to be depressed at the news that Oliver Perez has been sent back to Port St. Lucie with a bum knee, leaving Redding in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Jon Niese being 0-4 with an 8.04 ERA at Buffalo (Freddy Garcia's is 8.18) leaves the Mets with fewer options still.

O Pedro, where art thou?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:40 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: The Best Sellers

Interesting list from Yahoo of the best-selling artists (by albums sold) of the decade. It says something about the state of rock that the top seven are two rappers, three country artists, Britney Spears and The Beatles, although there are still a handful of rock acts on the chart.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Credit Where Credit Is Due

George W. Bush, on being thanked for his AIDS initiatives in Africa: "Don’t thank me, thank the taxpayers of the United States of America."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:32 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 29, 2009
WAR: Fear and Responsibility: A Response To Glenn Greenwald

So Glenn Greenwald, responding to a post of mine on Twitter in his column at Salon, refers to me as a "right-wing warrior-blogger". If I was unfamiliar with Greenwald's work, I might think perhaps that he had confused me with one of RedState's resident warriors, Jeff Emanuel or streiff or Caleb Howe; I'm a lawyer, not a warrior, and the closest I have been to a war zone was the day terrorists flew an airplane into my office, an experience I'm not in any hurry to relive or to see anyone else subjected to.

As it happens, this is of a piece with the typical Greenwald style:

Right-wing super-tough-guy warriors project some frightened, adolescent, neurotic fantasy onto the world -- either because they are really petrified by it or because they want others to be.

I won't call this an argument, in the sense of being a connected series of statements intended to establish a definite proposition; it's just shtick. Rather than bother trying to persuade, Greenwald is content to pander to his simple-minded audience's desire to see his adversaries insulted. And the choice of the "fear" taunt is tied to one of the lingering obsessions in Greenwald's writing, his fixation on masculinity.

But let's take up the ad hominem on its terms, not so much to defend myself as to explain why people like me do not think like people like Greenwald. Is it irrational or somehow unmanly of me to "fear" that terrorists could cause harm if brought into this country? Would I be better to adopt Greenwald's pose that terrorism is a "frightened, adolescent, neurotic fantasy"? Let me put it this way. First, I think I have, personally, a very rational basis for considering veterans of Al Qaeda training camps to be dangerous people. But you don't need to have been personally affected by the September 11 attacks to want to prevent terrorists from causing physical harm to yourself or others. To keep this on a personal level, I have a home in a community, New York City, which happens to be Al Qaeda's top target. I feel a special sense of attachment to and responsibility for the community I live in, and wish to see it protected (they even used to have a word for this feeling, it began with "p"). It's easy for Greenwald to be cavalier about terrorist threats to the United States, since last I heard, he does not live here; he's been living in Brazil for years. I also have a family, a wife and children. And it's true: no man, no matter how brave or cowardly, can know true fear until he has responsibility for the lives of his children. Greenwald, so far as I know, has no wife to worry about and no offspring other than the multiple internet personalities he created to sing his own praises. If we must humor Greenwald's dreary obsession with masculinity, perhaps he could learn something: what manhood is really about is using what strength we have to protect those entrusted to our care. And the first obligation of a man since time immemorial is also the first obligation we entrust to our government: to protect and defend against physical threats, especially from those who mean us and ours harm. Worrying about those threats is a sign of responsibility.

Let us proceed then to the merits of the argument.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Johnny Still B Goode

There really is no possible objective way to measure the greatest rock n' roll song of all time, but pretty high on any list would be whether a song was so essential that just about everybody who's ever picked up a guitar had to try their hand at it. I say you can't go wrong with the original, primordial, classic rock standard that's one of the very few songs of the 1950s that sounds as fresh today as it did five decades ago (warning, the volume of these is variable):

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:39 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 28, 2009
POLITICS: Castles of Sand

The Wall Street Journal looks at the severe falloff in tax revenues from millionaires in Maryland after the state socked them with a new, higher tax rate for the purpose of closing a budget gap, a move hailed at the time by supposedly big-thinking liberals. Somehow, Maryland liberals were surprised that this didn't work out:

One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller's office concedes is a "substantial decline." On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year -- even at higher rates.

The easy partisan divide on this issue is over how much of the decline in revenues is attributable to millionaires leaving the state or voluntarily reducing their taxable income (by working less or hiding money in tax shelters) as opposed to the effects of the recession, which the WSJ notes as an obvious contributing factor. But that's only one problem with sharply progressive tax rates; the Journal notes a structural problem that is at least equally serious in times of recession, as New York and California in particular are discovering to their grief. Specifically, the surplus annual income and investment returns of the wealthy tend to be much more volatile year-to-year than the great mass of incomes earned by average citizens.

Let's consider an illustration: in a boom year, the stock market rises 20%, and housing prices rise 30%. Lots of people (proportionately to the number of millionaires) make big gushing spigots of money from this, not just capital gains from sales but commissions, year-end bonuses, the whole gamut of ways people profit in eye-popping amounts from a boom. The average guy sees some extra money too, but he's less likely to see a dramatic percentage increase in compensation. Despite some variations across different boom era, by and large, this has always been true.

When booms turn to busts, though, the high-end incomes are the hardest hit in percentage terms. We think of down times as being harder on the average worker because in human terms they are: it's a lot worse to lose your job than to go from making $10 million a year to $800,000. But when unemployment goes from 5% to 10%, the dropoff in the tax rolls isn't that dramatic, especially given that a lot of those lost jobs were people paying little or no income or capital gains taxes to start with, and so the state budget literally does not feel their pain. Whereas collections from high-end incomes can and do drop off far more than 5% in a year, as the Maryland example illustrates. Here in New York, investment banker bonuses that were once the core of the state and city tax bases evaporated overnight. Put simply, taxing the rich is the least recession-proof revenue-raising strategy you could design.

This would be problematic enough if the federal and state governments were trying to sustain a stable income and socking away the extra money for a rainy day (Gov. Palin in Alaska did something like this with the revenue from oil boom years, but Alaska too is subject to the laws of political gravity). Instead, Congress and the states tend to create new permanent claims on temporary income in the best of times, creating long-term self-perpetuating entitlement and spending programs and hiring more unionized workers. (The Obama 'stimulus' bill combined the worst of both worlds, giving states temporary revenues while demanding that they use them to permanently increase funding obligations, and doing so during a recession). This tax-on-the-boom, spend-through-the-bust philosophy is designed for certain failure; it's not possible it could ever succeed.

Yet, that's exactly how all tax-the-rich systems are designed. And no amount of failure will ever teach their proponents anything.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: The Hazards Of Blogging A Subject You Do Not Understand

I don't know whether Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post is a lawyer, but from this post I have to assume not - and that he really should have talked to a lawyer before publishing it.

The main thrust of Linkins' post is his argument that Justice Scalia in his 2002 opinion in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White somehow endorsed the notion that it's appropriate for judges to make policy. (I have discussed before the importance of that opinion in judicial-nomination fights for a different reason: Justice Scalia noted that the restrictions in question imposed a nonsensical distinction between what a judge can say before and after announcing a candidacy for judicial office, and in so doing explained why it is silly to question whether a judge is "impartial" simply because he or she has previously stated views about what the law is.)

