Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
January 31, 2007
POLITICS: Why I'm With Rudy (Part I)


No Mayor of New York City has been elected to statewide or national office in more than 130 years. There is a reason for that: it's an impossible job, running an ungovernable, bloated, corrupt and dysfunctional bureaucratic leviathan with an even more ungovernable and (despite its massive government) inherently lawless city attached to it. It eats the men who take the job alive.

At least, that is what everyone used to think, before 1993. One man changed that.

It's too early, of course, for any of us to be 100% certain of who we will support once the candidates have filled out their staffs and endorsements, fleshed out their policy platforms, and taken their show on the road. But if I had to vote today among the candidates who are actually running or likely to run, my vote for the 2008 GOP presidential nominee would without a doubt be former United States Attorney and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Here, in general outline, is why I - as a pro-life Reaganite conservative who voted for McCain in 2000, currently support Rudy and hope to be able to support him a year from now.

1. We Need To Win The War.

There are many issues on the table in the next election, but far and away the most important remains the global battle against international terrorism and radical jihad, and in particular the regional struggle in the Arab and Muslim worlds to replace aggressive, terror-sponsoring tyrannies and weak, terror-harboring failed states with governments that provide some measure of popular self-determination and popular legitimacy to stand against the extremists. To win the war, we need four things from the presidential field: (1) a presidential candidate who is committed to prosecuting the war, (2) a presidential candidate who will make the right judgments about how to do so, (3) a presidential candidate with these characteristics who will actually get elected, and (4) a presidential candidate who, after getting elected, can continue to explain and sell his policies to the American people to ensure continued political support for the war.

In terms of public leadership on these issues, Mayor Giuliani and Senator McCain have a huge lead over the other candidates, most of whom (other than Newt Gingrich) are latecomers at best to the public debate. If there is one candidate we can depend on not to bend to Beltway pundit fatigue on this issue, it's Mayor Giuliani - he was there on the ground when this war came to our shores, he was almost killed himself that day, he went to the funerals of the firemen and cops he had bonded with over his prior 7 and a half years as mayor. It's personal. Rudy is a battler; he is not tempermentally suited to talking about "exit strategies" but rather about victory, and his background overcoming supposedly insurmountable obstacles as Mayor gives him the fortitude to pursue victory as Ronald Reagan did, even when conventional wisdom says it's time to coexist.

2. We Need To Win The Election.

As I said above, you can nominate the best candidate in the world, but to win the war he or she needs first to win the election. In terms of electability. . . yes, it can be a fool's errand for primary voters to vote with their Electoral College calculators instead of their hearts, but in a practical universe you do need to start by looking at who in the field has at least a chance of being viable in a national election. That means no Newt, who consistently polls with a disapproval rating over 50% and whose public image is long since cast in concrete. And it also means no Sam Brownback. I like Brownback, who is one of the GOP's very best Senators and who has shown a real willingness to follow his conscience even when it means standing nearly alone, sometimes against the White House (as in the Harriet Miers episode), or even when it means taking on issues that nearly nobody else cares about and that don't fit the stereotype of a right-wing hard-liner. But we simply are not going to hold all the states Bush won in 2004, let alone have the chance to seize more ground, behind the decidedly uncharismatic Brownback, who has made his name almost exclusively on social issues as - yes - the stereotypical right-wing hard-liner. The media would work overtime to put him in that box, and Brownback lacks the star power to go over their heads. He's not the hill I want to die on.

Also, remember: while it's true that the Democrats made a huge miscalculation in nominating John Kerry based on "electability" (not that Howard Dean would have been more electable), their real problem was in overvaluing his paper qualifications (war record, long tradition of existence in the Senate) and undervaluing how badly Kerry would perform on the trail. I believe Rudy will show himself to be the best campaigner in the GOP field - he's quick-witted, funny, and long accustomed to the hot lights of the national stage (when he was Mayor, Rudy was a fixture on national TV shows like Letterman and Conan, and he had to contend with both the local tabloids and big national papers like the NY Times breathing down his neck, as well as dealing with hostile critics retail at countless press conferences and radio call-in appearances). He's also tough enough to come out swinging at whatever the most likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, can throw at him. This is one of my big worries about Mitt Romney: to be frank, I don't want to end up in a knife fight with Hillary armed with nothing but Mitt Romney's hair.

Sure, Rudy's liberal record on social issues like abortion and gay rights will cost him some votes nationally, but mainly in states that are not going to break for an arch-liberal Democrat like Hillary or Obama. And Rudy will play well in Florida and put in play key Northeastern states the Democrats can't win without: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, possibly even Rhode Island (which has a huge Italian-American population), and make the GOP ticket at least competitive in the Empire State (though he would probably only win NY if the Dems nominate Edwards). This is, after all, a man who won two terms in a city that's 80% Democrat.

3. Leadership Matters.

There's more to Rudy's advantages in this regard than just electability - there's also governability. It's been 23 years since the GOP nominated a presidential candidate who speaks in complete sentences. That matters beyond the campaign trail - it matters quite a lot if the president can't sell his own policies and can't personally defend against attacks. Rudy's not the only highly articulate candidate in this field, but he does strike me as the best (Romney, who's a good salesman, has yet to demonstrate the ability to react quickly and speak specifically when pressed with tough questions).

But being articulate is only the beginning of leadership. A good leader has to set direction and inspire. But he also has to do two other things: (1) know his followers and (2) follow through.

It's on the first point where I have my major concern about John McCain. With the significant exception of his years in the POW camp, McCain has never been a leader. Yes (unlike, say, Kerry), he's been a strong public voice on specific issues. But a political leader needs to have followers and hold them together, like Moses crossing the Sinai. McCain, by contrast, is a triangulator, a "maverick" who glories in contrasting himself to the people he would need to lead. John Hinderaker said it best: "I might trust McCain with my life, but not with my party." One need look no further than Bill Clinton to see what damage a president who triangulates can do to his own party and, ultimately, his own ability to get things done. McCain has, too often, opened fire on his own troops.

With the exception of his ill-fated endorsement of Mario Cuomo over George Pataki, Rudy has not made a practice of attacking his own party, a fact that sets him quite apart from many other moderate/liberal Northeastern Republicans. Virtually all the major battles of his mayoralty were with people to his left. Conservatives may not like where Rudy's starting point is on every issue, but they know when they get behind him they will all be facing in the same direction.

McCain has also been something of a dilettante as a Senator, flitting among issues, sometimes on the sidelines on major issues while leading the charge on small, idiosyncratic campaigns. That's a highly effective habit for a legislator - you pick your spots for where you can make the biggest impact. But it's a decades-long habit he will have to break to become an executive (in 2000 he never did roll out the kind of detailed policy papers that came from the Bush campaign - you always got the impression that the John McCain policy shop began and ended with the Senator's mouth).

Then, there's the follow-through, something we need more of than we have sometimes seen from President Bush. In the Senate they talk of show-horses and work-horses; if Rudy is an impressive show horse he is an even more formidable work horse, a guy who through sheer force of will bent the New York City government to his way of doing things. And he got results. Other politicians can point to a record of accomplishment, but only Rudy really and definitely changed my life - if it weren't for his success in cleaning up New York I might have stayed in Boston after law school and surely would not now be a New York City homeowner.

Again: Rudy's not the only seasoned executive in the race (Romney, Huckabee and Tommy Thompson come to mind), but his record is the most impressive and it's one that McCain and Brownback can't match.

4. We Can Hold The Line In The Courts.

Rudy's record on fiscal, economic, law enforcement and education issues, his battles against racial preferences and the city's relentless race hucksters, and his outspoken stance on the war on terror, are all the stuff that should excite conservatives about his candidacy. But what concerns people the most is his stance on social/family/sexual issues in general, and abortion in particular.

Now, maybe I'm less of a purist than some pro-lifers. I've been voting in New York for 17 years, and in all that time and all the races for Governor, Senator, Attorney General, Congressman, Mayor, and electors for president, the only two pro-lifers I've been able to vote for who actually won their elections were Al D'Amato's re-election to the Senate in 1992 and Dennis Vacco for Attorney General in 1994. Where I come from, if you refuse on principle to vote for pro-legal-abortion candidates, you cede the field to Hillary, Schumer and Spitzer and their ilk.

That said, and while I recognize that there are other Life issues on the agenda, the core battlefield for abortion - the battle we need to win before we can fight any others - is in the composition of the Supreme Court. A pro-choicer who appoints good judges is as functionally pro-life as Harry Reid is functionally pro-choice. (I have discussed this issue in much more exhaustive detail before). And while we need to hear much more from him on this issue, there is, thus far, every indication that Rudy is both willing to appoint conservative judges and able to sell them against a hostile Senate - he's spoken favorably of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, who he knows from their days in the Reagan Justice Department.

And while Mike Huckabee is a solid pro-lifer and Sam Brownback is a genuine hero on life issues, the other top-tier candidates are less obviously reliable on this issue. Romney, of course, declared himself a committed pro-choicer in 1994, though his repeated conversions on the issue lend a lot of credence to Ted Kennedy's description of him as "multiple choice" on abortion. McCain has a more consistent pro-life record and voted to confirm the likes of Alito, Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, but three things concern me about McCain on judges - first, his demonstrable willingness to sell out the base to win media plaudits, second, his statements in 2000 that he'd like Souter-backer Warren Rudman as his Attorney General and that he remained proud of all the GOP Justices he'd voted for (which implicitly included Souter and Kennedy), and third, the fact that McCain's political identity is so wrapped up in his campaign finance crusade, a crusade that may influence him to pick judges who take the written constitution with its pesky free-speech guarantees less than seriously. I'm not saying I'm sold that Rudy would be necessarily better at appointing judges than Romney or McCain, but (1) it's a close contest and (2) he'd obviously be better than any Democrat.

