Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
July 30, 2010
POLITICS: The BP Shakedown

If you want to see a rank example of the unhealthy symbiosis between Big Government and Big Business, consider this morning's announcement by BP that "it will set up a $100 million charitable fund to support unemployed oil rig workers experiencing economic hardship due to the deepwater drilling moratorium imposed by the Obama administration."

At first glance, you might say, this is a good thing: a penitent corporation doing charity to help people harmed, at least indirectly, by its actions. But let's count the things wrong with this picture.

First, there is little doubt that BP is doing this, at least to some extent, due to explicit or implicit pressure from, or desire to buy off trouble from, the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats. It's the invisible foot of a government with a known propensity to monkey in the marketplace - companies learn to act defensively to cater to political favor rather than focusing on being profitable businesses by serving their customers.

Second, if BP was solely bowing to political pressure by assisting people it's harmed, that would be one thing. But what it's doing here is assisting people the Democrats have harmed, by a moratorium on offshore drilling by companies other than BP. In other words, the Democrats have used the leverage of fear of government to get BP to pay to cover up the damage caused by their own policies.

Third, consider this dynamic in the context of the vastness of BP (the company's size is the only reason it hasn't been run out of business by the spill). Other oil companies are big, too, but not everyone in the industry is on the same scale as BP, and equally able to buy off an angry government or weather the storm of the moratorium. This entire process of shaking down companies for political favor is designed with large corporations in mind - if you're a smaller business, you're not worth shaking down (or can't afford the extra burdens of unionized workforces and heavy regulatory obligations on top of paying off politicians) and can be left to whither on the vine as collateral damage of insane economic policy.

Fourth, OK, BP has helped the oil workers. What about other innocent parties? What about the retirees across Britain whose pensions are heavily funded by BP stock? What about consumers who are denied access to the oil? And even as to the workers - is it really a fair substitute to give working men charity instead of the opportunity and dignity of earning a living with their own hands?

Fifth, are we 100% certain that BP has adequate resources to pay everyone directly injured by the spill? Maybe we are, but one of the reasons to be skeptical of greenlighting a run-on-the-bank attitude towards wrongdoing corporations is that sometimes, in the stampede, there ends up not being enough money left for the people with the most legitimate claims (the long, sad story of asbestos litigation at times illustrated this).

We have seen this, over and over and over again under this Administration, in industry after industry: a combination of coercion and collusion that amounts to a protection racket run by Democratic politicians to grant favor on large, pliable corporations and their executives in exchange for money going where the Democrats want it - to Big Labor and other favored constituencies, to support for Democratic legislative priorities, to campaign cash and personal enrichment. It's fundamentally corrupt, and it needs to end.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:15 AM | Politics 2010 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
July 27, 2010
BASEBALL: No No-No

With Matt Garza giving Rays fans a no-hitter last night, it's high time I re-ran this list - the Mets, now in their 49th season in the National League, have still never had a no-hitter, but they've had plenty of pitchers who did:

Pitchers Who Threw No-Hitters After Leaving The Mets:
Nolan Ryan (seven times, including for every other franchise he pitched for)
Tom Seaver
Mike Scott
Dwight Gooden
David Cone
Hideo Nomo

*Octavio Dotel (1 inning in combined no-hitter)

Pitchers Who Threw No-Hitters Before Coming To The Mets:
Warren Spahn (twice, albeit long before he was a Met)
Don Cardwell
Dock Ellis
John Candelaria
Bret Saberhagen
Kenny Rogers
Al Leiter
Hideo Nomo (got 'em on both ends)
Scott Erickson

**Pedro Martinez (9 perfect innings, but allowed hit in tenth; no longer officially counted as a no-hitter)
*Alejandro Pena (1 inning in combined no-hitter)
*Billy Wagner (1 inning in combined no-hitter - same one as Dotel)

If you count Pedro and leave out the relievers, that's 15 pitchers, 23 no-hitters, and one heck of a trivia question.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:38 AM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
July 22, 2010
POP CULTURE: Concert Review: The Saw Doctors at Irving Plaza, 5/14/10

So, among the many half-written or written-in-my-head posts is an overdue concert review of one of my favorite bands, the Saw Doctors, at Irving Plaza May 14. Here we go.