So, did Justice Scalia defend the making of policy by judges? It's true that nobody really disputes that at the margins, a judge in many cases will be involved in some level of policymaking and policy considerations, and that some of the questions courts must resolve entail the judges' view of how the world actually works. Justice Scalia, however, would seem a curious witness to call on this point, as he is the figure in American public life most associated with the view that the legitimacy of a court's decisions depends upon limiting judges' discretion to the maximum possible extent and never losing sight of the fact that the Constitution and federal statutes are democratic enactments whose interpretation must at all times conform to what the people understood they meant at the time they became law.

Let's look at the quotes Linkins chooses and why they are - assuming Linkins was writing in good faith - so hilariously misguided.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 PM | Law 2009-13 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Harry the Insult Comic Senator Strikes Again

I have previously catalogued Harry Reid's penchant for petty insults of political opponents, and that was before he started complaining about the voters smelling bad. Well, Reid has a new one: quoting himself in his book calling Barbara Bush a "bitch."

UPDATE: Oops, read too quickly before posting, Reid is quoting Bentsen. So, not on the level of some of his prior insults.
Stay classy, Harry.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:33 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: And Now For Something Completely Different

This video, featuring an appearance by Kelly Clarkson on what appears to be German TV, cracked me up for some reason...picture a foreign pop star who speaks barely any English appearing on David Letterman, with the attendant awkwardness and translation problems, and ending up in one of his stunts, and you start to get the effect.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:07 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: F-Mart Blue Light Special

Necessity makes a fool of the best laid plans, but I'm still ambivalent at best about Fernando Martinez being rushed to the majors, and even moreso after watching him fail to run out a popup last night (I think it was only last night, this week has blown my sense of time). Martinez has been an impressively touted prospect since he batted .333/.389/.505 in the Sally League at age 17 in 2006, but at every step since then he's put up decidedly mediocre numbers until arriving at Norfolk this season, where a recent hot streak pushed him to .291/.337/.552. Yet the Mets keep promoting him, on the theory that the numbers are good for his age.

There are four drawbacks to this approach. Number one, of course, is if it turns out the guy's not the age you thought he was. Number two is if his growth stalls - Andy Marte, for example, dined out on the "good for his age" bit until he ceased improving. Martinez is more athletic than Marte, but it's still a concern. Number three - exemplified by the popup incident - is if the prospect doesn't work hard enough on the details of his game because he knows he doesn't have to earn promotions. Immaturity is a universal at Martinez' age, and even the most dedicated young athletes sometimes need to be pushed to get everything out of their talent. And number four is the problem of getting overwhelmed and never really mastering the levels he's at - Martinez has never learned to steal bases despite good speed, and with the exception of one 3-game stop he's never drawn more than 47 walks per 600 plate appearances at any level, while consistenly averaging about 2.7 strikeouts per walk. (The fifth problem is arbitration eligibility, but that's less of an issue for a team like the Mets).

That's not to say that rapid promotions are all bad - it more or less worked out for Jose Reyes (although in the interim the Mets suffered through terrible plate discipline from Reyes as a leadoff hitter in his early years, plus he's never entirely gotten away from annoying mental mistakes). I'm generally all for skipping levels if a guy has had great results at AA. But once the immediate emergency passes in right field, I'd like to see Martinez put together at least one season of really being a consistent minor league hitter before bringing him into the big leagues for good.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:47 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 27, 2009
POLITICS: Metaphor Overload

The Obama Administration in a nutshell:

H/T

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:27 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Unhealthy

Ken Davidoff on the Mets' persistent mismanagement of injured players.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:07 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 26, 2009
POLITICS/LAW: I Forgot

Dahlia Lithwick has. Orin Kerr hasn't.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:32 PM | Law 2009-13 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE/BASEBALL: I Pity The Pirates

H/T

UPDATE: Moe Lane has some more philosophical thoughts from Mr. T on the nature of pitying the fool.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:07 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Clearing The Field

Anthony Wiener has dropped out of the Democratic primary to face Mike Bloomberg. H/T That leaves two relatively weak candidates against the Bloomberg juggernaut...if you're outside NY, you can't really grasp the massive scale of Bloomberg's ad campaign six months from Election Day when he has no opponent yet and won't for some time. I have to believe his election will be a formality.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:25 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: SCOTUS Prediction

Just to get on record before the expected announcement at 10:15 this morning, I will be shocked if Obama does not pick Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit for the Supreme Court. Wood is a veteran federal appellate judge, she's female, she's a relatively low-key personality (usually an asset in confirmation hearings), she's reliably liberal, and he knows her personally from Chicago. Downsides? Well, Obama, like Bush, wants badly to name the first Hispanic Justice, but there are always multiple considerations in picking a Justice; Bush never got there either, and Obama may well have one or two more picks in the next few years. Otherwise, the main downside - if you consider it one - is that Judge Wood's record will put the abortion issue front and center even more than the usual SCOTUS battle.

UPDATE: No sooner had I written these words than the word came down that Obama has instead chosen Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

I'm going to need to be very cautious in writing about this nomination battle, for professional reasons. Let's just say that everyone with any interest in making a fight of this nomination is very happy with this pick.

SECOND UPDATE: Ruffini notes that Obama is making this announcement the same day the California Supreme Court is set to decide whether to throw out the verdict of the people of California in supporting Proposition 8, the anti-same-sex marriage proposition. Unclear whether Obama is hoping to preempt the issue, but the net result will likely be a sudden shift of focus to social issues.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:29 AM | Law 2009-13 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
May 24, 2009
BASEBALL: How Citi Plays

In case you are wondering, here are the early returns on Citi Field.

Mets batting at home: .287/.368/.432, 4.95 R/G, Home run every 55.07 plate appearances.

Mets batting on the road: .285/.366/.407, 4.81 R/G, Home run every 66.08 plate appearances.

Don't have the pitching splits handy, but it's hard to see much of an effect there yet. If that variation in homers keeps up over a full season, we'll have a little better basis for declaring it a good home run park.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:38 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Win Call, Lose Closer

Very dramatic win last night for the Mets, with an excellent performance by Pelfrey and the game-winning homer awarded to Omir Santos in the 9th inning only after review of the instant replay showed (correctly) that the ball hit off the top of the Green Monster above the orange line. Nonetheless, I have to fault Gary Sheffield for not running harder and thus not being in position to score if the ball had been ruled a double. Sheffield's been a professional baseball player for 24 years now, you'd think he'd have absorbed a basic lesson like not assuming a ball in the air leaves the park. But you can't teach an old dog new tricks; Sheff has turned into a very valuable guy to have (at least for now) with Delgado out.

The bad news is K-Rod. Just when they get Putz back again after yet another brief absence, K-Rod collapses from back spasms:

Rodriguez...was put on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a local hospital following the 3-2 win over the Red Sox.

Mets officials had no further word on K-Rod's situation two hours after the game and did not say if the problem was serious enough to involve a disk in Rodriguez's back.

Rodriguez suffered the back spasms -- the first of his career, he said -- while running in pregame warmups and was unavailable to pitch the ninth inning. J.J. Putz closed out the game in K-Rod's place.

The Mets gave Rodriguez muscle relaxers before the game, but he collapsed shortly after waving off help from trainer Ray Ramirez and trying to leave the clubhouse under his own power.

The Post observed Rodriguez weeping from the pain after being helped into a golf cart, and a stretcher and emergency medical technicians were called to the scene.