Life issues are, indeed, important. And if this were peacetime, they would preclude me from supporting Mayor Giuliani. But there's a war on, folks, and a lot of lives (born and unborn) depend on that, too. In this field, if Mayor Giuliani can make the sale that he will, in fact, appoint solid constitutionalists to the federal courts, that will tide us through.

Anyway, I haven't covered the entire waterfront on Rudy here, and surely will return to other points in his favor - and other criticisms of him - as we go along. But I do think conservative Republicans who want to win the election, win the war and get results should give the Mayor a long, hard look.

*In the spirit of full disclosure: I do have a variety of ties to Rudy that are not worth tedious rehashing here, having met the man in small gatherings on several occasions and received a fellowship in law school funded by an organization including Mayor Giuliani. Take that for what it's worth. I'm not affiliated with his exploratory committee, and the only money I've received from it is a $30 Blogad on my site the past month.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:55 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (43) | TrackBack (0)
January 30, 2007
BASEBALL: Get Out Of Jailbird Free

So Barry Bonds' new contract has a clause that lets the Giants out of paying him if he is indicted.

That says it all, doesn't it?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:17 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 1/30/07

*The Schottenheimer Playoff Coaching Index!

*From the same source: Rick Mirer, the worst NFL QB ever. Note that the list also includes Danny Kanell, Scott Brunner, Kerry Collins, Dave Brown, and Kent Graham.

*Via Instapundit, the Top Ten Iraq War Myths.

*In one January strike, the Iraqis brought down the highest ranking casualties of the war. (Confirmed here). One hopes this was just a coincidence and not a sign of inflitration or other compromising of our operational intelligence.

*John Kerry finally gets good press - in Iran's state-run media. I had more on his latest foot-in-mouth episode at RedState yesterday, including links to other sources. The most charitable reading of all this is that Kerry really is an idiot.

*Jimmy Carter backs off the implication that suicide bombing is a legitimate tactic that need not be stopped until the Israelis make certain concessions.

*Israeli PM Ehud Olmert on Iran. (A government that now includes a Muslim cabinet member - don't hold your breath for a Christian or Jew in the regimes of Israel's enemies).

*Did Barack Obama choose to run in 2008 rather than wait longer because a run now would be easier on his children, ages 5 and 8?

*Obi-Wan's cloak for sale!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:40 AM | Blog 2006-14 • | Football • | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
January 29, 2007
POP CULTURE: The Force Could Have Been With Him

Re-watching some of Revenge of the Sith the other day finally crystallized my thoughts on the Star Wars prequel trilogy, now with a distance of some 18 months from the completion of the last of the prequels.

When each of the prequels came out, I enjoyed them (my review of Episode III is here). Of course, any male born between about 1965 and 1975 was hard-wired to embrace the prequels, given how much the original trilogy dominated popular culture in our childhoods and preteen years. It took a lot to alienate us Star Wars fanatics; although George Lucas nonetheless succeeded in alienating a good number, most everyone who loved the first three could find something to like in these - the Phantom Menace, for example, had all sorts of problems as a film, but the lightsaber duel between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan was the best lightsaber fight of the whole Star Wars series; likewise you would need a heart of stone not to get excited about finally seeing Yoda square off in combat at the end of Attack of the Clones.

Looking back, Lucas produced two uneven films (Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones), each of which had a bunch of fun scenes but also with plenty of cringe-inducing scenes and neither of which hung together that well as a complete film, and one good movie (Revenge of the Sith) which could and should have been a great movie but for a few potholes along the way.

If Lucas' goals were simply to complete his story arc his own way, make a bucketload of money from films, books, games and other merchandise, and play around with modern special effects, then he succeeded. But there was no reason to set his sights that low. The prequels could have been genuinely outstanding films.

The particular errors that Lucas made are well-worn ground by now - Jar Jar was a bad joke told for far too long, the midichlorians unnecessarily de-mystified the Force, the fish-faced Neimoidians with the Charlie Chan accents were silly and off-putting at best, racist caricatures at worst, and the handful of efforts at contemporary political commentary were distracting and incoherent. I'm more interested in not just the excising of particular mistakes but rethinking how the films could have been better, even within the parameters of the basic prequel storylines and characters as they have been laid out in the films, novels and the animated Clone Wars microseries.

Lucas started the films with two related and significant disadvantages - first, a lack of suspense, since everyone knew that the prequels had to end with Anakin turning into Vader, Obi-Wan headed to Tattooine, Yoda to Dagobah, Palpatine becoming the Emperor, etc. And second, limited ability to get creative with the storyline for the same reason - his endpoints were already set in stone.

But the films also started with tremendous advantages that most filmmakers would kill for: (1) an emotionally powerful, built-in double dramatic arc of downfall and betrayal, both Anakin's and that of the Republic; (2) a stable of pre-existing characters with known and in some cases reasonably vivid personalities, who require little further introduction, combined with a pre-existing fictional universe free from current realities of human existence; (3) employment of the best special-effects teams and the best film composer of our times; (4) a huge, built-in audience; (5) complete creative independence and an essentially unlimited budget, given Lucas' wealth and the justifiably high box office expectations; and (6) the combination of pop culture cache (especially for male performers of roughly my generation) with the prior two factors, making it child's play to attract the best talent in Hollywood to work on the films.

Bearing those in mind, here's four things Lucas should have done differently:

1. Don't Go It Alone. I'm hardly the first to make this point, but it was the original error that spawned so many of the others. Lucas is a man of considerable gifts, and some of these are still evident in the prequels - his imagination, his talent with special effects, his gift for the pacing of action sequences. But he has always had weaknesses as a filmmaker - he has no talent for directing actors, his dramatic and especially romantic dialogue can be horrendous - and one thing he did well in the original trilogy (well-timed wisecracks and one-liners) seems to have ossified in the intervening years as he went from quirky and ambitious film buff to merchandising tycoon.

All of that would have mattered a lot less if Lucas had made the decision to bring in the best help he could get from talented directors and writers to work over the films and make them wonderful and realistic and human. It's not as if Lucas would have had to worry about losing creative control, since he owns the place, and it's not as if fans and reviewers would have forgotten that this was a George Lucas production (how many besides Star Wars fanatics can name the directors of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?). The use of a revolving door of directors has worked quite well for the Harry Potter films, for example. If Lucas had only been willing to get the input of some other people, he could have worked with better dialogue, better performances, and people to point out huge mistakes before they hit the screen.

2. Combine the First Two Films. Since the original Star Wars ("A New Hope") billed itself as "Episode IV," the prequels had to be three films. But they didn't have to be these three. In fact, I think most Star Wars fans expected the first of the three films to introduce Anakin, the second to cover the Clone Wars, and the third to bring Anakin over fully to the Dark Side.

Had Lucas stuck with that order, a huge number of the narrative problems and omissions in the prequel trilogy would have fallen away. First, Lucas himself has admitted that he had to pad out Phantom Menace to get to a full-length film. Making an Episode I that covered Phantom Menace's storyline in 45 minutes before jumping ahead 10 years to pick up the Attack of the Clones storyline would have immediately removed or drastically shortened a lot of the filler and the redundant plotlines - the Gungans (Jar Jar even would not have been so bad with five minutes of screen time), the storyline where Anakin accidentally destroys the Death Star-lite, the fun but overlong pod race, the repetitive fight scenes at Padme's palace. As a corollary, instead of being off in a star fighter Anakin should have been present for the final battle with Darth Maul. That would have presented several opportunities - have him witness the death of his first mentor, intensifying his emotional scars. Have him play some role, through a not-entirely-intentional use of the Dark Side of the Force (perhaps even a Force-choke on Darth Maul that isn't noticed by Obi-Wan) that saves Obi-Wan and lets him kill Darth Maul, thus (1) establishing Anakin's unusual precocity without the need for a midichlorian blood sample and (2) serving as a sort of original sin in his relationship with Obi-Wan. Personally, I would also have laid out near the beginning the death of Sifo Dyas, whose critical role in ordering the clone army is never explained onscreen.

Granted, Attack of the Clones covers a lot of plot, some of which would get submerged if you combined the two, but with a full Clone Wars film to work with, the reworked first episode could have cut a lot of the romantic scenes with Padme, to be developed during the war. Some of the more video-game-y scenes could have been dropped (i.e., the conveyer belt scene). Certainly there was a half hour's worth of fat to be cut, and the films could have run close to three hours without exhausting audience patience if done right.

The resulting space cleared for a full-length film treatment of the Clone Wars would have given the trilogy much-needed epic scope (we see far too little of how the main characters' dramas affect the wider galaxy) and dramatic depth, as well as giving us a lot more insight into the character development and growth to manhood of Anakin, a little backstory to make cartoonish villains like Dooku and Grievous less incomprehensible, and perhaps space to let Sam Jackson take Mace Windu out to play more. Certainly the novels and the microseries offered numerous examples of the kinds of storylines available during the war - seiges, hostage situations, the deaths of Jedi in battle, intrigue among the villains, opportunities for Anakin to learn how to command, the whole whodunit story of the Jedi pursuing Sidious (leading to Palpatine needing to get off Coruscant to dry up the trail and thus motivating him to stage his own abduction). A full Clone Wars film could also have given us a live-action Asajj Ventress, a character who is vividly drawn in the novels, and who is naturally theatrical, with her shaved tattooed head, taut, leather-clad figure, double lightsabers and depthless rage; in fact, she could well have been a sort of Boba Fett crossed with Princess Leia in terms of combination geek factor and weird sex appeal. She would also have given us a chance for either Anakin and Obi-Wan combined, or perhaps Yoda or Mace, to get another lightsaber kill.

