Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
September 29, 2010
POLITICS: Going Under

To follow up on yesterday's Alan Grayson item, Ace notes the latest poll showing Grayson down 7:

Grayson's whole schtick, of course, is that toxic Democratic idea that the way to be "tough" is simply to be obnoxiously dishonest. "Republicans win that way," they tell themselves, and "tough Democrats" fight fire with fire.

Meanwhile they make monsters of themselves. But that's "tough."

This is what I refer to as cargo-cult politics: the Left creates a caricature of the Right and then seeks to pattern itself after the caricature. And then wonders why people find this distasteful.

OK, Grayson is the kind of guy who thinks you're a moron and like the Taliban if you, say, voted for George W. Bush. But George W. Bush carried Grayson's district in 2004. You can sustain this sort of thing for years in a district like Pete Stark's or Nancy Pelosi's, but in a swing district in the South, it's a perilous path.

UPDATE: James Richardson notes that the poll in question was taken before the "Taliban Dan" ad aired, but of course after years of Grayson's similar antics.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:32 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
September 28, 2010
POLITICS: Grayson Sinks Lower

Politics ain't beanbag, and every election cycle we are treated to some ads that are vicious, some that are false or misleading, and some that are both. Neither party, nor any level of government or region of the country has a monopoly on these, although there are differences in style.

But in the more than two decades I've been following politics, I can't recall seeing a campaign run two distinct ads that were as off-the-charts in both viciousness and dishonesty as the two ads run by Florida Democratic Congressman (and left-wing 'netroots' darling) Alan Grayson against his opponent Daniel Webster (yes, really), discussed by Caleb Howe here and here (Caleb also reviews some of Grayson's many offenses against elementary decency, integrity and sanity over the past few years). Just when you think the rank fraudulence and chutzpah of the "draft dodger" ad can't be topped, you watch the original clip from which the "Taliban Dan" ad is taken and you marvel that anybody could be quite this sleazy. But that's Alan Grayson for you.

UPDATE: Erick looks further at Grayson's background here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:01 AM | Politics 2010 | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)
September 23, 2010
BASEBALL: Bing's Home Movie

The first complete footage of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series found in Bing Crosby's wine cellar.

I'd be kind of frustrated if I was the guy who'd written an entire book on that game using the radio tape and only now got to see the film.

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September 21, 2010
POLITICS: Don't Ask, Don't Vote

The Senate today mustered only 56 votes - four short of the necessary 60 - to break a filibuster and bring to a vote a defense appropriations bill containing two highly controversial provisions: (1) a measure repealing the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (a Clinton-era policy) that permits gays to serve in the military only if they are not openly gay, and (2) the DREAM Act, which permits illegal aliens to earn citizenship either by military service or enrollment in college. Leaving aside Harry Reid (who voted against cloture for procedural reasons*), the opposing votes included all present Republicans as well as Arkansas' two Democratic Senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.

The DADT vote was the headliner, and the subject of much anguish among liberals/progressives and their Hollywood allies who see ending DADT as a key unfulfilled Obama campaign promise. But the fact is, the Democratic leadership was never serious about using this vote to overturn DADT. Let us count the ways.

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September 17, 2010
POLITICS: Posting Up

I have a column in the NY Post this morning on the great missed opportunity that is 2010's Republican Party in New York (it's on p. 25 of the print paper).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 AM | Politics 2010 | Comments (41) | TrackBack (0)
September 14, 2010
POLITICS: Who I Voted For In New York Today

Quick roundup. I voted around 7am this morning, and was the sixth voter at my polling station, and the first Republican. The bad news is that the new optical-scanner voting machines seem a real downgrade in ease, reliability and privacy from the old mechanical machines in use for so many decades in New York.

The sort of sad thing, but emblematic of the poor odds of the candidates I had to vote for, is that while I've been carefully following numerous races across the country, I was basically down to looking stuff up the night before the election on the races I actually voted in.