That doesn't sound very encouraging.

UPDATE: The Post's Twitter feed says K-Rod is moving around without a wheelchair this morning, which is...supposed to be good news.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 22, 2009
WAR: Joe Biden Doesn't Know What's In The Box But He Can't Resist Opening It

Ah, what would we do without Joe Biden?

So will Obama fulfill his vow - announced amid great fanfare in an executive order on day two of his presidency - to close the facility by January 2010? "I think so," Biden responded, according to Newsweek's Holly Bailey.

So perhaps he will. Or perhaps not. We'll see.

Biden continued: "But, look, what the president said is that this is going to be hard. It's like opening Pandora's Box. We don't know what's inside the box."

He also said that "to the best of my knowledge" the number of prisoners "who are a real danger who are not able to returned or tried" has "not been established" by the Obama administration.

So he basically just confirmed his predecessor Dick Cheney's analysis that the decision was taken "with little deliberation, and no plan".

You know, we could just try not opening the box. That's the problem with throwing away things that already work just to score PR points. What could go wrong? Only one way to find out, after all!

I hadn't heard Wanda Sykes' joke about Biden but it's a keeper, and unlike most of her routine that night, both funny and true:

"God forbid that Joe Biden falls into the hands of terrorists....We're done. Oh, they won't even have to torture him. All they have to do is go, 'How's it going, Joe?'"

Mary Katherine Ham suggests a Moynihan line Biden might want to keep handy. On a daily basis, in fact.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:26 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Size Matters

Yes, bigger players hit longer home runs. Another data point against those who argue that steroids, which clearly help build muscle mass, have no effect on the ability to hit for power.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:57 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Conservatism's Essential Element

What is the essential element of conservatism?

I have had a number of conversations and arguments on this question in recent months, as befits a movement doing its time in the wilderness. The responses by Beldar, Prof. Bainbridge and arch-libertarian Brink Lindsey to Judge Richard Posner's provocative blog post on the subject of conservative intellectualism is only the latest installment in this debate, but a good excuse to weigh in on my own.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
May 21, 2009
HOCKEY: Teh Cup

WSJ looks at misspellings on the Stanley Cup:

This iconic silver trophy, which is handed out each year to hockey's champion, carries with it the marks of another, quieter history -- decades of botched spellings, spacing gaffes, repeated words and the unsightly results of attempts to fix them.

Over the years words like "Ilanders" (Islanders), "Leaes" (Leafs) and "Bqstqn" (Boston) have found their way onto the cup, while more than a dozen players and coaches have had their names butchered. Former Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante had the misfortune of having his first name spelled four different ways in the span of five years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:16 PM | Other Sports | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 20, 2009
BASEBALL: Tragedy

Scott Schoenweis' wife found dead by their 14-year-old daughter. No further details at this point, but really, further details won't do any good. Very sad no matter the cause.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:08 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: The Juggling Act

Congrats to Ted Villa and Nancy Snow Villa, two of my old friends from college, who got a prominent writeup in today's Wall Street Journal (it's on page D1 of the print edition) about how they juggle their business and care for their three children in shifts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:54 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Star Power

I missed this one in my post the other day on Rubio and Crist - watch this clip of Marco Rubio in action and you can see why people have been excited about him for some time. Note - as becomes obvious when he pulls out a crumpled roll of paper to read the Kennedy quote - the absence of a TelePrompter.

H/T. John McCormack offers some samples of Crist speaking for contrast. Crist's not terrible, and of course he's won a couple of statewide races as Governor and AG, but he's a pretty unexciting politician with no identifiable principles. I'm guessing he'll focus on ignoring Rubio as hard as he can.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:23 PM | Politics 2009 • | Politics 2010 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: All Class

Stay classy, Joe Klein.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:35 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: The Business of News

You really need to read Francis Cianfrocca's take on the economics of the media and why it has radically changed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:59 AM | Business | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Meet The New Brownshirts

Intimidation, home invasion and the not-too-subtle threat of physical violence - by community organizers closely allied with governmental power and receiving taxpayer money. It's not a pretty combination:

Bruce Marks doesn't bother being diplomatic. A campaigner on behalf of homeowners facing foreclosure, he was on the phone one day in March to a loan executive at Bank of America Corp.

"I'm tired of borrowers being screwed!" Mr. Marks yelled into the phone. "You're incompetent!" Before hanging up, he threatened to call bank CEO Kenneth Lewis at home to complain about the loan executive.

Mr. Marks's nonprofit organization, Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, has emerged as one of the loudest scourges of the banking industry in the post-bubble economy. It salts its Web site with photos of executives it accuses of standing in the way of helping homeowners -- emblazoning "Predator" across their photos, picturing their homes and sometimes including home phone numbers. In February, NACA, as it's called, protested at the home of a mortgage investor by scattering furniture on his lawn, to give him a taste of what it feels like to be evicted.

In the 1990s, Mr. Marks leaked details of a banker's divorce to the press and organized a protest at the school of another banker's child. He says he would use such tactics again. "We have to terrorize these bankers," Mr. Marks says.

Though some bankers privately deplore his tactics, Mr. Marks is a growing influence in the lending industry and the effort to curb foreclosures. NACA has signed agreements with the four largest U.S. mortgage lenders ...in which they agree to work with his counselors on a regular basis to try to arrange lower payments for struggling borrowers. NACA has made powerful political friends, such as House majority whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, and it receives federal money to counsel homeowners.

The goal of this sort of thing, of course, is to thoroughly politicize business decisions from top to bottom of the economy, squeezing out as far as possible the role of independent business judgment and for the benefit of favored constituencies and politicians (see here for one of the more egregious examples by one of the nation's most notorious practitioners of political extortion, and here for a similar example of the use of strong-arm street tactics). And the results will be predictable: together with the move to limit credit card fees, the Democrats and their activist allies will put businesses to the choice of (1) extending bad credit in exchange for insufficient returns to cover the risks, for the purpose of currying political favor and keeping the brownshirts away from their homes and families, or (2) getting out of the business altogether. (Allahpundit notes the third choice of shifting costs onto good credit risks, but there's only so much blood to squeeze from that stone directly, except insofar as it's done indirectly by using taxpayer money to bribe the banks).

It's not a good thing for liberty, not a good thing for the economy, and ultimately not a good thing for the integrity of a government that gets too comfortable pulling the strings.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:11 AM | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
May 19, 2009
POLITICS: Dumping Dodd

The reasons for wanting Chris Dodd gone from the Senate are too numerous to recount here; briefly speaking, Dodd has been wrong on basically every national security issue for the past three decades, he's got ethical problems out the wazoo, and while he was in bed with anyone and everyone connected with the financial crisis, he spent a year living in Iowa on a delusional presidential campaign instead of doing his job overseeing the Senate Banking Commitee. Rob Simmons, a moderate former GOP Congressman, is the leading candidate to replace Dodd, and is doing a drive to get past 400 online donations (he's pretty close already) by close of business today. So, I'll do my part here:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:19 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Infield Of Holes

Last night's Mets loss in extra innings was ... well, you can call it many things, but surprising would not be one, not when they faced a first-place (albeit Manny-less) team with the following lineup:

Angel Pagan - LF
Luis Castillo - 2B
Carlos Beltran - CF
Gary Sheffield - RF
David Wright - 3B
Fernando Tatis - 1B
Ramon Martinez - SS
Tim Redding - P

At least we have not yet been treated to Tatis at shortstop, where he is apparently now considered an option with Alex Cora on the DL.