3. Rethink and Recast Anakin: Hayden Christensen took a lot of grief for his performances, but in Attack of the Clones I thought some of the criticisms unfair - he was asked to play a whining, petulant, self-important teenage boy, and he gave a very realistic portrayal of one. In Revenge of the Sith he was asked to do more as an actor, with decidedly mixed results - he stuck one key scene perfectly (the final showdown with Obi-Wan), gave a weak performance in the other (his conversion to the Dark Side), and proved incompetent at any scenes with Padme.

The core problem, though, wasn't so much Christensen himself as Lucas' failure to grasp Anakin's full potential as a character and cast him accordingly. While Obi-Wan is important to the plot, Anakin's personal drama is, after all, the center of the prequel trilogy. And the Anakin we could have expected from watching Vader in action and hearing about his youth had enormous potential as a classic film role: a young man who is cocky, ambitous, and supremely talented, but also rash, reckless, impatient, and subject to passions and rages he can't control and that ultimately consume him. Any screenwriter worth his salt would kill to write that character, any actor to play him. He could have been the ultimate bad boy anti-hero, James Dean with a lightsaber, the guy every teenage guy admires and every teen girl wants (indeed, ask Peter Jackson how it helps the box office to have teen girls swoon over your male lead). The role could have launched the next Brando, if written and cast properly - more swagger, more smirking, more volcanic temper, less whimpering and speechifying. Leo DiCaprio would have been perfect for the role if he was a foot taller.

4. Find A Han Solo: One of the critical elements of the original trilogy was the balance between the whiny, self-centered Luke and the wisecracking, free-wheeling Han. Throughout the films, Han (and his relationships with the other characters) kept the movies light-hearted, deflated some of the pretensions of even Obi-Wan and Leia, and generally injected the same retro 1940s charm that Harrison Ford would later bring to Lucas' Indiana Jones films. Han was at all times the movies' sense of humor about the absurdity of its own cosmology.

Obviously, neither Han nor Harrison Ford could appear in the original trilogy, but some character could and should have been given a Han-like personality to lighten the mood. There's no reason it couldn't have been a Jedi (the first two Jedi we meet are the mischievous Yoda and the dryly witty Obi-Wan, so there was no rule that says Jedi have to be somber and dull to be self-controlled), maybe even Mace Windu, but regardless, somewhere in the films we needed a foil for the overly serious tone. As discussed above, a better Anakin would have provided a little of this mood-lightener in the re-imagined second film in particular, and in fact a whole film focused on the Clone Wars would have created more room for a gun-wielding character who helps command the Clone Troopers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:42 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
January 28, 2007
BASEBALL: Jeff Weaver Goes West

The Mariners are about to sign Jeff Weaver for 1 year, $8.3 million. For Seattle, the deal makes superficial sense - the gopher-prone Weaver should be the type to prosper in spacious SafeCo, and the situation doesn't have the media pressure of NY or a team with high expectations.

Then again, $8.3 mil isn't chicken feed, and almost all of Weaver's numbers (K/9, G/F, HR/9, IP) were off his career averages, and that's for a guy with a 4.58 career ERA. He's not a terrible gamble to pitch OK this year, but he could well be headed further down. I'm glad he's not on my team.

I mean, the more I think about it: Jeff Weaver is nothing like a guarantee of any degree of quality. The man had a 5.76 ERA this season, at age 29 while apparently perfectly healthy. It must be awfully insulting to be a starting pitcher making less than $8 million a year these days.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:14 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
January 27, 2007
BASEBALL: It's Good To Be The King

David Pinto has good news for Felix Hernandez fans.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:52 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Cultural Divide

Josh Trevino joins in the conservative pig-pile on the thesis of Dinesh D'Souza's new book, which argues that the cultural Left in the U.S. is the source of Islamist rage at the U.S. - and, implicitly, that cultural conservatives should therefore see natural allies in the bin Ladenists of the world. It's not hard to see why D'Souza's thesis would be equally offensive to Left and Right. The point Trevino makes is that the baselines of Christian and Muslim cultural conservatism are quite different:

D'Souza and I almost certainly share a common assessment of what constitutes "pagan depravity" in American culture; and Osama bin Ladin and his fellow jihadists almost certainly agree "that the United States represents the pagan depravity that Muslims have a duty to resist." It does not follow from this that my and D'Souza’s "pagan depravity" is the same as that of bin Laden or orthodox Muslims. Sexual morality in particular is rather different in the Muslim world, despite superficial similarities with the West which usually express themselves in procedural collaboration at international fora: the latter does not, as a rule of thumb, have an institutionalized "enjoyment marriage," nor polygamy. Easy divorce is commonly cited as an example of Western moral decline - and it is - but divorce in Islamic law, especially for men, is ridiculously easy. Furthermore, in many areas of Muslim life that D'Souza rightly identifies as being threatened by Western cultural leftism, the threat would remain even with an ascendancy of the Western right. Browsing through the rulings of the Shi'a Ayatollah Sistani, whose co-religionists we are empowering in Iraq, one finds many things that American conservatism is unlikely to join Muslim orthodoxy in prohibiting: for example, kissing one's fiance, the existence of male OB/GYNs, the existence of beer, chatting between men and women, the wearing of silk, and the pernicious phenomenon of married couples dancing. Were "pagan depravity" to be eradicated from American society by D'Souza's and my lights, it would still be in full effect by the lights of Muslim orthodoxy.

Read the whole thing, which contains oodles of supporting links.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:47 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 25, 2007
POLITICS: Webb's Fiction

Jonah Goldberg notes that while Jim Webb was citing a single, flimsy poll to suggest military disagreement with the Iraq War generally, among the details he left out was this, from the same poll: "Almost half of those responding think we need more troops in Iraq than we have there now."

UPDATE: Greyhawk has more detailed analysis. I don't doubt that there are liberal, antiwar Democrats in the military just like anywhere else, but it's silly to suggest that anything like a majority of the military is where Webb is on the war. The problem with the Democrats' worship of identity politics (e.g., the "chickenhawk" meme) is that it requires them to believe that the people fighting the war agree with them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:18 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Will Bart Be Back?

News on Bartolo Colon from Rotowire:

Colon (shoulder) has completed the first two phases of his rehab and will begin throwing in Arizona this week . . . Chances are, Colon won't be ready for the start of the season, but it might not be as dire as a recent report that suggested he'll be out until August.

Colon's return is obviously very important to an Angels team that is likely to have not much more than a league-average offense.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:39 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Rudy Gets Serious

Looks like the Giuliani campaign is finally getting in gear. The NY Post reports that he is selling his business:

Rudy Giuliani, a 2008 GOP White House front-runner, is moving to sell the Wall Street wing of his multi-pronged business - the strongest sign yet that he's making a serious play for the presidency, The Post has learned.

Officials at Giuliani Partners have been meeting quietly with several firms about buying the firm's stake in Giuliani Capital Advisors, an investment banking company, sources familiar with the discussions said.

The Chicago-based investment firm is the largest arm of the former mayor's self-named business, and may be the biggest cash cow of Giuliani's four-unit business.

Rudy is also hiring key staffers:

Meanwhile, Giuliani yesterday added former Bush-Cheney campaign adviser Brent Seaborn to his staff. Seaborn was involved with so-called "micro-targeting," which helped boost GOP votes for Bush in his 2004 campaign.

He also hired Patrick Ruffini, President Bush's Webmaster, to help with his Internet strategy.

The NY Daily News adds:

A series of new hires will soon join Giuliani's presidential exploratory committee in key primary states, and the organization will settle on a pollster and a media consultant, those close to the former mayor said.

"This is serious. This is indicative that we are very serious and very excited," a source said.

The exploratory committee will add a handful of regional finance directors geared toward raising money from Republicans nationwide, giving Giuliani financial clout to compete with the fund-raising machines of candidates such as Arizona Sen. John McCain, the National Journal's Hotline reported.

The move comes on the heels of Team Giuliani's announcement that former Republican Rep. Jim Nussle would help in his key home state of Iowa.

The game is afoot!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:36 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Ultimate Opening To A NYT Book Review

I guess the best that can be said of this opening paragraph of a NY Times review of "Supreme Conflict," a new book on the Supreme Court, is that it leaves no doubt as to the reviewer's, er, perspective:

Even as more commentators on both the left and the right are using the adjective "incompetent" to describe the administration of George W. Bush, historians like Douglas Brinkley, Sean Wilentz and Eric Foner have begun to argue that Mr. Bush is in contention for the title of worst president in history, citing reasons like the metastasizing war in Iraq, a ballooning deficit, the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina and a widening credibility gap.

In the second paragraph, the reviewer mentions the book.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:33 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Ray Gun Revolution

Coolness. This looks to be a sort of next-generation taser. But not quite a phaser. Of course, like all things military, the coolness is mainly in the practical applications:

Airman Blaine Pernell, 22, of suburban New Orleans, said he could have used the system during his four tours in Iraq, where he manned watchtowers around a base near Kirkuk. He said Iraqis constantly pulled up and faked car problems so they could scout out U.S. forces.

