Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
April 30, 2006
POP CULTURE: Woo-Hoo-Hoo-oo, My My, Woo-Hoo-Hoo-oo

OK, let's hear it: what song can you just not resist singing along to, however unwise it may be to do so? There's a couple of them I can't resist at least singing along to quietly, but I think #1 on that list is the Eagles' "Already Gone". Which I cannot sing, yet I am compelled to do so. And, I should add, singing along when it comes on your iPod makes you look twice as ridiculous. I also whistle along to pretty much all the sax parts of Springsteen songs, but whistling's not quite as bad.

(On a separate subject, the only song I've tried my hand at at karaoke is Elvis' "Burning Love" - surprisingly, alcohol was involed.)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
April 29, 2006
BASEBALL: Killing the King, Part II

As I noted before the last Mets-Braves series, if you shoot at the king, you better kill him. Last time, the Mets got a good first right to the Braves' jaw, and then got the beating you get when you don't knock out the bully on the first shot.

They're learning; tonight, they took the second straight against Atlanta in Turner Field, stretching their division lead to 7 games, still longer than it was at this time in 1986. They face off again tomorrow and for another three games next weekend. The time to go for the jugular and put Atlanta in a hole it hasn't seen since 1993 is now.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Referrers

Question for other bloggers: know where to get a good referrer log? I used to have a code at the bottom of each page that showed how much incoming traffic I got from every external source - with the unreliability of Technorati and the near-total demise of the trackback function, it had become my best resource for finding out who had linked to me, and by far the best way to track which links provided a lot of hits (Site Meter doesn't connect traffic to particular pages to particular links). Unfortunately, that code - from a site called - has gone to a registration-required pay service (see here). Fair enough; I decided their service was worth paying for and signed up, sending via PayPal $17.95 to sign up. And: nothing. I can't log in. They won't answer my emails. Is it a scam, or just bad service? I have no idea. But I'd love to find a substitute, if anyone has a better idea.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:29 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 27, 2006

If there's a #1 reason to be skeptical about the Indians this year, it's that in 2005 they had three seriously subpar offensive players at positions that should have produced a lot of runs - Ben Broussard at first base, Casey Blake in right field, and Aaron Boone at third base - and haven't replaced any of them. I noted this in my AL Central preview.

Through tonight's 8-RBI rampage by Broussard, however, the two of the three who had hit well in 2004 - Broussard and Blake - were off to a torrid start, .407/.661/.444 for Broussard, .351/.527/.429 for Blake. That could be a good sign - these guys aren't old, so they do still have the possibility of running off a year like 2004 again, and if they do that, the Cleveland lineup gets pretty scary. Plus, if one of them had to struggle out of the gate, best it be Boone, since in Andy Marte they already have an upgrade waiting in the wings. Of course, not everyone else in the Indians lineup is killing the ball yet - Ronnie Belliard's been mediocre, and Jhonny Peralta and Jason Michaels are way off their previous paces. And it's early yet; those hot starts could become a millstone if Broussard and Blake sink back to last year's level in slow stages until it's too late to do anything about them. But for now, it's an encouraging start.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:24 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Still Streakin'

I mentioned near the end of last season the tendency of Frank Catalanotto to get on tremendous hot streaks. Looks like that streak is still going.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:54 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 26, 2006
BASEBALL: Everybody Wang-McClung Tonight

I'm sorry, the pun on the pitching matchup for tonight's Yankees-Rays game was just too good to pass up.

While we're in the 80s I'll throw in something I noticed over the weekend but can't be the first one to comment on - doesn't Khalil Greene look like he should be ordering a pizza in Mr. Hand's class?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:42 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: I Hate Barry Bonds

I really hate Barry Bonds. Well, Bonds' game-tying, ninth-inning three-run homer off Billy Wagner pretty well answers why people still pitch around him in that situation. Though I still think there are too many situations where he gets walked.

UPDATE: Adding insult to injury, Armando Benitez gets out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th.

SECOND UPDATE: Mets rally in the 11th and win! This is exactly the kind of game championship teams win, coming back after blowing a 3-run lead on the road on an error (by Wright) and a bomb in the ninth. Bonds flies out against Darren Oliver to end it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:38 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)

Mike Piazza has hit his 400th home run, the first catcher ever to do that. (Yes, I know he didn't hit all 400 as a catcher). Congratulations.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:27 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: All About Oil: A Short and Long-Term Energy Strategy

Gas prices are high, very high, and keep getting higher. The fact that they are still much lower, in inflation-adjusted terms, than they were in the late 1970s is not much solace to the average consumer suffering from sticker shock at the pump. We need a short- and medium-term strategy to lower prices of crude oil and retail gasoline and a long-term strategy to replace oil as the principal source of energy for transportation (there are already competitive alternatives for home heating and industrial production).

High crude oil prices in the world market and high retail gas prices in the United States are bad policy and bad politics for four main reasons:

1. Bad for the economy. People travel by car, and if gas prices go up they travel less. Goods travel by truck and by plane, and if gas prices and jet fuel prices go up that has a ripple effect on inflation throughout the economy. Overall, the high cost of oil and gas is a choke point that acts as a drag on economic activity.

2. Bad for consumers. Lots of people - indeed, the majority of American adults - drive cars and buy gas. High gas prices hit them in the pocketbook. Government doesn't exist to solve every economic problem or every bite on the family wallet, but when the economy as a whole and lots of individual consumers are feeling a pinch from high gas prices, the government should at least take a look in the mirror and start by asking what it's doing to exacerbate the problem.

3. Bad for national security. High crude oil prices mean lots of profits - not for oil companies that refine and market gasoline but for the owners of the oil as it comes out of the ground. Yes, that includes American and European oil companies and friendly powers like Iraq, Kuwait, Canada, Mexico and Norway. But it also includes an awful lot of governments that range from the unstable or semi-dysfunctional (Russia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan) to passive-aggressive hostile and subversive (Saudi Arabia) to openly hostile (Iran, Venezuela), and the stream of oil revenue - because it depends so little on the existence of free people and free markets - often winds up propping up despotic or corrupt regimes and financing terrorism, extremism and the development of weapons of mass destruction.

4. Bad politics. From a Republican perspective, people are upset at high gas prices, and with a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican president and vice-president who spent years working in the oil business, people are - fairly or unfairly - going to blame Republicans for high gas prices. In fact, the case has been made that President Bush's approval rating is closely tied to gas prices (for a dissenting view, see Gerry Daly here).

The answer is not trumped-up investigations or tax hikes that cripple American oil companies while giving a free pass to the Iranians and the Venezuelans. The fact is, American oil companies aren't even all that profitable compared to other industries, and really the last thing we want is punitive measures that just outsource even more of our energy production and make us more dependent on foreign concerns. The answer, instead, is doing something that will actually cut prices, now, and do something to put downward pressure on them for the foreseeable future.

So, how do we solve the problem? I don't have all the answers. But a few things seem obvious.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:49 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)
April 25, 2006
BASEBALL: Mad About Maddux

MetsBlog repeats a thinly-sourced rumor that the Mets might be interested in Greg Maddux, whose contract is up at the end of this year. I was actually thinking before the season that Maddux might be a good target - given his age and slowly declining performance, he seemed like a potential cheap acquisition who could shore up the back end of the rotation, never gets hurt, throws strikes, and would benefit from getting out of Wrigley. And I'd still be interested in getting him cheap, with cheap being defined to include people like Zambrano or maybe even Victor Diaz, who I like but is certainly expendable. The problems:

1. Now that Maddux has a 0.99 ERA, he won't be cheap and will probably attract other bidders.

2. No, it's not a good idea to trade real, substantial prospects for a 40-year-old control pitcher in his walk year.

3. You won't get Maddux from the Cubs, who are painfully short on starting pitching, unless and until they are out of the race.

If the Cubs fall out of contention I do expect there to be bidding for Maddux, but the Mets should continue to regard him mainly as a potential bargain, and avoid him if he gets out of that price range.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:17 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Mary McCarthy For Dummies

Allahpundit has a good beginners' roundup on this story.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:11 PM | War 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Run, Don't Walk

The Mets this season have drawn 48 walks in 652 at bats, tied with the Cubs for last in the NL and ahead of only the Blue Jays, Royals and Angels. The chief culprits are the middle infielders and the right fielders: Jose Reyes has drawn 5 walks in 82 at bats for a .276 OBP in the leadoff role, Xavier Nady and Victor Diaz have drawn 3 walks in 82 at bats, and Anderson Hernandez, Kaz Matsui, Chris Woodward and the re-animated corpse of Jose Valentin have drawn a combined 1 walk in 99 at bats, for a .282 OBP. Cliff Floyd and Paul LoDuca haven't helped, drawing a combined 9 walks in 116 at bats, nor has the injury to Carlos Beltran helped; Beltran was leading the team with 10 walks, but Endy Chavez has drawn just 2 in 32 at bats. It's more forgivable for a hot hitter to be more aggressive, as has been true of Nady as well as David Wright and Carlos Delgado, who have both been drawing fewer walks than their usual share. But unless this team learns to take free passes, the offense is yet again going to sputter for lack of baserunners.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:17 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Van Taylor

If you're interested, as I am, in keeping a Republican majority in Congress (even with the inevitable disappointments that entails), you may want to chip in to RedState's campaign to raise funds for Van Taylor, an Iraq War vet running as a GOP challenger in a Texas district that went 70% for Bush in 2004:


More here and here.

UPDATE: The 17th District isn't just figuratively Bush Country - it actually includes the President's own Crawford ranch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 24, 2006
BASEBALL: Off To The Races

Offense is definitely up, at least in the AL, where the league ERA is 4.91. I looked at the Hardball Times' ranking of AL pitchers by "xFIP," a defense-independent pitching metric that basically looks at a pitcher's expected ERA based on K, BB, groundball/flyball ratio and percentage of batted balls that are line drives. Among pitchers who would qualify for the ERA title, only two AL pitchers - even this early in the season when sample sizes are small and fluke performances are still the rule - have an xFIP below 4.24, those being Roy Halladay and the apparently struggling Felix Hernandez, with Chien-Ming Wang ranking third. (The NL, by contrast, has nine guys below 4.00). Note also that Brian Bannister's xFIP is 6.90, an indication - as if one were needed - that Bannister's run of success isn't going to last very long if he keeps walking more guys than he strikes out and keeps pitching with the bases loaded.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:13 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Sang Hoon Lee, Rock Star


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:13 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Similar But Different

Player A: Babe Ruth, age 40. Player B: Barry Bonds, age 40-41 combined. Bonds has a bit more left in his gas tank after the injuries than Ruth did, and he may yet show us he has a lot more. But for now he does look to be at a similar stage in his career in terms of the decay in his legs. Most of the power numbers from that line are last season (he just homered for the first time this weekend) - if Bonds doesn't start showing that same power this season, eventually people will start pitching to him again.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:17 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Now That's A Slump

Entering Saturday's action, Oakland first baseman Dan Johnson was batting .146 in 144 at bats dating back to August 31 - only one player in baseball, Pedro Feliz, was within 50 points of Johnson on that score in 150 or more plate appearances. Johnson rapped out three hits on Saturday before hanging another oh-fer on Sunday; it remains to be seen whether he can pull out of the slump in time to save his job. The A's are patient, but there are limits even to their patience.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:04 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The General Interest

Taranto points us to this essay by Michael Tomasky in the American Prospect returning yet again to the question of What Do The Democrats Stand For? Tomasky argues - correctly - that the Dems have become increasingly effective as an opposition party, but that when it comes to retaking a majority:

What the Democrats still don't have is a philosophy, a big idea that unites their proposals and converts them from a hodgepodge of narrow and specific fixes into a vision for society. Indeed, the party and the constellation of interests around it don't even think in philosophical terms and haven't for quite some time. There's a reason for this: They've all been trained to believe - by the media, by their pollsters - that their philosophy is an electoral loser.