This was the third time I've had the pleasure of seeing the Irish pop-rockers in concert, the first two being in 2003 at Irving Plaza and 2004 at the Hammerstein Ballroom, both small indoor venues in Manhattan. The band was very much in their prime then; six years later the lineup has changed and they're just beginning to show the cracks of age (lead singer Davy Carton recently turned 50, the same age as his countryman Bono; he and Leo Moran are a little grayer now, but then so am I), but it's still a tremendous show, and the band debuted some excellent new material from their soon-to-be released album, unimaginatively titled The Further Adventures of The Saw Doctors, including my personal favorite, lead single Takin' the Train:

Opening Act

When I bought the tickets, there was no opening act listed. The day of the show, I was checking the Irving Plaza website for things like when the doors opened, and saw that the opening act was a guy named Pat Dinizio. Some readers will doubtless recognize the name, but I didn't; I thought maybe it would be some obscure young local artist or something. Instead, out on stage comes a heavyset, balding middle-aged guy in a T-shirt and a baseball cap and introduces himself as the lead singer of The Smithereens. It was just Dinizio and his guitar, but it turned out to be a good opener, as it dawned on the crowd that a lot of people knew more Smithereens songs than they thought. Dinizio was affable, telling stories about his best-known songs (how A Girl Like You was originally written for the film Say Anything and how the band was basically able to bank a year's earnings when a snippet of Blood and Roses got used for a Nissan commercial) and closing with a fine sing-along cover of Behind Blue Eyes.

The Venue

From the first two Saw Doctors shows, I recalled liking Irving Plaza better, but my tastes have obviously changed. The Hammerstein (more on that here) may be kind of a dump, but Irving Plaza is so tiny and intimate, with what has to be a capacity of well under a thousand people - a good thing, you might think - that my ears couldn't handle the sound. I enjoyed the show, but I couldn't hear a thing for two days. For the next concert we're seeing (I'm taking my wife to see Maroon 5 at Jones Beach in August for, roughly, our 15th wedding anniversary), I may finally give in and try the earplugs my wife wears to shows.

The Show

Here's the set list; the band played 5 of the new songs (Takin' the Train, Addicted, Last Call, Indian Summer, and Hazard), all of which sounded good and allayed my fears that the new album might be too mellow (older rock bands are in trouble when they start heading in that direction); Takin' the Train in particular is a really good song, power pop as it was meant to be. One of the things that really marks the Saw Doctors as a great live act is their ability to sell songs you are hearing live for the first time. There were also four other songs that had been released since I last saw them - they opened with Last Summer In New York and also played Out for a Smoke, both off the 2006 album The Cure (their last studio album) and the 2008 singles About You Now and She Loves Me. I've blogged previously here about their cover of About You Now; it's one of the things I'd hoped to hear for the first time live and didn't disappoint. Unfortunately, that squeezed out room for some of the band's classics, like Joyce Country Ceili Band and the achingly beautiful World of Good, but that's live shows for you and the perils of recording too much good music. Anyway, after a protracted six-song encore including Hay Wrap (featuring a guest appearance by Carton's son) and a segue of Hope You Meet Again into the outtro from Hey Jude, it was hard to complain that the band hadn't gone on long enough.

If you ever get the chance to see the Saw Doctors live, don't think twice, get the tickets. It's truly a tremendous rock n' roll show.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:24 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Who Do You Trust?

New annual poll from Gallup on who America's most trusted institutions are - and it's almost entirely bad news for the Left.

Topping the list? Five institutions consistently targeted and mistrusted by the Left: (1) the military (trusted by 76%), (2) small business (66%, the only other institution over 60), (3) the police, (4) church/organized religion, and (5) the medical system. The bottom? Congress (11% - "half of Americans now say they have 'very little' or no confidence in Congress, up from 38% in 2009 -- and the highest for any institution since Gallup first asked this question in 1973" [i.e., when the Presidency was at the height of Watergate and the military at the end of Vietnam]), and near the bottom organized labor and TV news. The institution to take the biggest hit since last year's poll? The presidency (down from 51% to 36% - gee, I wonder who's responsible for that). The only institutions to improve by more than a point? The medical system and big business. Note that churches still poll far ahead of public schools (universities were mercifully exempted from the poll).