"All we could do is watch them," he said. But if they had the ray gun, troops "could have dispersed them."

My only question is whether "130 degree" heat would make much of a difference in Iraqi weather conditions.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:32 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
January 24, 2007
WAR: The President And The Wider War

Undoubtedly the most important part of last night's State of the Union speech - well, other than the section on Dikembe Mutombo; you can never get too much Dikembe Mutombo - was this:

In the last two years, we've seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East -- and we have been sobered by the enemy's fierce reaction. In 2005, the world watched as the citizens of Lebanon raised the banner of the Cedar Revolution, they drove out the Syrian occupiers and chose new leaders in free elections. In 2005, the people of Afghanistan defied the terrorists and elected a democratic legislature. And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections, choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world, and then electing a government under that constitution. Despite endless threats from the killers in their midst, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that we should never forget. (Applause.)

A thinking enemy watched all of these scenes, adjusted their tactics, and in 2006 they struck back. In Lebanon, assassins took the life of Pierre Gemayel, a prominent participant in the Cedar Revolution. Hezbollah terrorists, with support from Syria and Iran, sowed conflict in the region and are seeking to undermine Lebanon's legitimately elected government. In Afghanistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters tried to regain power by regrouping and engaging Afghan and NATO forces. In Iraq, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra. This atrocity, directed at a Muslim house of prayer, was designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia -- and it succeeded. Radical Shia elements, some of whom receive support from Iran, formed death squads. The result was a tragic escalation of sectarian rage and reprisal that continues to this day.

It's crucial to recognize that the battle to change the nature of government in the Muslim and Arab worlds is a regional battle and not simply a series of isolated struggles. President Bush has, in my view, not been detailed enough in making this point - he makes it in almost every speech, but specifics are crucial. The regional nature of the struggle is why, as the president noted, there are often repeat players in multiple theaters:

Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent.

Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology. Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: "We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse." Osama bin Laden declared: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

These men are not given to idle words, and they are just one camp in the Islamist radical movement. In recent times, it has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who are just as hostile to America, and are also determined to dominate the Middle East. Many are known to take direction from the regime in Iran, which is funding and arming terrorists like Hezbollah -- a group second only to al Qaeda in the American lives it has taken.

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat.

One thing the Cold War taught us is that the "Domino Theory" is not just real - it works both ways. Societies that are democratic, respect basic liberties, or both are just as subversive of their tyrannical neighbors as those neighbors are aggressive. If democracy or a close approximation survives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority (the latter obviously being the toughest case), we will see a belt of free societies north of the Arabian Peninsula and south of the old Soviet Union, stretching from the Agean Sea in the west to the Ganges River in the east, leaving four islands isolated in the stream - Iran, Syria, Pakistan and Jordan. The latter two nations' governments have essentially accepted this trend, albeit while resisting its influence within their own borders. That leaves the Iranians, the Syrians, their Hezbollah proxies and the Sunni radicals in Al Qaeda and Hamas as the principal rejectionists. I am disinclined to support long-term policing of internal disputes in Iraq, let alone having any American set foot in the Palestinian territories or even Lebanon. But one way or another, we are in the center of this struggle, and Iraq is as important to the battle as, say, Poland and East Germany were in the Cold War. Which is why we can't accept defeat there.

By the way, little though I am a fan of bipartisanship for its own sake, I liked this idea:

Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. It's why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. We'll show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.

The Democrats were always going to flay Bush no matter what - because they are the opposition, because they are the Democrats, and especially because of how he came to office - but a lot of grief could have been averted if he had introduced a formalized bipartisan War Council much earlier to avoid endless claims that the Administration "lied" or failed to share information with Congressional leaders. Making a record on that front could have focused more debates on the merits. Similarly, the move to expand the size of the Armed Forces really should have been taken in the Fall of 2001.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:49 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Today's Trivia

What player with 4000 or more plate appearances since 1957 has hit into the fewest double plays? Answer here.

UPDATE: Well, since it came up in the comments, here are the ten best and worst ratios, expressed as GDP per 600 plate appearances:

Ichiro Suzuki2744293.66
Don Buford3353003.74
Brett Butler6293983.96
Lenny Dykstra3952574.45
Mickey Rivers4559514.54
Vince Coleman4559224.56
Darren Daulton3543284.85
Don Blasingame4251904.86
Omar Moreno4554294.97
Rob Deer3845115.05
Jerry Adair149427320.92
Jim Rice315905320.88
Danny Cater163476420.53
George Scott279824720.30
Paul Konerko172512120.15
Tony Pena235700520.13
Lou Piniella211632720.01
Rico Carty206631519.57
Joe Torre283878519.33
Bill Skowron159495719.25

I guess guys who hit into a lot of double plays are likely to become managers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:41 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Can A District Attorney Ever Be Sanctioned or Disbarred for Prosecutorial Misconduct?

If the answer to that question is "yes," Mike Nifong's career is over, as it should be. It would be difficult to come up with a more comprehensive and provable case of misconduct on the part of a prosecutor short of bribery or threats of violence.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:49 AM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Getting An Early Start on the DL

Fantasy baseball players everywhere may be relieved at the removal of a perennial source of uncertainty, but there are few things sadder in sports than a young athlete wrecked by injuries before he has had even a chance to establish what he could have done in the big leagues if he was healthy. So it is with the news that the oft-injured Angels 3B Dallas McPherson will have back surgery that probably puts him out for the 2007 season. Which also probably means an end to Chone Figgins' wanderings, as Figgins should get planted at 3B. Whether Figgins hits enough to justify that job will depend almost entirely on whether he can get his OBP up to close to .350. That should be a next-best solution to Matt Welch's concern that Figgins' versatility was blocking the path for too many of the Halos' young players.

Of course, OBP may yet be a chronic problem for these Angels, with Garret Anderson and Shea Hillenbrand penciled in at the LF/DH slots.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 23, 2007
POLITICS: State of the Bush Administration

We're having another debate over at RedState, this one on what Bush should say tonight. My contribution is here. In particular, don't miss Thomas' post expanding on the political folly of Bush's health care proposal and Academic Elephant's post on a story Bush should tell.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:58 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
January 22, 2007
BASEBALL: Lost in Translation

I have greatly enjoyed the new "Neutralize Stats" feature at, explained in detail here. Of course, long-time readers will recall my longstanding interest in "translated" statistics. (See here and here for examples). There's endless amounts of fun to be had playing around with the feature, which lets you translate players from all different kinds of contexts into a common context.

But I have been disappointed in a few of the features of's translations. The problems are somewhat related, and are most apparent in dealing with 19th century players, but here they are, presented in a spirit of constructive criticism:

1. Comparing Earned Runs Allowed to League Runs/Game is an Apples-to-Oranges Comparison.

Consider this explanation of how the translation worked for Pedro Martinez in 2000:

Martinez allowed 42 earned runs in 2000. After adjustment, Martinez's runs created allowed went from 38.91 to 33.67. We'll assume that the change in his earned runs will be proportional to the change in his runs created allowed:

ER = 42 * (33.67 / 38.91) = 36
From this we can easily get Martinez's ERA:

ERA = (36 / 221) * 9 = 1.47
We decided to calculate runs allowed by taking the player's adjusted earned runs and dividing by the earned run rate of the league we want to place the player in. Let's assume that we want to put him in a league with an earned run rate of 0.90. Then:

R = 36 / 0.90 = 40
And his runs allowed per 9 innings:

RA = (40 / 221) * 9 = 1.63
The final step is to get an adjusted won-lost record. we give the pitcher one decision for every nine adjusted innings pitched, so for Martinez this is:

Dec = int(221 / 9) = 24
We use his run average and the runs per game of the league/park we are placing him in to get a Pythagorean won-lost percentage. Recall that we are placing him in a neutral park in a league where the average team scores 750 runs per 612 games, or 4.63 runs per game:

Pyth = 4.63**2 / (4.63**2 + 1.63**2) = .890
Now calculate adjusted wins, losses, and won-lost percentage:

W = 24 * 0.890 = 21
L = 24 - 21 = 3
WL% = 21 / (21 + 3) = .875

If you are following carefully, you will note that the method (1) adjusts ERA fairly well based on an adjustment of hits and the like keyed to the league scoring average, but then assumes a predictable relationship between runs and earned runs, and (2) then figures a W-L record based on a comparison of that assumed runs allowed rate to the actual league runs allowed rate.

The problem when you do this is that if you are starting with a pitcher from before 1920 and especially before 1900, when a huge proportion of league runs scored were scored on errors, you will create a "neutralized" runs allowed rate that is far lower than the league scoring average - and thus, you will assume that even an average pitcher in that era was allowing far fewer runs per inning than were being scored. If you don't believe me, just try to find a 19th century pitcher whose neutralized stats give him a losing record. Jim Hughey, for example, was a terrible pitcher, career ERA+ of 80, career record of 29-80 - but his neutralized career W-L record is 72-62. Tony Mullane goes from 284-220 (.563) to 554-178 (.778). Ted Breitenstein goes from 160-170 (.485) 276-128 (.683). Jim Devlin goes from 72-76 (.486) to 371-40 (.903) and a 1.27 career ERA.

Personally, I've always thought that translated W-L records should be tied, in some way, to actual W-L records - adjusted by context, yes, but tethered in some realistic fashion to the actual games actually won. Even if you disregard that, though, a realistic system for translating W-L records should not simply disregard the fact that different pitchers pitched under vastly different conditions in terms of unearned runs allowed.

