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Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
July 31, 2003
POLITICS: Smearing Ashcroft

It never ends.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:21 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Barra Whiffs Again

The normally sensible Allen Barra bemoans the lack of young superstars in the game compared to 9 years ago. Of course, you don't have a crop of young talent like that all the time. This isn't as dumb as Barra's prior version of this article for Slate, but how you can write about the dearth of young talent in the game and ask "Where Have You Gone, All You Young Joe DiMaggios?" without once mentioning the name Vladimir Guerrero is beyond me. And cut the crap about no potential 300-game winners; between 1912 and 1961 (that's 50 years, if you're counting at home), only three pitchers broke in who would win 300 games (Lefty Grove in 1925, Early Wynn in 1939, and Warren Spahn in 1942; the game didn't debut a 300-game winner for almost 20 years between Spahn and Gaylord Perry in 1962).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:20 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A's get Jose Guillen. Although he looked promising when he first came up, due mostly to his reported youth, I'd mostly soured on Guillen before this year, since he'll swing at anything and he's been stuck in reverse since he arrived in the league. Interesting that the A's picked him up after a hot first half he's unlikely to build on, but he doesn't have to hit .337 to help, he just has to outhit Terrence Long. Plus, he's got a cannon of an arm.

David Pinto is more enthused about Guillen and thinks he's turned the same corner as Brett Boone.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Blogrolling

Added a new link to the blogroll: Dan Lewis' Sports Blog, which covers other sports as well as baseball. And Alex Belth's Bronx Banter has moved and can now be found here; another refugee escapes Blogger.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:09 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: More, More, More

Aside from the merits of the deal, one thing I like about the Red Sox' acquisition of Scott Williamson is the attitude behind it -- the greed and audacity the Sox will need to learn from Steinbrenner if they're going to keep pace with him over the long haul. Think about it: the Sox had given up a productive everyday player (Shea Hillenbrand) to get the guy who's now their closer, and both Byun-Hyung Kim and the bullpen as a whole have pitched well since he was installed as the closer. But rather than say, "our bullpen's pitching well now, we don't have to worry about it," the Sox went out and brought in another accomplished high-end reliever. That's how you stop thinking "Wild Card" and start thinking "spray champagne on Bud Selig."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:02 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Three Years Old

This report of how a 3-year-old boy in Germany stole the keys to his father's car and started driving it is wild enough, but then when a film crew came to do a story on the incident, he started driving again.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:57 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Another Take on Niger

See, the basic divide right now is this: the Administration's defenders say it was perfectly reasonable for the president to rely on British intelligence about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Africa, although the Administration itself now admits that it shouldn't have included this item in the State of the Union Address due to the conflicting reports coming from the CIA. The critics say, basically, that if American intelligence doubts that it happened, then we should not rely on intelligence provided by our closest ally; if it's not blessed by American intelligence, it must be no good, right?

Now, who's being the arrogant unilateralists?

(Of course, as the left-leaning site The Daily Howler has noted, it appears that the British were talking about the Congo, while our analysis was about Niger; apples and oranges).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:54 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Last One Out The Door . . .

I'm all in favor of using one of America's most unique weapons -- its willingness to accept as immigrants the refugees who flee from tyrannies -- against North Korea. It looks as if this may happen. (Link via Drudge)

Now, if we'd just stop turning back Cuban refugees.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:49 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Last Rubber

If you think about it, the contents of Uday's briefcase are symbolic: the regime that was screwing Iraq was down to its last condom.

ScrappleFace had the definitive last word on Uday.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:44 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 30, 2003
BASEBALL: Slugging Sox

Through Monday night, the Red Sox -- as a team -- are slugging .501. No major league team has ever slugged .500 before. The team slugging average record is a prestigious one; the record is currently held by the original "Murderers' Row," the 1927 Yankees, who slugged .489.

But of course, raw slugging averages aren't everything; slugging averages have varied widely over the years, from a low league average of around .300 in the pit of the dead-ball era to a high of almost .450 in the NL of 1930 and the AL of the late 1990s.

So, if you divide a team's slugging average by the league's slugging average, you get a relative number -- how much above or below the league a team is. Now, let's see how the 2003 Sox stack up to the all-time leaders; I've listed every team that finished 15% or better above the league average:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (3)
WAR: Sell!

I was going to write something about the Pentagon's proposal for a market in predicting terror targets, but as usual I really can't top Jane Galt's discussion of the subject; I share her enthusiasm for the concept in the abstract, as well as her reservations about perverse incentives. What amazed me, though, was the sheer political incompetence of announcing this program without the willingness to stick out criticisms that were completely inevitable and predictable; if you didn't want to take that heat, why make the proposal?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:33 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Traders

Nice column by Buster Olney on the personal dynamics of deadline deals between GMs. The column is a reminder of what a jerk Dan Duquette could be, and why it was bad business for Billy Beane to let Moneyball be written; it's also, come to think of it, a reminder of why the NY Times was so mismanaged lately as to let Olney leave when he was one of the few sportswriters at the Times who wasn't a hidebound old codger. My favorite vignette:

Dan Duquette, the former Boston GM, infuriated his peers by not returning phone calls, and sometimes, when he did return calls, Duquette remained silent -- a passive-aggressive approach, [Padres GM Kevin] Towers thought. The other GM would feel compelled to fill the uncomfortable silence and surrender more information that Duquette might use. Towers decided to wait out Duquette's silence one day. Each man was on a speakerphone, and when Duquette stopped talking, so did Towers, for more than 10 minutes.

"Kevin, you there?" Duquette finally asked.

"Yeah, Dan, I'm here," said Towers, feeling a small sense of accomplishment.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:25 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 29, 2003

The lefty side of the blogosphere -- and the media -- has done a good bit of hyperventilating about the charge that radio congolmerate Clear Channel Communications supposedly ordered a nationwide ban on playing the Dixie Chicks on the radio, depite the company's denials. Washington Post media critic Tom Shales charged that "Clear Channel stations led a ridiculous national campaign to smear the musical group the Dixie Chicks after one of its members insulted President Bush. The group's songs were banned on its stations for a time." Paul Krugman stopped just short of pinning this on Clear Channel, but some left-wing news outlets have pushed the story. The argument goes that the network's reach shows the evil of media concentration, and Clear Channel has been Exhibit A in the case against FCC deregulation of media ownership.

I hadn't followed this story all that carefully, but then I stumbled accross an interesting fact. You know what company is the promoter of the Dixie Chicks' current concert tour?

That's right: Clear Channel Entertainment.

This isn't exactly a secret; Clear Channel has touted the success of the Chicks' tour to the business press, and you can go to the company's website to buy tickets to their shows.

Moral: maybe you should distrust what you hear on the radio, but don't believe everything you read, either.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:50 AM | Politics 2002-03 • | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Harry Potter News

Pictures from the third Harry Potter film -- but I wouldn't go there if you haven't read the book. And the fifth book debuts in Vietnam.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:46 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/LAW: Racial Privacy

Via The Corner, conservative opponents of Ward Connerly's Racial Privacy Initiative raise an issue that I aired as early as last September: that, if passed, it would hobble efforts to expose racial preference programs that produce the kind of massive disparities (with preferred groups having many, many times better chances of admission) that were on display in the Michigan cases. Also, Kevin Drum has news that the initiative might get pushed up to this November to be on the ballot with the recall election.

Politically, I suspect that this will greatly hurt the chances of a Republican succeeding Gray Davis, by bringing out larger African-American turnout (Mickey Kaus also thinks those voters will help Davis, but I'm not so sure). But there's also a flip side: by taking Connerly's initiative off the March ballot, you (a) improve its chances of passing (March will be Democratic presidential primary time) but possibly (b) depress turnout for the presidential primary (I'm not sure how that cuts, but fewer African-American and Latino voters is probably good news for Howard Dean, whose supporters are decidedly upscale and white).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:33 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tom Tippett at Diamond Mind Baseball had an important article last week looking closely at hits on balls in play and concluding that some pitchers, at least, have more control over them than Voros McCracken's initial studies revealed. This isn't shocking news; McCracken's own research and that of others has already backtracked from the extreme position that pitchers have no effect on hits on balls in play, and Tippett's research still makes clear that -- at least in modern baseball -- the pitcher is usually not the driving factor in BABIP. (The conclusions are different for guys like Walter Johnson and Pete Alexander, who appear to have had more control over hits on balls in play).

Read the whole article. There's also been a bustling discussion of this over at the Baseball Primer.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:31 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Deja Pedro

With 18 starts down, Pedro Martinez now has the exact number of starts and innings as in his injury-shortened 2001 season. How does his performance stack up?


That's eerie.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:07 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 28, 2003
BLOG: Oops

Overslept my alarm clock this morning and missed my time to blog. Oh well, I feel better this morning than Chris Hammond does.

Breaking news I just saw as I turned on my PC: Bob Hope has died. Mark Steyn, of course, had the definitive tribute to Hope back in May.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:41 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 27, 2003
BASEBALL: More on Wiley

I've been remiss in not adding a link on my blogroll to Eric McErlain's Off-Wing Opinion, a site with a similar baseball and political bent to this one. McErlain has a bunch of links (including a link to this site) elaborating on recent controversies about sabermetrics and race, including a half-hearted attempt by Ralph Wiley to deny that his charge of racism against Bill James was a serious thing. What's scary is that Wiley apparently tosses around these charges so often that he doesn't think it matters that he made the charge without bothering to look at the facts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Anyone Can Sue

The Wall Street Journal carries an alarming op-ed by Walter Olson of (it actually ran in the print edition on Tuesday) on moves to further expand California Business & Professions Code section 17200, which permits anyone (whether or not they have been injured, suffered any damages, or even been a customer of the business) to sue a business for any "unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising." As I've noted before, Justices Breyer and O'Connor recently questioned this statute's constitutionality, at least when applied to lawsuits challenging businesses that seek to defend their reputations in public controversies:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
LAW: Daily News Confesses To Murder

The story of the shooting of a NY City Councilman by a "political rival" (really just a crackpot who got close to the Councilman styling himself a politician) just keeps getting more complicated. But perhaps the most bizarre twist is this NY Daily News article indicating that one of the triggers for Othniel Askew's panic over the possible revelation of his criminal record and his private life was . . . a cover story in Monday's Daily News!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:06 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 26, 2003
SCIENCE: The Origin of Life

MSNBC looks at an underwater vent that "is just the sort of place that might have spawned life on Earth or even other planets."

But there's a key question the article leaves unanswered: how? Seriously, I plead ignorance on this one -- can any of the scientists in the audience here tell me if science has come up with even a halfway workable description of how non-living materials become life forms?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:16 PM | Science | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Look at the Bones, Man!