Senate (Gillibrand): David Malpass. The most conservative of the three candidates, had at last check a few million in the bank, so he should be able to meet the minimum standard of making voters aware he's running. Malpass won't win unless we're dealing with a much larger GOP wave than anybody anticipates, but he's a serious policy guy. Only thing that gave me pause was that Joe DioGuardi has the Conservative line, despite being more of a typical NY establishment Republican . This is a story for another day, but while the Conservative Party has its uses (see, Doug Hoffman), on balance I resent the coercive practice of giving a third party November ballot line to one of the participants in a primary, and think the presence of a separate Conservative Party - a thing that doesn't really exist in any of the other 49 states - has retarded the process of reforming and reviving the NY GOP.

Senate (Schumer): Gary Berntsen. The ex-CIA spy is also a serious and impressive guy, albeit a sacrificial lamb of the highest order.

Governor: Carl Paladino. This is a protest vote; Rick Lazio is a loyal Republican and a reasonable guy with a well-thought out agenda (and also has the Conservative nomination), while Paladino is something of a bomb-thrower and only intermittently a Republican. But Lazio screwed over the state's Republican voters by sitting out the winnable Gillibrand race (remember, his experience is as a Congressman) in favor of a doomed bid for governor, in which he's getting crushed by Andrew Cuomo, down more than 30 points in the polls. A vote for Lazio is wasted anyway; may as well go with the deep-pocketed Paladino, who promises to make life difficult for Cuomo. Given the many other races on the ballot and the fact that Lazio's no more likely to make a race of this, I'm not worried that a poor showing by Paladino will depress turnout.

House (NY-5): Liz Berney. Berney ran against Gary Ackerman in 2008, and is a known quantity. Her opponent, Dr. James Milano, is less so, although he does have - yet again - the Conservative Party endorsement, for reasons that are really no clearer than the DioGuardi endorsement. Apparently, Milano is a registered Democrat, having switched parties in the spring of 2009 (this according to a Berney mailer; I couldn't find better information from Milano disputing this). I was also turned off by noticing that it's hard to find a decent picture of Milano, the news feed on his website hasn't been updated since July, and perhaps most damningly an article in the local paper on the race was unable to get a comment from Milano on his candidacy - all of which when added up suggest a guy who isn't running the kind of operation needed to make himself available in case the voters turn on the 14-term incumbent, Gary Ackerman.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:41 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
September 13, 2010
POLITICS: What's At Stake In Delaware

Tomorrow, the voters in seven states and the District of Columbia go to the polls to conclude the primary election season. The most closely-watched race on the ballot will be the race between long-time at-large liberal Republican Congressman Mike Castle and Tea Party-backed conservative insurgent Christine O'Donnell for the Republican nomination for the open Senate seat previously vacated by Joe Biden. Because the election is a special election, the winner of the seat will be seated immediately (as with the Illinois Senate race) and serve until the general election in 2014.

There have been a long series of contested primaries in the GOP this year, albeit not all of which ended up getting resolved at the ballot box. Just in the Senate races we've had victories of one sort or another for the conservative insurgents in Florida, Pennsylvania, Utah, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, and Kentucky, victories for the moderate establishment candidate in Indiana, Arizona, California, Washington, and (likely on Tuesday) New Hampshire, victories for conservative establishment figures in Ohio and Missouri, and less clear-cut ideological battles in Connecticut, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin (New York's another story entirely). In only one state (Illinois) has a liberal Republican won a race against any sort of opposition, and prominent and experienced liberal Republicans have gotten crushed in Connecticut (Rob Simmons) and California (Tom Campbell). Notably, a few of the moderates who did fend off a conservative challenger (e.g., John McCain and Carly Fiorina) did so with the help of an endorsement by Sarah Palin, the lightning rod of this primary election season.

The Castle-O'Donnell race has become perhaps the most divisive primary of this cycle within the conservative movement, for reasons I'll explain in a moment. There are a couple of important questions at stake that are worth considering, which really go to the heart of what kind of party the GOP should be; but it's equally important to recall that we are compelled to face those questions only because of the particular weaknesses of these two candidates and the conditions in Delaware. The result is that there are good arguments on both sides of this one. As I'll explain, I come out on the side of backing Castle, but the case for backing O'Donnell can't be dismissed out of hand and deserves serious reflection.