2. Batting Statistics Should Be Adusted By Comparison to Batting Statistics

The corollary of the above is that the system massively underrates old-time hitters because it adjusts batting statistics by comparison to league runs scored per game, rather than, say, adjusting batting averages by comparison to league batting average. Thus, again, Cap Anson, with a career OPS+ of 141, adjusts to a career .289/.383/.337 hitter (yes, being old-fashioned I list slugging second). Dan Brouthers, career OPS+ of 170, adjusts to a more ordinary .306/.467/.378. Ross Barnes, who had a career OBP almost 100 points above the league average for his career, adjusts to a career .324 OBP.

More generally, the translations, because they are keyed to runs/game rather than to the individual components of scoring, fail to take account of the changing shape of a player's offensive numbers if he played in a high-average low-power era as opposed to a higher-HR era with lower batting averages. The pitcher translations similarly fail to account for the changing components of offense over time. For example, my own crude pitcher translations helped show how Lefty Grove, Dazzy Vance, Dizzy Dean and even the aging Satchel Paige were prime-time strikeout pitchers, or how Cy Young's incredible control was a constant throughout many changes in the game; the current B-R system submerges these facts.

3. Failure to Adjust Pitcher Workloads and Decisions

This has been my big gripe with pitcher-translation systems in the past - the failure to establish a meaningful way to recognize the changes in starting pitcher workloads and rates of decision over time and thus credit the guys who carried the heaviest loads relative to the era they played in. This is exacerbated by expanding the projected seasons to 162 games, if you are wondering how Tony Mullane could win 554 games. A workable computerized system could easily be developed along some of the lines I used in my prior analyses of pitcher translations and pitcher workloads, looking at the load carried by the top howevermany rotation starters in a league in a given year, and adjusting a pitcher's number of innings and decisions in step with that. If Sean Forman is interested in improving his system, I'd love to see some improvements along those lines.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:21 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Wrong Enemy

Dean Barnett savages Dinesh D'Souza's new book, and rightly so.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Surging Forward

I can't really disagree with Instapundit's view of the "surge". The key points:

+"I don't think the number of troops is nearly as important as what we're doing with them"

+"There's room for optimism that we're going to take a more aggressive line against insurgents in Iraq, and against Muqtada Al-Sadr in particular. There's also some reason to think we're putting the screws to Iran."

+"I've been disappointed a number of times by the Bush Administration's inexplicable unwillingness to deal with Iran's fomenting of insurgency -- it's really a proxy war . . . "

+"You win a war by making it too unpleasant for the other guy to keep fighting."

+"Bush's loss of support on the war stems from the loss of visible forward motion. The casualties per se aren't the problem (we've lost fewer troops in nearly four years than we were expected to lose in the initial push to Baghdad), so much as the sense that we're taking casualties and nothing is happening."

Read the whole thing. I think as much as anything the key point is that we need to find ways to raise the cost to Iran of continuing to meddle in Iraq. As I have stressed repeatedly before, our main mission in Iraq since we succeeded in the original mission (i.e., toppling Saddam's regime) has been to protect Iraq's nascent democracy from outside interference. The Iraqis are responsible in the end for handling their own internal problems, but where the U.S. is still needed is in preventing hostile external powers and movements from strangling Iraqi democracy in its cradle. And that includes internal movements like al-Sadr's that are substantially backed and armed by the Iranians.

Meanwhile, kudos to Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, for rejecting the idea that Iran and Syria could be persuded to have anything like a positive influence in Iraq in hearings on the Iraq Study Group's fatuous recommendation of negotiations with those two parties to stop doing things they won't admit doing in the first place. Lantos, whatever else may be said of him, is one Democrat who has always understood tyranny.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:04 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
January 20, 2007
POLITICS: The Wrong Way To Argue About Abortion
Not only did Roe [v. Wade] not . . . resolve the deeply divisive issue of abortion; it did more than anything else to nourish it, by elevating it to the national level, where it is infinitely more difficult to resolve. National politics were not plagued by abortion protests, national abortion lobbying, or abortion marches on Congress before Roe v. Wade was decided. Profound disagreement existed among our citizens over the issue - as it does over other issues, such as the death penalty - but that disagreement was being worked out at the state level. As with many other issues, the division of sentiment within each State was not as closely balanced as it was among the population of the Nation as a whole, meaning not only that more people would be satisfied with the results of state-by-state resolution, but also that those results would be more stable. Pre-Roe, moreover, political compromise was possible.

Roe's mandate for abortion on demand destroyed the compromises of the past, rendered compromise impossible for the future, and required the entire issue to be resolved uniformly, at the national level. At the same time, Roe created a vast new class of abortion consumers and abortion proponents by eliminating the moral opprobrium that had attached to the act. . . Roe fanned into life an issue that has inflamed our national politics in general, and has obscured with its smoke the selection of Justices to this Court, in particular, ever since.

Justice Scalia, dissenting in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 995-96 (1992).

It would, in fact, be a far better world if the President of the United States and the Justices appointed by the President had nothing to do with abortion policy, but in the world made by the seven Justices who made Roe and the four others (plus the author of Roe) who preserved it in 1992, abortion is a matter of federal law, to be addressed mainly by the selection of Supreme Court Justices.

It is possible that abortion opponents, like me, can hope that Justices who may be receptive to overruling Roe could be appointed by a President who is not. That, at least, is the central challenge for the presidential candidacy in particular of Rudy Guiliani, a long-time supporter of legal abortion who now seeks the presidential nomination of the Party of Life. The debate over whether Rudy can be trusted on the courts is for another day, but I must say that as much as I am willing to support him, I am not at all persuaded, and do not expect other pro-lifers to be persuaded, by this Deroy Murdock column arguing that abortion rates fell during Rudy's tenure as Mayor of New York. The problem is, he doesn't really have an argument that Giuliani had anything to do with this. About the only policy Murdock can point to to attribute this to Giuliani is that he was not as bad as Bloomberg:

New York pro-lifers concede that Giuliani never attempted anything like what current Mayor Michael Bloomberg promulgated in July 2002. Eight city-run hospitals added abortion instruction to the training expected of their OB-GYN medical residents. Giuliani could have issued such rules, but never did.

That's something - evidence that Giuliani is hardly a zealot on the issue - but cold comfort in trying to make him out as actively participating in the decline in abortion rates.

In fact, specious claims about rates of abortion have been a staple of abortion's most zealous cheerleaders, including Hillary Clinton, who claimed in 2005 that:

In the (first) three years since President Bush took office, eight states have seen an increase in abortion rates and four saw a decrease.

This was a thoroughly bogus claim that nonetheless survived vigorous debunking, but as you can see from the chart presented by, abortion rates were declining gradually from about 1980 on nationwide, and underwent a particularly sharp drop between about 1989 and 1995, the tail end of which coincided with the beginning of Giuliani's mayoralty.

On the other hand - and this is a very important part - the rates may go up and down, but no matter how you slice them, the overall number of abortions in this country is horrifying, and you can play with the charts all day long and not get them to where that is not true. (Compare the number of abortions to the number of executions some time, if you don't believe me). Trends and blips don't change that reality, which is why the issue is still, fundamentally, whether abortions should be thinkable at all in a civilized society.

I know Murdock, like many conservative New Yorkers, believes that the nation needs Giuliani's brand of leadership and just wants to help. But if there's one lesson Giuliani will need to fully absorb if he is going to succeed in wooing pro-life voters, it's that we have heard a lot before and we are not easily fooled. Rudy has one, longstanding position on Life, and we have another. Pretending otherwise will not help. The middle ground, the sensible, moderate position, is what Justice Scalia spoke of 15 years ago - democracy, federalism, getting the Supreme Court out of the business of making the rules off the top of its head and restoring to individual jurisdictions the power to make their own rules in line with the varying standards of their own communities. Which is why the judiciary is the whole ball of wax, one that can't be sugar-coated.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:03 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Last Vestiges Depart

Ed Morrissey on the last vestiges of democracy being stripped away from Hugo Chavez' Venezuela. Of course, nobody who has followed Chavez closely for the past several years could be surprised that the endpoint of his leadership could only be absolute rule.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:54 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Paranoia

Good lengthy Q&A with Aaron Gleeman, mainly on the Twins. This is too true:

I'm sure we'll be bombarded with plenty of Santana-to-the-Yankees speculation over the next year, because Yankees fans are obsessed with being able to pluck star players from other teams and Twins fans are obsessed with losing star players over money. Of course, most of the prospects the Yankees "stockpiled" for a potential Santana trade aren't good and Santana is under the Twins' control with a no-trade clause through 2008, which is the sort of information that gets lost in the hysteria.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:44 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Trotting to Cleveland

So Trot Nixon, discarded by the Red Sox in favor of JD Drew, heads to the Indians for a bargain-basement, 1-year, $3 million deal. A fine deal for the Indians, who can always use another guy who gets on base and has some pop. Presumably, Nixon and David Dellucci will both be platooned in the outfield corners with the righthanded Jason Michaels and Casey Blake.