It's a dog-eating catfish! Unfortunately, as with the Brothers Hussein, some people just can't be convinced that the catfish is dead.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:10 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 25, 2003
BLOG: Off Morning

No time to blog this morning -- late night last night at the Springsteen concert (more on that later), and I'm back to work this morning.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 24, 2003
POLITICS: Still Spinning

Just another day for the front page of the New York Times: an article on the recall in California quotes numerous Democrats griping about democracy "run amok," the difficulties of dealing with initiatives, and calling the recall supporters "right wing" before it gets to quoting a lone Republican, who is quoted describing himself as a "wacko." The article also quotes unnamed "experts" (presented without rebuttal) supporting the Lieutenant Governor's strange theory that he doesn't need to let the voters pick a replacement for Gray Davis but can just step in himself.

Then there's the front page article on the shooting at City Hall, which conspicuously omits the fact that the shooter and the victim were both Democrats. (The article also ignores the fact that both men -- as well as the hero cop who killed the assailant with five direct hits from 45 feet away -- were African-American, although I can't fault the Times for being color-blind for once).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:32 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 23, 2003

Now, I don't follow the NBA half as much as I used to, and I've never been a Latrell Sprewell fan, but trading him for Keith Van Horn seems like . . . well, it seems like exactly the same sort of mistake the Mets would make, the same sort the Knicks as well have been making for a decade, always bringing in forwards who are injured, past their prime, unathletic, overpaid, or some combination of the four. Van Horn has missed 20 or more games 3 times in 5 years; his numbers tell you how infrequently he gets physical (he averaged fewer than 3 trips to the line per game the last two years), he's shot above 45% only once in his career, averaged 1.38 turnovers/asssist for his career (he's no Larry Bird), and he's not even a guy who compensates by being a prime time 3-point shooter. Unless I'm missing something, neither is he a guy who does a lot that doesn't show up in the box scores. And he's got 3 years and $43 million left on his contract, an extra year and extra $17 million above Sprewell's deal.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Basketball | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Old Man Bronx River

Jesse Orosco joins Armando Benitez in the Yankee bullpen. Which should help; Orosco's uses are limited to 1-2 lefty batters and he hasn't pitched well this season, but his performance in recent years suggests he can still help in a pinch.

The Yankee pitching staff when Orosco was a rookie:

SP Tommy John
SP Ron Guidry
SP Luis Tiant
SP Catfish Hunter
SP Ed Figueroa
SP Jim Beattie

CL Rich Gossage
RP Ron Davis
RP Jim Kaat
RP Ken Clay
RP Don Hood

Also, if you haven't checked it out, John Sickles of ESPN has a good rundown on the prospects dealt thus far this trade season.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:11 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Big Bag of Magnanimity

Sometimes, Bill Clinton's need to be a part of every story has some good results; Clinton tells Larry King that he feels George W.'s pain over the Niger issue:

"I thought the White House did the right thing in just saying 'we probably shouldn't have said that,'" Clinton told CNN's Larry King in a phone interview Tuesday evening.

"You know, everybody makes mistakes when they are president. You can't make as many calls as you have to make without messing up. The thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do now."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Politics 2002-03 • | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Better Than They Deserved

There are only a few people on this earth whose deaths I would celebrate without any remorse. Uday and Qusay are two.

Off the top of my head, the rest of the list includes:

Osama (and, frankly, any of his henchmen)
Mullah Omar
Kim Jong Il
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Lileks: "Yes, I hope they suffered, and yes, I want heads on pikes."

John from Iberian Notes (who just added us to his blogroll): "In case you haven't seen it yet, Qusay and Oday look like they're well on their way to their 72 virgin sheep, goats, and donkeys in hell."

OK. But just for laughs, let's check out the reaction from famously anti-American journalist Robert Fisk:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:58 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: A Soldier's Return

In a way, it was refreshing to see other news overshadow Pfc. Jessica Lynch's return to her hometown yesterday (she's now the most famous thing in West Virginia not named after Robert C. Byrd); she's a great story, but the media has overdone it at times. Lynch seemed normal -- neither overwhelmed by the attention nor unduly taken by it. Good for her; she's been through a lot. (For a taste of why Americans were so worried about how she'd be treated by Iraq, check out this recent judicial opinion, in PDF form, with some graphic detail of how our POWs were treated in the last Iraq war).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:43 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Miller Time

The Weekly Standard has a great interview on Dennis Miller's journey to conservatism; Miller has too many great lines to excerpt here. A sampling:

I knew [John] Kerry was going to have to run for president because his features are so chiseled, his actual skull could be on Mt. Rushmore. The guy looks like an Easter Island statue in a power tie. Howard Dean can roll up his sleeves in public all he wants, but as long as you can see that heart tattoo with Neville Chamberlain's name on his right forearm, he's never going to get off the pad. I hope they send Howard Dean out to do battle with Bush because he'll get his ass handed to him quicker than someone who just got out of liposuction surgery.

(Link via Jane Galt)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 22, 2003

Brian Gunn of Redbird Nation points us to an online exhibit at the Hall of Fame's site with a comprehensive database of team uniforms over time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:49 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quote of the Day

Mac Thomason, on the fire at the Eiffel Tower: "Only the French could manage to set a steel tower on fire."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Stark Raving Loony, Part II

With the (forced) retirement of Cynthia McKinney, the title of "worst member of Congress" is up for grabs. I nominate Fortney "Pete" Stark, who cemented his reputation last week by calling Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas a c___sucker, repeatedly calling Congressman Scott McInnis a "fruitcake" and challenging him to a fight, and generally acting in a sufficiently threatening manner that Thomas (probably overreacting to the situation) called the Capitol Police.

(FOX News, by the way, says that McInnis "is married and by all accounts not gay.").

It turns out that Stark has an incredibly long history of picking up the nastiest slur handy for whomever is in his way:

Stark has a long history of making outrageous remarks. He once called Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson "a whore," and said former Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan is "a disgrace to his race."

Sullivan, wisely, responded, “I don’t live on Pete Stark’s plantation.”. But wait, there's more:

+In 2001, Stark "called the Bush budget 'the embodiment of the anti-Christ,' saying that it was 'infamy' to use the Easter season to release a budget 'that flies in the face of all Christ's teachings.'"

+Later that year, he "falsely accused House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts of having children who 'were all born out of wedlock.'," and The Washington Times recounted more history: "Mr. Stark is something of a legend in the House for making offensive remarks. He has accused Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, Connecticut Republican, of learning about health care from 'pillow talk' with her husband, a doctor. In 1991 he blamed 'Jewish colleagues' for supporting the Persian Gulf war and called Rep. Stephen Solarz, New York Democrat, as 'Field Marshal Solarz in the pro-Israel forces.'"

+Earlier this year, Stark argued that any U.S. bombing in or around Baghdad would be "an act of extreme terrorism."

George Will also had some fun with Stark's excesses during the Iraq debate:

During the House debate on authorizing the use of force against Iraq, Rep. Pete Stark, a paleo-liberal from northern California, cried, ``Rich kids will not pay; their daddies will get them deferments." He meant draft deferments. It is almost unkind to awaken Stark from his dogmatic slumbers to notify him that there has not been a draft since 1973. And the Beatles have broken up.

Where exactly is Stark's district? Gee, I'll give you one guess -- "the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay"

I know he's not in the leadership, but there comes a point when even a back-bencher merits some sort of rebuke from his party. This guy's a disgrace.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:41 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: California Polling

Bush is losing ground in the polls in California. This underlines two things:

1. As I've been saying for some time, Bush has a better shot of reviving in NY (where the war on terror is especially close to home) than in CA. I'll believe a Republican winning in California when I see it.

2. Bush has nothing to lose from a recall of Gray Davis, and much to gain; if things just fester in California, voters won't be itching to reward any incumbents.

On a related note, CalPundit (actually doing some California punditry in a break from his all-Niger routine) has a hilarious story of Democrats plotting to force a budget impasse in California for partisan advantage-- in front of an open mike.

Just imagine if Newt Gingrich got caught saying some of the stuff in this article.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:19 PM | Politics 2002-03 • | Poll Analysis | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Den Beste Notes

Steven Den Beste has a lengthy (but you knew that already) outline of the case for the war on terror generally and why it settled in Iraq; it need hardly be added that I agree with nearly everything in here.

Looks like Den Beste is over his illness, I'd say.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:07 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL/LAW: Presumed Nutso

ESPN's Kevin Jackson has an important point to remember in the whole Kobe thing: while we should give Kobe Bryant some slack on the grounds that he's presumed innocent, we should also remember not to rush to judge his accuser, either.

I'm sick of this story already, and it will only get worse. I can only imagine if my son was old enough to follow the NBA; Bryant's the kind of guy you wouldn't have minded seeing a poster of on your kid's wall. And then, not only the fall from grace, but to have to explain the idea of rape to, say, an 8-year-old kid . . . innocent or no, I'd be pissed at Bryant for putting us all in that position.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:19 AM | Basketball • | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: State of The Union Aftermath

No, not on the Republican side; Washington Governor Gary Locke, who delivered the Democratic response, has decided not to run for reelection, citing the desire to spend time with his family. You'll recall my vigorous fisking of Locke's response at the time. I guess I won't have Gary Locke to kick around anymore.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:17 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: May on Niger

From the conservative side of the aisle, the absolute best coverage of the African uranium story has been from Clifford May on NRO; you can read his analyses here and here. He asks a very pertinent question:

Early in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney had questions about reports of Saddam buying uranium from Niger. So he asked the Central Intelligence Agency to find out the truth. Consider: Here's a request from the White House on a vital national-security issue. Does the CIA put their top spies on the case? No. Who do they put on the case? No one. Instead, they apparently decided to give the assignment to a diplomat.

I assume they contacted the State Department. Even so, they didn't get the Foreign Service's most talented ambassador, someone with investigative skills and broad experience in nuclear proliferation and related issues. No, the assignment went to a retiree who is far to the left of the Bush administration. Why?

That retiree was Joseph C. Wilson IV, former ambassador to Gabon, and one-time deputy to ambassador April Glaspie in Iraq. (You'll recall she was the U.S. official who reportedly told Saddam: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.")

Wilson's investigation, according to his recent New York Times op-ed, consisted of his spending "eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people." He added: "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction [sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq] had ever taken place."

Wilson's conclusion was probably correct. It's likely that no such transaction occurred — which begs the question of whether Saddam attempted to complete such a transaction, as the British believe and as Bush said in his SOTU.

But let's imagine for just a moment that one of the officials with whom Wilson met had accepted a million-dollar bribe for facilitating the transfer of uranium to Saddam's agents. What is the likelihood that that information would have been disclosed to Wilson over sips of sweet mint tea? Not huge, I'd wager.