This is old hat by now, even from Tomasky, but this time he offers up a solution:

[New Deal and Great Society] liberalism was built around the idea -- the philosophical principle -- that citizens should be called upon to look beyond their own self-interest and work for a greater common interest.

This, historically, is the moral basis of liberal governance -- not justice, not equality, not rights, not diversity, not government, and not even prosperity or opportunity. Liberal governance is about demanding of citizens that they balance self-interest with common interest. Any rank-and-file liberal is a liberal because she or he somehow or another, through reading or experience or both, came to believe in this principle. And every leading Democrat became a Democrat because on some level, she or he believes this, too.

Leave aside for now the correctness of this characterization of the New Deal and Tomasky's arguments about where and when the Democrats lost their connection with the common good and the general interest, and how Ronald Reagan appropriated that theme for the GOP. I'm not that familiar with Tomasky's writings in general, but he does make a good faith effort, as New Republic neoliberals like Peter Beinart and Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan have been doing for years, to get to the heart of what is most reactionary and illiberal about today's Democrats, and his essay is worthy of reading at length. But the simple fact is that placing the general interest above special interests runs so completely contrary to the core of how today's Democratic Party operates that suggesting that the Democrats become champions of the general interest seems like a crude parody of the party. Tomasky gravely underestimates the difficulty of breaking the habit of casting issue after issue in terms of how it affects the concrete interests of particular subgroups of voters. A quick tour of issues vital to bedrock Democratic constituencies only underlines this:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:46 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 4/24/06

*Bush's approval and disapproval ratings explained.

*The Weekly Standard has a hilarious account of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his role in the making of the Dolph Lundgren action flick "Red Scorpion". Via Volokh.

*Amy Langfield has pictures of and from the new Seven World Trade center; the fifth from the bottom is strongly reminiscent of the view from my office in 1 WTC back when I was on the 58th floor. Via Welch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:32 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
April 21, 2006
BASEBALL: 2006 NL Central EWSL Report

Yes, as always, the six-team NL Central is last in line in my division-by-division previews using Established Win Shares Levels; having just put the finishing touches on this one, I should finally have a little more flexibility back in the blog.

EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2006 revisions to the age adjustment are discussed here. Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give an assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team. Further disclaimers are in my AL East preview here.

St. Louis Cardinals

Raw EWSL: 239.67 (80 W)
Adjusted: 254.53 (85 W)
Age-Adj.: 237.00 (79 W)

C23Yadier Molina#814
1B26Albert Pujols3743
2B29Aaron Miles#89
SS31David Eckstein1814
3B31Scott Rolen1915
RF30Juan Encarnacion1615
CF36Jim Edmonds2822
LF36So Taguchi97
C234Gary Bennett44
INF26Hector Luna#45
OF26Skip Schumaker+06
1233Scott Speizio33
1328John Rodriguez*35
SP131Chris Carpenter1411
SP228Mark Mulder1416
SP327Jason Marquis1110
SP431Jeff Suppan119
SP529Sidney Ponson54
RP133Jason Isringhausen118
RP231Braden Looper87
RP336Ricardo Rincon33
RP430Randy Flores22
RP524Brad Thompson*36

Larry Bigbie, originally part of the outfield mix, is still injured. Overall, the Cards are a lot less fearsome than they were a year or two ago, with holes having sprung in the lineup at several points (outfield corners, second base, catcher) and continuing question marks on the health of Scott Rolen (who looks 100% so far this year, in which case he'll easily bypass his EWSL of 15) and the age of Jim Edmonds. Chris Carpenter, like Rolen, will likely exceed his established level if he breaks with his history and manages another full healthy season. Pujols remains this team's backbone, but the more the Cards are Pujols rather than Pujols-Edmonds-Rolen, the more trouble they'll be in.

One of the imponderables in St. Louis, though more as an analytical and Roto issue than as an effect on the W/L column, is how friendly or unfriendly the new ballpark will be to hitters over a full season.

Chicago Cubs

Raw EWSL: 219.17 (73 W)
Adjusted: 240.17 (80 W)
Age-Adj.: 236.80 (79 W)

C29Michael Barrett1514
1B30Derrek Lee2827
2B33Todd Walker1412
SS23Ronny Cedeno+112
3B28Aramis Ramirez2021
RF31Jacque Jones1411
CF28Juan Pierre1820
LF24Matt Murton*25
C234Henry Blanco54
INF30Jerry Hairston88
OF35John Mabry53
1233Neifi Perez108
1326Freddy Bynum+06
SP125Carlos Zambrano1823
SP240Greg Maddux1111
SP331Glendon Rusch65
SP425Mark Prior1215
SP524Jerome Williams77
RP129Ryan Dempster76
RP232Bobby Howry75
RP328Will Ohman*24
RP430Scott Williamson32
RP529Kerry Wood87

I was frankly stunned that the Cubs rate just a hair behind the Cardinals. Of course, that's ranking Prior and Wood as if they will be at least as healthy as in the last three seasons, when they haven't pitched yet, and Derrek Lee going down for six weeks puts them in a big hole. Also, I suspect that, as was true in Colorado, Juan Pierre will be less valuable in a park where the home run ball plays a bigger role and runs are not as scarce as in Florida. On the other hand, Matt Murton gets short changed here, and there's always the possibility that a healthy Wade Miller could be useful. Right now, Sean Marshall is holding down the other rotation spot. I'm not sure what options the Cubs have at first in Lee's absence - playing Mabry every day can't be pretty, but I'm not sure if there's someone else who can move over there to get Hairston in the lineup. Maybe Michael Restovich can play first?

Milwaukee Brewers

Raw EWSL: 177.33 (59 W)
Adjusted: 207.13 (69 W)
Age-Adj.: 199.47 (66 W)

C36Damian Miller118
1B22Prince Fielder+112
2B23Rickie Weeks*513
SS23JJ Hardy*615
3B33Corey Koskie1110
RF31Geoff Jenkins1814
CF33Brady Clark1714
LF30Carlos Lee2221
C231Chad Moeller32
INF26Bill Hall1214
OF26Gabe Gross#22
1236Jeff Cirillo43
1324Corey Hart+06
SP127Ben Sheets1413
SP230Doug Davis129
SP327Chris Capuano87
SP430Tomo Ohka87
SP526David Bush#67
RP128Derrick Turnbow910
RP230Matt Wise54
RP331Danny Kolb54
RP428Justin Lehr#22
RP525Jorge de la Rosa*12

Ex-closer Mike Adams and the injured Rick Helling are also in the pitching mix. I expect more than 25 Win Shares from Fielder and Weeks, although my enthusiasm has been tempered somewhat whenever I watch Weeks attempt to play second base. Anyway, if those guys are undervalued a bit here, it's offset by Bill Hall being valued as if he was playing everyday.

The future for Ben Sheets is now, but can he get healthy and back up to full strength? Actually, Sheets is an oddity on this team - along with Lee - being in his prime. The Brewers are mainly built on two groups of players - the very young infielders and a bunch of late bloomer scrap-heap pickups (Turnbow, Davis, Capuano, Wise, Clark, Ohka). The downside is that, like the Cooper/Oglivie/Thomas Brewers, these guys will get old far faster than you expect, so Milwaukee's window of opportunity may be narrower than it looks. I expect the Brewers to stay in contention all year, despite their early struggles scoring runs.

Houston Astros

Raw EWSL: 205.83 (69 W)
Adjusted: 217.97 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 196.82 (66 W)

C37Brad Ausmus128
1B30Lance Berkman2524
2B40Craig Biggio188
SS29Adam Everett1312
3B30Morgan Ensberg1919
RF29Jason Lane#910
CF24Willy Taveras*717
LF31Preston Wilson119
C228Eric Munson45
INF26Chris Burke*37
OF37Orlando Palmeiro54
1230Mike Lamb77
1328Eric Bruntlett23
SP128Roy Oswalt1820
SP234Andy Pettitte1511
SP328Brandon Backe56
SP427Wandy Rodriguez*12
SP526Ezequiel Astacio*00
RP129Brad Lidge1513
RP228Dan Wheeler77
RP329Mike Gallo22
RP427Chad Qualls54
RP533Trever Miller32

Yes, I realize that Astacio isn't starting at the moment, as two guys named Taylor Buchholz and Fernando Nieve have taken their cracks at the fifth starter's job. Regardless of who is starting there, this rotation is just crying out for Roger Clemens, including the fact that Backe is really better suited as a #4 than a #3.

I thought last season that the loss of Beltran, Kent, and Miller was a lot for Houston to absorb, and if Bagwell and Clemens are really gone, that's a lot to add to what they overcame last season. Plus, Biggio is due to be next - man, there are a lot of old guys playing up-the-middle positions these days.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Raw EWSL: 172.17 (57 W)
Adjusted: 193.37 (64 W)
Age-Adj.: 184.22 (61 W)

C25Ryan Doumit*38
1B31Sean Casey1915
2B25Jose Castillo#711
SS28Jack Wilson1718
3B36Joe Randa1411
RF37Jeromy Burnitz1611
CF26Chris Duffy*36
LF27Jason Bay2222
C227Humberto Cota33
INF28Freddy Sanchez*613
OF29Craig Wilson109
1236Jose Hernandez54
1324Nate McLouth11
SP123Zach Duke*510
SP224Oliver Perez78
SP324Paul Maholm*25
SP424Ian Snell11
SP529Victor Santos32
RP128Mike Gonzalez66
RP241Roberto Hernandez66
RP331Damaso Marte86
RP427John Grabow#12
RP534Salomon Torres107

The Pirates have to be downgraded from these numbers depending upon the severity of Sean Casey's injury, which I gather is pretty grim. (Doumit is also hurt at present). On the other hand, that's one reason I don't downgrade bench players who are rated based on being regulars in the recent past - Craig Wilson, who was probably going to play a lot anyway, can now be valued as a regular.

I suspect the Pirates will actually finish last (the early standings certainly bear this out), but much depends on their young and young-ish pitchers - whether Perez' 2004 season was a fluke year (his control's been bad in the early going), whether Maholm and Snell can contribute in a serious way. If the youngsters (or, more likely, Victor Santos) falter, Kip Wells should be back later in the season.

Cincinnati Reds

Raw EWSL: 183.33 (61 W)
Adjusted: 188.80 (63 W)
Age-Adj.: 182.16 (61 W)

C32Jason LaRue1513
1B36Scott Hatteberg129
2B30Ryan Freel1212
SS26Felipe Lopez1416
3B23Edwin Encarnacion*26
RF26Austin Kearns910
CF36Ken Griffey1612
LF26Adam Dunn2529
C230Javier Valentin77
INF36Tony Womack86
OF35Quinton McCracken21
1234Rich Aurilia1211
1325Brandon Phillips11
SP128Aaron Harang78
SP227Brandon Claussen#44
SP329Bronson Arroyo#99
SP430Eric Milton32
SP527Dave Williams43
RP136David Weathers76
RP238Kent Mercker64
RP340Chris Hammond55
RP437Rick White43
RP525Todd Coffey*24

"Hey, I remember that guy - he's still pitching?" should be the motto of the Reds' bullpen. Also in the pen mix are younger arms like Matt Belisle and Mike Burns, plus when he returns from injury Paul "Mr. February" Wilson may get a crack at the rotation, depending on which parts of it are in disarray at that juncture. I expect Ryan Wagner as well to get some serious time in this bullpen.