It's hard to believe now, but there was a time when Red Sox fans were skeptical at best of dealing Nixon for Sammy Sosa, then in his prime (I was even skeptical myself in one of my earliest columns for the BSG site, though the Sox sure could have used Sammy in 2001-03).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:41 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
January 19, 2007
BASEBALL: LaRoche Replaced

The Braves' signing of Craig Wilson makes the LaRoche deal make a good deal more sense, as Wilson for his career is a comparable hitter to LaRoche and makes less money. Of course, Wilson is three years older, and thus a good bet to be less productive, but he's closer to being a real replacement for LaRoche's productivity.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:23 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Mustard In The Kitchen With Mazola

Every time you think you've exhausted the possibilities for bizarre homicides, there's something new.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:21 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Third Lefty

I can't add a whole lot to this excellent Hardball Times analysis by Jeff Sackmann of the Mets' overpaying for Scott Schoenweis, signed for $10.8 million (slightly larger, albeit for two more seasons, than Tom Glavine's contract). Schoenweis might turn out to be a valuable contributor, but I'd be very surprised if he is good enough to justify the expense. I would add one ameliorating factor that Sackmann overlooks: yes, Schoenweis has walked a lot of guys recently, but as is often true of guys who pitch a lot of partial innings in middle relief, 11 of his 49 walks the past two years were intentional; his actual rate of unintentional walks in that period is 3.15 per 9 innings.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Taking The Gloves Off

I pretty much missed out on blogging the president's speech on Iraq, but the best news we've had is the suggestion that any restrictions imposed by Maliki on targeting and destroying the bad guys in Iraq (specifically, the Sadr-led bad guys who are part of Maliki's own governing coalition) are being removed. The first sign of followup in this regard was the arrest of various Iranian agents in Iraq, and now we have a tangible move against Sadr:

US and Iraqi forces have arrested a key aide of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, as the Iraqi government prepares to launch a crackdown on militias accused of enflaming the sectarian violence which has plagued the country.


Sheikh Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, al-Sadr’s media director in Baghdad, was captured in the early hours in a mosque in the eastern neighbourhood of Baladiyat, according to the cleric’s aides, who said that a guard was killed in the raid and denounced it as a "cowardly act."


The suspect was detained "based on credible intelligence that he is the leader of illegal armed group punishment committee activity, involving the organised kidnapping, torture and murder of Iraqi civilians," according to the military statement, which added that he was reportedly involved in the assassination of numerous Iraqi security forces and government officials.

"The suspect allegedly leads various illegal armed group operations and is affiliated with illegal armed group cells targeting Iraqi civilians for sectarian attacks and violence," it said.

It's a start.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:27 AM | War 2007-14 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: And So It Begins

Not for the last time, I am sure, House Democrats vote to raise taxes. Naturally they start with a politically unpopular target: domestic oil companies. The new taxes and fees, of course, raise the costs to domestic producers, thus benefitting their foreign competitors. Nice work. Hopefully, someone is keeping close track of how many times each of the newly elected Democrats ends up voting for a tax hike of one sort or other.

This aspect of the bill could be interesting:

The legislation "amounts to a taking of private property" by forcing oil companies to renegotiate leases they view as valid contracts, [Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican] said.

The bill would bar companies from future lease sales unless they agree to renegotiate flawed leases issued in 1998-99 for deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Because of a government error, the current leases do not contain a trigger for royalties if prices soared, as they have in recent years. As a result, the companies have avoided paying $1 billion in royalties so far and stand to avoid an additional $9 billion over the life of the leases, the Interior Department says.

The caselaw is narrowly divided over the circumstances under which government can change the terms of business with its contractors without incurring liability, but if all that's being done is to refuse future business as an incentive to renegotiate, I would think that doesn't amount to a taking of vested contract rights. But the devil will be in the details.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:19 AM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
January 18, 2007
BASEBALL: Fun Bert Blyleven Fact

Six of the ten most similar pitchers to Blyleven through age 30 came from two pitching rotations - Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, and Ken Holtzman. If you leave out Sutton, the other five had a combined record of 90-96 after age 30 - Blyleven alone was 120-102.

If you want a little more fun with these things, check out Christy Mathewson through age 32 (very arguably the best pitcher ever through that age, as his 337 wins were the most ever and his ERA+ is the fourth best to that point and trails only Walter Johnson among pitchers with similar workloads), or the collective subsequent wipeout (other than Cy Young) of so many of the guys who were similar to Bob Feller through age 28, Feller's last great year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:43 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: LaRoche Checks Out

I don't understand the rationale behind the Braves dealing Adam LaRoche to the Pirates for Mike Gonzalez. I'll admit I'm not that familiar with the minor leaguer they are getting (Brent Lillibridge, a 22-year-old shortstop who has batted .289/.467/.391 in a year and a half in A ball, with 40 doubles, 101 walks and 63 steals in 170 games; those numbers suggest a real prospect, but it's still just A ball and he did strike out 139 times and bat below .300). And I'm also not that familiar with LaRoche's potential replacement, Scott Thorman, except that his minor league numbers suggest a lesser version of LaRoche. And yes, the Braves suffered from a poor bullpen last year, while leading the league in home runs and outscoring the Mets and Dodgers. And yes, Gonzalez is an excellent reliever, with a 2.08 ERA and 6.66 Hits, 0.31 HR and 10.81 K per 9 innings over the past three seasons.

But it's still trading a guy who his 32 home runs and slugged .561 with a .354 OBP as a 26-year-old regular last season for a short reliever, one who has spent more than a month on the DL each of the past two seasons, including missing the end of 2006 with elbow tendinitis, and issued 5.02 walks/9 IP (excluding intentional walks) over those two seasons. The only way this makes sense is if the Braves are really certain that LaRoche not only had a career year last year (which I suspect he did) but that he will not come especially close to those numbers again. Otherwise, they are drastically overrating the value of a single reliever compared to an everyday player.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
January 17, 2007
LAW: Simmering Gun

My initial reaction to the story of a 28-year-old mother of three who died from "water intoxication" after a radio show contest to see who could drink the most water without using a bathroom ("Hold your wee for a Wii!") was that (1) it was a horrible tragedy, especially for her kids, (2) it sounded like rather a dumb idea for a contest, but (3) I didn't think much of the inevitable lawsuit because really, radio show DJs aren't exactly rocket scientists and aren't any better situated than the average person to know the hazards of drinking too much water. The blind leading the blind, you might say.

But it turns out that the DJs were joking on the air during the contest about precisely those risks, the radio station has fired everyone involved, and a criminal investigation has been opened. In which case this is a much bigger problem for the radio station.

Chances that this story will spawn an episode of CSI: about 99%.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:20 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Uno Carlos

Delgado says he should be recovered to full health from offseason arm surgery by spring training. Given that Delgado is just at the age when sluggers of his type become especially susceptible to arm, leg, foot and back injuries, I'll feel better when we start seeing him swat spring training homers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:59 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Judicial Pay

You know, Chief Justice Roberts could write the phone book and make it readable. His report on judicial pay - really a brief directed to Congress - is lucid and to the point, focusing on how stagnant judicial pay skews the membership of the judiciary away from private practitioners. And he focuses at least implicitly on the fact that judicial independence is undermined if federal judges are likely to have one eye on the exit to make more money.

I don't quite buy the idea that judges are scandalously underpaid in the abstract. Yes, it's a challenge to live in New York City and put your kids through college on $150,000 a year, but let's be real here - a whole lot of people get by on a whole lot less (I'm guessing that even with the high cost of living here, the median income is significantly less than half the salary of a federal district judge), starting with the Marshals who protect the judges. What is ridiculous is that judges make less money than even junior associates at the big firms, lawyers who (as Roberts dryly notes) are not yet senior enough to set foot in those judges' courtrooms. The government has a persistent habit of paying its most skilled employees (like lawyers) far less than what they could make in the private sector, while paying its least skilled employees (like toll collectors) far more than what they could make in the private sector. Maybe fairness isn't the most compelling argument, but you can't deny the Chief's point about how pay affects the composition of the judiciary. Absent a good reason to think that judges really are worth a lot less than they were 35 years ago, Congress should listen to the Chief.

UPDATE: I should note one perverse trend, which I suppose could be argued to support low pay. Maybe this is just anecdotal, but it seems to me that the lower pay of government lawyers leads to more women taking those jobs. The economic reason is simple, and equally applicable to judging:

1. Government law jobs are seen by many lawyers as more desirable than private practice in its various forms, for a variety of reasons.

2. However, such jobs entail taking a significant pay cut compared to private practice.

3. Women (especially female attorneys), being more likely than men to be married to a higher-earning spouse and less likely than men to be the sole breadwinner for a family of three or more, are likely to be less sensitive (on average) to salary in choosing legal jobs (this is even before we consider whether women are more likely to be sensitive to other considerations such as hours and flexible schedules).

4. Therefore, all other things being equal, you would expect more women to take the more desirable but lower-paying jobs, and more men to take the less desirable but higher-paying jobs.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:02 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
January 16, 2007
LAW/BASEBALL: Tatis Scammed

Professional athletes make tons of money, travel frequently, and are often uneducated, financially unsophisticated, and/or marginally literate in English. Unfortunately, that combination makes them easy targets for ripoffs and scams.

But they still have an obligation to read their own bank statements to see if someone is stealing their money, as the Sixth Circuit affirmed today in a decision dismissing a lawsuit by Fernando Tatis against his bank based on embezzlement by a bank employee an employee of Tatis:

The underlying justification for this provision is simple: one of the most serious consequences of the failure of a customer to timely examine its statement is that it gives the wrongdoer the opportunity to repeat his misdeeds. Tatis had a duty to promptly examine his monthly statements and report to US Bank any unauthorized transactions. Because Tatis failed to report the first forged item within thirty days, he is not only precluded from recovering for that transaction but also for any additional items forged by the same wrongdoer.