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September 11, 2010
WAR: Remember

9 years ago this day.

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September 9, 2010
POLITICS: Unorganized for America

That was then:

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, you will have to be engaged.

This is now:

The outfit that put upwards of 8 million volunteers on the street in 2008 - known as Organizing for America - is a ghost of its former self. Its staff has shrunk from 6,000 to 300, and its donors are depressed: receipts are a fraction of what they were in 2008. Virtually no one in politics believes it will turn many contests this fall. "There's no chance that OFA is going to have the slightest impact on the midterms," says Charlie Cook, who tracks congressional races.

...By the time they realized they needed more troops, says longtime consultant Joe Trippi, "their supporters had taken a vacation from politics."

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BASEBALL: Fun Facts

-Dave Rader in 1973 became the first player since intentional walks started being tabulated to have more intentional walks (23) than striekouts (22). The only other guy to do it: Barry Bonds 2002, 03 & 04 (3-yr tot: 249 IBB, 146 K).

-Hack Wilson in 156 home games in 1929-30 drove in 215 runs. His whole batting line: .383/.466/.753, 222 Hits, 105 Walks, 215 RBI, 150 R, 437 Total Bases, 58 HR.

-Speaking of home/road splits, Dazzy Vance from 1922 (when he returned to the majors and started his run of greatness; home/road splits aren't available before 1920) to the end of his career had a record of 109-62 (.637) with a 2.79 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and a 2.95 K/BB ratio at home, compared to 88-74 (.543) with a 3.71 ERA, 5.1 K/9 and a 1.97 K/BB ratio on the road. Which gives some credence to the theory of his contemporaries that Vance gained an advantage from pitching at Ebbets Field on days when the women in apartments behind the outfield would hang out their white laundry; Vance would bleach the sleeve of his pitching arm, so batters couldn't pick up the ball at all. Of course, even 5.1 K/9 was something like double the league average for his prime years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:15 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Balls In Play

So, Baseball-Reference.com currently has the numbers for batting average on balls in play (BABIP) for all pitchers since 1950. Some interesting stuff digging through those numbers. First of all, the variances over entire careers are pretty substantial, enough to make you question the Voros McCracken thesis that BABIP has nothing to do with the pitcher. Granted, that thesis has been modified a good deal since it was first introduced, and it still remains ground-breakingly useful, if only because BABIP varies from year to year for individual pitchers so much more than other elements of pitching success or failure. And granted, that's before you consider the differences in eras, park effects and the defenses pitchers pitched in front of.

Speaking of which, while the lowest career BABIP among pitchers with 3000 or more innings pitched is Andy Messersmith (.243), the highest is Andy Pettite at .312, and Chuck Finley is the only other guy at or above .300 (.300 on the nose). What could account for Pettitte's historically poor defensive support? Well, among other things, he's the only guy on the list to have thrown 2500 or so innings with Derek Jeter at shortstop. Mike Mussina's BABIP as a Yankee: .307. Roger Clemens': .300. (Mariano Rivera: .263. The lesson, as always, is that Rivera's inhuman). Granted, BABIP have been up around the league in the past 15 years or so (Rick Reuschel was the worst until recently), but it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the Yankees' poor defense, especially up the middle, has hurt Pettitte (though not as much as their offense and bullpen have helped him).

A few other notes:

The lowest BABIP season since 1950, among pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title: Dave McNally, 1968 (.203), which should not be surprising. The highest: Kevin Millwood, 2008 (.358), which is why he was such a great candidate to bounce back in 2009 (this year's another story). Also an unsurprising entry near the top is Jeff Robinson, who had the one really fluky year in 1988. Interestingly, the 6th lowest: Don Larsen 1956 (.216). And one guy who had generally worse (except for 1985-86) BABIP than the league: Dwight Gooden.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:15 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Hostility

Great Jonathan Last piece on the "childfree" movement and its discontents.

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WAR/POLITICS: A Little Class Goes A Long Way

He has his many faults, but a genuine thumbs-up to Joe Biden for a classy performance on Colbert, where he delivered hot dogs to returning soldiers and gave due credit to President Bush for his dedication to the troops and their mission in Iraq.