The Mets' record may look good, but they have some serious issues to deal with. One is what to do about first base. The NY Post reports that "Carlos Delgado's surgery this morning was successful" and the Mets "expect him back in 10 weeks." That's good, but there's still a lot of season in 10 weeks. This is, unfortunately, a terrible time for Nick Evans to have been sent back to extended spring training because he was batting .093 at AAA. One solution may be to use first to get more playing time for Tatis, and another is using Murphy there more to get better gloves in the outfield, but those are probably stopgaps. Murphy really might end up as the longer-term answer at first than picking up a journeyman veteran like the suitcases-always-packed Aubrey Huff, but there's little enough reason to think Murphy can hit enough to be a league-average first baseman or better.

Then there's Reyes, who had just started getting hot when he got hurt, batting .444/.516/.630 in his last 7 games. John Harper thinks the Mets should bail on Reyes because of his mental lapses, but on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being Stan Musial or Jackie Robinson and 10 being Manny Ramirez, Reyes can't possibly be more than a 5 or 6 in terms of doing things to drive the manager nuts. His current injury is the first time he's been out of the lineup for any real time in years - the past 4 seasons, he's averaged 158 games and 741 plate appearances a year. Showing up on time and producing cover a multitude of sins. And I do think he's gotten a little better with time. Yes, Reyes can still make you tear your hair out at times, but it's just nonsensical to suggest that a contending team with no other options at short part with a 26-year-old with Reyes' talent and track record.

Reyes is a unique player: he's one of only three players ever to hit 15 homers and steal 50 bases in the same season as a shortstop, and one of only seven to hit.300, hit 15 homers and steal 30 bases as a shortstop. Being that Hanley Ramirez is on both lists, it's hard to really find a parallel to project his development forward, the closest possibly being Barry Larkin. Baseball-Reference.com's ten most similar players at the same age includes only one guy (Roberto Alomar, a much more patient hitter) who was within 100 steals of Reyes at the same age.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:12 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Taxachusetts

Deval Patrick's HopeChange 1.0 act is running to its logical conclusion of broken promises and tax hikes. Don't miss clicking the graphic on the left.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:13 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Having A Bad Weeks

The news that Rickie Weeks is out for the season with a wrist injury is a sad turning point of sorts on a couple of levels. Weeks has always been a talented player, but with limitations - defensive problems, injuries, offensive inconsistency. He's shown power, speed, plate patience and decent batting averages, but has rarely put them all together in the same season. At 26 and off to his best start with the bat, Weeks looked like he might make this, at last, the year when he could put it all together and give the Brewers a couple of really high-quality seasons.

Now, of course, he faces long rehab on his wrist, and undoubtedly will be rusty, especially in the field, when he returns. Add to that the depletion of the Milwaukee rotation over the last few years - Sheets, Capuano, Sabathia - and despite a 24-14 record, that sound you hear may be the Brewers' window of opportunity to put together a championship-quality team with this talent core (Fielder, Weeks, Braun, Hart, Hardy, Gallardo, Sheets and Capuano) closing for good.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:07 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 18, 2009
POLITICS: The Case For Not Letting Up On Speaker Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi has had a very bad stretch over the issue of what she knew, and when, about waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques." She still seems not to have learned that it's a bad idea to get in a public spat with people who collect secrets for a living. Her ever-shifting explanations of what she was briefed on and when, culminating in Thursday's press conference (in which a visibly shaken Speaker repeatedly re-read her prepared statement in answer to questions by a suddenly skeptical press corps) have left her credibility in tatters and her story wholly incoherent. The latest blow came today as Leon Panetta, her former House colleague and now Obama's CIA director, produced a memo today disputing Pelosi's contention that the CIA lied to her.Nancy Pelosi has had a very bad stretch over the issue of what she knew, and when, about waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques." She still seems not to have learned that it's a bad idea to get in a public spat with people who collect secrets for a living. Her ever-shifting explanations of what she was briefed on and when, culminating in yesterday's press conference (in which a visibly shaken Speaker repeatedly re-read her prepared statement in answer to questions by a suddenly skeptical press corps) have left her credibility in tatters and her story wholly incoherent. The latest blow came today as Leon Panetta, her former House colleague and now Obama's CIA director, produced a memo today disputing Pelosi's contention that the CIA lied to her: "CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed.'"

Just as bad for the Left, her flagrant hypocrisy on this issue has badly undermined their core argument for prosecuting members of the Bush Administration. Recall that the theory behind such prosecutions is that waterboarding is so obviously "torture" that no reasonable person could conclude otherwise - yet here is the leader of their lawmakers in the House declaring that she very reasonably assumed that if Bush Administration lawyers had cleared the practice, it must be legal. (Charles Krauthammer makes this point as to the moral argument). That's an impossible circle to square, and it means the cries of "war criminal" now have to be seriously muted and nuanced if the most left-wing Speaker in memory is not to be sacrificed to a left-wing crusade.

It's too soon to tell what sort of lasting damage will be done to Pelosi as Speaker. I'm not generally one to declare a politician dead the minute a bad story breaks. More likely, as happened to Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, it will take multiple blows to bring down Pelosi, and the impetus will have to come from the rank and file of her own caucus, which seems disinclined to toss her under the bus just yet (even if the heir apparent, her longtime rival Steny Hoyer, has been fairly unsubtly measuring the drapes in the meantime).

That said, there's a school of thought among Republicans that because Pelosi is a polarizing figure with obvious weaknesses, we should fear pushing too hard because the Democrats will be weaker for having her around their necks next fall than if she's gone (one hears similar sentiments about Chris Dodd, David Paterson, and Deval Patrick, among others). Let her twist in the wind, these voices say. But even aside from the legitimate interest in exposing dishonesty and hypocrisy on the part of a sitting Congressional leader, the hard calculus of political hardball says otherwise. Of course, in any debate there are arguments that work and those that don't, and in this particular debate there are punches that may need to be pulled for legitimate national security reasons. But Republicans serious about winning political battles going forward should not ease the pressure on Speaker Pelosi out of some misguided hope that leaving her wounded is better than finishing her off.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Every Breath You Take

Peter Abraham on the ultimate Yankee collectible.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:34 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Taking Down Corzine

WaPo looks at the race to the June 2 New Jersey GOP Gubernatorial primary, as corruption-busting former US Attorney Chris Christie faces off against conservative Mayor Steve Lonegan for the chance to go after the unpopular Jon Corzine. In contrast to some of the other races this year, I happen to think the GOP should go with the more moderate Christie in this one, especially since a guy who made his name indicting scores of corrupt New Jersey politicians (the bulk of them Democrats, of course, but by no means all of them) is the right choice to clean up Trenton.