(Quotations omitted).

UPDATE: Fixed the identity of the embezzler - see, I do sometimes read cases too quickly when I'm not getting paid to do so.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Law 2006-08 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
January 13, 2007
WAR: Yes, It's An Axis

The thin, mustachioed Jew-hating fanatic and the burly buffoon - haven't we seen this movie before? Well, their axis has come out in the open:

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Saturday they would help finance investment projects in other countries seeking to thwart U.S. domination.

The two countries — whose fiery anti-American leaders' moves to extend their influence have alarmed Washington — had previously revealed plans for a joint $2 billion US fund to finance investments in Venezuela and Iran.

But the leaders said Saturday the money would also be used for projects in friendly countries throughout the developing world.

"It will permit us to underpin investments … above all in those countries whose governments are making efforts to liberate themselves from the [U.S.] imperialist yoke," Chavez said.

"This fund, my brother," the Venezuelan president said, referring affectionately to Ahmadinejad, "will become a mechanism for liberation."

"Death to U.S. imperialism!" he said.

Ahmadinejad, who is starting a tour of left-leaning countries in the region, called it a "very important" decision that would help promote "joint co-operation in third countries," especially in Latin America and Africa.

At least our enemies don't hide their enmity. The question is, what are we prepared to do about them?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:37 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (30) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Our New Sponsor

Scroll down on the left sidebar and you'll see my newest Blogad, for the Giuliani 2008 campaign exploratory committee. Personally I'll be glad when we move beyond exploratory committees and the candidates can just come right out and be candidates.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:03 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I was as impressed with him in the NLCS as anyone, but the title "Postseason savior Oliver Perez" seems a bit much for a guy who gave us a mediocre start in a blowout and a good start in a defeat, no?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:41 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
January 12, 2007
POLITICS/WAR: Keeping Their Stories Straight

Mary Katherine Ham's video on Dick Durbin's Iraq speech (responding to President Bush), juxtaposing Durbin's speech with a long series of quotes (mostly leading Democrats contradicting whatever Durbin is saying) really has to be seen to be believed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:44 PM | Politics 2007 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Card Magnets

Now this is a classic collection.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:29 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Sportswriters

You can't really top Bill Simmons' take on the writers:

Not content with simply dismissing McGwire's candidacy and moving on, they need to climb on their high horses and rip the guy to shreds. Of course, many of them would appear on any radio or TV show for 50 bucks and a free sandwich. We're supposed to believe they would refuse the chance to take a drug that would enable them to do their job twice as well and make 10 times as much money? Yeah, right.


[R]eread Mike Lupica's gushing book, "Summer of '98." (Note: Lupica now argues that Big Mac doesn't belong in the Hall. He never says anything about returning the profits from his book, however.)

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Fuller Plates

But will they get wider seats?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:53 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
January 11, 2007
BASEBALL: Full Plates

One of the many cool features of David Pinto's Day by Day Database is the charts showing the percentage of baserunners driven in by different hitters. You can look here at the total chart for 2000-06 for guys who batted with 1500 or more men on base (note that driving yourself in doesn't count; Pinto subtracts homers but includes the runners driven in on homers). Mike Sweeney and Larry Walker check in as the #1 & 2 best RBI men of the era, the punchless Luis Castillo the worst, with free-swinging Adam Dunn, Jose Cruz and Corey Patterson the worst with any power. A-Rod ranks a good deal higher than Jeter.

One interesting feature is the rankings by total baserunners. Here is the 11 seasons over the last 7 years in which one batter hit with 525 or more men on base - John Olerud, who doesn't do terribly on the overall chart, is the only one to drive in less than 100 runs, apparently due in large part to batting behind the glacially slow and often-on-first Edgar Martinez:

PlayerRunners OnRuns Batted InHome RunsRBI Pct.Year
Bret Boone5561413718.712001
Miguel Tejada5461503421.252004
John Olerud539952113.732001
Alex Rodriguez5341213516.102006
Andruw Jones5311163615.072003
Jeff Kent5301253317.362000
Vinny Castilla5291313518.152004
John Olerud5291031416.822000
Mike Sweeney5271442921.822000
Jeff Kent5271062215.942001
Edgar Martinez5251453720.572000
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:02 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 1/11/07

*Mmmmmmm.....pitchers in mini-camp.

*I feel Milton Chappell's pain. Those chances don't come around very often, but the worst of it is having to sit silent while the other guy fails to make your best arguments.

*The real Muhammad. There are extremely good aspirational reasons why our government should continue to insist, however tendentiously, that the true and faithful interpretation of Islam does not include imitating the Prophet's own 7th century behavior, but Andrew McCarthy draws a pretty bleak picture of what that behavior entailed and why Muslims today have difficulty separating it from their doctrinal canon.

*John Roberts on being the Chief. Via Bashman.

*Rudy on the Surge. And payback time for the Iranians. Time permitting, I'll have more to come on this issue.

*Mitt Romney has some explaining to do, which he takes a not-quite-on-point crack at here.

*Amateur hour for the Democratic Senate caucus, while Harry Reid circles the wagons around his tribal benefactors. I'm not in favor of the current campaign finance laws, but David Vitter is 100% right that the tribes, now that they are in a major revenue-raising business subject to extensive low-profile federal regulation (and thus a honey pot for Congressional venality), should get the same treatment as corporations. Of course, on the cui bono? side, I assume that Vitter, as the sponsor of this measure, and Mary Landrieu, the lone Democrat to support it, both care about the fact that the tribes compete with Louisiana gambling interests.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:52 PM | Blog 2006-14 • | Law 2006-08 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Power-Speed Combination

So now Bonds may have failed a drug test for amphetamines and blamed it on teammate Mark Sweeney. Is Bonds saying he routinely consumes things from other people's lockers without asking what's in them?

Anyway, the guy I really feel bad for at this point is Hank Aaron. Will Aaron fly around the country to be on hand to congratulate Bonds for breaking the record? I'm not sure I would. Of course, it would be a terrible blow to Bonds to get snubbed by Aaron - Aaron took a lot of grief for passing Ruth, and while some of it was simply people miffed that the record would fall to a guy who wasn't as good as Ruth, the worst of it was the outpouring of open and virulent racism. Bonds has consistently tried to paint all of his travails as springing from the same illegitimate sources - but it's a lot harder to do that without Aaron's blessing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
January 10, 2007
WAR: Romney on Iraq

Mitt Romney's statement in advance of tonight's speech by the president mostly hits the right notes in supporting an increase in troops in Baghdad, although you can see him straining to both embrace and distance himself from the Bush Administration from the opening line: "I agree with the President: Our strategy in Iraq must change." But it also includes this head-scratcher: "Our military mission, for the first time, must include securing the civilian population from violence and terror."

Now, I understand the argument that we have not done that adequately, but does Romney really believe we have not even been trying to protect the civilian population of Iraq from violence and terror? What exactly does he think 130,000 soldiers have been doing there for three and a half years?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:21 AM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: Shiny Apple

A random thought about two stories about Apple. Yesterday's much-ballyhooed introduction of the iPhone made me think back to the recent stories about Apple's board (including Al Gore) deciding to give Steve Jobs a pass on allegations that he was involved in improper awards of backdated stock options, a hot topic du jour in the high-tech business. Now, I haven't followed the Apple investigation that closely, so I have no idea if there was anything worth complaining about in Jobs' management or in his own compensation. But it makes all the business sense in the world for Apple's Board to decide not to throw the founder, guiding spirit and public face of the company under the bus on the eve of rolling out a major new product.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:14 AM | Business • | Business | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
January 9, 2007
POLITICS: Party Like It's 1993

Yes, the Democrats will revert to their old ways without missing a beat. The fools are those who thought otherwise.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:41 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Ripken and Gwynn

Pinto says the Hall results are out early.

UPDATE: Here's the voting results.

SECOND UPDATE: Five-year voting trend for the continuing candidates:

L. Smith42.336.638.845.039.8

* - Last year on the ballot for Garvey

(2006 ballot here, 2005 here, 2004 here, 2003 here).

Looks like the Goose almost has it locked up, as I expected due to Sutter's election; Rice is also still in the hunt, Blyleven and Dawson still in limbo, with Blyleven increasingly likely to have to wait for the Veterans. Notice that reading the chart diagonally down from left to right produces some pretty vivid trends. Albert Belle, unjustly, falls off the ballot. McGwire gets just 23.5% of the vote, a very loud protest against a guy whose ballplaying credentials are undeniable.

THIRD UPDATE: I'm guessing neither of the two people who voted for Bobby Bonilla was Bob Klapisch. And a reader points out that Ken Caminiti got two votes; I will go out on a limb and say those two writers did not withhold their votes from McGwire.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:59 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Bush's Strategy Speech

I have a post up on RedState as part of a larger symposium on what President Bush should say tomorrow night about Iraq. My more detailed thoughts on the way forward are here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:17 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Middle Infielders


If you are wondering where all my baseball blogging time has gone lately, wonder no more - I have a column up at The Hardball Times this morning examining the Hall of Fame cases of Cal Ripken and the other middle infielders. Like its companion piece on the slugging outfielders and first basemen, the article uses a fairly simple formula to translate batting statistics into a common context to enable easier comparisons of players from disparate parks and eras. Feel free to discuss the article here.