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BASEBALL: Yard

Sidney Crosby goes deep. Very deep.

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September 3, 2010
POLITICS: Rave Reviews For American Taliban

So the reviews have begun to come in for Markos Moulitsas' book "American Taliban," which argues that American conservatives are just like the Taliban, and they're...well, let me start with Jamelle Bouie's review at the left-wing The American Prospect:

Given the subject matter and his own influence, Moulitsas is sure to find a large audience for American Taliban. This wouldn't be a problem if the book were a careful comparison of populist nationalist movements, highlighting similarities, underscoring differences, and generally documenting points of congruence between the U.S. conservative movement and populist nationalist groups around the world. But it isn't.

As Bouie notes, "Moulitsas elides glaring contradictions in his argument and routinely misrepresents his evidence," and is completely lacking in perspective:

Now, it's true that certain tendencies on the American right have analogues in fundamentalist Islam; for example, and as Moulitsas points out in his chapter on sex, right-wing conservatives share a hatred of pornography with fundamentalist Iranian authorities. Of course the similarities end there; conservatives boycott pornography, Iran punishes it with death.

But, this gets to the huge, glaring problem with American Taliban; ultimately, any similarities are vastly outweighed by incredibly important distinctions and vast differences of degree. I'm no fan of the right wing, but the only possible way it can be "indistinguishable" from the Taliban is if conservatives are stoning women for adultery, stalking elementary schools to throw acid in girls' faces, and generally enforcing fundamentalist religious law with torture and wanton violence.

Bouie could have added that American feminists have also campaigned against pornography, which doesn't make them the Taliban, either. Bouie's conclusion:

Yes, progressives are depressed and despondent about the future, but that's no reason for dishonesty and scaremongering, and it doesn't excuse the obscenity of comparing our political opponents to killers and terrorists.

The whole thing is well worth reading. Kos' sort of reductionism barely deserves the label "thinking"; it's shtick, as Bouie observes: "Moulitsas seeks to classify right-wing conservatism as a species of fundamentalist extremism, for the purpose of spurring progressive action." Matt Yglesias, a progressive blogging contemporary of Kos, reaches the same conclusion, and thinks it's not even effective as shtick:

This stuff doesn't win votes anyone [sic] because, after all, it's a form of preaching to the choir. Which is fine-the choir needs some sermons. But there's no real upside in lying to the choir. Political movements need to adapt to the actual situation, and that means having an accurate understanding of your foes. You need to see them as they actually are so that you know the right way to respond. Either underestimating or overestimating their level of viciousness and evil can lead to serious miscalculations. Which is just to say that getting this stuff right is more important than coming up with funny put-downs.

Yglesias also notes that "the jacket copy heavily features a misleading out-of-context quote from Rush Limbaugh," and on Twitter he's even blunter about Kos' thesis:

This is false: "in their tactics and on the issues, our homegrown American Taliban are almost indistinguishable from the Afghan Taliban"

And mind you, this coming from a guy who has asserted that "Some day I will write a list of conservative writers who I respect. It will be a short list" and that "most liberals are not nearly condescending enough to conservatives." But Kos' shtick is a bridge too far even for Yglesias. Kevin Drum, who's now at Mother Jones, likewise sniffs, "I haven't read American Taliban and don't plan to. I figure I already dislike the American right wing enough, so there's little need to dump another load of fuel onto my own personal mental bonfire." The Atlantic rounds up more negative reviews from the Left.

I will give Yglesias and Drum the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're genuinely put off by Kos' tactics, and not merely jealous that his visibility and influence have eclipsed theirs (although Kos has come down in the world of late; he lost his TV gig on MSNBC and is apparently bombarding his website's email subscribers with messages touting the book, while releasing it only in paperback and planning a fairly modest book tour). Either way, it's clear that even fairly committed activists on the Left aren't buying what Kos is selling.