When did the vice president learn that this was the manner in which his orders had been carried out? Is there an explanation for such dereliction of duty by CIA and, possibly, by State as well? Was anyone held accountable?

(emphasis added)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Connecting the Dots

Kevin Drum was at it again on Saturday, knocking Lileks for writing, about Tony Blair, that "[w]e can argue about the shape and direction of Western Civ after we’ve made sure that such a thing will endure." Drum's response:

I take terrorism seriously, and I also take seriously the threat of terrorists and unstable states getting hold of weapons of mass destruction. But what can you say about this kind of talk? Do Lileks and the rest of the prowar crowd seriously think that Osama and his ilk have made it doubtful whether western civilization will endure?

To me that just sounds crazy, and I guess maybe that's at the core of the schism in America today. Lileks and his compatriots think the terrorists have the power to bring western civilization to its knees, whereas I think of them as simply a threat that we will rather quickly and efficiently dispatch. They may be scary, but in terms of actual power they are the merest flea on the back of the United States and the rest of the western democracies.

I wonder what it is that causes such vast gulfs in instinctive reaction between people who probably more or less agree on the actual nature of the threat itself?

Naturally, Drum's comment boards lit up with various personal attacks on Lileks specifically and conservatives in general. To some extent, of course, Lileks is exaggerating: Western Civilization as a whole is a very good bet to squash its enemies. Me, I'm plenty enough worried about whether my corner of that civilization (New York City) will survive, and from reading Lileks I know that's his sort of worry as well: not the total destruction of our way of life but a catastrophic attack, or series of attacks, that blow big holes in the nation's fabric and change forever the way we live.

But the really big gulf right now -- and one that's getting wider -- is between those of us, mostly on the Right, who see the states and organizations that declare themselves to be the enemies of our civilization and start with the assumption that they are all part of the same basic problem (particularly when their rhetoric partakes of the same cocktail of pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and old Soviet rhetorical tropes) until proven otherwise, and those (almost exclusively on the Left) who insist on a very high burden of proof before they will see, say, the mullahs in Iran or the regime of Saddam Hussein as being part of the same threat as Al Qaeda.

In the end, that's what this whole Niger thing is about. In the war on terror, it's not hard to know who our enemies are: most of them are quite plain in meaning us ill. The hawks in this war have taken a clear position: Never Again will we underestimate our enemies as we did before September 11, and if the cost of that is that we sometimes act too soon, well, that's the price we pay for the world we live in; if that attitude drives up the cost of being an enemy of the United States, so be it. The goal, after all, is not just to intercede to stop attacks on us the day before they happen, but to stop threats in the bud, before they go too far. While we could use to have better intelligence, we must accept that we will always have to make some decisions about those enemies based on a patchwork of glimpses into their shadowy world.

To the pro-war camp, Saddam's regime was bad and dangerous in many ways, and in that light, the fact that some intelligence reports indicated that he was looking to buy uranium in one of several African states was not a straight up-or-down item of "evidence" but yet another cause for potential concern. The fact that this particular rumor couldn't be verified (it still hasn't been disproved, so much as its bases have been called into question) was no reason to bury our heads in the sand and ignore it; indeed, the very fact that it was possible that Saddam could do such a thing without us being able to conclusively prove it was done is alarming in itself.

We're not talking about moving against innocent lambs here; if we act on imperfect intelligence, our targets will still be those who hate us and yearn for ways to destroy us. They'd kill me if they could, and you too, and they'll likely kill more of us before this is all done. The magnitude of the potential threat is just too great to sit around finding excuses to discredit this or that dot, and ignore the looming outline.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:04 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)
July 21, 2003
WAR: Good Morning

Well, this, from Dean Esmay, should get your blood flowing (link via N.Z. Bear's Blogosphere Daily News). Some, um, adult language is used.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:44 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Is Our Children Learning?

Teachers in Lowell, Massachusetts are outraged that they are being required to speak English as a condition of employment. The horror!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:41 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 20, 2003
POLITICS: Dean, The Blog

Starting here and scrolling down, you can catch some of Howard Dean's blog entries as guest blogger last week at Prof. Lawrence Lessig's blog. First of all, a nonpartisan hat's off to Dean; while most presidential candidates are too busy to do a running blog, it's a great way to showcase a candidate early in the race if it's taken seriously, and Dean appears to have tried to be genuinely responsive to feedback.

But then there's the substance of these posts. Where to begin?

People asked what can be done about media deregulation. I think we need to re-regulate the media that has clearly abused its authority by censoring information that should be made available to the American people.

OK, let's get this straight . . . Dean wants to use government regulation to punish media outlets for their editorial decisions? So much for Mister Civil Liberties Man. Can you say, "Hugo Chavez" or "Vladimir Putin," boys and girls?

Someone asked about the Patriot Act-we should repeal those parts that violate our constitution.

Well, it's good to see that Dean understands that we should repeal things that are unconstitutional, whereas our current president has been known to sign things into law (ahem, McCain-Feingold) that he thinks are unconstitutional, and leave the courts to do the dirty work. But I don't necessarily agree with Dean's selections:

I have real problems authorizing the FBI to obtain library and bookstore and video store records simply by claiming the information is “sought for” an investigation against international terrorism. It’s also clearly unconstitutional to detain indivduals and deny them access to a lawyer.

Frankly, the library thing just doesn't bother me that much. And it isn't "clearly unconstitutional" to deny counsel to non-citizens or to combatants in a war.

I believe that the only way we are ever going to come to a real solution on any of these issues is if we all stand together against the special interests in Washington. There are now 33 lobbyists for every member of congress. How do we change that? By working together.

Actually, working together is precisely how you attract lobbyists, who love the smell of bipartisanship in the morning. The only known way to get rid of lobbyists is to get the power over their interests out of Washington.

Facts are a better basis for decisions than ideology.

Ah, "competence, not ideology." Where have we heard that one before?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:56 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Minor League Development

Dayn Perry at Baseball Prospectus looks at the minor league pitching careers of good and bad major league pitchers and finds little difference in quality, but that the bad ones spent more time in the minors. In short, a study that raises more questions than it answers. He notes that he excluded late-career returns to the minors, but I can't shake the feeling that some of the bad ones had good numbers because unlike the good ones, their subpar stuff kept them in the minors after they'd learned how to pitch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:40 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Kielty for Stewart

Like most people, I had the whipsaw effect on the Twins dealing Bobby Kielty for Shannon Stewart: my gut reaction was, "that's a good deal, Stewart's a .300 hitting leadoff man in his prime and Kielty's not really established himself as a regular," but once I sat down to look at the numbers, it became obvious that the Jays (and Billy Beane disciple J.P. Ricciardi) got the better end of the deal. Kielty's already a similar hitter, and he's 3 years younger and a lot cheaper, while Stewart can't throw and has the kind of offensive skill set (does a little of everything well but nothing outstandingly well) that ages badly.

Aaron Gleeman has a much more detailed (and rueful) analysis. David Pinto also notes that the Jays had played well in Stewart's recent absence. A few additional thoughts:

*Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system rates the most comparable player to Stewart as Carl Furillo (obviously, PECOTA doesn't consider outfield assists), and Furillo batted .344 two years later. But the list does include a number of guys (including Derek Bell, Bernard Gilkey, Al Cowens, Harvey Kuenn, and Hoot Evers) who were at or near the end of the productive part of their careers. Kielty's are more ambiguous and less similar, but do include some guys like Leon Wagner and Bernie Williams who were just entering powerhouse primes.

*Gleeman runs averages, but I thought I'd do Established Performance Levels for the two for 2001-03. For the uninitiated, EPL for, say, hits for 2000-02 would be (((H in 2000) + ((H in 2001)*2) + ((H in 2002)*3))/6. You have to prorate the formula a little when you use the season in progress, though (I just divide by, say, 4.5 if we're at the absolute halfway mark, or a number similarly adjusted for (Team Games)/162

Here's Stewart and Kielty for 2001-03:


As you can see, it's not completely crazy for a contending team to prefer Stewart, who's more established and puts the ball in play a lot more. But Kielty's already a better hitter, and consider the trendline: maybe this is just Ricciardi's management looking down on steals, but Stewart's steals vs. his GIDP have dropped from 27-9, to 14-17, to 1-6, which suggests a guy who's losing a step.

But who beat the Twins in the ALCS last year? The Angels. What do the Angels do well? Put the ball in play. Fighting the last war . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:39 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 19, 2003
WAR: Jaw Jaw

Kevin Drum, echoing many of the Bush Administration's critics, complains that

The unwillingness of the administration to do anything — even talk — with North Korea really does seem to be based more on personal pique than on a sober assessment of what's best for the United States.

Why has Bush gotten a pass on this from the conservative establishment? Hell, even Clinton did something, while Bush has literally done almost nothing for nine months now, seemingly happy to let the situation fester away until eventually we will be backed into a corner with no options left.

This desperation for some showy display of negotiation is badly mistaken. Really, there's nothing worse in negotiations than showing up just for the sake of talking. That leads to being afraid to walk away, which leads to bad deals, which is what happened to Clinton.

It's clear that Bush recognizes that, unlike in Iraq, our freedom of both military action and diplomatic pressure is hampered by a neighboring great power (China). But getting China to do anything requires two preconditions:

1. The situation gets so bad they can't ignore it.

2. We not be seen as leading the way, so that China not be seen as doing our bidding.

Moreover, any action on our part encourages the North Koreans to think that they are succeeding in inducing panic. In short, for any Bush policy on North Korea -- short of a direct military assault -- to be effective, we must appear to be doing nothing.