I gather that Womack may get cut when Griffey comes back, but I'm keeping him on the list of talent on hand until then.

Griffey seems to be reaching the point where it's no longer credible to pretend you can stick him in center and play him every day; between the injuries and the deterioration of his defense, he's probably most effective platooning in a corner outfield slot or becoming a DH. And honestly, the Reds should just move on - if Griffey was gone, maybe we wouldn't see a bad team fielding a roster with a 34-year-old, a 35-year-old, and seven guys 36 or older.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
April 20, 2006
POLITICS: And I Agree With Myself!

Patterico catches his nemesis, LA Times writer and blogger Michael Hiltzik, posting comments under a pseudonym - even on Hiltzik's own blog! And better yet, Hiltzik cited the pseudonym's comments as if they were independent support for his position in a battle with another commenter at his site. You have to read the whole thing to get the full effect (even better if you've followed Patterico's lengthy and acrimonious feud with Hiltzik). Chalk this up as further proof that any time a journalist gets in an argument with a practicing lawyer, bet on the lawyer.

UPDATE: Hiltzik responds, essentially admitting the charge but - rather than apologize for deceiving readers through the use of multiple online identities who interacted with each other - setting up a straw man (that the issue is about pseudonyms generally) and ranting generally about Patterico (no such attack would be complete without calling Patterico a racist, and Hiltzik manages to work that hoary canard into his rant). Really, I'm starting to wonder if Patterico is actually Hiltzik - this guy is just too pitch-perfect a weaselly, sneering, blinkered, high-handed caricature of a big media liberal to be for real.

SECOND UPDATE: Hiltzik's blog is down now, but there was an announcement earlier that the blog was being suspended pending an LA Times investigation:

The Times has suspended Michael Hiltzik's Golden State blog on Hiltzik admitted Thursday that he posted items on the paper's website, and on other websites, under names other than his own. That is a violation of The Times ethics policy, which requires editors and reporters to identify themselves when dealing with the public. The policy applies to both the print and online editions of the newspaper. The Times is investigating the postings.

Wow. Even Dan Rather didn't go down this fast. I didn't and don't think this was a firing offense, but I can understand why they suspended the blog. The Real Ugly American explains that the problem was Hiltzik's failure to observe the rules of the medium he chose:

What is bad form, and cowardly, and has resulted in lots of people being run off of websites, blogs, message boards, video game communities, etc in shame and ridicule is using multiple names in an attempt to hide your already anonymous self to make a particularly offensive comment, or create phony allies for your arguments.

I have seen it first hand many times. People who do this become the laughing stock of the community and their ruined reputation lives on in infamy years after they have been excommunicated.

In an anonymous community the only thing you have is your name. People learn to trust it, or suspect every claim made by certain individuals based on their posting history.

What Hiltzik appears to have done (he may yet deny he is guilty of this unpardonable interweb sin) has brought many an anonymous 16 year old to tears and shame. For a professional journalist to be caught red handed is an embarrassment to not only him but to his profession and his employer.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:21 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The 50 Best

Nate Silver of the Baseball Prospectus writes an article at that I'd been meaning to do myself: a list of who the most valuable players in baseball would be if you could disregard their existing contracts and pick whoever you wanted going forward (though Silver includes the proviso that he's valuing guys with less than six years' service time more highly given that they could be had for less money under the current rules). You can read Silver's list, which is a great argument-starter, here and here. Unsurprisingly, given that this is the Baseball Prospectus, the list is liberally salted with guys who have yet to post a successful full season in the major leagues.

I'm in total agreement, of course, with Silver's #1 guy: Albert Pujols, who is just such a scary hitter that all other considerations fall by the wayside. But I'd offer up a few quibbles of my own with Silver's list:

*I'd rank Miguel Cabrera #2 or #3 - Cabrera's such a prodigious power hitter at such a young age that I'd take him over A-Rod and David Wright.

*I'd take Mark Teixera over Joe Mauer - Tex has no health issues, whereas Mauer's knees make him very much a question mark to remain a catcher long-term. Mauer's a great young player, but some caution is recommended.

*I'd still rather have Roy Oswalt than Felix Hernandez; Felix is a tremendous talent, but until he has proven that he can throw 200 innings in a major league season at least once without breaking down, he's just another pitching prospect. Hey, Mark Prior was this impressive once too.

*I'd take Vladimir Guerrero over Jason Bay. Vlad is a freak of nature, and his bad back appears to be behind him.

*I'm as big a fan as anyone of caution in dealing with aging players, but Manny not even in the top 50? Really? Contract aside, would you trade Manny straight-up for Howie Kendrick? Brian McCann? Ryan Howard? I wouldn't.

*I know last season was rough and he's hurting again right now, but I'd still take Carlos Beltran over Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez, Roy Halladay or Rich Harden. I'd also rather have Derek Jeter than Jones and rather have Adam Dunn, with his awesome power and just hitting his prime, than Chavez. Harden seems overrated here, given his injury history.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:54 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)
April 19, 2006
LAW: Target: Medical Research

In an opinion handed down today in United States ex rel. Haight v. Catholic Healthcare West, No. 03-16937 (9th Cir. Apr. 19, 2006), the Ninth Circuit permitted an animal rights activist's qui tam suit to go forward under the False Claims Act against a cancer researcher, principally on the theory that the researcher misrepresented the efficacy of his research.

Now, I'm not an expert on the False Claims Act's source-of-information provisions or their interaction with the Freedom of Information Act - the legal issue presented to the Ninth Circuit - and I don't know whether this particular research project was or wasn't a meritorious use of public health funds. So, I'm not going to pass judgment on today's decison itself. But I do know that allowing animal rights zealots an opening to use private litigation to harrass medical researchers is a horrifying development. You will note, if you review the allegations on pages 6-7 of the slip opinion, that there are no allegations of the kind of things the False Claims Act is intended to protect against, i.e., personal enrichment, bill padding, and/or cost overruns by government contractors. Instead, there are a series of charges mainly relating to the medical merits of the research - a subject that will often be difficult for a judge without medical expertise to resolve on a motion to dismiss (where you assume the truth of the plaintiff's allegations) or even on summary judgment (where the defendant only wins if it can show that there are no material factual disputes). Result: protracted and expensive litigation whenever anti-animal-research fanatics can gin up a factual dispute and hire an expert to bicker over anything said in a research application, with the attendant chilling effect on life-saving research. Indeed, from the docket numbers on the caption it appears that this particular case has already dragged on for five years just on the dispute over the legal merits.

The government officials charged with approving medical research can and should be the sole judges of the scientific merits of such research. Allowing opponents of such research to attack projects that have already been approved through the vehicle of the False Claims Act is a threat to public health.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:24 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 18, 2006
BASEBALL: Games Over

David Pinto quotes an amazing fact from the NY Daily News: the Mets' five-game lead is "the largest lead in a division in major-league history after 12 games." Not clear if that includes leads before the advent of divisional play in 1969, although I did a quick check here and couldn't find any bigger than 4.5 games.

Pedro's 200th win also gives him a career record of 200-84, 116 games over .500. Where would that leave him all time, if he either retired tomorrow or pitched .500 ball the rest of his career? Here are the 24 men who now stand 100+ games over .500:

1Cy Young195
2Al Spalding*188
3Christy Mathewson185
4Roger Clemens#169
5Grover Alexander165
6Lefty Grove159
7Kid Nichols153
8John Clarkson150
9Walter Johnson138
10Eddie Plank132
10Greg Maddux+132
12Whitey Ford130
13Randy Johnson+128
14Bob Caruthers119
15Warren Spahn118
16Tim Keefe117
17Jim Palmer116
17Pedro Martinez+116
19Old Hoss Radbourn114
20Three Finger Brown109
21Tom Seaver106
22Bob Feller104
22Joe McGinnity104
24Juan Marichal101

* - Includes National Association records 1871-75
+ - Still active in 2006
# - May return in 2006

That's some good company. Other than the active pitchers, all but Caruthers are in the Hall of Fame, and Caruthers probably should be. If you're wondering, the other top active pitchers are Mike Mussina at +97, Tom Glavine at +93, and David Wells at +83.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:07 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Chock Full O' Mets

Dr. Blogstein wants the new Mets stadium to be called Jackie Robinson Field. (via Pinto and MetsBlog). Of course, the Mets likely want to sell the naming rights to a corporate sponsor; Dr. Blogstein estimates this at a $10 million/year revenue stream (just think how much free advertising the Wrigley Chewing Gum Co. has gotten over the years). I don't particularly like that, but it's business, as long as they pick a sponsor who doesn't sound ridiculous and isn't likely to disappear or keep changing its corporate name (no banks or cell phone companies, please). In the abstract, the Robinson idea is a fine one, but I don't see how it happens. MetsBlog:

which could happen, if only Jackie Robinson was the name of a huge corporation . . . otherwise, as noble of a suggestion as it is, i can't see this happening . . .

. . . so far, the best corporate connection i've heard was with MetLife . . . which makes a ton of sense . . .

Well, there is one company that would benefit from putting up money to name the place after Robinson, although I doubt they could afford to put up quite that much money without naming the place after the company: the Chock Full O' Nuts Coffee Company, where Jackie Robinson worked after retiring from baseball (remember, in those days players didn't make enough money to retire in their mid-30s). At a minimum, I wonder why they don't put up some cash to try to get Robinson's likeness on their coffee cans (you might be able to roll both deals into one) - it's not every company that has a real connection to such a distinguished historical figure (on the other hand, when was the last time you saw Thomas Edison's likeness associated with Con Ed?).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Geography Quiz

According to this, the world's five largest nations, in terms of land mass, are (in order) Russia, Canada, the US, China, and Brazil. Can you name the next five? Answers after the break.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links and Quick Hits 4/18/06

*Count me out of any complaints about there being a Flight 93 movie. I'm sick of being told how we can and can't commemorate September 11. In World War II they didn't flinch from making movies about the war that was on - go watch a movie like Mrs. Miniver, which won Best Picture in 1942 and took on the blitz while the bombs were still falling in England. The Flight 93 story has everything: real villains, real heroes, real tragedy, and the reality of why we fight and what the difference is between them and us. We need to have this movie.

*More on Iran another day, but I just gotta say, reviewing how bad our options are with regard to both Iran and North Korea: thank God we got rid of Saddam before he got that far down that road. In the meantime, compare this excellent Mark Steyn analysis of the Iranian situation and how it got this way (h/t Drezner) with this Michael Kinsley hand-wringer on the same question, and see if you can spot the difference. (Hint: Steyn says what he thinks we should do. Kinsley can't).

*Stuart Buck asks a good question about the Iraqi mobile bio-not-weapons lab. (His source is his brother-in-law, for what that's worth). And Ed Morrissey catches the Washington Post misleading readers on the subject.

*A Constitutional right to vagrancy: Such a very Ninth Circuit-y opinion from the Ninth Circuit, authored of course by a Clinton appointee.