(Methodological note: this is a poll of all adults, and thus is likely to skew more to the left than a sample of registered or likely voters, as Neil Stevens noted yesterday in looking at Gallup's switch from polling registered voters to adults on the generic Congressional ballot).

Liberals can take comfort that big business and HMOs are still broadly mistrusted and thus make for useful scapegoats, but the bottom line here is the public remains much more in tune with the conservative view of what institutions are most and least worthy of trust.

Lesson for the Right? Well, all institutions are human and necessarily flawed both by their humanity and by the dynamics of any institution, particularly large ones. But the Right is on solid ground supporting the institutions to which public remains broadly willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

But as always, the GOP in particular should remember not to be the party of big business, but rather the party of free markets. That means sometimes defending big business against unreasonable attacks, but it also means remembering what the public instinctively knows and what economic theory predicts: large businesses are necessarily self-interested, and their interests are not always the same as the pro-free-market position. Indeed, much of what needs to be done in Washington over the next few years is not just saving businesses large and small from the predations of government, but specifically disentangling the unhealthy rent-seeking relationships between and among big government, big business and big labor.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:09 AM | Politics 2010 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
July 21, 2010
LAW/POLITICS: Swallowing The Rule

Randy Barnett looks at the radicalism of the legal theory invoked to defend Obamacare. Barnett admits that he himself adheres to a particularly narrow view of the scope of federal powers and particularly broad view of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, but as he points out, even if you don't buy his vision of the Constitution, the counter-argument would all but eliminate the existing limits on Congress' enumerated powers. Key excerpt:

[W]e are all looking at the law as it currently exists and observing that the Supreme Court has never upheld the use of the commerce power to mandate that everyone engage in economic activity. All it has ever done is regulate or prohibit those who choose to engage in economic activity. As such there is no existing authority for extending the Commerce Clause this far.

This is an entirely conventional legal argument....[T]he claim that this power is unprecedented is demonstrably true. If the commerce power had ever been used like this before, these lawprofs would have been able to produce an example....

[Y]ou want to know another claim that is unprecedented? The claim that Congress may require any person in the US to do anything it deems to be in the public interest or pay a fine or penalty to the IRS. I do not know who first came up with this theory, but whoever it was was pushing the envelope of federal power beyond anywhere it had ever gone. The Tax power has never been used to impose a mandate on the American people and the Supreme Court has never recognized such a power.

So I will make this prediction: If five justice vote to uphold the individual mandate, they won't use the Tax power theory because (a) its implications are just too radical and (b) there is zero public support for such a constitutional proposition.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:44 PM | Law 2009-13 • | Politics 2010 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
July 15, 2010
POLITICS: Deficits Are A Symptom. The Problem Is Spending.

Do deficits matter?

The Obama Administration has been in something of a quandary lately as to whether to primarily emphasize its plans to spend more taxpayer money as "stimulus" or to paint itself as fighting against deficits. The former has the advantage of looking like the White House is doing - or trying against GOP opposition to do - something about the economy and its still-listless rates of growth and job recovery; the latter has the advantage of allaying voter fears that the Democrats have been doing too much and digging us into a fiscal hole, as well as offering at least the possibility of bipartisanship or faux bipartisanship that helps (whether Republicans accept or reject Obama's offers) blur the lines between the parties on deficits and spending. Remember that the one thing Obama has sought from Day One of his stimulus strategy, and has largely failed at, is to avoid presenting a clear contrast between the two parties on spending and the size of government, that being an argument he cannot win.

With a deficit commission working on proposals that will be delivered after the fall election, some liberal pundits/activists like Ezra Klein of the Washington Post and Matthew Yglesias of ThinkProgress are trying to keep both options open by arguing that conservatives are somehow hypocritical for complaining about massive deficits under Obama and the Democratic Congress while promoting tax cuts to help with the lack of economic growth. But read their work and notice, as with Obama, what's missing: they talk only about deficits, not about spending - you will search Klein's column in vain for any indication that anyone should care how obese government gets, as long as it's feasting on current tax revenues instead of on deficit financing. And naturally, when and if Obama tries to do something about the deficit, he too will view it mainly as a revenue problem, not a problem with spending and the size of government. Indeed, history shows that even Beltway Republicans have tended to fall into the trap of assuming that the problem is mainly one of raising revenue, or at least that any deal to fix the deficit can only attract Democratic support if it includes Democrats' beloved tax hikes.