Is that really what Bush is doing? We can't know. But I would think that critics of the Administration would at least deal with the reality of the situation rather than making the facile assumption that we're doing nothing simply because we're not doing the same thing we did with Iraq.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:03 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Ballpark Weather

I'll have to add this one to the sidebar: Baseball-Almanac and The Weather Channel have partnered to create this page of weather reports for all NL ballparks. The AL park forecasts are here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:27 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Steyn on Niger

You know Mark Steyn's got a good one when different excerpts are quoted on every site linking to him. This column on Niger is a good one; this passage cracked me up:

Who knows what really happened in Africa? Maybe the CIA guy in Niamey (assuming they have one) filed a report on uranium in Niger and back at head office the assistant deputy paper-shuffler looked at it upside-down and said, ‘There’s something here about Saddam getting nigerium from Uranus,’ and the deputy assistant paper shuffler said, ‘Jeez, we need to go into full ass-covering mode.’ Either way, you could ask a million folks and never find one whose view on the war was determined by anything to do with Niger, which, insofar as anybody’s ever heard of it, is mostly assumed to be either an abbreviation of Nigeria or a breakaway republic thereof, leaving the rump statelet of Ia to go it alone.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:22 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 18, 2003
BASEBALL: 2003 Mid-Year A.L. East DIPS Report

Here's the fourth in my series of posts analyzing pitching staffs through Defense Independent Pitching Stats; see here for an explanation and my report on the NL East, here for my report on the NL Central and a few more notes on the method, and here for my report on the N.L. West. In short, DIPS is is intended to tell you how a pitcher would perform if an average number of balls in play against him were turned into outs by his defense; I'm using the rougher formula for quick in-season analysis, and as I've explained before it appears that the formula is more accurate for A.L. pitchers. Today: the A.L. East. All stats through the All-Star Break:

The Hated Yankees

PitcherDIPS ERA (Actual ERA, Difference)
Mike Mussina 3.23 (3.26, -0.03)
Roger Clemens 3.54 (3.68, -0.14)
David Wells 4.05 (3.76, +0.29)
Andy Pettitte 3.76 (4.63, -0.87)
Jeff Weaver 3.99 (5.20, -1.21)
Mariano Rivera 2.25 (1.75, -0.50)
Chris Hammond 2.71 (3.20, -0.49)

The top guys' DIPS ERAs are pretty much in line with actual ERAs. The rest of the numbers tell us one thing we already knew -- the Yankee defense isn't good -- and one thing that was less obvious, which is that Pettitte and Weaver have taken the brunt of the lumps resulting from this (which is not surprising, since Clemens and Mussina put fewer balls in play and Wells doesn't get many ground balls). In fact, Weaver really hasn't pitched that badly -- 110.2 IP, 9 HR (0.73/9IP), 29 BB (2.36 BB/9IP), 62 K (5.04 K/9IP) -- so much as he's been unlucky. Hammond, who's been touched for 44 hits in 39.1 innings, has pitched better than his ERA.

I had to laugh last night seeing footage of Rivera next to Benitez; Benitez made him look like he was the bat boy or something. Of course, we know who we'd rather face in a tough situation . . .

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:33 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 17, 2003

Matt Welch compares the media to the dumb baseball owners who get mocked by the sabermetric crowd. You could extend the analogy and say the NY Times is the Mets in this picture, wasting its prime position in the op-ed market by overpaying for a bunch of untalented or over-the-hill columnists (Dowd, Herbert, The Krug, Safire) and ignoring the vast pool of cheaper or free talent out there (even on the Left). (Or maybe I just like comparing Krugman to Mo Vaughn). Seriously, wouldn't you rather read 2 columns a week apiece from a selection of good bloggers like Kevin Drum or Megan McArdle and less-nationally-known columnists like Josh Marshall, Mark Steyn or Lileks than 3 a week from Dowd and The Krug? You could easily replace the whole slate, keep the page as a liberal page with 1 or 2 conservatives/libertarians/other non-liberals, and vastly improve the quality (even some of Krugman's fans think he's better suited to a weekly magazine piece on economics than 3 hack jobs a week).

But that would be the smart thing to do.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 AM | Baseball 2002-03 • | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Wileyism

Hey look, it's Ralph Wiley writing about -- what else -- racism! This column starts out halfway sensible -- at least this time, Wiley has some half-decent excuses for playing the race card -- but then check out this section on why young black baseball players feel disrespected by the game:

It is usually the American-born blacks' records and place that are resented instead of celebrated. For example, it's the stolen base that is denigrated as a weapon by baseball sabermaticians like Bill James, at precisely the time when a Rickey Henderson steals 130 bases in a season. There are sour grapes when a baseball man uses stats to tell you a stolen base isn't important. Any time a baseball manager will give up an out for a base, as with a sac bunt or groundball to the right side, any time a base is so precious, then it goes without saying that the stolen base must be important. Not the CS, the caught stealing, or stats of success rates, but the stolen base itself.

This is an extraordinary display of crackpottery even for Wiley, who overlooks three rather important facts in his quest to label Bill James a racist:

1. James has always been a huge Rickey Henderson fan, arguing that he was a far better player than Don Mattingly in their primes, calling him the greatest leadoff man ever years and years ago and urging fans in the mid-80s to appreciate the great leadoff men (notably Henderson and Tim Raines) while they were in their primes.

2. James has actually bemoaned the decline of steals even as he argued for them; on an aesthetic level, he was a big fan, explicitly so, of the elements of speed brought into the game after the breaking of the color line.

3. James was, you know, right. And citing evidence that managers today still ignore him doesn't change that.

Wiley couldn't be bothered with little facts like who's right, though, since it undercuts his narrative.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: More Benitez

Deal is finalized; while I'm disappointed that the Mets abandoned a potential to get a comp draft pick and gave the Yankees a talented pitcher on the cheap -- Cliff Floyd must be getting some serious deja vu over the fire sale at Shea -- I just can't suppress the feeling of joy at sticking Yankee fans with the October Arsonist. (And a laugh when one of the Rotisserie ball info services dryly noted that the Yankees did not intend to have him replace Mariano Rivera as the closer. Gee, thanks for that insight).

While in most cases I'm skeptical of the impact of short relievers, I still maintain that if the Yankees had had Benitez since 1995 and the O's and then the Mets had Rivera, the Yankees would have won just 1 World Championship in that period (1998). Not only would Benitez have blown some of the many leads Rivera protected in close-run serieses, but Benitez' incompetence in big games was a major factor in the Yankees beating the Orioles in 1996 and the Mets in 2000.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS/SCIENCE: The Death of Moore's Law?

Former Intel CEO Gordon Moore thinks that we are only a few years from seeing the finite limits on how small things can be cause the death of "Moore's law," the maxim that "the number of transistors on a computer chip will double every two years."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:15 AM | Business • | Science | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: All-Star Game Running Diary

Joe Sheehan thinks he's Bill Simmons.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: The Parents Have Rights

The Second Circuit rules (link is to PDF file) that a school district was within its rights to fire a teacher affiliated with the National Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), given the reasonable concern of parents that he could not be trusted to report instances of child molestation. Of significant importance, the court gave weight to parental concerns over the objections of the plaintiff that this amounted to giving societal prejudices a "heckler's veto" over unpopular opinions.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 16, 2003
BASEBALL: Yankee Blow Save!

No time to blog this in detail -- I don't generally blog from the office -- but I can't help checking in to register my glee at the thought of the Yankees dealing for Armando Benitez. Apparently the Yanks will eat his contract, too, in exchange for some low-level prospects.

Downside: in exchange for those prospects and the cash, the Yanks get a potential first-round draft pick if Benitez walks as a free agent, a pick the Mets could really have used.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:02 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: The Gray Davis Recession

One thing that's worried me for some time about Bush's ability to get the economy moving again -- both long-term for the national good and short-term for the 2004 election -- is the fact that something like 1/6 of the economy is California, which remains under the hammerlock of the Democratic Party more than any state in the nation (Dem governor, Dems control both houses of the state legislature, Dem state AG, two Dem Senators, Dems dominate the Congressional delegation, etc.). And what a party it is: a governor who's unprincipled and almost universally unpopular riding herd over a state party dominated by the hard cultural Left and the rent-seeking special interest groups (government employee unions, the plaintiffs' bar, etc. -- government by the people who make a living off of government). The result is a $38.6 billion budget deficit, a spiral of downgrading of California's bonds, and a basket case of a state economy. (While the California GOP isn't innocent of all this, they've been too powerless too long to bear much of the responsibility. But if you want to blame Pete Wilson -- the man who did more for the Democratic party in the last 15 years than anyone else -- go ahead).

Part of the problem, and one that reaches outside of California, is litigation and regulation run amok. For example, even Steven Breyer recently recognized that California has gone too far in handing over regulatory powers to the plaintiffs' bar and that "[a]s far as I can tell, California’s delegation of the government’s enforcement authority to private individuals is not traditional, and may be unique . . . "

Mark Steyn recently noted that the May employment figures showed a net gain of 4,500 jobs for the other 49 states -- but a 21,500 job loss in California. I'd be fascinated to see a deeper analysis to show exactly how much of the nation's lingering economic hangover is concentrated in the one place where the writ of conservative economic policies barely runs.

If this keeps up, look for the Democrats to blame Bush's national policies for their own local problems. Maybe that's why Bush wants Davis to stay on -- so he can point to the source of the problem and say that things aren't so bad anywhere else. But to my view, this is reason enough to support a recall: the rest of the nation can't afford Gray Davis anymore.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:54 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The All-Star Game

For once, Bud Selig was vindicated, although cause and effect seem hard to identify here -- this was the most exciting Midsummer Classic in several years, and the managers did keep several of the everyday starters (such as Alex Rodriguez and Garret Anderson) in the game a while rather than doing mass substitutions after the third inning.

There were certainly some high, fast home runs in this one, as you would expect when people go deep off the likes of Billy Wagner and Eric Gagne.

Let's hope Gagne's not affected by his meltdown, his first blown save opportunity of the year. He's currently on pace for 54 saves -- striking distance of Bobby Thigpen and a shot at being the first man to save 50 in a season twice (well, except that Smoltz is on pace for 59, so Gagne might well steam in behind him).

I was watching Hank Blalock's interview after the game, and really had my first experience of watching a big-league star and thinking "man, he's just a kid."

They mentioned that Jamie Moyer was the third guy to be a first-time All-Star in his forties, and I missed who the other two were. On, unsurprisingly, was Satchel Paige; the other was Connie Marrero. But Paige started his major league career at age 41 (or so), Marrero at 39. Moyer's been in the majors since age 23, which makes him much more unique.

Bill James on Moyer in 1994, after only his second season (out of 7) with an ERA below 4.66: "Good chance of remaining effective."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 15, 2003
BASEBALL: Burnitz Gone

Not much to say about the Burnitz deal: the Mets wisely got what they could for Burnitz, while the Dodgers really had to add a hitter to replace Brian Jordan. Note that the Mets will end up paying Burnitz $9 million this year for 234 at bats.

I'm glad to see Rickey back if only because it clears him off the same Hall of Fame ballot as Tim Raines.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:32 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2003 Mid-Year N.L. West DIPS Report

Continuing with the third in a series of posts (see here and here for explanations and my reports on the NL East and NL Central; all stats through Saturday's action):

The Diamondbacks

PitcherDIPS ERA (Actual ERA, Difference)
Randy Johnson 3.01 (6.94, +3.93)
Curt Schilling 3.45 (3.27, +0.18)
Brandon Webb 3.37 (2.18, +1.19)
Elmer Dessens 4.87 (5.13, -0.26)
Miguel Batista 3.50 (3.00, +0.50)
Andrew Good 5.56 (5.29, +0.27)
John Patterson 5.28 (6.91, -1.63)

One reminder is that pitchers with very high ERAs -- the high sixes and above -- are usually both unlucky and bad -- many of them show a DIPS ERA well below their actual ERAs. Also, anything can happen in a small sample -- Randy Johnson had a less than perfect April, but his DIPS ERA of 3.01 is just fine, and suggests that a healthy Unit will be the same as ever despite allowing 30 hits in 23.1 IP so far. Also of note: Brandon Webb's 3.37 DIPS ERA may not quite stack up to Dontrelle Willis' 2.89 DIPS ERA, but it does mark him as the real deal as a good young pitcher (and here I had once thought it was just the Mets), while more-heralded teammate John Patterson really did pitch quite badly in 41.2 innings.