*Speaking of which: I asked around my office and nobody wants to bet against the Supreme Court taking this case. Let's see: Ninth Circuit? Check. War on Terror significance? Check. Campaign finance/First Amendment angle? Check. Dissent by heterodox group of judges including Kozinski and Reinhardt? Check. (UPDATE: More on the same).

*So, let me get this straight: Cindy Sheehan now thinks President Bush is spending too little time at the ranch? Go away, please. (UPDATE: Looks like the AP has changed the story at this link).

*Libertarian and reluctant 2004 Bush voter Megan McArdle notes three things the Bush Administration has gotten right without getting adequate credit:

The first is trade. The Bush administration's committment to free trade has been downright inspiring. . . .

The second is education. . . . for the first time we are forcing educators to ask basic questions like "Can all our children read?" and we have stopped letting them segregate minorities into special education tracks that don't count for evaluation purposes . . .

The third is foreign aid. . . . the Bush administration made countries comply with the conditions before they got any cash.

As usual, McArdle isn't hesitant to criticize Bush, but she makes a good case that he's been right on all three of these counts. Read the whole thing.

*Conservatives=racists? Jeff Goldstein has a lengthy take-down of this particular substitute for thought.

*Via RCP Blog, a profile of Caitlin Flanagan, who writes on what is, by far and away, the single most divisive topic you can raise in American society: the tradeoffs of mothers of small children working outside the home vs. staying home with the kids.

*Another battle over a Founding Father's legacy, in this case Hamilton. My general view of the Founding Fathers is this: their virtues - foresight, wisdom, physical and moral courage, restraint in the exercise of power, leadership, stirring rhetoric, keen understanding of human nature - grow all the more impressive with time, and make all generations to come after them look small by contrast.
But their vices are another matter. Look carefully at any portrait of the Foudning Fathers and you will see among one or another of them envy, racism, extremes of ideology, partisanship, factionalism and incivility, libel, lust and licentiousness, venality, pride and ego, etc. While their virtues were all too rare, their vices were all too common and familiar (a fact that no doubt informed their generally dim view of human nature).

*Lawyers, watch where you post about your own firm's cases on the internet. (via Bashman).

*First, shoot all the lawyers: unrest in Nepal.

*This is just a wild photo.

*Life on Planet Rickey.

*Charming portrait of Congressman Jim Moran, one of Holy Cross' least admirable alumni.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Blog 2006-14 • | Law 2006-08 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 17, 2006
POLITICS: Latest 2008 Poll

Go to Hugh Hewitt's site and vote for your choice for 2008 GOP presidential nominee.

UPDATE: You can go straight to the results here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:43 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Cold Air and Guile

How early is it still? Well, 40-year-old Tom Glavine, 40-year-old Orlando Hernandez, 41-year-old Kenny Rogers and 43-year-old Jamie Moyer - none of whom has ever been a serious power pitcher (Glavine is the only one of the bunch to whiff more than 150 batters in a season more than once) have struck out a combined 72 batters in 71 innings thus far this season.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:03 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Killing the King

As the saying goes, if you shoot at the king, you better kill him. With a 4-game lead on the Braves entering the three-game set at Shea opening with tonight's matchup of Pedro Martinez and Jorge Sosa, the Mets are shooting at the king in a big way. Things could hardly be aligned better for the Mets - Chipper's hurt, Jeff Francoeur has a .218 OBP, Marcus Giles has 1 RBI, the Braves' bullpen is in disarray, the Mets will miss Smoltz, and the three starters in this series (Sosa, Kyle Davies and Tim Hudson) have a combined ERA of 9.39 thus far, while the Mets are (other than Carlos Beltran's worrisome strained hamstring) firing on all cylinders and have been setting their rotation and bullpen to be ready for this series. In short, this may be an opportunity to put the Braves away early, and the Mets may not have a chance like this again until late September, if ever. You want to be a champion, you take those opportunities when they arise.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Prince

Watching Prince Fielder run the bases this weekend I can see why it's a good idea to get him in the majors now as a 21-year-old - generally, fat power hitters end up having a lot of their good years at an early age and slowing down a lot past 30 (think Boog Powell, or Kent Hrbek). Fielder's already a dangerous power hitter, but the odds of him being a defensive and baserunning disaster 10 years from now are pretty high.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Fifty Years of Frank Baseball

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Frank Robinson's major league debut. Robinson, then just 20 years old, went on to hit 38 homers and win the National League Rookie of the Year award, kicking off one of the longest and most remarkable careers the game has seen. Robinson has been drawing a major league paycheck almost continuously since then, as a player, manager, GM and league executive, and among guys still playing major roles in the game he's nearly the last of his generation, i.e., the black players who came along while integration was still a novelty (Robinson was the Reds' first black star). Along the way he's collected a long series of milestones and firsts, from the first (and only) guy to win the MVP in both leagues to the first black manager to the first manager of the Washington Nationals, to the next-to-last Triple Crown winner to (until recently) the #4 man on the all-time home run list. Robinson broke in as a teammate of Joe Nuxhall, who played during World War II, and was later traded for Doyle Alexander; he faced Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver in the World Series. He was an impact player and has been an impact manager, leading the Reds to their first pennant in 21 years in 1961, the Orioles to their first World Championship in 1966, and managing unexpected revivals in San Francisco in 1982, Baltimore in 1989 and Washington in 2005.

Hats off to Frank Robinson.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:43 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2006 NL West EWSL Report

The fifth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. Hopefully, I can get the NL Central done before we're too far into the season.

EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2006 revisions to the age adjustment are discussed here. Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give an assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team. Further disclaimers are in my AL East preview here.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Raw EWSL: 199.33 (66 W)
Adjusted: 224.00 (75 W)
Age-Adj.: 208.02 (69 W)

C22Dioner Navarro*29
1B22James Loney+012
2B38Jeff Kent2521
SS28Rafael Furcal2426
3B35Bill Mueller1713
RF30JD Drew2019
CF39Kenny Lofton1310
LF32Jose Cruz1312
C240Sandy Alomar21
INF32Nomar Garciaparra119
OF25Jason Repko*36
1235Olmedo Saenz75
1333Ramon Martinez44
SP128Brad Penny910
SP233Derek Lowe107
SP329Odalis Perez76
SP429Jae Seo76
SP533Brett Tomko86
RP128Danys Baez910
RP226Yhency Brazoban#34
RP331Lance Carter54
RP436Takashi Saito+04
RP524Franquelis Osoria+14

First of all, the NL West absolutely stinks; the Dodgers are a very unimpressive team, and it gets worse from here. I tend to think the Diamondbacks might just be the team to run this division this year, but in any event I can't disagree with the assessment of EWSL that there are four mediocre teams bunched relatively close together here, and then the Rockies.

Second, more than any other - even the AL East - this division's story entering the season is dominated by players whose injuries or injury histories, in several cases combined with advanced age, make them enormous question marks - on the Dodgers, that's Eric Gagne, Cesar Izturis, Drew, Garciaparra, Penny, plus on a lower level Jayson Werth. The Dodgers' EWSL figure would have looked more impressive if I'd got to them before Opening Day, when I could still have listed Gagne. Of course, Bonds and Schmidt with the Giants are the other two huge question marks.

It has to be frightening for a pitcher to look down the barrel of a season knowing a 38-year-old second baseman and a 39-year-old center fielder have his back.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Raw EWSL: 195.67 (65 W)
Adjusted: 211.40 (70 W)
Age-Adj.: 193.86 (65 W)

C30Johnny Estrada1110
1B24Conor Jackson+012
2B28Orlando Hudson1617
SS35Craig Counsell1611
3B26Chad Tracy#1318
RF33Shawn Green1815
CF30Eric Byrnes1413
LF38Luis Gonzalez1814
C225Chris Snyder#35
INF34Tony Clark1211
OF32Jeff DaVanon76
1236Damoin Easley76
1328Andy Green#11
SP127Brandon Webb1514
SP240Orlando Hernandez65
SP332Russ Ortiz64
SP435Miguel Batista105
SP528Claudio Vargas55
RP126Jose Valverde99
RP226Brandon Lyon11
RP327Juan Cruz22
RP431Luis Vizcaino54
RP528Greg Acquino#22

If Eric Byrnes is half as bad as his defensive reputation, puttting him in center is a frightening concept, and doubly so next to an aging Luis Gonzalez. On the other hand, in the infield you have Orlando Hudson; I've been a fan of Hudson for some time and think this might be the year when he steps up his offensive game after some disheartening steps backwards last season.

There's an awful lot not to like in Arizona's starting rotation after Webb (and I don't know that I'm sold on the Baseball Prospectus' Cy Young hype for Webb in 2006, either).

San Diego Padres

Raw EWSL: 199.33 (66 W)
Adjusted: 216.23 (72 W)
Age-Adj.: 188.40 (63 W)

C37Mike Piazza128
1B24Adrian Gonzalez*11
2B23Josh Barfield+012
SS26Khalil Greene1517
3B38Vinny Castilla1310
RF35Brian Giles2921
CF33Mike Cameron1513
LF34Dave Roberts1211
C235Doug Mirabelli53
INF31Mark Bellhorn108
OF39Eric Young75
1235Ryan Klesko1612
1329Termel Sledge#66
SP125Jake Peavy1518
SP227Chris Young#66
SP339Woody Williams65
SP433Shawn Estes64
SP526Dewon Brazleton22
RP138Trevor Hoffman86
RP229Scott Linebrink108
RP336Alan Embree22
RP433Chan Ho Park43
RP526Clay Hensley*35

Adrian Gonzalez, of course, will do better than this . . . Last year, I called the Pads "a deceptively old team". Now, with the addition of Piazza, Castilla, Cameron, Estes, Mirabelli and Embree, the deception has been dropped. And really, what is starting Vinny Castilla but an admission that you are out of ideas and (more to the point) in such a snit with Sean Burroughs' lack of development that you'd rather bring in a guy with no upside to miss?

I'm very excited about Chris Young's possibilities at Petco. Brazleton is another matter - maybe the scouts see something, but where's the evidence of him showing any ability to pitch at the major league level?

San Francisco Giants

Raw EWSL: 221.67 (74 W)
Adjusted: 231.73 (77 W)
Age-Adj.: 184.24 (61 W)

C35Mike Matheny1410
1B27Lance Niekro*36
2B34Ray Durham1615
SS39Omar Vizquel1713
3B31Pedro Feliz107
RF39Moises Alou2117
CF32Randy Winn2118
LF41Barry Bonds2511
C235Todd Greene32
INF38Jose Vizcaino54
OF41Steve Finley125
1236Mark Sweeney75
1328Jason Ellison*37
SP133Jason Schmidt1511
SP225Noah Lowry#1014
SP331Matt Morris97
SP421Matt Cain*37
SP531Jamey Wright43
RP133Armando Benitez97
RP238Tim Worrell75
RP333Steve Kline43
RP430Tyler Walker54
RP525Kevin Corriea22

I could also have listed 43-year-old Jeff Fassero, yet another of baseball's growing legion of well-past-40 hurlers, at the end of the staff.

The injury to Noah Lowry had to be a particularly frustrating setback; with age eating away at this roster from all directions, the last thing the Giants needed was an injury to their one good, established player in his mid-20s, and the optimist's case on the Giants rests heavily on Schmidt, Lowry and Cain providing a top-shelf 1-2-3 punch at the top of the rotation. (Benitez' injruy was more par for the course).