It's noteworthy that despite obituaries for the GOP in the Northeast, there are GOP Governors in Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island and a significant shot at the statehouse in New York and New Hampshire (in Massachusetts Deval Patrick's in dire trouble but more likely to lose a primary), as well as a fighting chance to pick up Senate seats in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, maybe even Delaware. Most all of those races will turn largely on the national mood in 2010 (or in Corzine's case, this fall), and it's wildly unlikely that Republicans will sweep them, but the obituaries may yet prove premature.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:54 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: With Biden, There Is No Such Thing As "Undisclosed"

Providing an object lesson on the hazards of sharing secrets with a man who has no unexpressed thoughts, the undisclosed location is undisclosed no longer:

[W]hile recently attending the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, an annual event where powerful politicians and media elite get a chance to cozy up to one another, Biden told his dinnermates about the existence of a secret bunker under the old U.S. Naval Observatory, which is now the home of the vice president.

The bunker is believed to be the secure, undisclosed location former Vice President Dick Cheney remained under protection in secret after the 9/11 attacks.

+++

According to [Eleanor] Clift's report on the Newsweek blog, Biden "said a young naval officer giving him a tour of the residence showed him the hideaway, which is behind a massive steel door secured by an elaborate lock with a narrow connecting hallway lined with shelves filled with communications equipment."

Clift continued: "The officer explained that when Cheney was in lock down, this was where his most trusted aides were stationed, an image that Biden conveyed in a way that suggested we shouldn't be surprised that the policies that emerged were off the wall."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:17 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/BUSINESS: PCAOB and Sarbox In The Dock

The Supreme Court this morning granted certiorari in Free Enterprise Fund and Beckstead and Watts, LLP v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, et al., No. 08-861 on the Court's docket. The case will be briefed over the summer, heard in the Fall (after, among other things, Justice Souter's retirement, assuming all goes on schedule) and decided some time between next December and July 2010. Given that my firm and/or my clients may well end up being involved in the case, I won't try to handicap its success or get too far into its merits, but know this: the issue before the Court presents important questions generally about the scope of separation of powers restrictions in economic regulation, and specifically about the constitutionality of a key provision of Sarbanes-Oxley and, potentially, could threaten the entire statute.

Last August, a divided panel of the DC Circuit rejected a separation of powers challenge to the provision of Sarbanes-Oxley governing the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board's appointment. For the uninitiated, PCAOB promulgates accounting rules for public companies. The core question was whether the PCAOB's powers were such that constitutionally, its members should have been directly accountable to the President under the Appointments Clause. 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" and thus no undue intrusion on the President's power, acting through the SEC, to control the PCAOB. Id. at 33.

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 (the Independent Counsel case), 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.

The reason why the Free Enterprise Fund's lawsuit raised particular eyebrows is because of the lack of a "severability" clause in Sarbanes-Oxley, a standard provision that allows a statute to avoid being struck down if just one part of it is declared unconstitutional, thus presenting the possibility that the court would have had to declare the entire Sarbanes-Oxley statute unconstitutional (or, alternatively, raising the question of what power a court has in such a large and complex enactment to strike down only a part of it).

Stay tuned.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:47 AM | Business • | Law 2009-13 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 15, 2009
BASEBALL: Robbed Blind

Video, if you missed it, of Jayson Werth stealing home on Russell Martin's throw back to the mound after having stolen second and third:

You'd think a guy who already had three steals in the game would be watched a little more carefully.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:31 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Home Bitter Home

The WSJ looks at how the new Yankee Stadium could end up being seen as a flop:

When new stadiums have flopped in the past -- that is, when the public has come to loathe them or their teams haven't benefited from them -- it's generally been for one of four reasons, say historians, sports executives and fans. Either the stadium catered too much to affluent fans, or too little, or had dimensions or weather conditions that negatively affected play.

+++

The new Yankee Stadium has seemed cursed from the beginning, as if Babe Ruth disapproved of the abandonment of the house he built. That it opened during a recession, with a major-league-high $72.97 average price for a nonpremium ticket (up 76% over 2008, according to Team Marketing Report) has created contempt among fans who otherwise love the team.

It's a bit early to write an obituary. The Hated Yankees still have a deep team and one whose financial advantages make it likely they will be competitive at any give point in the future. It's not the stadium's fault that A-Rod got hurt (or Nady or Posada), or that Rivera and Jeter are showing their age, or that Teixeira is hitting .202, or that Burnett, Wang and Hughes have a collective ERA of 9.39 on the road this year (although the park can be blamed for Sabathia, Pettitte and Joba, who collectively have an ERA of 6.00 at home, where they average 1.31 HR/9 and 4.12 BB/9, compared to an ERA of 2.67 on the road, where they average 0.51 HR/9 and 3.08 BB/9).

The new stadium is, of course, designed not to seem new, unlike Citi Field. The main thing the Yankees need to do, which they have already started, is bring ticket prices in line with economic reality. The rest is likely to simply be a reflection of fans' patience with the product on the field.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
May 14, 2009
WAR: Lebanon and Hezbollah, Syria and Al Qaeda

Michael Totten warns that the ever-shifting landscape of Lebanese coalition politics could lead to a Hezbollah victory in June's elections. And Bill Roggio reports that the Treasury has officially designated a senior Al Qaeda leader in Syria as a terrorist subject to asset freezes and other sanctions, which of course will come as news to those who insist that Al Qaeda exists only in Afghanistan and Pakistan:

Shammari, who is better known as Abu Khalaf, is known to recruit suicide bombers from North Africa and aids in setting up their travel arrangements into Syria and ultimately Iraq. “The facilitator recruited a few suicide bombers, who attempted to travel to Iraq," the Treasury press release stated.

Khalaf also helped al Qaeda suicide bombers based in the Persian Gulf region travel to the Levant to conduct suicide attacks.

Roggio notes that stopping Al Qaeda infiltration into Iraq from Syria was one of the major elements in progress in Iraq over 2007-08:

Syria has long supported or looked the other way as al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents used the country as a transit point and safe haven for fighters entering western Iraq. More than 90 percent of the suicide bombers who have entered Iraq since the insurgency began in 2003 have been estimated to have entered Iraq via Syria.

Al Qaeda's Syrian network is thought to have suffered a setback as the US implemented a counterinsurgency program in 2007 and a covert operation in Syria 2008 targeted and killed a senior member of al Qaeda facilitation network. An estimated 120 plus foreign fighters are thought to have entered Iraq from Syria a month at its peak in 2007. The number is now estimated in the single digits, but there is concern that the Syrian network is being rejuvenated, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Needless to say, the U.S. needs to be keeping the pressure on to prevent a revival. As I've long argued, we don't need to stay in Iraq forever to help the Iraqis keep the lid on their own people, but as long as foreign enemies are sending people across the borders to try to destabilize the country, it's still very much America's business to stop them. As both sides recognize, a reasonably stable, democratic Iraq is a major strategic and propaganda victory for the United States, while the opposite is a major strategic and propaganda victory for Al Qaeda. We've come a very long way towards our goal, but the job is not done yet.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:58 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Maybe Running A Country Is Harder Than Making Promises

Leon Wolf says basically what I was going to say about the latest Guantanamo reversal from the Obama Administration:

[D]espite the fact that Obama promised, even immediately after inauguration, that closing GTMO would be one of his Administration's first priorities, it is clear that Obama still does not have the foggiest idea what to do about it. He appears to be more or less committed to actually closing the physical facility in Guantanamo bay (in order to give the appearance of keeping his campaign promise), but he has realized that the thing which made GTMO most objectionable to his most dedicated supporters, i.e., indefinite detention away from communication with the outside world, is necessary to the security of this country. So what does he do now? The answer is evident: he has no clue.