This is going about the question all wrong. Would you rather have a federal government that spends 15 cents of every dollar earned in this country, while taxing 12 and making up the difference by issuing debt - or a federal government that takes in and spends 30 cents of every dollar? I'd much prefer the former. The Democrats don't want to have that conversation at all.

Either way the spending is financed, the amount spent by government is a portion of the economy that cannot produce meaningful growth. Yes, wise government can play a role in a better growth environment, and yes, at times the government produces a little growth on its own, e.g., government scientists invent things that can help the economy grow. But by and large, a dollar invested in the public sector is a dollar that will never bear more than a dollar in fruit, and next year the government comes looking for another dollar, while a dollar left in the private sector can grow and be used later in either private or public hands. (In Biblical terms, the dollar in the public sector is like the servant who buried his master's money in the back yard) All of the growth we take for granted as producing increasing wealth over time comes from the portion of the economy that is not consumed by government. So, using our oversimplified example, which obviously excludes the state and local public sector, you have one economy in which 70 cents of every dollar goes back to the private sector to grow, and one in which 85 cents does. Which economy do you think will have more money after a couple of generations of this? Even at a paltry private-sector growth rate of 2% per year, the first economy has produced $1.59 at the end of three years for every dollar, and the second has produced $2.27. As I said, this is a vast oversimplification, but there's simply no way for the first economy to grow faster unless you believe - contrary to the most fundamental tenets of economics and history - that the public sector can produce economic growth at a rate comparable to the private sector.

Moreover, within reason, running a modest deficit can make sense, for reasons somewhat analogous to why a corporation issues bonds as well as stock to raise capital, or why even well-off families (especially under the present tax code) may take out a mortgage: sometimes, debt is cost-effective. As long as it is a safe bet to repay its debts, the US federal government can borrow funds more cheaply than any other entity on earth, and while debt requires us to pay interest, which means mandated spending, if the money not taxed is growing in the private sector at a faster rate than the interest rate paid by the government, then deficit spending makes sense for the same reason why you might buy stocks instead of paying down your mortgage - the rate of return is better. Also, the federal government should never run a surplus, since if the government is collecting, say, 20% in taxes and spending 18%, it's the 20% figure that represents the bite taken out of the private sector. So, the target for revenue should always aim for a little below spending.

But the fact that deficits can make economic sense under the right conditions does not mean that all deficits do - the bigger the debt, the more interest is paid on it (thus, more spending), and the higher rates must be paid (because too-large debt makes bond markets worry about credit risk); and the higher proportion of government spending that's financed by deficits, the worse are your odds that the money left in private hands will grow faster than the interest rate. At some point, deficit financing becomes a very bad bet. And of course, there are situations where the government may need to run a surplus if it needs to use the difference to pay down enough debt to get back to its usual position of running a manageable deficit, a strategy used in the past after the federal government took on excessive debts in a short stretch to fight wars.

So, why are conservatives up in arms now over deficits? Two reasons. One - which the Democrats seem determined to ignore - is that public concern about deficits is often linked to concern about spending and the size of government. Huge deficits can be a major symptom of overspending. But they're the symptom, not the disease. I have a chart below the fold showing federal revenue, spending, deficits, debt and interest as a percentage of GDP, as well as deficits and interest as a percentage of spending (the Def% and Int % columns) and partisan control of the White House, House and Senate from 1947 through 2011.

Until the 2006 elections, we hadn't been over spending 21% of GDP since the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress, and hadn't been over spending 23.5% of GDP in the postwar period. But the first year of the new Democratic Congress took us to 20.7%, then 24.7%, with spending projected to crack 25% for 2010 and 2011 for the first time, as the deficit - never above 6% before, below 4% since 1993 and often below 2% during the era of GOP control of Congress - soars to 9.9% in 2009 and projected 10.6% in 2010. This is simply more spending than the economy can bear, and the deficit is a symptom of that problem.