The rest of the division:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Aren't Karl Malone and Gary Payton going to feel like idiots if Kobe Bryant winds up under indictment and unavailable to play much of this season?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:39 AM | Basketball | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 14, 2003
OTHER SPORTS: Tour de France Headline of the Year

I just can't improve on this one, from Laurence Simon at Amish Tech Support.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 PM | Other Sports | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

My comments, July 10:

"I guess the "Soysage" backers at PETA are saying they knew the Milwaukee Sausage Race would lead to violence some day ("Now you see the violence inherent in the system!")"

PETA Press Release, July 10:

"Now, PETA recommends that, in order to set a nonviolent example to offset the recent brawls and 'beanings' in MLB, the Brewers should field a Sausage Race participant that does not represent the violence inherent in meat production"

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:41 PM | Baseball 2002-03 • | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: A Rough Business

Russia's only caviar-sniffing cat gets rubbed out by the mob. (Link via Musil).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:40 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Bill James vs. Bambino's Curse

This article from The New Yorker on Bill James will be of obvious interest to many visitors to this blog. Enjoy!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:38 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A lot of the people who were predicting immediate greatness for Hank Blalock last season wound up groveling with embarrassment, only to see Blalock make the adjustment to the majors this year with a vengeance. Early in the year, we saw the same hand-wringing from some sources about Mark Teixeira after a weak April (.188 with 2 home runs).

Texeira's overall numbers (.251/.471/.338) are nothing special, but the 23-year-old rook batted .282/.507/.358 in May and .264/.529/.360 in June, and is slugging .485 so far in July. He may yet wind up with a rookie season to be proud of.

(BTW, I'm still disappointed that his name is pronounced Ta-SHARE-a, not Tex-AIR-a).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:31 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Niger Trap

Kevin Drum says that despite the relative insignificance of the Niger story itself, it's a "smoking gun" because

Bush's problem is not that a single 16-word sentence of dubious provenance made it into his State of the Union address. His problem is that he promised us that Saddam was connected to al-Qaeda, he promised thousands of liters of chemical and biological weapons, he promised that Saddam had a nuclear bomb program, and he promised that the Iraqis would greet us as liberators. But that wasn't all. He also asked us to trust him: he couldn't reveal all his evidence on national TV, but once we invaded Iraq and had unfettered access to the entire country everything would become clear.

But it didn't. We've had control of the country for three months, we've had access to millions of pages of Iraqi records, and we've captured and interrogated dozens of high ranking officials. And it's obvious now that there were no WMDs, no bomb programs of any serious nature, and no al-Qaeda connections. . .

In the end, we went to war because a majority of the population trusted George Bush when he presented his case that Iraq posed an imminent danger to the United States and the world.

Uranium-Gate is a symbol of that misplaced trust. If George Bush's judgment had been vindicated in Iraq, a single sentence in the State of the Union address wouldn't matter. But it hasn't, and he deserves to be held accountable for his poor judgment by everybody who believed him.

This sounds reasonable, but it's also why the Democrats are walking into a trap here. They're hoping to convince people that this story symbolizes the failure of the Iraq war, that the case for war in its totality was all a hoax. But more evidence about what was really going on in Iraq contiunues to seep in -- and when WMD capabilities are eventually found and more links to terror groups are laid out (I'm increasingly confident we'll find both) -- it's the Democrats who will find egg on their faces.

Remember: hawkish Democrats in the 1960s and hawkish Republicans in the 1970s and 1980s turned out to be wrong about some important particulars of the Soviet Union's nuclear and military capabilities. But did the public condemn them for seeing through the campaign against communism to victory?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Up The Niger River Without A Paddle?

Critics of the Bush Administration's foreign policy, primarily the anti-war Democrats, have leaped all over the story that the president said, in the State of the Union address, that British intelligence reports showed that Saddam had recently tried to buy uranium from Africa, at a time when U.S. intelligence reports were highly doubtful that the specific charge (a transaction in Niger) had happened. Of course, it became public very shortly after the SOTU speech (i.e., before the war) that the British report was based on forged documents.

It's true, of course, that what the president said was literally true -- this is what British intelligence was reporting. If the statement was made in, say, a Pentagon briefing and placed in context ("we've received a number of other potentially disturbing reports . . . "), that would be the end of the matter. But when the President puts it in a national address, the message is that we believe these reports.

On the other hand, consider the passage in its full, actual context:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:17 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Jayson Stark has the hype on Rich Harden, soon to be the Oakland fifth starter and perhaps a fourth to go with Hudson, Zito and Mulder.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 13, 2003
WAR: None Dare Call It War

Charles Krauthammer skewers the liberals/Democrats who favor military intervention in Liberia after having opposed war in Iraq (Howard Dean's name is mentioned):

The only conclusion one can draw is that for liberal Democrats, America's strategic interests are not just an irrelevance, but a deterrent to intervention. For liberals, foreign policy is social work. National interest - i.e., national selfishness - is a taint. The only justified interventions, therefore, are those that are morally pristine, namely, those that are uncorrupted by any suggestion of national interest. Hence the central axiom of left-liberal foreign policy: The use of American force is always wrong, unless deployed in a region of no strategic significance to the United States.

This point has been made before, and as a debating point it's a fair indictment of the perversity of the results of the Democrats' reasoning. But I don't think it gets to the core of how the Howard Deans of the world think. In many ways, I suspect that the real problem is that they take the flip side of the position I set out here: they disdain any "intervention" that requires us to actively take sides between foreign parties, and they call for us to withdraw (as in Somalia) once the inevitable provocations require us to do so. (I believe it was Mark Steyn who termed this attitude "confusing the sidelines with the moral high ground").

Playing schoolmarm breaking up the fight: good. Actually taking time to figure out who started it: bad. And as anybody who's been beaten up by a schoolyard bully can tell you, an authority figure who refuses to take sides is ultimately giving in to the law of the jungle. But it's the militant nonjudgementalism that ties the pro-"intervention"/anti-"war" crowd's foreign policy to its cultural liberalism; in either case, there's an abdication of the need to make moral distinctions. That's no way to run a home or a schoolyard, and it's no way to run a military superpower, either.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:41 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Department of Screwing?

Chaz over at Dustbury, in a hilarious skewering of the Totally Insane Mark Morford, asks the question: "do we really need national sexual role models?"

For the record, waiting until you are married is not an impediment to, shall we say, well, a healthy and satisfying marital relationship, is all I'm saying. I mean, seriously: what the hell is wrong with grown men and women who can't figure out how to have sex and enjoy it? It's not rocket science, you know.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:27 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Move Over, Indiana Jones

Sent along by one of our faithful readers: an archaeology professor from SUNY-Stony Brook is calling for looters of antiquities to be shot on sight in Iraq.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:09 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Joe Morgan

Listening to Joe Morgan talk about Hee Seop Choi on tonight's broadcast, and he made a fairly unremarkable point (in response to Jon Miller lauding Choi's patience and OBP) about how there's a fine line between patience and losing your aggressiveness . . . it just got to me how Morgan is awfully grudging in ever saying anything nice about patience at the plate, which I could understand coming from, say, Bill Robinson or Ray Knight, but it's bizarre coming from a guy who drew 110 walks in a season 7 times in 9 years. (Apparently, if you believe tonight's excuse, Morgan thinks that power hitters should swing the bat more).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Scott Speicher

Some new news, but nothing conclusive, about missing Gulf War I pilot Schott Speicher.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:00 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: What Point?

>PowerPoint actually impedes your ability to process information

>Key quote: ''PowerPoint allows speakers to pretend that they are
giving a real talk, and audiences to pretend that they are listening."

>Source: via The American Scene

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:56 PM | Business | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Cub Reporter

The Cub Reporter has upgraded his site to Movable Type, by the way. Go check it out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:51 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 11, 2003
WAR: Both Barrels Smoking?

Two potentially huge stories from Iraq today. First, Instapundit picks up a dispatch from respected Sixth Circuit judge Gilbert Merritt, in Iraq on a judicial-assistance mission, claiming to have found documentary proof (in an Iraqi newspaper, of all places, from last fall) that Saddam's regime employed someone tasked with maintaining ties to "the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan."

I'd suggest you read Merritt's whole article, and read it closely. It may be possible that he's being had, and that the newspaper is a fake of some kind. And assuming it's genuine, that may not prove everything; "the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan" could, I suppose, just be a group of intelligence agents assigned to keeping tabs on al Qaeda -- even if Saddam worked closely with bin Laden, I doubt very much that he would trust him enough not to have spies watching him, and the embassy in Pakistan is where you would expect those spies to be.

Either way, you can bet we'll be looking for this guy (if he's not in custody already) and perhaps more importantly, rounding up everyone who worked at Saddam's embassy in Pakistan. And if the connection to bin Laden is established -- well, even some of the loopier anti-war types regularly admitted before the war that ties between Saddam's regime and Al Qaeda would be sufficient for a casus belli.

Then there's the other story: a timid, cautious report (remember how many false alarms we've had) from Australian media -- citing Undersecretary of State John Bolton but relying heavily on unnamed sources -- that the U.S. has found suspected chemical weapons in Iraq that are presently being tested.

Could turn out to be a good day for finally cracking the case on both ends of the Iraq puzzle.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:41 PM | War 2002-03 | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Baseball in Washington, D.C.?

Today's Washington Post has an interesting story on the support (or alleged lack of support) for the Baltimore Orioles found in Washington, D.C. I expect the PR battle to continue to heat up.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:40 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Cleon's Due

Rob Neyer cops to something I'd meant to call him on: his all-time team lineups should have named Cleon Jones over Kevin McReynolds as the all-time Mets left fielder (granted, it's very close, and it's worth noting that McReynolds finished third in the 1988 NL MVP ballotting, compared to seventh for Jones in 1969, when he hit .340). Read Neyer's whole explanation.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:10 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Crazy From The Heat

Tung Yin has some pointed observations comparing the flap over Dusty Baker's recent comments on white people and the heat to the brouhaha in Toronto over the relative lack of black players on the Blue Jays (well, other than the team's best-paid players, that is). I haven't commented here yet on the Dusty Baker thing, which has been good for some entertaining synthetic outrage around the media and the net. I mean, seriously, do you think anyone was genuinely hurt or offended by his comments? And I've got a little bit of perverse admiration for Baker for not backing away from comments he obviously believes.