Ah, the burdens of adulthood. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Red Shirt Boogie Blues

This could be a metaphor for any number of things in different walks of life, but really it's awesome enough to deserve its own post:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:12 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 13, 2009
WAR: "Do What You Have To Do"

From 2004 - my, how tunes change:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
May 12, 2009
POLITICS: Charlie Crist Picks A Fight Republicans Don't Need

Charlie Loves Barry

Republicans are going to have a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities in the 2010 elections. One thing the party needs to do is get our best candidates into races we can win; another is to make sure we hold the easy races and avoid bloody and ideologically divisive primaries in the tough ones; a third is to make sure we can raise adequate funds to support all the races we need to contest; and a fourth is to promote the young stars of the party who will represent its future.

Charlie Crist disregarded all of that when he announced that he was dropping out of the race for re-election as Governor of Florida to enter the primary to replace retiring Republican Senator Mel Martinez. And NRSC Chairman John Cornyn, by immediately endorsing Crist, signalled that he encouraged this sort of behavior. Shame on both of them for putting Crist's personal ambitions above the good of the party. Let us count the ways in which Crist's decision is bad for the Florida GOP and the national party:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Politics 2009 • | Politics 2010 | Comments (33) | TrackBack (0)
May 11, 2009
POLITICS/LAW: How Republicans Should Oppose Obama's Supreme Court Nominee

At this writing, we do not know who President Obama will nominate to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court, and so it's impossible to anticipate precisely how much Republican opposition his pick will meet with, or for that matter whether any Democrats will be opposed.

Nonetheless, of this much we can be sure, from Obama's own history and prior statements as well as that of his party: Obama is highly likely to select a nominee who will do a terrible job as a Supreme Court Justice, in terms of (1) following the reasoning process that we Republicans and conservatives believe is the legitimate and appropriate way for a Justice to decide cases and (2) reaching what Republicans/conservatives would regard as the correct results in interpretiting the Constitution and federal statutes.

So, the President is likely to do something Republicans legitimately and seriously disagree with, and which will do lasting damage to the nation. How then to respond? Here, sight unseen of the nominee, I can offer two main suggestions.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:45 PM | Law 2009-13 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Not Parting The Wieters

If you're wondering, Matt Wieters is hitting pretty well at AAA, batting .301 with a .404 OBP - perfectly respectable numbers for a guy in his second year of pro ball a step removed from the majors, and entirely consistent with his top prospect status. But Wieters is slugging just .422, with only one homer.

Reason again to remember that even the best young players can't automatically be projected to come out of the gate as established stars.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:02 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Soria Arm

Joakim Soria's trip to the DL is a bad omen for the Royals on three levels. One, last year's Devil Rays notwithstanding, your Cinderella teams generally need to avoid significant injuries, and they've already lost Alex Gordon for a long time. Two, KC has enough solid arms in the bullpen - Juan Cruz will be closing for now - that the Royals shouldn't take too much of a loss from a two-week absence, but a team with as thin a talent core as the Royals can't afford to see Soria go the way of BJ Ryan or Eric Gagne. They will have to cross their fingers that the precautionary DL trip is just that. And three, there's a real temptation right now to run Zack Greinke into the ground. The 25-year-old has tossed 4 complete games in 7 starts, which is a lot these days for a young pitcher early in the season. His fantastic efficiency has been a big factor - he's cleared 110 pitches three times this season but has topped out at 115, which really is not that much. But lacking his closer could tempt Trey Hillman to push him further, and that could be a very bad thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Court Jester

It ain't exactly the biggest story in the world, but it's a symptom: Andrew Breitbart nails the difference between the Bush years, when comedians like Stephen Colbert came to the White House Correspondents' Dinner to mock the president, and the Obama years, when they come to fawn over the president and wish harm to his enemies while he laughs. Even Mike Lupica recognized that Wanda Sykes' jokes were over the line and, frankly, barely jokes at all - yet Obama laughed at them, because they were aimed at his enemies.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:10 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (30) | TrackBack (0)
May 8, 2009
POLITICS: Sanford Takes The Heat

Over at RS we have a writeup of a blogger conference call with Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. It was the first blogger call he'd done, and was a pretty informal 45-minute chat.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:10 PM | Politics 2009 • | Politics 2012 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Thou Shalt Not Mock Obama's Mustard

This is just hilarious. Even the mildest of needling brings out this response from the Left. HuffPo describing Obama's trip to a hamburger joint as "historic" is precious.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:05 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: BAMN

Stretching the science to sell 'climate change.' The politicization of science proceeds apace.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:57 PM | Enemies of Science • | Politics 2009 • | Science | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Worst Story Evah

Jonah Keri rounds up the sportswriting reaction, and mostly overreaction, on Manny.

Blogger Curt Schilling (well, OK, yeah, yeah) doesn't buy the I-didn't-know defenses:

I was never a fitness freak or gym rat - those are the guys that measured every milligram, count every tablet in their regimen. Yet somehow we’re hearing these same people talk about being struck momentarily stupid when West African bullfrog semen is found in their blood. "What? How'd that get there????" Their routines, from reps to nutrition are as mapped out as scouting reports. They eat a certain way, train a certain way, and they play a certain way. There is no 'black hole' or 'hidden formula' happening in these instances.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:19 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Some Slump

David Wright, widely viewed as being mired in the worst slump of his career, is batting .314/.408/.490 this season, including .406/.487/.750 with 9 RBI in his last 9 games.

Yes, I know, Wright's striking out a lot with men on base. It's a long season, and I refuse to panic; his career batting line remains .312/.396/.542 with men on base, .299/.393/.498 with men in scoring position. The guy who should be getting the grief is Reyes, who is hitting .246/.326/.351 thus far. People notice Wright whiffing with men on base, they don't notice the bases being empty in innings Reyes starts by making out. I'm not freaking out about Reyes either, given his history (I expect him to warm up soon), just saying if you need a target, he's a better one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:16 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Tweet

I have finally given in and joined Twitter. Find me at @baseballcrank

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:12 AM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Things Even Manny Must Know

Leon Wolf looks in detail at what Manny did or did not know, based on what's been reported.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:01 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Very Good DiMaggio

Dom DiMaggio has died at age 92; the Globe looks back. (I had recently noted him among the handful of star players still living in their 90s, but lists of that nature are by definition fleeting). My column on the Hall of Fame and the tablesetters looked at DiMaggio, who was a similar player to Brett Butler but had his career interrupted by war. RIP.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:53 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 7, 2009
WAR/POLITICS: Democratic Spin on GTMO Stupid Even By Standards of Democratic Spin

Goldfarb notes this hilarious attempt to claim that Republicans opposed to moving detainees from Guantanamo into their districts are - wait for it - insulting America's corrections officers:

ON GUANTANAMO, GOP DISPARAGES MEN AND WOMEN WHO KEEP OUR COMMUNITIES SAFE

Why do Republicans think that Americans can't do their jobs?

Today, John Boehner and the Republican House leadership are introducing legislation to keep Guantanamo detainees from being transferred to facilities in the United States. They claim that this serves American security. But the reality is that our criminal justice system has a long history of holding hardened terrorists successfully, including the perpetrator of the first World Trade Center attacks, numerous 9/11 conspirators, the Shoe Bomber and Timothy McVeigh. The men and women who serve their country by working at these facilities are ready and eager to do their jobs - and they have the confidence of the communities that depend economically on prison facilities. But John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and other Republicans in Congress continue to claim that the men and women who run our prisons and help keep America safe can't do their jobs.