Bonds, of course, is way beyond anyone's predictive abilities, but presumably he wouldn't have a .472 OBP if someone wasn't still afraid of him.

Colorado Rockies

Raw EWSL: 140.67 (47 W)
Adjusted: 167.83 (56 W)
Age-Adj.: 160.96 (54 W)

C31Danny Ardoin*22
1B32Todd Helton2925
2B28Jason Smith11
SS27Clint Barmes*59
3B26Garrett Atkins*715
RF27Brad Hawpe#45
CF26Cory Sullivan*512
LF26Matt Holliday#1216
C231Miguel Ojeda32
INF27Luis A. Gonzalez#78
OF26Choo Freeman+06
1232Eli Marrero55
1331Jamey Carroll76
SP127Jason Jennings77
SP229Josh Fogg54
SP328Zach Day34
SP425Jeff Francis#45
SP527Aaron Cook65
RP130Brain Fuentes97
RP240Jose Mesa65
RP332Ray King53
RP435Mike DeJean42
RP527Byun Hyung Kim55

I could have listed more pitchers if I gave myself the flexibility to add more and subtract some position players, as guys like Sun-Woo Kim and Tom Martin are in the mix. I assume the second base situation will remain fluid between Smith, Gonzalez and Carroll. As my older brother pointed out, while paying a 40-year-old Jose Mesa millions to pitch in Coors Field is wrong in too many ways to count, the upside is that Mesa isn't going to be bothered by giving up a lot of runs.

If you're an optimist you can point to the fact that many Rockies are right in their prime (26, 27), healthy, and just getting their first or second full shots at regular playing time - precisely the profile of a team poised to take a big step forward. If you're a pessimist that means 2006 is likely to be about as good as the current youth movement gets (there's no high upside 22 and 23 year olds on hand), and that's probably not too good, especially with the pitching still in its perpetual state of disarray.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:38 AM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 16, 2006
BASEBALL: Apropos of Nothing, Maybe

Q: What was Barry Bonds' major at Arizona State?

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:43 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 13, 2006
BASEBALL: It Had To Happen Eventually

If you flipped a coin enough times, eventually Darren Oliver would strike out the side.

UPDATE: And to top that, Oliver hits a 2-out single with the bases loaded. All I can say is, with things breaking as well as they have for the Mets, let's see this continue through next Wednesday, when they wrap up their first series against the Braves.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:48 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
April 12, 2006
KATRINA: The Army Corps of Engineers

I have been, I admit, most delinquent in following up on the Hurricane Katrina fallout. I'm not alone: the national media, having initially blamed President Bush for nearly everything, lost interest in the story, and national Democrats are all too happy to leave things right where they are.

But the New Orleans media and some dogged observers have not been so content. One story that they have pursued is the long-term institutional culpability of the Army Corps of Engineers, which designed, constructed and maintained the levees surrounding New Orleans, for building levees that were unable to withstand the pressure of the water that built up against them, and eventually breached, flooding the city.

To backtrack a bit: you will recall that much of the official concern about Katrina hitting New Orleans, including specific concerns raised by and to President Bush, was that the levees would be "overtopped" - i.e., that the water level would rise above the tops of the levees and surge into the city. Thus, for example, if you have a 14-foot levee and 15 feet of water, you get one foot of storm surge lapping through the streets. Instead, however - and unexpectedly, for federal, state and local officials managing the crisis - the levees were breached, meaning that the walls gave way and the whole 14 feet of water came pouring in, a disaster of many times the magnitude of overtopping of the levees.*

Two of the more diligent bloggers following this story and its reporting in the New Orleans media have been New Orleans-based Paul of Wizbang and Harry Shearer (yes, the Harry Shearer, of "Spinal Tap" and the voice of Mr. Burns, among others) at the Huffington Post (h/t Kaus). Here, Paul explains why the Army Corps of Engineers manual shows that the levees should have been constructed to hold more water than they did. Here, Paul notes that tests done by the Corps showed the weaknesses of the way the levees were being built almost two decades before Katrina. Here, he notes that the badly-designed levees that failed were constructed in the late 1990s, and argues that the Corps is still using bad, old data to build new levees. Here, Shearer flags the admission by the head of the Corps at a recent Senate hearing that it was design defects in the levees that caused the flooding of the city. And here, Shearer excoriates the media for not caring about the Corps story.

Paul keeps talking about a lawsuit and perhaps there are some federal contractors who might not be protected by Boyle immunity for some reason, but I'm not sure who could get sued; I know that this lawsuit does not sound promising:

A lawyer who has filed a class-action suit over the levee failures said Strock's statement may mean little for his case because the corps is generally immune from legal liability by virtue of a 1928 law that put the agency in the levee-building business.

"The words are heavy and important'" Joseph Bruno said. "The problem is legal impediment called immunity. It was tort reform that began in 1928."

However, lawyer Mitchell Hoffman said it could help his case, which seeks to sidestep the corps' immunity by alleging the levee failure amounted to a massive government seizure of peoples' homes and land.

"It simplifies the case significantly because we don't have to have a battle of experts," Hoffman said. "Now the judge can say because of the enormity, it was a taking and the government needs to pay these people for their property."

I can't see how you can squeeze the square peg of a charge of negligent levee design into the round hole of a claim of Fifth Amendment takings of property.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:04 AM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Smallville: Tattooine

I missed blogging on this when it came out, but it was reported about a month ago that filming on the new Star Wars TV show will begin in 2008. So far, so good. But then there's this:

The series will be set between episodes three and four of the film saga.

It would cover the 20 years in the life of Luke Skywalker growing up that remains a mystery to most film-goers.

[producer Rick] McCallum said there would be "a whole bunch of new characters" and the series would be "much more dramatic and darker".

Please tell me that this franchise, which has made so many critical missteps in the past decade and which has something of a chance to start afresh with a TV series, isn't going to make a TV show about young Luke Skywalker. I mean, the entire point of Luke's character in Episode IV is that he's been off the scene for 20 years, at a distance from the battle against the Empire, frustrated and bored living life on a moisture farm in the middle of the desert. Nothing interesting ever happens to him, and at the start of Episode IV he's never seen a lightsaber and never practiced the Jedi arts. Are they gonna rewrite that history, or is this going to be a bunch of tedious stuff about Luke's teen angst having only a tangential connection to events outside of Tattooine? (UPDATE: Anyone want bets on how many episodes they do before we get to see Luke buying power converters at Tosche Station?)

What would be doubly frustrating is that there are a whole raft of existing Star Wars characters who would be interesting to follow in that 20-year period - Darth Vader, Tarkin, Chewbacca (OK, I recognize the dramatic limitations of a series with a Wookie as the main character), Han, Lando, R2D2, C3PO . . . short of watching Yoda alone in the swamp, Luke is about the worst character you could pick. Perhaps most obviously, you could break the mold by building around a female character: Princess Leia, who is at the center of things in Alderaan, watching her father navigate the politics of staying in the Senate while he leads the Rebellion. Leia has obviously been active herself in the Rebellion, has dealt with R2, 3PO, Vader and Tarkin . . . but instead, we are to be treated to Smallville: Tattooine?

UPDATE: Tim Harden at Flying Sparrows says I've been led astray and that the series will actually focus on other characters. If Lucas knows what's good for him, one of the first 2 or 3 episodes should feature the death of Jar Jar Binks, ideally involving either the Sarlaac or how Boba Fett got a reputation for disintegrations.

SECOND UPDATE: Hey, a love interest for Admiral Ackbar!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:49 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
April 11, 2006
RELIGION/WAR: Equal Rights

Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy (which has expanded in size these days to the point where it resembles more an enterprise-in-fact than a conspiracy) points out that Pope Bendict has been taking a harder line in demanding that Muslim countries chip away at their oppressive treatment of Christians.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:47 PM | Religion • | War 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Babe Arroyo

Bronson Arroyo has hit his second career home run today in his second at bat as a Red, after just 4 hits in 55 career at bats entering this season.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:09 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2006 NL East EWSL Report

The fourth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. And yes, I'm aware that I'm well behind schedule here, but it's been a crazy spring; I've been working on this post for the past week trying to get all the numbers up to speed before they are out of date.

EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2006 revisions to the age adjustment are discussed here. Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give an assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team. Further disclaimers are in my AL East preview here.

Atlanta Braves

Raw EWSL: 193.67 (65 W)
Adjusted: 222.20 (74 W)
Age-Adj.: 241.69 (81 W)

C22Brian McCann*314
1B26Adam LaRoche#811
2B28Marcus Giles2224
SS30Edgar Renteria1717
3B34Chipper Jones2018
RF22Jeff Francouer*627
CF29Andruw Jones2119
LF26Ryan Langerhans*614
C239Todd Pratt54
INF25Wilson Betemit*49
OF24Kelly Johnson*512
1327Pete Orr*23
1439Brian Jordan43
SP130Tim Hudson1613
SP239John Smoltz1612
SP326Horacio Ramirez77
SP422Kyle Davies*26
SP529Jorge Sosa98
RP128Chris Reitsma89
RP224Oscar Villereal23
RP340Mike Remlinger32
RP425Lance Cormier#23
RP532John Thomson85

What, you expected someone else? Last year, I had the Braves in last place in a tight division; I had the tight division right, but I didn't account for the huge influx of rookies who saved Atlanta. This time, EWSL is overrating some of those rookies. Francouer, for example, is rated here as he should be, in one sense: the age adjustment compensates for the fact that he played only a half season last year. But in fact, he's probably a guy who had a well-timed hot streak rather than a genuinely great young talent who can cough up 27 Win Shares this year. But no matter: the Braves will get them from somewhere.

There will be few clearer tests of the Braves' ability to continue to defy the odds after the departure of Leo Mazzone than Jorge Sosa, whose dramatic improvement last season was almost entirely due to better luck on balls in play. On a non-Braves team, you'd look at that (and his 23.14 ERA thus far) and assume he would collapse, but the Braves are the Braves; even if he does, they will replace him.

Matt Diaz is currently playing in place of the injured Kelly Johnson, and Thomson is currently in the rotation in place of the injured Ramirez. Some rotoheads are excited by the idea that recent callup Joey Devine will stand next in line for the closer job, and while that may be true, Devine's high minor league walk rates suggest to me a guy who - at least if he wasn't on the Braves - would probably have a rocky ride his first time around the majors. Chuck James is in some ways a more interesting short-term prospect, but he's also a guy who is very unproven at this level.

New York Mets

Raw EWSL: 225.00 (75 W)
Adjusted: 249.90 (83 W)
Age-Adj.: 235.18 (78 W)

C34Paul LoDuca1615
1B34Carlos Delgado2624
2B23Anderson Hernandez+012
SS23Jose Reyes1216
3B23David Wright#1627
RF27Xavier Nady66
CF29Carlos Beltran2623
LF33Cliff Floyd1917
C230Ramon Castro44
INF30Kaz Matsui#78
OF24Victor Diaz*49
1330Chris Woodward54
1447Julio Franco94
SP134Pedro Martinez1813
SP240Tom Glavine1313
SP335Steve Trachsel63
SP430Victor Zambrano87
SP525Brian Bannister+04
RP134Billy Wagner1511
RP227Aaron Heilman55
RP326Duaner Sanchez#67
RP427Jorge Julio33
RP531Chad Bradford43

The arbitrary award of 12 WS to a rookie with an everyday job is probably high for Hernandez; the 12 number is high in general because only the very best rookies tend to get everyday jobs out of spring training. This year, there are a number of players being forced into jobs either due to injuries (here, Matsui) or due to wholesale restructurings (see the Marlins below). I suspect that when I recalculate the rookie number after 2006 I will have to revise it downward.