Just the same, the episode is a good reminder of why one shouldn't reach for a racial generalization unless it's absolutely necessary, and I'd agree that Major League Baseball would be wise to reprimand Baker publicly, to preserve the principle that such comments should generally not be made.

What interested me more is this: Baker started talking about white people handling the heat poorly as a way of explaining a bad start by Shawn Estes in early July. But if Baker believes that Estes doesn't handle the heat well, why didn't he say that? He's managed Estes for most of his career, after all, so he should know. And if Estes doesn't have a particular problem with pitching in the heat, why even raise the issue?

Now, I didn't have time to do a larger study of white ballplayers' patterns or track down game-by-game results even for Estes, but one thing we can easily look at: Shawn Estes' record in the hot weather months. How has Estes done?

I checked the 2000-2002 period for a sample, and at first glance the answer is mixed: Estes' ERAs in that period were 4.22 in April, 3.13 in May, 3.76 in June, 4.72 in July, 5.38 in August, and 6.02 in September/October. That could be a pitcher who has trouble with hot weather, but it looks a lot more like a guy who just plain wears down as the season goes on -- how else do you explain a September/October ERA 60% higher than his June ERA, or his 3.64 ERA before July 1 compared to 5.34 for the rest of the year? I'd say the switch that flips on July 1 every year without fail probably has more to do with cumulative fatigue than with heat, no? In fact, I strongly suspect that Estes has one of the most pronounced tendencies to collapse in the second half of any major league player. It's certainly well-known to those who have followed his career.

Which makes you wonder why Dusty instead chose to attribute Estes' struggles to his race instead of his annual pattern. Was Dusty trying to somehow challenge Estes' toughness, or maybe convince him that his problem is with heat rather than fatigue? That assumes that Baker thought in advance about what he was saying. Or, assuming that Baker didn't deliberately set out to plant his foot in his mouth, maybe he was just in denial, trying to avoid the obvious fact that his pitcher's struggles will only get worse as the season wears on.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:05 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2003 Mid-Year N.L. Central DIPS Report

Continuing on with Tuesday's theme, let's look at Defense-Independent Pitching Stats (DIPS) for the NL Central (stats through Tuesday's action), but again with a caveat: the rough DIPS formula seems to persistently produce higher DIPS ERAs for the NL as a whole than the league ERA. This split doesn't show up for the AL; for 2002, the NL DIPS ERA/ERA split is 4.37/4.10, but the AL split is 4.52/4.46. I assume this is because pitchers, when batting, put a far smaller number of well-hit balls in play, thus leading to fewer hits and many fewer doubles and triples than DHs (who's more likely to double when he puts the ball in play -- Edgar Martinez, or Al Leiter?). In short, they're dealing with a different selection of hitters.

The Cubs

PitcherDIPS ERA (Actual ERA, Difference)
Mark Prior 2.72 (2.69, +0.03)
Kerry Wood 3.98 (3.36, +0.62)
Carlos Zambrano 3.62 (3.19, +0.43)
Matt Clement 4.48 (4.56, -0.08)
Shawn Estes 4.74 (5.51, -0.77)
Joe Borowski 3.06 (2.59, +0.47)
Kyle Farnsworth 2.89 (2.13, +0.76)

I'm not an expert on statistical significance, but in general, a variance of less than about a half a run in this context means that the pitcher's performance is basically in line with his ERA. I'm less surprised by bigger variances for relief pitchers, since they work fewer innings, and (especially for non-closers) under conditions where their ERAs are often subject to the whims of other relievers.

The main news here is that Shawn Estes, owing to his stinginess with the longball, isn't quite as bad as his 5.51 ERA, and that Kerry Wood's problems with walks and homers mean they shouldn't go putting him on the cover of Sports Illustrated just yet (oh, wait . . . ).

The rest of the division, including one very big surprise:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:51 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Slate carries a stinging assessment of the 2003 Mets subtitled "How to survive the summer at Shea Stadium." I was surprised that the answer didn't involve adult beverages or controlled substances. Josh Levin starts off with a bang:

This year's New York Mets were assembled by recently ousted General Manager Steve Phillips, perhaps the only GM so bad that he acquired a stalker. The team Phillips built, 39-50 at this writing, fits snugly into what might be called baseball's "underachieving overdog" model. Start with a massive payroll: $116.9 million on opening day, second only to the Yankees. Add old players flailing about in an attempt to re-enact their past glories. Finally, subtract all young players with the potential to get any better. If rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for General Motors, then rooting for this year's Mets is like rooting for a used Oldsmobile with a persistent urine smell. Maybe it used to have flash and run well, but my God, what the hell happened in there?

Read the whole thing. Only when I read this piece did I make a connection: the Mets have given Jeromy Burnitz the same thing they've gotten in return -- not only did they miss his good years in Milwaukee (although Burnitz has actually played quite well this season), but he missed the days of fun baseball in NY.

Also, I hope you didn't miss Aaron Gleeman's ode to Mike Cameron, the most underrated player in baseball. And Art Martone had a rundown (registration required) of the Win Shares All-Stars, through July 3:

C Posada, NY, 13Lopez, Atl, 14; Rodriguez, Fla, 14
1B Delgado, Tor, 21Helton, Colo, 14; Thome, Phil, 14
2B Boone, Sea, 16Vidro, Mont, 13
SS Garciaparra, Bos, 16Furcal, Atl, 12
3B Koskie, Minn, 14Lowell, Fla, 15
OF Cameron, Sea, 15Pujols, StL, 19
OF Suzuki, Sea, 14Bonds, SF, 18
OF Ramirez, Bos, 14Sheffield, Atl, 17
SP Loaiza, Chi, 16Brown, LA, 15


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS/POLITICS: Social Conscience

Ricky West has some thoughts comparing Warren Buffett's anti-tax-cut social justice rhetoric to the reality of Berkshire Hathaway's treatment of its employees. Of course, Buffett has a duties to the other Berkshire Hathaway shareholders to maximize their profits rather than pay unnecessarily high salaries; he has to let the other shareholders decide for themselves how much money they want to devote to giving their fellow man a better deal than the market demands.

But then, shouldn't that also be true of George W. Bush?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Business • | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Bear vs. Sub

A funny picture from Lionel Mandrake at Sgt. Stryker.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 10, 2003
BASEBALL: Bratwurst Victory Marred By Violence!

Add another darkly humorous chapter to the bizarre history of baseball mascots: Pirates 1B Randall Simon is being investigated by the Milwaukee DA's Office for knocking over the Italian Sausage during the famous Milwaukee Sausage Race by hitting her (yes, the Italian Sausage is a woman, and no, I'm not going there) with a bat from the visitor's dugout. The Italian Sausage fell into the Hot Dog, leaving the Bratwurst to race to a dramatic victory.

I guess the "Soysage" backers at PETA are saying they knew the Milwaukee Sausage Race would lead to violence some day ("Now you see the violence inherent in the system!"), and we know what John Rocker thinks of Simon. But let's consider some other dramatic moments in mascot history:

*The time Billy the Marlin, skydiving into Joe Robbie Stadium on Opening Day, had his head blow off (the costume head, that is) in the wind. SportsCenter had a field day (Bring Me The Head of Billy The Marlin!). The head was eventually found near a highway some miles from the stadium.

*The 1985 Pittsburgh drug trial, when it was revealed that the Pirate Parrot had been dealing drugs to the players. If I remember right, he kept them in the nose of his costume.

*The time Mets catcher John Stearns got annoyed at Braves mascot Chief Nok-A-Homa, tackled him and chased him off the field.

*When pitcher Don Schulze (who also later had a disastrous tour of duty with the Mets in 1987) sued the San Diego Chicken for tackling him while running the bases; Schulze claimed that the Chicken had caused permanent injury to his arm (wanna bet the Italian Sausage and the Hot Dog file suit against Simon?)

UPDATES: I actually didn't see video last night (I was busy finishing the new Harry Potter book), but MSNBC has pictures and an amusing lead headline ("Pirate Grilled For Whacking Sausage"). My prediction: Simon can avoid criminal charges by blaming the attack on the Pirates' all-yellow "Turn Back The Clock" 70s uniforms. Prediction #2: The Italian Sausage gets a standing ovation tonight.

Also, co-blogger The Mad Hibernian asks, "does targeting the Italian Sausage make it a hate crime?"

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:20 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
July 8, 2003
BASEBALL: 2003 Mid-Year NL East DIPS Report

One of the major questions that comes up by this point in the season is: who's for real? It's late enough, just past the halfway mark, that we are apt to start giving some weight to this year's stats. But as we well know by now thanks to Voros McCracken, pitcher stats can be heavily influenced by luck and defense on balls in play. Thus, a pitcher who's success is dependent on those factors may be a bad bet to keep it up.

So, I decided to use Voros' rough in-season Defense-Independent Pitching Stats (DIPS ERA) calculations* to take a look at how a few interesting pitchers stack up when you take balls in play out of the equation.

* - Scroll down to the bottom of this post for details on the formula; the formula I used may need to be adjusted downward a bit, given that it produced a DIPS ERA of 4.50 for the National League as a whole compared to a league ERA of 4.32. The AL numbers were closer, with a DIPS ERA of 4.55 for the AL compared to a league ERA of 4.54.

I'll run a few of these here and do more later this week if time permits. Let's start with the NL East (all stats through Monday night's action):

The Mets

For the Mets, I'll just run the four starters who have significant innings, plus the Mets' "All-Star" closer, Armando Benitez:

PitcherDIPS ERA (Actual ERA, Difference)
Jae Seo 3.69 (3.68, +0.01)
Al Leiter 5.11 (5.57, -0.46)
Tom Glavine 5.31 (4.64, +0.67)
Steve Trachsel 5.14 (4.10, +1.04)
Armando Benitez 4.09 (3.11, +0.98)

For the most part, the DIPS formula actually suggests that the Mets' primary pitchers have been even worse than it appears, especially Glavine, Trachsel and Benitez. This seems odd, since the Mets' defense is one of the worst in the National League at turning balls in play into outs, and David Pinto's adjusted calculations (taking extra base hits into account) also have them near the bottom.

The good news: Jae Seo is for real, with just 20 walks allowed and 7 home runs in 102.2 IP. Seo is a rarity, a "Tommy John-type" pitcher (low BB, low K, low HR) who's not lefthanded and not a sinkerballer (in fact, these days, most control specialists are big fly ball guys like Brad Radke and Rick Reed).