And two, we're in a situation now where the proportion of deficit spending is itself out of hand. Check the Def% column in the chart - in fiscal years 2009 and (projected) 2010, we're paying for over 40% of government spending by issuing debt, while it had topped out at 18.1% during the years the GOP controlled Congress and 25.5% as the postwar high. It's not at all unreasonable to be unconcerned when you're borrowing 10% or 15% of your budget - when you're borrowing 40%, you're living beyond your means. And anybody who thinks you can fix that by collecting a quarter of GDP in federal taxes is insane.

Spending has to come down. That's the only way to fix the deficit problem and the growth problem.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (29) | TrackBack (0)
July 13, 2010
BASEBALL: Unbossed

George Steinbrenner has died, at age 80, of a massive heart attack. The Boss' timing was perfect to the end: a week after his 80th birthday on July 4th, on the morning of the All-Star Game (with the baseball media all gathered in one place with nothing much to write about), which Joe Girardi will manage as the skipper of the defending champs (the 7th in the 37 years of Steinbrenner's tenure), just days after the passing of public address announcer Bob Sheppard at age 99 (Sheppard being one of the last links to the old, pre-George Yankees, having been the PA announcer since Mickey Mantle's rookie year, 1951), and less than a week removed from the LeBron James spectacle, which in its own way was the logical endpoint of a culture of free agency that George did as much to create in pro sports as anyone.

Steinbrenner's personality and legacy will be described as "complicated," which is sort of true although the pieces are easy enough to stitch together into a coherent whole with some effort. My all-time favorite line was from Luis Polonia in 1989: "Steinbrenner is only interested in one thing, and I don't know what it is." At times, when the Yankees weren't winning, it seemed that way. Nobody cared about winning more than Steinbrenner, and that of course was his greatest virtue as an owner; the Yankees made a lot of money under George, but he never saw the money as something to pocket separate and apart from winning, and as a fan there are few things you want more in your team owner. His signature move was signing Goose Gossage to be his closer immediately after Sparky Lyle won the Cy Young Award, an act of colossal baseball gluttony that turned out to be visionary; Sparky's arm gave out and he went, in Graig Nettles' words, "from Cy Young to Syonara in one year," while the Goose went on to have the prime of his Hall of Fame career in pinstripes.

But he cared about other things too, and even with winning, sometimes he cared too much. He was the only baseball owner you could turn into a Seinfeld character with minimal alteration. Until his old age and infirmities mellowed him, he meddled incessantly, firing managers like Lewis Carroll's Red Queen, bullying his players in public (recall him calling Jim Beattie "gutless" on the occasion of summarily demoting him to AA), breaking the rules and the law to dig dirt on Dave Winfield and help Richard Nixon get re-elected. He created an impossible atmosphere for developing young players - especially pitchers, catchers, shortstops who can take more time to learn their craft - and it's no accident that the two great Yankees teams of his tenure were built during his absences (the suspensions in the mid-70s over his conviction and in the early 90s over the Winfield affair), or that the second Yankees dynasty thrived because it never needed to replace its catcher, shortstop or closer again in George's lifetime.

There was also his love of the back page, even his beer commercials with Billy and Reggie, and of course his obsession with topping anything that would get publicity for the Mets, even in periods when the Mets were in deplorable shape. But while George thrived on publicity and controversy and abused his subordinates, he was also long on forgiveness and charity. Many famous grudges were held against Steinbrenner, most famously Yogi Berra (the Yankees of the late 80s, like the Mets of the late 70s and the Yankees of the late 60s, endured the lost decade that is one's penance for firing Yogi), but other than Winfield, who George perhaps hated the more because he remained under guaranteed contract, Steinbrenner was not a man to hold grudges; you could be fired today and rehired tomorrow. He loved giving second and third chances to guys with problems (Billy Martin, Steve Howe, Darry Strawberry, Dwight Gooden).