Heilman's EWSL is low because it counts in 2003, when he was horrid, and 2004, when he hardly pitched. Note that he's 27; Heilman's future is now, and he ought not to be wasting it in the bullpen. Trachsel is also lowballed here because he missed almost all of last season after WS totals of 13 and 10, but in Trachsel's case that's a reasonable caution: he's 35 and coming off a bad back, so caution is wise. The Mets are also very heavily invested in 34-year-olds, which tells you that this team will need to be rebuilt soon whether they win this year or not. For the record, I do think there's a pretty good chance this team could go deep into the playoffs; there's a bunch of gambles here but if Pedro and Glavine hold up and Beltran bounces back, the Mets could really make some noise.

I'll be surprised if Julio lasts until the All-Star Break; I'd rather see him go the Felix Heredia route with the Mets than the Mel Rojas route.

Of course, as I've noted repeatedly, don't be fooled by the low win totals listed here - especially if the Nationals and Marlins struggle, the other three teams in the division should end up looking stronger as a result of getting some easy in-division games.

Philadelphia Phillies

Raw EWSL: 226.34 (75 W)
Adjusted: 237.83 (79 W)
Age-Adj.: 223.25 (74 W)

C34Mike Lieberthal1110
1B26Ryan Howard*512
2B27Chase Utley1616
SS27Jimmy Rollins2222
3B33David Bell1210
RF32Bobby Abreu3026
CF28Aaron Rowand1719
LF29Pat Burrell1917
C234Sal Fasano21
INF30Abraham Nunez77
OF32David Dellucci1210
1333Alex Gonzalez87
1425Shane Victorino+16
SP125Brett Myers1012
SP236Jon Lieber108
SP334Cory Lidle75
SP425Ryan Madson#69
SP523Gavin Floyd*11
RP138Tom Gordon129
RP236Arthur Rhodes44
RP339Rheal Cormier54
RP432Aaron Fultz53
RP533Ryan Franklin75

Geoff Geary will undoubtedly pitch in higher-leverage relief situations than Franklin, but I'm sure Franklin will end up the year with more innings as he gets called upon to start, so I listed Franjlin. A healthy return by Randy Wolf would also boost this team's fortunes. One of the frustrations of getting delayed in launching the EWSL previews is that I sometimes end up rating the same guy twice - here, David Dellucci, who got traded from Texas. He won't find the playing time in Philly to match his 29 homers from 2005.

Needless to say, Howard should beat 12 Win Shares, but it is worth noting that he wasn't a young rookie last year; he's probably already pretty close to as good as he'll get. Utley should also clear 16 WS, since his EWSL reflects a two-year battle for playing time before his breakout 2005.

The Phillies are another of those teams that has age around the edges, although they do take a hit on some key guys entering their decline years (Abreu) or well into them (Gordon, Lieber, Bell, Lidle, Rhodes - the pitching staff after Myers has a lot of age on it). David Bell may well be finished, and there isn't really a good alternative reayd at this point. On the other hand, Madson could be a surprise success story in the rotation, and Floyd at least has an upside, though I doubt we'll see him do much but learn to survive in 2006. Basically, the Phillies are taking on all the classic hallmarks of a team in a good hitters' park: a deep, solid lineup (but one with a few weak links protected by the park) coupled with difficulty developing young pitchers and a corresponding tendency to rely on weak second-line free agent veteran arms.

Realistically, EWSL has it about right: the Phils are a weaker team than the Braves or Mets, mainly because of their pitching, but not by a lot, and in a world where it was possible for the Braves to lose they could still win the division.

Washington Nationals

Raw EWSL: 183.50 (61 W)
Adjusted: 209.20 (70 W)
Age-Adj.: 196.88 (66 W)

C29Brian Schneider1614
1B27Nick Johnson1515
2B31Jose Vidro1210
SS36Royce Clayton108
3B21Ryan Zimmerman+112
RF30Jose Guillen1817
CF24Brad Watson+012
LF30Alfonso Soriano1817
C232Wiki Gonzalez11
INF28Cristian Guzman1011
OF28Marlon Byrd88
1330Matt LeCroy77
1432Marlon Anderson54
SP131Livan Hernandez1713
SP228John Patterson88
SP333Ramon Ortiz54
SP428Tony Armas jr22
SP530Ryan Drese75
RP124Chad Cordero#1115
RP226Gary Majewski#45
RP339Mike Stanton43
RP433Felix Rodriguez43
RP536Joey Eischen32

Yeah, I know, is Livan really 31? Not knowing the truth, I stick to the reported age. Nick Johnson is entering the "is that all there is" stage of his career, and I no longer expect sustained greatness, but it still would not surprise me to see him rip off one healthy year in the next year or two where he slugs .550 with a .450 OBP and drives in 110 runs. He and Patterson are the main guys on this team with real upsides from their EWSL figures, although a healthy Armas could still turn in a halfway-decent season. It's the back of the rotation after Patterson that's a particular concern for this team, plus Vidro's decline, plus the utter lack of a major league shortstop.

It's almost a pity Andy Marte left Atlanta - imagine a division with Zimmerman, Wright, Cabrera and Marte as third base rivals for the next decade (assuming Cabrera doesn't get moved again). If the Nationals get 11 Win Shares out of Cristian Guzman, I'll eat my hat.

Florida Marlins

Raw EWSL: 70.83 (24 W)
Adjusted: 157.53 (53 W)
Age-Adj.: 167.71 (56 W)

C27Miguel Olivo66
1B25Mike Jacobs*36
2B26Dan Uggla+012
SS22Hanley Ramirez+012
3B23Miguel Cabrera2332
RF22Jeremy Hermida212
CF25Reggie Abercrombie+012
LF27Josh Willingham+012
C230Matt Treanor11
INF30Wes Helms66
OF25Eric Reed+06
1327Chris Aguila+06
1428Alfredo Amezaga11
SP124Dontrelle Willis1719
SP223Jason Vargas*24
SP334Brian Moehler32
SP425Sergio Mitre#11
SP522Scott Olsen+14
RP135Joe Borowski42
RP226Franklyn German22
RP336Matt Herges22
RP423Chris Resop+04
RP523Ricky Nolasco+04

That first number isn't a misprint: there are only 24 wins worth of established major league talent here. The rest will need to be made up with guys who have only been in the majors part of one season (Jacobs and Vargas) or two (Mitre) and raw rookies. Beyond that basic observation, EWSL is essentially useless to make sense of a team as reliant on un-established talent as the Hatchlings.

Note that Jacobs should easily surpass 6 WS, since he's rated here on barely more than a month's work, albeit a month he will probably never top; I continue to see him as the next Rico Brogna. My gut feeling is that the Marlins won't be terrible and could finish ahead of the Nationals, but then EWSL is assuming a solid 12-WS season from each of the rookie non-pitchers, and that's probably an unreasonably optimistic assumption, plus the pitching staff is awfully threadbare, and rookie pitchers - even in pitcher-friendly Miami - tend to struggle. Either way, this will not be a good team this season, and that changes the dynamics in this division rather dramatically.

Hermida might be a big slugger eventually, though I gather in the short term he should look comparable to Brad Wilkerson. There's been some talk of the Marlins moving Miguel Cabrera, but I chalk that up to paranoia - there's simply no possible way to benefit from trading a 23-year-old whose most similar players lists at and the Baseball Prospectus include Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey jr., Joe Medwick and Vladimir Guerrero. Any prospects you get back for Cabrera wouldn't be much younger and would be hugely unlikely to match Cabrera's upside (if you can name one minor leaguer anywhere with his upside, you're ahead of me).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 10, 2006
BLOG: Quick Links 4/10/06

*Saddam and suicide attacks on America: Ed Morrissey connects the dots. Disbelieve if you like, but another must-read for anyone interested in getting to the bottom of Saddam's regime's multifaceted terrorist ties and ambitions rather than continuing to hide behind the same old talking points. I remain skeptical that Saddam's regime was actually involved in the September 11 attacks - I think it more likely than not that the Iraqis' ties to Al Qaeda didn't run quite that deep - but a prudent person would not rule that possibility entirely out, either, and the fact that there wasn't immediate evidence pointing in that direction is no reason for investigative reporters, bloggers and historians to stop looking. Kudos to Captain Ed for doing the legwork of hiring his own translators to vet this particular document.

*John Hawkins interviews Mike Huckabee, Republican governor of Arkansas and a possible dark horse candidate for the 2008 nomination. Huckabee is defensive on taxes, but perhaps reasonably. But consider this answer:

John Hawkins: Let me ask you one more question here. If someone came up to you and said, "Mike Huckabee, pick any three pieces of legislation you'd want to see passed nationally, and we'll tell you they'll definitely make it through, what three would you pick? Take your time. I understand this is a tough thing to pull off the top of your head.

Mike Huckabee: Yes, it's one thing to think about it at the state level which is the water I've swam in for all these years versus suddenly throwing me into the nation... I think, you know -- the three, ..again, this is sort of off the cuff -- and tomorrow I might have a different answer, but one of them would be that we would create more incentives for companies to encourage healthy behavior, not just to provide health care because, again, I think it's the wrong answer. That encourages people to be unhealthy, but that would mean that you'd empower citizens to handle their own health and give them financial incentives for doing a better job of it. It's a combination not just of health savings accounts which are a good thing, but even health savings accounts, you have to have some, you know, some capital to start with, to make it where it's worthwhile. So overhauling that system is one thing.

Secondly, I think I would create a system where people who wanted to further their education could offer volunteer services as young people either in the military like they have with the GI Bill -- or in some other form of volunteerism, because there really is a sense of which a lot of Americans do not appreciate their freedom. They do not really recognize just how good they've got it. This would give them an opportunity to give something back in exchange so that they wouldn't have to go to college and incur a huge level of debt in order to further their education. The reason that education is important is because without higher levels of education than a high school diploma, they're not going to be able to be competitive enough in the marketplace.

A third thing...I think I'd also pass legislation that would insure that the federal government had to live within its budget, a balanced budget amendment and that it could not balance its budget by simply passing costs on to states or local governments.

If I had to pick two words to describe a platform built around these three ideas, it would be "New Democrat."

*Vodkapundit on what victory in Iraq is, and what it isn't. This is, of course, a subject I've addressed at greater length before.

*Hey, illegal aliens - vote Democrat!

*I'm sorry, but I'm just not buying this story. You can't make me believe it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:27 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Mourning the Irish Wake

Ed Morrissey has yet another example of the EU's efforts to stamp out an aspect of a member state's traditional national culture.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:48 PM | War 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Is There Anything This Guy Can't Do?

Yes, of course, David Wright has a blog.

Granted, it's extremely difficult for an insider, especially a young player, to say anything interesting on a blog - Curt Schilling could pull it off, maybe. But I'll have to check in and see if Wright manages to transcend cliches at some point.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:57 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 7, 2006
BASEBALL: Still Hurtin'

His playing time may be sporadic and he may not be the .320 hitter of old, but over his last 162 games, Frank Thomas has smacked 53 homers and 31 doubles, slugged .583 with a .388 OBP, driven in 135 runs and scored 115, reached base by walk or hit by pitch 127 times, and hit into just 7 double plays. Which is why the A's are willing to bank on the vagaries of his health in the hopes of getting a good 130 or so games from him.