On to the rest of the division:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:16 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: More Moneyball

If you missed it at the time (I did), this Baseball Primer interview with Michael Lewis from last month had some interesting stuff about how little Lewis knew about his subject when he started out, the resistance he encountered in getting people to talk to him, and how bitter and narrow-minded some sportswriters really are. The Primer is also hosting a chat room session with Lewis next week.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:59 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Pick Your Poisons

Fran Healy tonight was moaning, after Jason Roach gave up a home run to Vinny Castilla that turned out to be the difference in the game, that Roach should have walked or pitched around Castilla, with a man on first and two out, to get to Shane Reynolds. I can't agree -- OK, Reynolds, once a decent hitter, is batting .034 and hasn't batted above .100 in three years (although he did single after Castilla's homer). But first of all, when you're rebuilding, what's the point of bringing along a young pitcher like Roach if you're afraid to find out if he can get out a washed-up hacker like Castilla? Second, why be afraid of Vinny at all? Sure, he'll hit one out now and then, but the guy came into the game sporting a .290 OBP and a .418 slugging average. Third, why not want Reynolds leading off the next inning -- not only is he a lousy hitter, but you'd rather the other manager have an excuse to leave the guy with the 6 ERA out there for one more crack at him.

Also some fun mind games with John Smoltz, who looked very unhappy to have to trim his white undershirt, which hung just slightly out from his short sleeve uniform. We've come a long way from Dazzy Vance bleaching his ragged white sweatshirt to pitch against a backdrop of Monday afternoon white laundry in Brooklyn . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:55 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Big Brother Africa

This story about a pan-African version of the TV show "Big Brother" is actually a little bit hopeful: unlike in Europe, where the concept is mostly being used to stamp out accountable government, shackle free enterprise and crush non-French foreign policy, the building of a continent-wide (i.e., non-tribal) identity in Africa may actually be a good thing, and if a common interest in even the trashiest pop culture can encourage that, good for reality TV.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:43 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

This story from a few weeks back is simultaneously amusing, humbling and a little depressing about how little attention the average American pays to inside-the-Beltway power plays: a Democratic pollster not only finds that 61% of Latino voters are unaware of President Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada for the DC Circuit, but concludes that

it was clear many of those who supported Mr. Estrada were also confusing him with actor Erik Estrada, who was on the 1977-1983 television police drama "CHiPS" and is now a popular Spanish-language soap-opera star.
"Many of them think President Bush nominated Erik Estrada — I'd say a good third think that way," Mr. Bendixen said, adding that he heard one person say Mr. Estrada should be confirmed because he did such a good job playing a policeman on "CHiPS."

Hey, anybody who can talk his partner out of giving a traffic ticket to H.R. Puffenstuf is ready for the D.C. Circuit . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:38 PM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2002-03 • | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Coulter and Dowd

Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal draws a parallel I've often drawn myself, calling Ann Coulter "the Maureen Dowd of the conservatives."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:31 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Steyn on Dean

As a New Hampshirite, Mark Steyn has had the opportunity to watch Howard Dean up close for the past decade. To no one's surprise, he's unimpressed:

Vermont . . . was colonised in the Sixties by ponytailed granola progressivism and summed up by a remarkably prescient 1972 article in Playboy, headlined 'Take Over Vermont': 'Get 225,000 counterculturalists to settle in the Green Mountain State and exercise their franchise -- and you've begun a unique social experiment.' Or more to the point: just because these ideas are a surefire vote-loser everywhere across the country doesn't mean they won't catch on if enough of the tiny minority that believes in them moves to one small underpopulated jurisdiction.

So 30 years on, the unique social experiment is almost complete, and Howard Dean's state is not terribly friendly to any kind of business other than folksy boutique capitalism as represented by the Vermont Teddy Bear Company and Ben & Jerry's, the hippy-dippy ice-cream-makers who sell 'Peace Pops' in flavours like 'Cherry Garcia'. And even these most famous exemplars of the Green Mountain State's caring capitalism flopped out. A couple of years ago, Ben & Jerry's got taken over by Unilever, even though one of them - Ben or possibly Jerry - wasn't too happy about it. But the one who was - Jerry or maybe Ben - insists that UniBen or Jerrylever or whatever it's called now is still just the same bunch of committed activists raging at the greed of multinational globalised capitalism, even though they're now a wholly owned subsidiary thereof. . . . In other words, Ben & Jerry's are full of it. And so's Howard Dean. In Ben & Jerry terms, he's a thousand pints of Lite, a masterful Clintonian triangulator who's taken the but-I-didn't-inhale approach to political viability into far more ambitious territory. Although he did part of his medical training at an abortion clinic, he's always claimed he never actually performed one himself: he may have dilated, but he never extracted. Hardcore Vermont liberals - especially the environmentalists - got sick of Dean's slipperiness long before he decided to run for president.

But out of state the activists don't know that, and in a field split between five lacklustre Congressional compromisers . . . and three fringe wackos . . . , Dean's done a superb job at positioning himself as the heart of the party. . . . The reason he's piling up all the big money from out of state boils down to two words: civil unions. Three years ago, Vermont became the first state in the nation to recognise a form of legal union for same-sex couples, and that puts Dean on the cutting edge of the issue du jour. . . . Dean now says bringing civil unions to Vermont was 'the most important event in my political life'. At the time, he was going round the state telling folks he was only doing it because the Vermont Supreme Court made him, and, instead of the usual showboating public ceremony, he signed the legislation behind closed doors. But out in Hollywood all Barbra Streisand and the other high rollers know is that, if gay marriage is your big priority rather than Iraq and national security and all the other peripheral junk, then Dean's your man. In a way, he's the first gay candidate, the first beneficiary of a prominent, organisationally effective, big-money gay bloc in the Democratic party. This year, gay is the new black.

* * *
I'd say the south will be a bridge too far for Dean and the Vermontification of the Democratic party. In electoral terms, Vermont is a polarising state. It's the Hillary Rodham Clinton of states. . . . As for the man with the plain-spoken candour of John McCain and the electability of Bill Clinton, before it's over it'll be looking more like the electability of John McCain and the plain-spoken candour of Bill Clinton.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:27 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: A Short Spell

Sorry, no blogging this morning; I've been racing through the new Harry Potter book (I'm around page 633 as of 7:15 this morning), and the time to read it had to come from somewhere. More on the Potter books when I've finished, but I'll say this much: Order of the Phoenix is really not a children's book; it's a teenagers' book in its tone and plot, as befits the now 15-year-old lead character. In fact, I'm rather glad that it will take us some time to get my son, who's almost 6, through the third book before taking on the fourth and fifth.

Still, if you'd told me 7-8 years ago that a new author would have 8- and 9-year-olds lining up to read a nearly 900-page book, I'd have said you were out of your mind. Just another reminder that you can never say you've seen everything.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:09 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 7, 2003
BASEBALL: Jimenez Gone

Looks like I was wrong about the fallout in Chicago from the acquisition of Robby Alomar; rather than benching Joe Crede and his sub-.300 OBP, the Chisox have ditched D'Angelo Jimenez, dealing him to the Reds.

As I pointed out earlier in the year here and here, Jimenez was off to a great start this season, but his banishment from the White Sox leaves you wondering whether he's hurt or whether, like Jeremy Giambi and Bruce Chen, there's something more seriously wrong with his attitude that continually causes new organizations to sour on him.

Jimenez ought to be in demand: he's allegedly only 25, and he makes very little money. But let's look at how his season split; I'll project the totals (other than the "games" column, which shows the games played by the White Sox for those dates) out to 162 games for comparison's sake:


Clearly, there was something very wrong with Jimenez lately -- the complete loss of power and plate discipline, the collapse of his batting average. But note that the latter line is 59 at bats; hardly a decent sample size to justify panic. Bottom line: ditching D'Angelo Jimenez can't have been based on his performance.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
WAR: Liberia, Liberia, You Border On . . .

The debate over purely "humanitarian" military interventions has been restarted again with the rising international (i.e., French) pressure for the U.S. to intervene in the civil war in the West African nation of Liberia, an unusual African country that was founded by the United States in 1821 (gaining independence in 1847) as a home for repatriated slaves (typically, the French view this as our responsibility out of a sense that Africa is still governed by the agreement of partition made by the European powers at Berlin in 1884).

In one sense, the debate is a misnomer, given the longstanding concern that Liberian President Charles Taylor may be giving aid and comfort to (or at least doing business with) Al Qaeda, which would make an intervention that much more urgent.

But let's step back a bit, because before you even get to the moral and strategic issues of "should we go to war," I believe there's a basic and non-negotiable requirement before we send American soldiers into harm's way:

We have to take sides.

It sounds simple enough, but if you think about it, the willingness to take sides and put America's vast resources and prestige behind victory for one side (or, at least, defeat for another side) is not only a pretty good proxy for whether the conflict is important enough to get involved, but it's precisely the organizing principle that's needed to prevent the paralysis of determining proportional responses to inevitable provocations that ultimately did in the American effort to stabilize the situation in Somalia. When you've taken sides, you don't think about an eye for an eye in disputes, and you don't announce "stabilization" as your end; you think about victory. If you haven't identified an enemy, you'll never be able to defeat it; and the mission ultimately, if carried to its logical conclusion, then becomes one of permanent colonial occupation -- or failure.

The reason for this is inherent in the nature of the military and its limitations, and it perfectly explains why Candidate George W. Bush was so hesitant about "nation-building," while as president, Bush has used American forces extensively in nation-building in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines, where clearly defined enemies are in the field. Our military is designed to fight, and its effectiveness declines if it's being asked simply to insert itself as human shields between two warring factions. The situation in Iraq is difficult enough, but at least we went in, and have stayed there, with a clearly defined sense of whose side we're on, and who we're against, and that gives direction to everything we do, as well as greatly increasing the latitude for commanders on the ground to know when they can give orders to fight back, or to head off in pursuit of hostile forces without worrying about overstepping a mandate. The alternative is being walled up behind a barracks waiting for a suicide bomb attack, as at Beirut in 1983.

A corollary: you never put soldiers into a country unless you are willing to live with one of two outcomes:

1. You lose them all.
2. You escalate to total war.

Now, there may be some situations where it's reasonable to live with the potential for the first outcome; this is an assumption, if unstated, of the decision to use covert operations: if the soldiers you insert get cornered, you will try to get them out, but at a certain point you cut your losses.

This is the real wisdom in the so-called Powell Doctrine, which calls for the use of force only when overwhelming force is applied. The Powell Doctrine, if wisely applied, doesn't mean you go nowhere if you're not willing to start with half a million troops. But it does mean you don't go in without determining that you're willing to go to that kind of force if necessary to win.

These basic rules weren't met in Somalia, but they were met in Kosovo, which is one reason a lot of conservatives found it possible to support that war (I'll admit that at the time I didn't pay close enough attention to the conflict to come to a firm conclusion on the matter).