Where Bouie, Yglesias and Drum miss the mark, however, is in drawing a parallel to Jonah Goldberg's book Liberal Fascism, to the point where I wonder if any of them read the book, or even made it all the way through the introduction. Bouie at least notes that "Goldberg sought to make a historical connection between American liberalism and European fascism for the purpose of 'clearing the record,'" but then blathers that "books like Goldberg's Liberal Fascism or Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny present a world where liberals are the embodiment of cruel statism." Drum asks, "Did Liberal Fascism get any similarly incendiary reviews from mainstream conservatives writing in any of America's premier mainstream conservative publications?" Yglesias refers to the "apocalyptic 'my enemies are totalitarian madmen' strain of Birch/Beck/Goldberg conservatism."

I haven't read Levin's book and won't get into the other parallels, because this does an awful disservice to Jonah and his excellent, serious and thoughtful book. Goldberg's starting point, of course - as you'd know if you'd read his columns for the decade leading up to the book's publication - was defensive, against the decades of effort by liberals to characterize Nazism as a movement of the right closely akin to American conservatism. Goldberg took great pains, over and over and over again in his book, to note the very real distinctions between, say, the Nazis and modern American progressives, and to explain that he's not calling anybody a Nazi (although he does make a fairly compelling case that the Wilson Administration during World War I was perilously close to a European fascist state like Mussolini's Italy). While Goldberg is harsh in dealing with some of the truly disreputable characters he chronicles, like Margaret Sanger and Woodrow Wilson, he treats many modern liberals not as evil people but as fundamentally well-meaning but misguided people who don't even understand the intellectual history of their own movement and its common roots with those of European fascists. His use of the smiley-face on the cover is explained explicitly as showing how "nice" modern liberals are, or at least believe themselves sincerely to be. That said, Goldberg's parallels, such as they are, are sufficiently unforced that they continue to be predictive. The book was written in 2007, before the rise of Barack Obama (who merits only two brief mentions in the book), yet it perfectly captures the strains of both liberal and fascist rhetoric and policy that have recurred through Obama's tenure. The rhetorical tropes Goldberg details at length are particularly on display everywhere in Obama's speeches - the invocations of a nonideological Third Way, the veneration of youth, the insistent demands for the Man of Action ("the time for talk is over," Obama so loves to say). Ditto for policies and ideas, from substitution of politics for religion, to the coopting of business and labor into an unhealthy symbiosis with government, to the persistent efforts to use government hectoring to create a New Man. But the purpose of these parallels is not to defame the good intentions of supporters of liberal politics or diagnose them as demented perverts, as Kos does, but simply to illustrate that ideas have consequences and these particular ideas are dangerous.

The correcting-the-record part of this is Goldberg's point that conservatives are forever told to do daily penance (and nothing else) for the bad parts of conservative intellectual or political history, while the progressive movement doesn't even address its own history. And indeed, the historical treatments of Mussolini, Wilson, Hitler, Sanger and FDR are the best parts of the book (especially the explanations of the roots of European fascism in the thinking of American progressives), careful and detailed in their presentation of both the commonalities and the divergences. Color me doubtful that Kos' book has any similar historical perspective, especially on where the Taliban's ideas come from; that I can pretty well guess even without reading the book, from the way he talks about the book and the blurbs from people who purport to have read it. Here's an excerpt from an email from Kos:

The values and tactics that make Jihadists so despicable are the same values and tactics embraced by our own homegrown fundamentalists -- the American Taliban.

That's why I wrote the book American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right.

In the book, I show how similar both the American Taliban and Islamic Jihadists are -- from their fetishization of violence and guns, to their love of theocracy, to their hatred of women and gays, to their fear of scientific progress and education, to their weird hangups about sex, to their disdain for popular culture.

That's right: not only does Kos draw a direct parallel, he argues that conservatives are objectionable for exactly the same reasons as the Taliban. Which is ignorance of recent history so vast it can't begin to be described.