It's too late, in a sense, to object to the changes Steinbrenner wrought on the game; he was a force for change, and shaped how those changes in the game occurred and were perceived. Steinbrenner was the ideal man for his franchise (while the Yankees lost the aura of classy professionalism they'd had in the 50s, they were always first and foremost about domination), and his adopted city's tabloid culture (he could never have stayed in Cleveland). Love him or hate him, he was the kind of villain who made sports fun to follow and fun to write about, and the Yankees, yes, a fun team to hate. His controversies will pass; his monuments will be with us for some time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 AM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
July 9, 2010
HISTORY: America Begins

My RedState colleague streiff has a fascinating piece on the 255th anniversary of Braddock's defeat and its importance to the Revolutionary generation and the rise of George Washington, then 23 years old and already a pivotal figure in the war between France and Britain known here as the French and Indian War (more background here and here on Washington's role in touching off the war through the incidents at Jumonville Glen/Fort Necessity. Naturally, the tale includes many of the familiar templates of US-European relations that are with us still.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:07 PM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: The King Becomes The Apprentice

There have been oceans of commentary on the LeBron James to Miami story (NY Daily News headline - "WHO CARES" - but they still put him on the front and back covers of the paper for the second day running). On a general level I agree with the consensus: I can't blame him for deciding to leave Cleveland for a better chance to win a title, but if he was going to leave the Cavs, he could hardly have picked a worse way to increase the pain for his devoted hometown fans than the national TV special crowning a long and probably mostly-for-show public debate. I can't really blame Cavs fans for rallying behind the sentiments in the Cavs owner's over-the-top open letter that amounted to the "Fredo, you broke my heart" speech. The Miami signing is death to two proud franchises: the Cavs had the heart cut out of their team and their fans' loyalty burned in public (three highest paid athletes in Cleveland now: Antawn Jamison, Travis Hafner and Jake Westbrook), and the Knicks, moribund for a decade, had no real Plan B after spending the past 4-5 seasons un-building around having the cap room for LeBron (I'll believe Amar'e Stoudemire and his rebuilt knee when I see him do it in NY, given the ghastly record of Knicks mid-career acquisitions of scoring forwards the last quarter century).

LeBron will have a long way to go yet to top Barry Bonds as the best free agent signing ever, or Shaq in LA as the best post-merger NBA free agent signing. Also: I think the people who talk up how superior a salary cap system is to baseball's economic system will be quiet for a while. And of course, there's the inevitable political point to be made on how much more money LeBron will make in Florida than in Ohio due to Florida's lower taxes.

But here's the one thing I wanted to weigh in on. There's a school of thought, emblemized by Bill Simmons' excellent column yesterday, that by going to a team that already has an 'alpha dog' scorer/ballhandler (Dwayne Wade) who's already won a ring with the team, LeBron has shown that he doesn't have it in him to be the alpha dog himself in the way that Jordan and Kobe have been.

Well, maybe. And if so, maybe - assuming it works out - people who value teamwork, unselfishness and dedication to winning championships should celebrate LeBron's willingness to suppress his obviously considerable ego for the good of winning.

But consider the alternative interpretation: maybe LeBron knows he isn't ready to be the alpha dog. He's still only 25, and Wade is 28 and has already taken a lot of pounding. Maybe after finding the limits of his ability or willingness to carry a team alone in the playoffs, LeBron wants to learn the finer points of his craft a little longer, bide his time the way Magic did in the early 80s or Havlicek in the mid-60s or Kobe earlier in this decade. Maybe on some level he's admitting he doesn't really know how to win - yet. What's wrong with that?

It's hard to project whether the Wade-James-Bosh experiment will work until we see what role players the team assembles around them; it wouldn't surprise me to see some veteran role players take a pay cut for the chance to play with a trio that, when they're on the court together, will be completely unguardable. Shaq comes to mind - I'm not sure what shape his relationship with Wade and James is at this point, but pretty much everybody who's played with Shaq has benefitted from the experience. Also, I'd put the over/under around 8 months on Pat Riley returning to the bench to coach these guys, especially if LeBron doesn't immediately mix seamlessly into the team.