Let's review the varieties of stupid here.

1. This statement assumes that 100% of the detainees will continue to remain locked up, and of course if you believe that, why not just improve the prison they are in? In fact, the whole point of this exercise is to release some detainees entirely and send others into the criminal justice system, where they may be acquitted or have cases dropped against them, in many cases because of how evidence was gathered against them under wartime or battlefield conditions.

2. The Democrats presume to speak for all prison guards as being thrilled to take these guys on. I am guessing that's not the case. Ask Louis Pepe. Ask why our allies are balking at taking them. Ask the people of Alexandria, Virginia what additional precautions had to be taken just to hold one of them.

3. I love the line about "communities that depend economically on prison facilities" - leave it to the Democrats to look at holding jihadists as a jobs program.

4. Does anybody but Democratic politicians actually believe that jihadists are no more dangerous than your usual criminal? Hmmm, we have prisoners who are willing to engage in suicide attacks, believe they will go to eternal paradise if they die killing infidels, specifically hate the U.S. government, and are connected to international organizations with money and weapons. You don't think they are a greater security risk than your typical prisoner, even in maximum security? Really?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:26 PM | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: How Reagan Made Himself Reagan

The recent flap over Jeb Bush talking about leaving Reagan behind has been overblown - Jeb's point is that the GOP needs to sell its ideas, not just the Reagan brand, and that's obviously true as the man himself recedes into memory for a lot of the electorate.

Steve Hayward, though, has an excellent point that should be drilled into the heads of GOP candidates everywhere:

[A]ll those folks who claim to be Reaganites would take the time to sit down a study the man's methods - not his ideology - more seriously. As we now know, he worked extremely hard, studying the issues in depth and preparing and practicing his speeches at great length. I'm frankly appalled at the low level of rhetorical skill displayed by most GOP politicians today. It is not just a matter of talent; talent helps, but Reagan showed that hard work is the key ingredient. Too many of our would-be party leaders today are simply lazy, and think they can coast through speeches and media appearances with little forethought. Finally, Reagan lived by an old show-business adage - always leave your audience wanting more. His speeches were often memorable because they were relatively short. You could fit five of Reagan's state of the union speeches inside one of Bill Clinton's or George W. Bush's. (This means you, Governor Palin, whom I heard in Anchorage in March making a rambling hour-long speech that someone at my table rightly described as "Castroesque.") So try this out, GOP leaders: Shorter speeches. People will remember more of what you say, and want to hear you say more later. This really isn't rocket science. Heck, it isn't even political science.

Very few politicians bring together all the elements of communication Reagan did: specific ideas, backed by specific facts; inspiring rhetoric, well-delivered; good use of humor, whether planned, ad-libbed, or by knowing when to use planned ad-libs; brevity; warmth; respect for the audience's intelligence. I still think Rudy Giuliani is the closest we have to that, although Rudy's too hard around the edges to match Reagan's personality. But then, rhetorical skill actually wasn't the weakness of the GOP field in 2008. On the Democratic side, Obama is a match for Reagan at soaring rhetoric, but he rarely communicates the kind of concrete, memorable messages backed by facts that Reagan deployed, and he doesn't really switch gears well to being funny or folksy or warm; all his best stuff is in the tone of the JFK Inaugural.

Bush and Obama are both proof of the adage that hard work matters - Bush is a famously poor speaker, but his big set-piece speeches that he worked at usually came off well; Obama is notorious for hemming, hawing and bumbling when away from his TelePrompter (which he uses in many situations where Bush might have been well-advised to try one), but he performed well in the debates with McCain when he put the effort into it.

Most of the major GOP future stars have the potential to be really excellent communicators, but each will need to work on something different, like Gov. Jindal with the TelePrompter. Hayward's advice would be well-taken by all of them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:13 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Manny Being Barry

Say it ain't so: Manny Ramirez suspended 50 games for performance-enhancing drug test.

This is a bad thing, but in one way a good thing: it's the first such suspension that really has a chance to unsettle a pennant race. The steroids horse is way too far out of the barn, in my view, to punish people retrospectively. It's never going to be possible to say with certainty, looking backwards, who used what, who was clean, and what difference was made in their careers. Certainly, we can look askance at the really unnatural Bonds-like career patterns, but ultimately, I think the sportswriters will have to recognize that the drugs are just another generation's unique playing conditions, and the Hall of Fame will adjust accordingly.

But putting real teeth in the enforcement mechanism going forward at least will move us towards having a little more confidence in a clean game in the future. A real suspension for a real star is the wake-up call that's needed to get the public to believe it's a real effort.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:05 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Unspeakable

You may remember the flap over the Secret Service limitations on where protestors could set up near George W. Bush, and the wailing about "free speech zones" being an unconscionable restriction, etc. I have yet to hear anybody (1) complain about the Secret Service's policy since Obama took over or (2) explain how the policy changed, as I suspect it has not. Like so many routine government activities, it's only objectionable when it's Bush.

Anyway, this is a slightly different story - about a private sign-making company, not a government agency - but it's nonetheless revealing: a billboard company refused to allow signs to call President Obama "pro-abortion," insisting on altering the billboards to "pro abortion choice." You can go click the link to see the proposed and amended billboards.

First of all, this is ignorance. Obama has long supported taxpayer funding to subsidize abortions. It is simply not possible to support taking money from taxpayers to pay for a thing, causing more of that thing to happen, and then argue that you are not supporting the thing itself. Taxpayer funding is a far cry from live and let live (it's something Obama opposes for, say, sending black children in failed DC school districts to private schools - he must regard abortion as more desirable than a good education). Add in efforts to squeeze Catholic hospitals that have moral objections to performing abortions, and Obama's famous crack about how he would not want his daughters "punished with a baby," and it's just nonsensical to deny that Obama is, if words have any meaning whatsoever, pro-abortion. The fear of saying so about anybody is revealing, though - it's a recognition that being pro-abortion is a bad thing, which of course is not the case if you believe, as supporters of legal abortion must, that the act does not take a human life.

(A digression: when Sarah Palin talked recently about the choice to keep her youngest child, liberals argued that this was a concession - isn't it wonderful, some of them argued, to live in a country that allows such choices? Um, no. Using cocaine and driving drunk are illegal, but we still speak of not doing them as being moral choices. If a teenager from a bad neighborhood refuses to join a gang, we can celebrate the positive moral choice without saying, "isn't it great to live in a country where teenagers get to choose whether or not to join violent, drug-dealing street gangs?" No, it's a tragedy.)