Or consider the blurbs, from calm and unbiased commentators like John Aravosis and Amanda Marcotte and noted historians like David Coverdale of Whitesnake, lauding among other things the book's "outrage and profanity":

"It isn't possible to understand American politics now without understanding the worldview and arguments of Markos Moulitsas. If you still believe the beltway caricature of the squishy, compromising, conciliatory American left, American Taliban should disabuse you of that notion." -Rachel Maddow, The Rachel Maddow Show

"Moulitsas alerts us to a clear and present danger in America: radical zealots who disregard our Constitution and our freedoms and who disguise themselves as patriots."
-Roger Ebert, film critic

"I can't remember a time in my life when anti-intellectualism and intolerance-from America's prejudice against evolutionary science to its reactionary condemnation of a scholarly African American president-has been more pervasive. The time has never been more ripe for a book such as this. American Taliban reminds us that fanaticism isn't always an import."
-Brett Gurewitz, Bad Religion

"A thorough compendium of right-wing hypocrisy and selective memory that is either hilarious or tragic, depending on your mood. And it's all lovingly couched in outrage and profanity."
-David Cross, I Drink for a Reason

"While not afraid to laugh at the American Taliban, Markos Moulitsas sees the culture warriors for the insidious, dangerous force they present to a free and democratic society."
-Amanda Marcotte, Executive Editor, Pandagon.net

"Markos writes with a conscience and armed with facts to let you know: no, you're not crazy. What you suspected all along was true-America's right wing lives on a myth of self-constructed lies about the Other, with a juvenile disregard for reality, and Obama's presidency has further radicalized an already radical conservative movement."
-Janeane Garofalo, comic and actor

"Markos Moulitsas vividly exposes how the radical right and many leaders in the Republican Party, contrary to their incessant claims, actually hate the cherished American values of freedom, justice, tolerance and diversity of thought and expression. With sparkling clarity, American Taliban sounds the alarm on the well-funded, highly-placed authoritarians in this country who work daily to strip away civil liberties and viciously malign gays, women and other groups, and shows why they are treacherous to American democracy. We better listen."
-Michelangelo Signorile, The Michelangelo Signorile Show, Sirius XM Radio

"American Taliban makes it clear that in a blind taste test the only way you'd be able to tell the difference between the GOP and Taliban philosophies would be beard hair."
-Sam Seder, author, F.U.B.A.R: America's Right Wing Nightmare

"Markos Moulitsas exposes Limbaugh, Palin, Beck, O'Reilly, Boehner, Gingrich, the Teabaggers, and the Birthers as mullahs of a modern American Taliban hell-bent on imposing their narrow-minded political jihad on us all."
-John Aravosis, editor, AMERICAblog.com

"American Taliban shines a blinding light on the conservative right's dark agenda. Anyone who genuinely cares about America should read this book."
-David Coverdale, Whitesnake

Nothing in there is anything like Goldberg's declaration, right up front, that

Now, I am not saying that all liberals are fascists. Nor am I saying that to believe in socialized medicine or smoking bans is evidence of crypto-Nazism. What I am mainly trying to do is to dismantle the granitelike assumption in our political culture that American conservatism is an offshoot or cousin of fascism. Rather, as I will try to show, many of the ideas and impulses that inform what we call liberalism come to us through an intellectual tradition that led directly to fascism. These ideas were embraced by fascism, and remain in important respects fascistic.

As Goldberg writes today of the parallels:

While I do not smear all of my political opponents as monsters (people who say I do this, again, have either not read the book, are too blinkered to understand it, or are lying), it seems pretty clear that's exactly what Kos sets out to do.

Kos' book is getting poor reviews from his own side because his thesis is ridiculous, his tone excessive, and his perspective warped. But don't throw Jonah Goldberg in the same remainder bin, as none of those things is true of his book.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Politics 2010 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Et Tu, Harlem?

It's debatable what's the most loyally Democratic district in the country, but NY's 15th District would have to be in the running. The district, centered in Harlem, went 87% for Al Gore in 2000, 90% for John Kerry in 2004, and 93% for Barack Obama in 2008, is rated D+41 by Charlie Cook, and in various formats has been represented in Congress since 1971 by arch-liberal Charlie Rangel, who took the seat when his predecessor, Adam Clayton Powell jr., was enveloped by a decade-long series of scandals and ultimately booted from office by the House Democratic caucus after 26 years in office.