Also on the subject of great sluggers, this stat shouldn't have surprised me when I worked it out the other day, but it still did: Manny Ramirez has averaged 130 RBI per season over the last eight years. Which is why, overpaid or not, Manny is still worth the hassle.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
April 6, 2006
BASEBALL: Batting Practice

At last check, RA Dickey has allowed six home runs in 3 1/3 innings. Not a good way to make your debut in the rotation.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:00 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: What is Wrong with People?

3 arrested at Mass. baby shower brawl":

An argument at a baby shower escalated into a brawl in which one man was shot and the pregnant guest of honor was beaten with a stick, police said. . . . Authorities said the shooting victim, Aristotle Garcia, got into a fight with a man who is dating his ex-girlfriend. The argument, over whether the woman let their 5-year-old daughter drink beer, escalated and drew in two other people . . .
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:48 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Damon's New Job

The Onion has his number.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:43 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Romo Phone Home

This Pirates fan has one of the strangest pictures I have seen as a blog's header.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:35 PM | Baseball 2006 | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Spot the Comp

The first guy: Ryan Zimmerman, 2005. The second? This guy.

Yeah, small sample size, means nothing. Just having some fun.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:25 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Early Random Observation

Scott Rolen seems to be healthy and swinging the bat like the old Rolen - that's definitely going to make a big difference for the Cards, who seem much more full of holes than they were a year or two ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Desert One

Mark Bowden at the Atlantic has a long look at Jimmy Carter's failed plan to rescue the hostages.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:20 PM | War 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: More Evidence

Powerline notes a March 2001 Iraqi Air Force document asking for "the names of those who desire to volunteer for Suicide Mission to liberate Palestine and to strike American Interests." As John Hinderaker notes, perspective is everything:

Only those who have their hands over their ears while shouting "La-la-la, I can't hear you" continue to deny that Saddam's regime supported terrorism. This memo is clearly one more piece of evidence to that effect. But its real significance can only be assessed in context with a great many other documents. As I've said before, the ongoing review of captured Iraqi and Taliban documents isn't like a search for a smoking gun or a needle in a haystack; it is much more like the patient assembly of a very large mosaic, one tile at a time.

Captain Ed has more. Facts, as they say, are stubborn things.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:06 PM | War 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Katie Rather

Lest anyone think that CBS has changed its spots by signing Katie Couric as the permanent replacement for Dan Rather, check out the Media Research Center's 15-year "greatest hits" list of Couric's on-air liberal leanings. Many of these aren't that damning in isolation, but the overall pattern - negative characterizations of Republicans, conservatives and their ideas, aggressive, loaded questions for conservative guests and softballs and sycophancy towards liberal guests in general and the Clintons in particular - paints a compelling picture of a standard-issue liberal Democrat who brings her biases to work. I suppose marrying her to the existing institutions of CBS News kills two birds with one stone (although Matt Lauer, the surviving Today Show lead, isn't much better).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:02 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Spalding's World Tour

In the mail recently: Spalding's World Tour: The Epic Adventure that Took Baseball Around the Globe - And Made It America's Game, by Mark Lamster, about the world tour led by Al Spalding in the winter of 1888-89, featuring Cap Anson's Cubs (then known as the White Stockings) facing off against an "all-star" team led by John Montgomery Ward in venues around the globe. I'm only a little more than a chapter in, but I'd definitely recommend it - it's well-written and obviously diligently researched, and covers a fascinating period in the game's history, the point in the late 1880s when baseball was just settling into the rules and structures that have governed the game ever since. Growing up we had a baseball history book that featured a short writeup on the tour, complete with the famous picture of the ballplayers posing around the Sphinx, but I'd never read an account of the tour for grownups. Already making cameo appearances in the parts I've read so far: Grover Cleveland, Mark Twain, Henry Chadwick, King Kelly, JG Taylor Spink, and Teddy Roosevelt. It's a fun read.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 5, 2006
WAR: Bombing Iran: How Tough, How Smart?

Kevin Drum is hearing signs from both sides of the Atlantic that the momentum is building towards a US-led bombing and special operations campaign against Iran's nuclear program. (h/t: Henke). Drum's conclusion:

If Democrats don't start thinking about how they're going to respond to this, they're idiots. We don't always get to pick the issues to run on. Sometimes they're picked for us.

Drum also links back to something he wrote in February:

Democrats ought to figure out now what they think about Iran. After all, we've got the Ken Pollack book, we've got the referral to the Security Council, we've got the slam dunk intelligence, and we've got the lunatic leader screaming insults at the United States. Remember what happened the last time all the stars aligned like that?

So: What would be the Democratic response if (a) Bush asked for an authorization of force against Iran or (b) simply launched an assault without asking Congress? The chances of this coming up as an issue this year are strong enough that it would be foolish not to be prepared to deal with it.

Of course, I've been asking a similar question for some time now. Now, Drum is a serious guy, but implicit in his framing of the question is what we already know: you have to speak in tactical-electoral terms to get Democrats to pay attention to a serious threat to national security, at least one that could require a potential solution other than hosting "talks," signing treaties or expanding the federal payroll. If Democrats genuinely support military action as an option, they should get out in front and help build bipartisan support for that course. In other words, govern. And if they oppose, they should get on the record as early as possible as to why - do they doubt the existence of Iranian WMD programs? Do they think we should learn to live with a nuclear Iran? Do they seriously expect us to believe that some solution short of force will work? If you actually wanted to prevent a confrontation rather than sitting back and scoring cheap political points, that's what you would do.

How tough are the Democrats prepared to be? How smart? How much you want to bet they're not going to tell us?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:42 PM | War 2006 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Streaker

We are about three more games from starting some serious controversy about Jimmy Rollins and his now 37-game hitting streak, which spans back to last season. (You can see how Rollins' streak here and his numbers over that stretch compared to the rest of the league here). If Rollins were actually to catch DiMaggio, we might never hear the end of the controversy.

Personally, while DiMaggio's record is perhaps the #1 baseball record I'd love to see broken, I don't regard a streak over two seasons as quite the same, especially a hitting streak, the very essence of which is the mounting pressure of going a month or two without an off day. It should go in the books if Rollins or someone else does it, but it shouldn't wipe out Joe D.

UPDATE (4/6): Streak ends at 38 games.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:05 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
April 4, 2006
BASEBALL: Killer Instinct

Since I've given him a hard time and will be doing even moreso with the Mets batting him second, it's only fair to note that Paul LoDuca is one of baseball's most dangerous hitters with a man on third and less than two out: not only has he batted .468 and slugged .694 in those situations since 2000, but in 111 at bats in those situations in that period he has struck out once.

PS - Another guy who turns up at the top of lists in this database in almost every type of clutch situation is Frank Catalanotto. And by far and away the worst hitter in the game with the bases loaded is Jose Cruz jr.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Where Is Shawn Estes When You Need Him?

Dusty Baker blames the cold weather for Carlos Zambrano's bad outing on Opening Day.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:50 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Farewell to the Black Watch

John Debyshire notes here and here the downgrading from a regiment to a mere battalion of the Black Watch, the legendary Scottish fighting unit that fought at D-Day, Waterloo, the Somme, and innumerable other engagements in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia over the past several centuries.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:40 PM | War 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Taking It Too Far

Fan in San Diego throws a syringe at Barry Bonds. There's no excuse or defense for that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:07 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
April 3, 2006

For the second straight year, Bobby Crosby has failed to make it through Opening Day without injury.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:57 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: AL Predicted Standings

Having done my EWSL previews of the AL's three divisions here, here and here, let's see what the final records of the AL teams should be if they adhere to EWSL, assuming (big assumptions) (1) no adjustment for schedule strength*, (2) the AL having a .500 record in inter-league play, and (3) each team gaining an equal amount from non-listed players (but see here):

Yankees10260--White Sox8676--A's9765--
Red Sox98644Twins82804Angels867611
Blue Jays828020Indians77859Rangers828015
Devil Rays669636Royals5910327

Now, as I've said before, EWSL does have its blind spots; I do think the Indians, in particular, will do better than 77 wins, the Royals will lose closer to 110, and I do think the AL will do better than .500 against the NL. I also think the A's aren't quite this much better than the Angels, although the more I look at their team the more I think they could be the stronger team. We shall see.

* - This is a somewhat reasonable assumption, as most of the players on the Indians, for example, compiled the stats they have by playing the same number of games vs the Royals they will play this year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:51 PM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

So, just how conservative are the Baseball Prospectus PECOTA forecasts for hitters? I looked through the depth charts at every projected regular in the majors - and, among other things, PECOTA does not project a single AL hitter to post a .400 OBP, and only picks 11 guys (5 in the AL, six in the NL) in all the majors to hit .300 (in the real world, the AL had three guys crack .400 last year, and each league had at least 10 guys hit .305). In fact, only three AL hitters project to a .390 OBP: Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Alex Rodriguez (yes, that's a big edge for the Yankees, although two of the next three are Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz). Eight NL players do project to a .400 OBP, dominated by Barry Bonds and then Albert Pujols and Todd Helton.

The few .300 hitters, by division?

NL EAST - Miguel Cabrera
NL CENTRAL - Pujols, Sean Casey
NL WEST - Bonds, Helton

AL EAST - Sheffield, Coco Crisp
AL CENTRAL - Placido Polanco
AL WEST - Vladimir Guerrero, Ichiro Suzuki, Michael Young

(Check the BP site or buy the book for a fuller look at the PECOTA projections). I understand that in making projections you get fewer guys who are likely to cross those barriers than actually do, but those do seem like awfully timid projections.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:37 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Opening Day Thoughts

Watched a good bit of the Mets' opener from a bar in Manhattan. Highlights:

1. Paul LoDuca losing his glove (with the ball in it) while trying to throw out a runner. You'd think, watching the play, that the pitch actually knocked the glove out of his hand - until you realized it was Tom Glavine pitching. He will presumably hear no end of this from his teammates.

2. The Tom Glavine Adventure on the basepaths - in the fifth inning, Glavine beat out an infield hit, then managed to scramble his way out of a rundown to get back to first base (Nick Johnson, fearing Jose Reyes' speed, had tagged first and then gone to force Glavine at second), and then raced over to third on a LoDuca double to right field. Unfortunately, Glavine was then stranded on third. Not the usual days' work on the bases for a 40-year-old pitcher.

3. David! Wright! - Wright hustling down the line until his opposite field homer cleared the fence. Wright is just everything you want your best player to be - he's young, he's healthy, he's under contract (cheaply), he's good in the field and on the bases, he seems to hit when you're hoping him to hit, and he hustles and stays out of trouble.

4. Jose Reyes and Anderson Hernandez making sweet play after sweet play in the field, even including a gorgeous diving stop by Reyes that he couldn't complete. It's astonishing what an infield defense without Kaz Matsui can look like. (Of course, this time last year we were saying the same things about having Doug Minky around in place of Mo Vaughn - if Hernandez doesn't hit, he'll be no more popular than Minky).

5. The Nationals somehow not even arguing when the home plate ump called Alfonso Soriano out with the game-tying run in the 8th - it was clear from the replay that Soriano got his hand on home between LoDuca's legs, but LoDuca had the plate otherwise blocked and the ump bought LoDuca's act - even after LoDuca then dropped the ball.