Second, the reluctance to allow open discussion of the issue is symptomatic of something Justice Scalia has noted at the Supreme Court level: the systematic bending of all other rules and customs, much as happened in the days of slavery, to protect the practice of abortion, from unique rules for protests around clinics, to laxer regulation of clinics, to distortion of the language itself. The same people calling for displaying graphic photos of interrogation of detainees or who want soldiers' coffins on the front page of the newspaper without the consent of their families are the ones who are horrified by the idea that any image should be displayed of abortion, the ones who even recoil at showing pictures of live unborn children in the debate. The unwillingness to face the language itself is a symptom of the recognition that some things can't really be defended.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:32 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
May 6, 2009
BASEBALL: Not So Fast

Rob Neyer looks at the Royals' HR & BB numbers and pitcher Ks and wonders if they might be for real. He makes some good points about why they are better this year even aside from Greinke's monster start, but I don't see how it's really sustainable - they don't have a whole lot of new guys doing established things, nor young guys developing. Mike Jacobs does give them some more power, but he's the only guy on the team on pace for 20+ HR, while I am very doubtful that Coco Crisp will draw the 126 walks he's currently on a pace for.

Improvement? Yes, the Royals may manage that even without Alex Gordon. But I don't see how this team will end the year anywhere near the top of Neyer's "Beane Count."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:56 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Animated James

In the upcoming movie version of "Moneyball," starring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, Bill James will appear as an animated character.

H/T

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:37 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 5, 2009
POLITICS: Why Republican Unity On Spending Matters

While the defection of Arlen Specter to the Democrats had a number of causes, the proximate cause was that his support of the Obama stimulus bill brought Pat Toomey off the fence and into a primary race Specter would have lost. Jim DeMint followed this up with a provocative WSJ op-ed arguing for more purity in the GOP caucus in sticking to small-government principles and opposing big federal spending. There's been a lot of hand-wringing about whether the Toomey run and the views of people like Sen. DeMint mean the GOP has become too narrow and exclusionary to appeal to moderates. (Leave aside Barney Frank saying the same thing on the other side). As a deep-blue-state Republican, I have always been a believer that the GOP needs to have some flexibility in the demands of party loyalty if it is to have a tent big enough to contain a majority governing coalition; sometimes our elected officials need to treat our principles as a compass, not a straitjacket. But broad generalizations about "conservative" and "moderate" miss the fact that politics is situational. And the political situation we find ourselves in today demands that the GOP have a strong preference, in every jurisdiction, for candidates who will hold the line on spending.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:50 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Crippling

Peter Abraham has a rundown on the Yankees-Red Sox and the severity of Jorge Posada's injury.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:51 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Over-Oversight

Daffyd on the meddling, incompetence, leaks and excessive partisanship of the Congressional Intelligence committees. We're closing in on the day when Democrats will demand 24/7 live C-SPAN coverage of the CIA.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:46 AM | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Great Moments in Presidential Oratory

"Welcome to Cinco de Cuatro".

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:16 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 4, 2009
BASEBALL: The New Doug Sisk?

If there's been one constant for most of the three decades I've been a Mets fan, it is that there is nearly always at least one guy in the bullpen who is really, really unpopular with the fans, and usually for good reason. After he walked in the winning run in extra innings against the Phillies this Saturday, the early lead for this position in 2009 seems to have been cemented by Sean Green.

My original concern about Green was his pronounced tendency to run off the rails the last two months of the season, but at this rate, with an 8.76 ERA and 18 hits and 8 walks allowed in 12.1 IP, he may not make it that far.

Looking back, since 1980, a Mets reliever has walked at least a batter every two innings (4.5 per 9) 13 times, most recently Aaron Heilman in 2008. Doug Sisk and Armando Benitez each did it three times, but Benitez at least offset the walks with truckloads of strikeouts, and in the end his unpopularity had more to do with home run balls. Green could be the new Sisk.

Sisk in some sense got a raw deal from the fans - through his second full season with the team (1984) he had a 2.12 career ERA despite his nearly 2-to-1 BB/K ratio, thanks to not giving up home runs. And in 1986-87 he was modestly effective after getting his control under control. But the 1985 season, when he posted a 5.30 ERA on a team with no other pitching holes that lost a tight pennant race by 3 games, combined with general fan frustration with a guy who just couldn't throw strikes, earned him permanent infamy. Sisk's ERA+ of 66 that season is the second-lowest of the last 40 years among Mets relievers to appear in 40 or more games, with only Lee Guetterman in the lost season of 1992 being worse (the only other guy below 73 in a season when the team was competitive was Mel Rojas in 1998). (If you are wondering, the worst reliever ERA+ ever with at least 40 appearances is 49 by Ron Davis for the Twins and Cubs in 1986, narrowly edging Vic Darensbourg in 1999)

Green will need to turn things around pretty shortly if he wants to stay on the roster, much less stay above Bobby Parnell on the depth chart.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:32 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 2, 2009
POLITICS: RIP Jack Kemp

Just saw this reported: Jack Kemp, a giant of the modern conservative movement, has died after a bout with cancer. Kemp never won national or even statewide office, and his gravelly wonkishness wasn't always the epitome of charisma, but his political career was a testament to the power of ideas, simple ideas like human freedom and the potential of the individual to do better for himself than the government could ever do for him. He was an inspiration to everyone who believed that the interests of government are not the purpose of government. Ronald Reagan inspired many people in politics, but Reagan didn't get to be Reagan alone, and then-Congressman Kemp was one of the people who inspired Reagan's belief in the transformative incentive power of reducing taxes on the last dollar of income earned. Before entering politics, Kemp was a heckuva quarterback, compiling a 65-37-3 record as a starter in the AFL, playing in championship games for LA and San Diego before winning two AFL titles for the Buffalo Bills. Kemp was also the rare HUD secretary who left office well-regarded rather than under investigation or indictment. He was added to the GOP ticket in 1996 when Bob Dole realized his campaign needed ideas - and Jack Kemp, though an ordinary guy, not an intellectual, was synonymous with ideas. And he was, most of all, a happy warrior, like Reagan - a guy who took visible joy in politics because he always believed that if you gave people the ability to keep their own piece of the pie, we'd all have a larger pie to divide. He was, in every sense, a true heir of the Party of Lincoln. He will be missed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:00 PM | Football • | Politics 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
May 1, 2009
BASEBALL: Anonymous Tip

Color me skeptical that A-Rod with the Rangers was tipping pitches for his friends among opposing middle infielders. I'm not saying it's not true, but first of all the sourcing is anonymous - I continue to be skeptical of anonymously sourced reports. Second of all, the article notes that infielders do this routinely to tip each other off, so it's totally impossible to rebut this and entirely possible that A-Rod was misinterpreted.

That said, if this report is true, this is worse than anything Pete Rose ever did. You don't throw at bats, no matter the score.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:31 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Michelle Antoinette and the Don't-Go-To-The-Mall Administration

Michelle Obama, February 2008:

Obama explains that she and her husband made the choice to give up lucrative jobs in favor of community service. "We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we're asking young people to do," she tells the women. "Don't go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we're encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond."

Michelle Obama, April 2009:

Michelle Obama has taken casual to a haute new level.

While volunteering Wednesday at a D.C. food bank, the First Lady sported her usual J.Crew cardigan, a pair of utilitarian capri pants and, on her feet, a sneaky splurge: trainers that go for $540.

That's right: These sneakers - suede, with grosgrain ribbon laces and metallic pink toe caps - are made by French design house Lanvin, one of fashion's hottest labels. They come in denim and satin versions, and have been a brisk seller all spring.

They're out of stock at posh Meatpacking District boutique Jeffrey, and Barneys New York boasts a limited selection of the sneaks, which are a cult favorite among fashionistas.

It's likely Michelle got hers through Ikram, the Chicago retailer that often outfits her.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:20 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)