But in 2010, with the now scandal-marred Rangel facing a primary challenge from Powell's grandson, Adam Clayton Powell IV (who he defeated previously in 1994), the NY Daily News finds even the Democratic voters in NY-15 dispirited by their choices, in an article helpfully titled (in the print edition) "Pick Rangel or Powell for Congress? Yuck!":

"Everybody wishes there were better options," said Pax Williams, a 33-year-old party promoter who plans to vote for Rangel because "you don't want to get anyone worse."

Rangel faces a House trial on 13 ethics charges, including tax evasion, and, as the Daily News reported Thursday, Powell took thousands in campaign cash - which he is returning - from an ex-con strip-club king.

"You don't know what else is coming out of the bag with either of them," said 73-year-old Leo Mobley of central Harlem....

"This is the problem in Harlem. They haven't developed a generation of young leadership," said one high-profile Rangel supporter.

That's your energized base, Democrats.

Of course, I should point out here that there is a Republican running even in NY-15 (the GOP has fielded candidates in a record 432 of the nation's 435 districts, for which the RNC and NRCC deserve some credit), former NY Jet and now pastor Rev. Michel Faulkner. RedState's Moe Lane talked to Rev. Faulkner back in June.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:00 AM | Politics 2010 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 1, 2010
BASEBALL: Ground Uncovered

Amazin Avenue has a look at Joaquin Arias' defensive stats:

The first thing that jumps out from initial analysis is that Arias has been called a shortstop by some pundits. He's probably not a shortstop in the major leagues. Total Zone has him as a -12 shortstop over 150 games, and that's in Triple-A. Perhaps he can move over and play in a pinch, but the Rangers have only used him there for 32 innings in his big league career, which has spanned around 475 innings. No shortstop here.

But the Mets have a need at second base with Luis Castillo letting balls through the five hole and Ruben Tejada swinging a limp noodle, so he could still be useful at that position. And a -10 shortstop can actually still be a scratch defender at second base, so defense shouldn't keep him off the field. His -7.7 UZR/150 only comes in 390 innings and is usually more reliable after three seasons of data - I think he can better that number with regular work.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:48 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Turning The Page

I'd meant to work this into something larger on Obama's speech last night, but it's an interesting fact in its own right on how our politics have, in their natural course, mostly moved on from the Iraq War debate (for better and for worse): of the 77 Senators who voted to authorize the war back in October 2002, no more than 32 of them - 17 Republicans and 15 members of the Democratic caucus (i.e., including Lieberman) will still be in office come January (less if some fail to get re-elected, although Harry Reid's the only one of the 32 in much hot water; of course, Hillary and Biden have moved on to higher positions). 14 of the 23 who voted against the war could be back, although three of those are currently embattled (Feingold, Murray, and Boxer). Any number of major figures on our national scene now, including Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, had yet to win statewide office at the time.

That's reflective of a number of things, but most of all the changing of the guard as a lot of the Senate's longest-standing veterans have died or retired and the rate of turnover has been accelerating with big Democratic gains in 2006 & 2008 and likely big Republican gains this year. The GOP will be getting a very fresh start - by January, we'll have only 32 GOP Senators left who were elected before 2010 (and only 11 GOP Governors elected before 2010, including 2009-elected governors like Christie and McDonnell).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 PM | Politics 2010 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Immortal Edmonds?

Aaron Gleeman notes that Jim Edmonds is talking about hanging it up, and that Edmonds really should get more serious consideration for the Hall of Fame:

I'm fairly certain Edmonds won't come close to getting the votes necessary for the Hall of Fame, but he has a very good case and is perhaps one of the most underrated players of this era. He's an eight-time Gold Glove winner with 391 career homers and a .902 lifetime OPS that ranks 10th all time among center fielders. Few people seem to recognize it, but Edmonds is likely one of the dozen best center fielders in baseball history.