6. Soriano not hustling or judging balls well (and letting balls bounce by him after they landed) in left field.

7. Glavine striking out Soriano looking, after Soriano had walked earlier in the game - it didn't take long for Glavine to figure out when Soriano was trying to be patient.


1. Carlos Beltran having another bad day with men on base in front of an increasingly hostile crowd. Beltran badly needs to have either (1) a 2-week stretch where he carries the team or (2) a series where he dismantles the Braves. Until then, he'll continue to get booed.

2. Darren Oliver warming up in the bullpen. This should never happen in a game where neither team has a double-digit lead.

3. SNY network's low-tech debut, complete with a lost video/audio feed for two innings, cheesy ads, minimal graphics, and not even knowing what team the Mets are playing next.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Hostage

I can't add much to Captain Ed's words on people rushing to judgment about Jill Carroll. The animosity directed at Carroll in some quarters of the blogosphere is way overheated. There's an interesting strategic question why she was treated relatively better than some other hostages and released alive, but as is often true of these things we may never know the answer. On the other hand, people trying to smear the conservative movement by equating one of Don Imus' nitwit sidekicks with real, thinking conservatives just don't know what they're taking about.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:21 PM | War 2006 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2006 AL Central EWSL Report

The third of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2006 revisions to the age adjustment are discussed here. Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give an assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team. Further disclaimers are in my AL East preview here.

(And yes, for reasons I've explained before and will elaborate on elsewhere, I'm way behind schedule this year, but I'll get to the NL as soon as I can).

World Champion Chicago White Sox

Raw EWSL: 224.67 (75 W)
Adjusted: 252.97 (84 W)
Age-Adj.: 238.09 (79 W)

C29AJ Pierzynski1412
1B30Paul Konerko1919
2B31Tadahito Iguchi*914
SS26Juan Uribe1618
3B28Joe Crede1314
RF32Jermaine Dye1312
CF24Brian Anderson+012
LF30Scott Podsednik1514
DH35Jim Thome1410
C235Chris Widger11
INF27Alex Cintron99
OF30Rob Mackowiak1212
1330Ross Gload#33
SP127Mark Buehrle2018
SP230Freddy Garcia1512
SP329Javier Vazquez1311
SP426Jon Garland1516
SP534Jose Contreras118
RP125Bobby Jenks*37
RP226Neal Cotts#56
RP332Cliff Politte21
RP429Matt Thornton#11
RP522Brandon McCarthy*37

The Sox have an impressive bench - Cintron and Mackowiak both play multiple positions and could play regularly without terrible results in a pinch. Pablo Ozuna is also on hand. I believe the White Sox also had Ben Grieve in camp, but that's just a sad story. On the pitching side, Dustin Hermanson's injuries have him contemplating retirement, so while he might be back, I wouldn't bank on him.

Like the 2002 Angels, the 2005 White Sox were a pretty good team that got nearly all the breaks; that won't happen again, and other than Brandon McCarthy and a full recovery by Thome there isn't a lot of room here for great leaps forward. Still, the rotation looks solid, and this team should be in the hunt all year, at least for the wild card. I'm comfortable listing them as the tentative favorite to win the division.

Minnesota Twins

Raw EWSL: 220.67 (74 W)
Adjusted: 234.73 (78 W)
Age-Adj.: 224.49 (75 W)

C23Joe Mauer#1322
1B25Justin Morneau#710
2B30Luis Castillo2019
SS26Jason Bartlett*37
3B32Tony Batista65
RF27Michael Cuddyer77
CF30Torii Hunter1313
LF32Shannon Stewart1311
DH34Rondell White1211
C235Mike Redmond54
INF34Juan Castro76
OF29Lew Ford1413
1340Ruben Sierra52
SP127Johan Santana2322
SP233Brad Radke1410
SP327Carlos Silva1312
SP427Kyle Lohse98
SP524Scott Baker*25
RP131Joe Nathan1612
RP224Jesse Crain#69
RP327Juan Rincon109
RP443Terry Mulholland43
RP522Francisco Liriano+04

Sierra's a bit player, but it was a little easier to get a fix on him here than list Jason Kubel, who promises to get serious playing time, especially with Cuddyer ailing in the early going. Nick Punto and Terry Tiffee are also part of the infield picture, and should only be moreso if Batista doesn't hit and Jason Bartlett continues to have problems staying healthy.

Batista gets a raw deal from EWSL because I don't really have a way to put any value on what he did in 2005. Then again, if he posts a .284 OBP, it's pretty much moot. When he was playing shortstop and keeping his OBP around .305-.310, Batista's combination of power and defense made him useful; as a third baseman who hasn't had a .280 OBP in the majors since 2002, he's unlikely to be useful.

Francisco Liriano should push someone out of the rotation by midsummer; Liriano struck out more than a batter an inning in each of his six appearances last year. But you don't need me to tell you that Mauer and Morneau (and to a lesser extent Bartlett) are the keys to this team; if the offense is totally punchless it will matter little how good the pitching is. On the other hand, I'm optimistic that a season as a DH might help Rondell White stay healthier.

Cleveland Indians

Raw EWSL: 209.50 (70 W)
Adjusted: 220.23 (73 W)
Age-Adj.: 212.02 (71 W)

C27Victor Martinez1818
1B29Ben Broussard1211
2B31Ron Belliard1713
SS24Jhonny Peralta1317
3B33Aaron Boone87
RF32Casey Blake1211
CF23Grady Sizemore#1423
LF30Jason Michaels1110
DH29Travis Hafner2119
C226Kelly Shoppach+06
INF29Ramon Vazquez32
OF33Todd Hollandsworth54
1336Eduardo Perez54
SP125CC Sabathia1215
SP227Cliff Lee99
SP328Jake Westbrook1112
SP435Paul Byrd95
SP532Jason Johnson85
RP137Bob Wickman65
RP232Guillermo Mota85
RP324Fernando Cabrera*25
RP431Rafael Betancourt65
RP534Scott Sauerbeck21

As was true last year, EWSL gives the Indians a poor grade. There are a couple of reasons for this, some more valid than others. Cleveland has a bunch of guys who went from seasons of 100-300 at bats, in some cases of so-so play, to full seasons of stardom but are still dragged down by the earlier years - thus, you had Grady Sizemore with 5 and 24 WS, Hafner with 7-21-26, Martinez with 3-20-22, Peralta with 4-0-25, Lee with 3-7-13. The nature of an established performance level evaluation is to use the old Chuck Dressen line: "I'd like to see him do it again." But the Indians probably are better than the total you see above; Hafner and Martinez and Sizemore are definitely for real, and Peralta and Lee probably are as well.

The second reason is the erosion around the edges; Broussard, Blake and Boone all fell off last season, especially in the OBP department, and their offensive struggles will eat away quietly at this team unless they turn things around (odds are, no more than one of the three will) or get replaced. Andy Marte and Jason Dubois are on hand - I'm not sure why Hollandsworth is on the roster ahead of Dubois - but better solutions may be needed at first base and in the outfield corners.

The third reason is, this team is young at the core, but older than you'd think all around the roster. There's an awful lot of guys here, even guys who still seem like they're just establishing themselves, who have already hit the wrong side of 30. That, too, will be a quiet drain on Cleveland. (And this is before CC Sabathia left last night's marathon opener with a strained abdominal muscle, which could put a crimp in what is already not the deepest starting rotation).

The Indians, in reality, are about even with or better than the Twins, and probably not much behind the champs. But the watchword for this franchise right now is "missed opportunity."

Detroit Tigers

Raw EWSL: 185.33 (62 W)
Adjusted: 200.03 (67 W)
Age-Adj.: 194.70 (65 W)

C34Ivan Rodriguez1615
1B26Chris Shelton*715
2B30Placido Polanco2019
SS30Carlos Guillen1413
3B29Brandon Inge1312
RF32Magglio Ordonez1210
CF25Curtis Granderson*38
LF29Craig Monroe1211
DH32Dmitri Young119
C233Vance Wilson44
INF24Omar Infante811
OF26Nook Logan#45
1329Marcus Thames#33
SP123Jeremy Bonderman88
SP241Kenny Rogers1413
SP328Mike Maroth910
SP428Nate Robertson67
SP523Justin Verlander+04
RP138Todd Jones108
RP229Fernando Rodney33
RP334Jamie Walker54
RP426Franklyn German22
RP529Chris Spurling33

I'm fairly high on the Tigers as a source of Rotisserie players - a lot of guys here who can hit some and are basically bolted into the lineup with the departure of Carlos Pena and the failures of Infante and Logan in everyday jobs. [UPDATE: I did the depth charts here before the weekend - I missed Logan getting sent to AAA] But in the real world, this team will only go as far as its biggest star . . . Placido Polanco? Polanco is suddenly getting noticed as an underrated star (see here for something I wrote in September), but expect a falloff after hitting .330 last year. Actually, Pudge is still the star, but he's way exceeded the manufacturer's warranty at this stage.

Bonderman should be better than 8 Win Shares if, unlike last year, he doesn't run out of gas down the stretch. But again, that's what EWSL is for: to remind us that Bonderman hasn't done it yet. To move this team forward, he needs to step up.

There is some pitching potential here with Bonderman, Verlander and Joel Zumaya, who's currently in the back of the bullpen. Also, it would not surprise me if Todd Jones doesn't get the closer job back from Fernando Rodney. I see the Tigers' upside as being a season like the Nationals had last year - i.e., turning this into a four-team race - but the team's broad foundation won't make up for its lack of star power.

Kansas City Royals

Raw EWSL: 157.50 (53 W)
Adjusted: 169.30 (56 W)
Age-Adj.: 163.20 (54 W)

C25John Buck#610
1B32Doug Mientkiwicz76
2B36Mark Grudzielanek1512
SS28Angel Berroa1213
3B24Mark Teahen*512
RF31Emil Brown97
CF26David DeJesus1113
LF38Reggie Sanders1411
DH32Mike Sweeney1513
C234Paul Bako22
INF34Tony Graffanino109
OF38Matt Stairs1310
1333Aaron Guiel33
SP122Zack Grienke#59
SP228Runelvys Hernandez33
SP332Mark Redman75
SP430Scott Elarton64
SP530Joe Mays11
RP129Mike MacDougal65
RP222Ambiorix Burgos*26
RP327Jeremy Affeldt44
RP425Denny Bautista*11
RP523Andrew Sisco35

OK, I cheated, but it was out of pity, pity and a little laziness; I couldn't bring myself to value the Royals absent Grienke, let alone striking guys like MacDougal, Hernandez and Redman whose health issues are more short-term. It would have been pointless to slot in so many zeroes. Suffice it to say that 55 wins may be the optimistic case for this team; the picture could hardly be bleaker, especially now that there are four respectable teams in the division.

Poor David DeJesus, like Lee Mazzilli in the late 70s, seems destined to be a good regular woefully miscast as a franchise player.

Affeldt and Bautista will be in the rotation for now, and while both have gotten rave reviews, well, we remember, among others, Dan Reichert, Glendon Rusch, Jeff Suppan, Chad Durbin, Chris George, Kris Wilson, Jimmy Gobble, Lance Carter, Orber Moreno, Brian Bevil, and Jim Pittsley, as well as some of the guys on the current staff. Not all of those guys were originally Royals prospects (eg, Suppan) and not all were total busts, either, but the gap between hype and major league performance is rarely larger than in KC, where so few pitchers ever seem to scale the heights of major league adequacy, let alone productivity or stardom.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)