And morally satisfying as it might be to root against these guys, part of me, as a sports fan, really does want to see the experiment succeed to shut up a lot of preening sportswriters and prove that a true partnership between guys of Wade's and James' caliber can be formed. Certainly two guys with their athletic gifts and passing ability have the potential to create some really beautiful basketball.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:12 AM | Basketball | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
July 7, 2010
BASEBALL: Howard's Patience

One of the things that can be deceptive about walk rates is if a player - especially a slugger - has dramatic changes in his intentional walk rates year to year. So with Ryan Howard, who averaged 36 IBB per year in 2006-07, but fell off to 17 in 2008, 8 in 2009, and 6 in half a season this year. (Vlad Guerrero has had similar patterns). Here's Howard's walks per 600 plate appearances if you subtract IBB from both:

2005: 44
2006: 64
2007: 70
2008: 56
2009: 58
2010: 35

The pattern in Howard's total walk rates suggested he walked a lot in 2006 and 2007 and had big falloffs in 2008 and 2009, but as you can see, while Howard's non-intentional walk rate peaked in 2007, the trend from 2006 to 2009 was mostly consistent. Whereas this year, he really has fallen off dramatically, albeit covering that in his OBP by hitting .296.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:34 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: To The Utley

Want a measure of how valuable Chase Utley has been to the Phillies? Utley had had a 900 OPS and OPS+ of 125 or better, in 600 or more plate appearances, each of the past five consecutive years. Here's the list of guys to have a 125 OPS+ or better in three or more seasons total, in at least 500 PA, playing at least half their games at 2B, by number of seasons:

14
Eddie Collins

11
Nap Lajoie

10
Joe Morgan

8
Rogers Hornsby

7
Charlie Gehringer

6
Ryne Sandberg
Larry Doyle

5
Chase Utley
Jeff Kent
Craig Biggio
Roberto Alomar

4
Lou Whitaker
Jackie Robinson
Tony Lazzeri
Billy Herman
Bobby Grich
Joe Gordon
Bobby Doerr
Cupid Childs
Rod Carew

3
Frankie Frisch
Tom Daly

(Plus 19 guys who did it twice, including Hall of Famers Johnny Evers and Bid McPhee as well as two active players, Robinson Cano and Alfonso Soriano)

Doyle's the only one of the 6-years-and-up guys not in the Hall of Fame, and he was a bad glove man who played in the dead ball era. Utley could easily join that group if he returns healthy from his current injury without missing too much time. If you look at raw numbers of seasons of 900 OPS or better, the list is even narrower:

8
Hornsby

7
Gehringer

5
Collins
Utley

4
Alomar
Jackie

3
Lajoie
Morgan
Childs
Kent

2
Biggio
Bret Boone
Chuck Knoblauch
Buddy Myer

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:49 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 6, 2010
BLOG: And Now I'm Back, From Outer Banks

So, we just got back last night from a week plus vacation, mainly in Duck, in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Apologies for not setting up a guest blogger this time, I had anticipated doing a little blogging from vacation but we had the worst possible WiFi setup - I had internet access only up an observation tower on our rental house, and atop the tower it was too sunny to see the laptop screen by day and too dark to see the keys at night. (Also, I ended up doing more work on vacation than anticipated; it's been that kind of year). So, I was able to use Twitter from my Blackberry, but no blogging. Hopefully, regular blogging will return shortly.

We did get a chance, on the way out of town, to check out Kitty Hawk, where the second set* of Wright Brothers chose for their spot to make aviation history, and you only have to fly a kite in the Outer Banks to see why they picked the spot - the wind conditions are perfect for effortless flight. Of course, my 4-year-old was able to walk the distance of the first flight in almost the time it took the Wright Brothers to get there by airplane. The first flight wasn't that fast. But it is striking that it's one of the very few great moments in scientific and technological history that was captured for posterity in photographs. And of course, as befitted (befat?) men of that era, everyone involved wore neckties, topcoats and top hats.

On the trip back, we caught the July 4 Mets-Nationals game at Nationals Park. It's a nice place for a ballgame, with scarcely a bad seat in the house, notwithstanding that it was hot enough there Monday to melt the One Ring. I wouldn't say it's quite as attractive a venue as Citizens Bank or Citi Field, but it's very wide-open, and when Craig Stammen is pitching (he's in the rotation the day after Strasburg), you can have any seat in the house. We sat in the field-level right field seats (Section 135L), which were awesome until the heat became unbearable, then backed up to the covered seats at the top of the section.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:31 PM | Baseball 2010 • | Blog 2006-13 • | History | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)