Although President Bush has issued calls for Taylor to step down, talk of "intervention" has thus far not turned to talk of us making war to remove Taylor's regime from power (possibly in part because we're not too fond of the rebels, either). As a result, this smells like the kind of situation where we'd be walking in blindfolded. I don't want our soldiers, who've risked quite enough lately on more urgent errands, being subjected to this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:42 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 5, 2003
POLITICS: Hating The Clintons

Speaking of Hillary, one of the common lines from Bill's defenders (like Sid Blumenthal) is that hatred of Bill Clinton was all about his "progressive" politics; meanwhile, Hillary's defenders often argue that people who hate Hillary "have a problem with strong women" or some such. Talk to a lot of dyed-in-the-wool Clinton-haters (I've mislaid my card, but it's around here somewhere), and you'll quickly realize that the psychoanalysts on the Left have it precisely backward. The people who hate Bill hate him, first and foremost, for his character; talk to them about another "New Democrat" like John Edwards or Joe Lieberman, and you won't hit anywhere near the same vein of animosity that accompanied Bill from the very beginning. The problem with Bill is a problem we all have with that one guy we know who can get away with damn near everything, and with the way in which he symbolized all the worst aspects of a generation that was, as it so happened, second to none in its generational self-image.

As for Hillary, there are certainly plenty of people -- even liberals -- who hate her for her personality, but few of them focus on her as an abstract generalization. The real core of Hillary-hating relates to her politics more than her character; people didn't hate her for trying to be Lee Hart to Bill's Gary; they hated her from the outset out of fear that she was disguising her perceived role as the voice of the Left in Bill's ear.

I overgeneralize, of course; my own least favorite fact about Hillary is her tendency, and that of her defenders, to recast every criticism of this emeninently criticizable public figure as being an Attack On All Women -- she's effectively tried to hijack the sympathies of an entire gender, which is one reason why the depth of Hillary-hatred among men is childs' play compared to the way some women (not all of them conservatives) hate her. But the generalization, I submit, is true: people first came to hate Bill mostly for his character, and Hillary mostly for her politics.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:07 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: PJ O'Rourke on Snoozing Through Hillary

THIS is a must-read -- PJ O'Rourke's review of Living History is good enough to make you forget that the Weekly Standard already had Matt Labash write a savage review of this book:

There's "the trip to Russia when Hillary and Mrs. Boris Yeltsin 'laughed our way through a day of public appearances and private meals with local dignitaries.' I hesitate to think there was a logical explanation, but Hillary does say, 'Ireland invigorated and inspired me, and I wished we could bottle up the good feelings and take them back home.' It's been done before."

"We must recognize Hillary's principled outspoken feminism as elucidated in her U.N. Conference on Women speech: 'It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.' . . . And understand her stupidity. Now, Hillary's stupidity is of a Monday's-homework-done-on-Friday-night, 1,400 on her SATs kind, but nonetheless stupid for all that. She has lunch with Jackie Onassis, who 'cautioned me that Bill, like President Kennedy, had a personal magnetism that inspired strong feelings in people. She never came out and said it, but she meant that he might be a target.' Was Jackie talking about the grassy knoll or about a different kind of mons?

Hillary serves roasted eggplant soup and sweet potato puree to Jacques Chirac and doesn't get the joke when Chirac says, 'Of course, I love many things American, including the food. You know, I used to work in a Howard Johnson's restaurant.' After listening to Jiang Zemin explain that the Tibetans had been liberated by the Chinese, Hillary concludes, 'I don't think Jiang . . . was being quite straight with me on Tibet.'"

O'Rourke's vicious conclusion:

"[I]t says something unflattering about our era that prominent political figures--who used to write declarations of independence, preambles to constitutions, Gettysburg addresses, and such--now use the alphabet only to make primitive artifacts, like the letter-inscribed tablet that Charlemagne is said to have put under his pillow each night, in the hope he'd wake up literate."

(Link via The American Scene).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:50 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Of Oprah and Women

Turns out that the Power of Oprah can even put a classic book by a long-dead author back on the best seller list.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:45 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
OTHER SPORTS: Lewis-Klitscko

My wife and I finally broke down and decided to try HBO about two months ago, and one of the few dividends has been that we got to watch the Lennox Lewis-Vladimir Klitschko fight, which my brother-in-law had asked us to tape. Since that meant we couldn't change the channel (our cable box, displaying the soul of a monopolist, sabotages all efforts to record one show while watching another), and it was the night before we left on vacation, we wound up watching most of the fight.

I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised. I'm not much of a boxing fan, and due to the migration of major prizefights to premium cable and pay-per-view, I hadn't actually seen a title fight live in maybe 20 years. But this was really a good fight, between two very tall heavyweights. What you ask for in any sporting event is suspense: a sense that the outcome is not entirely predetermined. This fight had it, and it also had action: these guys were actually landing a lot of punches, most of them to the side of the head (there were remarkably few body blows, perhaps due to the height of the two fighters), unlike my memories of heavyweight fights as orgies of gripping interrupted only sporadically by some fighting. Klitschko came out swinging early, and led in points throughout the fight. Lewis really looked out of it early, totally unprepared for the barrage, but around the third round he started to rally, and wound up opening a nasty gash over Klitschko's left eye that eventually led to the fight being stopped after the sixth round.

This fight was arranged on fairly short notice, and maybe that accounted for its unpredictability, but I'd definitely want to see the expected rematch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:42 PM | Other Sports | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 2, 2003
BASEBALL: Robby Gone

So the Mets have dumped Roberto Alomar, on the White Sox, for three minor leaguers (mainly minor league closer Royce Ring), while the Mets will swallow virtually all of Alomar's remaining $3.9 million contract. I suppose I'll be frustrated if Alomar goes all Tony Fernandez on us (Fernandez, who the Mets cut in early 1993 looking for all the world like he was washed up, batted .306 the rest of the way for the Blue Jays, drove in 9 runs in the World Series that year, and went on to play until 2001), but at this point it hardly matters. I don't know much about Ring (I'd never heard of him before yesterday) and know even less about the other two, but at this point, any value the Mets could get is worth a try, and while minor league closers (especially ones whose fastballs don't crack the mid-90s) aren't famously good investments, Ring does have a solid college pedigree, and bringing in a potential replacement for Armando the Arsonist (who last night cost Aaron Heilman his first major league win) seems like a good move.

For the White Sox, bringing in Alomar and Carl Everett seems rather desperate, although a win-now approach does make sense in their division (and Cy Young seasons from guys like Esteban Loaiza don't come around every day, either). The Alomar deal puzzles me a bit, when the Sox already had D'Angelo Jimenez at second. Jimenez has been in free-fall for the past month or so after a blazing start, but he's still a solid ballplayer unless the Sox really think his various nicks are wearing him down. Apparently they may use Jimenez at third and bench the utterly helpless Joe Crede, another youngster who was a hot prospect not so long ago but has a .271 on base percentage that drags on the Chicago offense like Marley's chains. Upgrading from Crede to Alomar will be a big help (Crede's no whiz on the basepaths either), as will slotting in Everett for various disasters in the outfield.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Only The Beginning

If you're interested in the debate over racial preferences, this column on NRO by U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Peter Kirsanow is a must-read. Kirsanow does what I had hoped to do with the Michigan decisions if I'd had time, and then some: walk through all the practical problems that will face university administrators in defending additional litigation brought under the Gratz/Gruttinger standards. One of the key unsettled issues Kirsanow doesn't address -- but that will become very important in these cases -- is the pleading standards required to sustain a claim before discovery becomes available.

Of course, whether or not you agree with Justice O'Connor's resolution of the issue, the fact that her decision encourages protracted and highly fact-intensive (read: expensive) litigation can't really be seen as a good thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:43 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 1, 2003
BASEBALL: Trivia Quiz of the Day

Only one hitter has hit his 500th home run off of a Hall of Fame pitcher. Name the batter and the pitcher.

Small hint: the pitcher was in his prime at the time.

Don Malcolm (scroll up from the link to the comments section) has the answer, and much more on 500th homers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:00 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/LAW: Charity Begins

From Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus on NRO:

In a previous Impromptus, I wrote of Kathy Boudin, the Weather bomber and Brinks murderess who's always up for parole. At her latest hearing, she talked about how guilty she'd felt that she was white. (You remember: "white skin privilege.") I said what she ought to feel guilty about is killing people - including Waverly Brown, the first black police officer on the Nyack, N.Y., force. It took forever to get him there. And then Kathy and her friends took him away.

Anyway, my homegirl Michelle Malkin wrote me to say that a scholarship fund had been established in his name, along with that of Edward O'Grady, another officer murdered by the Boudin crew. Money goes to students who pursue careers in law enforcement. Checks can be made payable to: O'Grady-Brown Memorial Scholarship Fund, Inc., P.O. Box 1024, Nyack, N.Y. 10960.

As MM says, "Fight left-wing domestic terrorism. Send your check today."

I grew up in Rockland County, NY (Nyack was a few towns over), and I can remember how the Brinks story dominated the news. When I worked in the Rockland DA's Office my first summer during law school, they took us to an exhibit on the Brinks case in the Rockland County Sherriff's Office. One exhibit that made a particular impression was the front winshield of the armored car -- it must have been several inches thick -- with a hole blown in the glass more than six inches in diameter from machine gun fire. The armored car drivers and the cops killed in this incident never had a chance.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:52 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Fish Story

The NY Times, perhaps belatedly recognizing the offensive nature of Maureen The Greek's column-length sneer at Clarence Thomas, runs an op-ed by uber-postmodernist professor Stanley Fish, de-deconstructing (reconstructing?) Thomas' affirmative action opinion: that is, Fish makes the most un-postmodern argument that Thomas' critique of affirmative action deserves to be dealt with on its merits, rather than explained away as a product of Thomas' own experiences and psychology. (This may also be a further sign of the postmodernists' loss of confidence in their methods). Kudos to Fish, no conservative, for writing this, and to the Times for realizing that Dowd's noxious blast deserved a rebuttal. What's striking about the article is not that it offers a different perspective from Dowd's but that it has no other possible purpose than as a rebuttal to Dowd (although she's not mentioned by name).

On a related note, for all you Harry Potter fans, the analogy of the week goes to Mindles H. Dreck, writing about Dowd (in the comments section):

The basic problem is that the NYT is the paper I settle down with on Sundays after cooking the family pancakes. You open it and there she is. It's like getting a Howler.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:49 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

In Bill Simmons' latest Ramblings, he makes a joke about Ashton Kutcher's sex life without calling him "randy." C'mon Bill, there are some jokes you gotta use no matter how few people get them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)