I didn't rate Edmonds when I ran my look at similar players after the 2005 season and don't have time to do a full run of those numbers now, but I'd agree that he deserves a look; his issue is durability. If you isolate his 11-year prime from 1995-2005, you get an excellent hitter (.293/.388/.554, 141 OPS+) and fielder over enough years to make the core of a Hall of Fame career; quality-wise, my guess is he stacks up pretty well in the company of Earl Averill, Bernie Williams, Kirby Puckett, Larry Doby and Earle Combs, four of whom are already in Cooperstown on the basis of 9-10 year primes. But then look at their plate appearances per 162 scheduled games: 699 for Averill, 649 for Bernie, 678 for Puckett, 630 for Doby, 682 for Combs; Edmonds, at 560, is more in the league with Reggie Smith, Jimmy Wynn and Fred Lynn, all of whom were also Cooperstown-quality talents. The plate appearances largely reflect a lost 1999 season, although he also missed extensive time in 1996 and played fewer than 145 games in 1997, 2002, 2003 and 2005, notching 600 plate appearances only five times in a 17-year career. Edmonds' per-162 line for 1995-2005, age 25-35: 135 games, 560 PA, 94 Runs, 88 RBI, 30 HR, only 8 GDP. Fairly or not, he's also lacking the extensive postseason heroics of guys like Bernie and Puckett, although his .274/.361/.513 line in the postseason, two pennants and a World Series ring (all with the Cardinals) aren't too shabby.

I'll need to look at his candidacy more closely down the line, but the lost time chips away at his credentials in a fairly substantial way. I know I've belabored this point, but far too much statistical analysis overlooks the value of in-season durability. Edmonds deserves a look and maybe on further reflection he belongs in, but he's going to be a borderline candidate, in my view.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:51 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: V-F Day

JeffFrancoeurIsBlind.jpg

Amazingly, the Mets managed not only to unload Jeff Francouer yesterday (were the Rangers looking at their lineup and thinking, "we really need a guy who makes more outs"?), but also to get an actual Major League baseball player in return, Joaquin Arias. In seriousness, the theory behind the deal seems to be to use Francouer as a platoon player:

About $897K remains on Francoeur's contract, but the Mets will pay most of that. The 26-year-old is hitting just .236/.293/.369 in 443 plate appearances, so he was a non-tender candidate on the Mets and remains one on the Rangers.

Like most right-handed hitters, Francoeur has markedly better numbers against left-handed pitching, both for his career (.820 OPS) and in 2010 (.767 OPS). David Murphy struggles against left-handers, so the Rangers needed a right-handed complement to Murphy, especially given Nelson Cruz's hamstring and Josh Hamilton's knee.

This sounds good, until you look a little closer. Francouer's line against lefties this season is .280/.351/.410, but his OBP drops to .321 if you exclude his intentional walks (5 of his 11 walks in 114 plate appearances against lefties have been intentional). He crushed lefties to the tune of .344/.356/.521 last season, but was helpless against them in 2008 (.210/.273/.307). In other words, the one thing he's being hired to do, he doesn't even do all that reliably (I will miss his throwing arm, though, which is genuinely marvelous).

As for Arias, he's also a limited player (as Dr. Manhattan pointed out to me, the Rangers must regret choosing Arias over Robinson Cano to include in the A-Rod/Soriano deal), but cheaper, a year younger than Francouer (25 to Frenchy's 26) and one of more immediate use to the Mets. His career batting line is .286/.322/.379 over 242 major league plate appearances (.291/.314/.393 away from Texas), .285/.317/.378 over nine minor league seasons, and he's stolen 28 bases per 162 games in the minors. That's not a great offensive asset, but a guy who can play second and short, hit .280 and steal some bases is at least worth something. Of more concern is the quality of his defense, which is likely why he was available and makes questionable whether he could take over Luis Castillo's job if Castillo is gone next year and Ruben Tejada continues to be miles from ready to hit major league pitching.

While I'm not over-optimistic about Arias, Francouer is addition by subtraction and a sign the team is serious about making some changes and not marrying its mistakes. Baby steps.

(H/T for the photo)

UPDATED for a great line: "if you praise Jeff Francoeur and Alex Cora for their grittiness, while bashing Jose Reyes, you lose the right to complain about the team not winning."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:45 AM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)