UPDATE: Matt Welch is still on the Bobby Grich train.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Put Him In Already


I'm not going to belabor this point, which has been beaten to death by sportswriters who never met a high horse they couldn't mount, but when they announce the Hall of Fame balloting this afternoon, I do hope they put in Mark McGwire. Yes, I accept that McGwire used illegal steroids, and on some level that was cheating even before it was formally against the rules of the game. McGwire should be embarrassed by that revelation, as should Palmeiro, Bonds, and Sosa (I'd say Canseco too, but Canseco brings to mind George Will's line about Senators - that you can no more embarrass a Senator than a sofa). He should carry an informal asterisk, in discussions of the great ones. And everything possible should be done to get steroids out of the game.

But let's be real here. Cheating of one sort or another has always been rampant in baseball - the old National League Orioles used extra baseballs in the outfield, skipped bases, mauled baserunners, etc. Multiple spitballers are in the Hall, including guys from the era when "everybody did it" (e.g., Ed Walsh) and guys who were clearly breaking the rules (Whitey Ford, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton). Leo Durocher's 1951 Giants made a science of illegal high-tech (for the 50s) sign-stealing. Do we really need to discuss corked bats here? Or, for that matter, segregation?

Ballplayers who cheat take risks; sometimes, that costs them, and costs their Hall of Fame cases as well. And Lord knows, many of the Hall's most honored members had lengthy moral or legal rap sheets of one sort or another on and/or off the field. The Hall isn't about retrospectively rewriting the competitive conditions of particular eras - it honors the best in the business at each point in time. And more than anything else, the Hall should not be about the moral agendas of sportswriters, who are hardly the most reliable judges on that score. McGwire put wins on the board, and in the time he played he didn't get caught. Unlike Shoeless Joe, he never tried to take wins off the board. Hang a scarlet "S" on the man, that's all fine with me. But the Hall will be poorer without him.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:18 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
January 8, 2007
BASEBALL: Signs of Spring

A Ken Griffey injury status report. If the groundhog sees three of those, spring comes early.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:19 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Fielding Dreams

I have to admit, this news would be more amusing if this had turned out to be true.

Still, you can never go wrong with more Reaganites.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Can't You Smell That Smell?

It's probably nothing of great concern, but a mysterious gas smell throughout Manhattan and across the river in Jersey is more than enough to kick in the September 11 panic response.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:16 AM | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Landing the Unit

My discussion the other day of the Yankees' deal of Randy Johnson overlooked the other side of the equation: what it means for the Diamondbacks, who have now shelled out $26 million for two years for Johnson's age 43 and 44 seasons.

Money-wise that may sound crazy, but again, recall that the Mets have committed $12 million to El Duque, Adam Eaton is drawing $8 million a year, Ted Lilly $10, Barry Zito $17, etc. For the D-Backs this deal is driven by two factors, one rational, one non-rational.

The rational factor is the relative weakness of the NL West. If Johnson puts together a solid season this year, Arizona could suddenly become the frontrunner. That's worth a gamble; Johnson at that price wouldn't make sense for, say, Baltimore or Pittsburgh.

The non-rational factor (not to call it irrational, as it's not) is the desire to cement in the public mind (including the folks in Cooperstown who put the hats on the plaques) the identification of Johnson (and perhaps his 300th win, if he has 20 more in him) with the Arizona organization. For a young organization, you can't underestimate that desire to have a stamp in the history books.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Time for Pitchers and Catchers

Well, the NFL season ended in a hurry in New York (not that this was any great surprise on either count), and with the Knicks done for the decade that leaves us non-hockey fans to await baseball season.

Not to take anything away from the Eagles' victory (although watching the game you had to question if either team really deserved to win), but this one felt, most of all, like the Giants just ran out of time as opposed to getting beat. At the end, though, they just didn't have the old Big Blue defensive stoppers.

It's a shame, of course, that the Giants weren't better positioned to capitalize on the seasons Tiki had the last two years; with his retirement it seems vanishingly unlikely they will be a playoff team next year. We'll see soon enough if Coughlin comes back (or if the Giants decide to get a coach who can keep his players from getting whistled every other down). Either way, next year has to be Manning's last in New York unless he steps up in a major way - if his name was Eli Jones he might well have to battle to keep his starting job after this one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Football | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
January 5, 2007
FOOTBALL: Centerpiece

Good Slate column appreciating the importance of centers. I'm just starting the Michael Lewis book mentioned here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:43 PM | Football | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Unit, Over and Out

Looks pretty likely now that Randy Johnson really will be shipped back to Arizona. Let's do a little Q&A:

What are the Yankees trying to do right now?

Win now. I was going to say, "as always," but with the age of Mariano, Posada, Giambi, and Mussina and knowing that the other key guys (A-Rod, Jeter, Abreu, Matsui, Damon, Pettitte) are also nearing the slow downward slope, the task will remain especially urgent. You simply can't and shouldn't rip this team up and rebuild, but you can decide to shave off a few older guys and try to reload.

Does this deal help them win now?

Johnson's peripheral numbers weren't horrible in 2006, but he clearly was often ineffective due to injuries, and his age makes him a poor long-term bet to stay healthy. But he's a smart pitcher who now has solid control, and the enormous leverage he generates means that if he's healthy he could easily be much more effective in 2006. Dealing him for one fairly effective middle reliever (32-year-old Luis Vizcaino) and prospects looks like a short-term setback. On the other hand, there's also a significant chance that Johnson is finished, and with Mussina, Pettitte, Wang, and Igawa, the Yankees aren't totally strapped for starters, though they once again face some real depth issues unless the Arm Fairy pays a visit to Carl Pavano.

The deal makes much, much more sense if they really are close to bringing back Roger Clemens, who remains as effective as any pitcher in baseball.

I don't buy the idea that these Yankees can't win with bad chemistry in the clubhouse, but of course, like Sheffield, Johnson is a royal pain in the butt and only likely to be moreso in his decline.

What would they get in return?

Vizcaino is a useful guy, though his career has been pretty inconsistent. In 2003, his HR/9 jumped from 0.67 to 2.32 in a year, pushing his ERA from 2.99 to 6.39. Last year, his K/9 shot up from 5.53 to 9.92 for no reason I'm aware of. Then again, unlike many of the current Yankees, he has a World Series ring.

The main prospect they would get is Ross Ohlendorf:

The 230-pound righty, described as "an absolute horse" by his college coach, ex-Yankee Scott Bradley, has a power sinker that should improve as he refines his breaking pitches. Ohlendorf pitched most of last year at Double-A and was a candidate to make the Diamondbacks out of spring training, but likely will start at Triple-A for the Yanks.

Between him and Wang, the Yankees could be heavily dependent on their infield defense before long - which makes more sense of the Minky signing, if Ohlendorf actually stands a chance of entering the rotation this year. Ohlendorf walked less than 1.5 men per 9 this year between AA and 1 start at AAA, though he threw 15 wild pitches, suggesting that the sinker may have more action than a AA catcher can handle. His K rates are solid but nothing special (7.36 for his minor league career) and he allows a lot of hits, so he's probably more of a Wang-type pitcher. Hard to project from just the numbers if he is actually a major prospect or just rotation filler.

Teammate Stephen Jackson had better numbers than Ohlendorf in 2006 but posted a 5.33 ERA in A ball the previous year (in which he struck out 89 guys and allowed 205 hits), and so is unlikely to be ready for the Big Show until he's built more of a track record. The Yanks get the Attorney General as well, but he seems like a backup shortstop at best.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Wrapping the Market

The last free agents are mostly falling in line now. The Hardball Times has a list of the stragglers; Geoff Young wonders why the Royals don't pursue Craig Wilson, which is a fair question. KC is in rebuilding mode, of course, but Wilson, a career .265/.480/.354 hitter just turning 30, may come cheap and could replicate some of what they got from Matt Stairs in recent years. Keith Foulke signs with Cleveland, a deal that will turn entirely on his health. Doug Mieienckxieacawiczkx signs with the Yankees - Minky is no great shakes, but his .283/.411/.359 line last year is pretty well in line with his career numbers, and with his glove, even if he reverts to his Mets form with the bat he would be a solid caddy for Giambi if Giambi can play first. More questionable is whether it makes sense to DH Giambi to get Minky in the lineup in lieu of Melky, although Giambi's knees (and glove) appear to make that necessary. There's also talk that Minky could platoon with the perenially tantalizing Josh Phelps, acquired in the Rule V draft last month; Phelps is only 28 but as far removed from his prime as Minky, having had his last good year in 2003. He's worth a flyer.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:08 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
January 4, 2007
BASEBALL: Joel the Closer

In 2000-01, the Mariners brought along two talented young pitchers: Joel Piniero and Gil Meche. Both have battled injuries and declining effectiveness ever since.

Meche signed with the Royals for 5 years and $55 million; now Piniero signs with the Red Sox for 1 year and $4 million.

The decision to make Piniero a closer is an eccentric one, since it formalizes the move of baseball's best closer in 2006, Jon Papelbon, into the rotation (on the theory that a solid starter is more valuable than an invulnerable closer) and (subject to Craig Hansen as insurance) stakes the Sox bullpen on a guy who hasn't been effective in years. And while Piniero's contract is puny compared to his longtime teammate, $4 million is a lot for a mediocre mopup man. If he doesn't stick as the closer, this move is a failure.

That said, it's not a terrible gamble, if you believe as I do that closers are less valuable than starters and easier to breed from a failed starter. But a gamble it is.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:51 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Continuing Story of Nukes Gone To The Dogs

In its own way, the Bush Energy Department's inability to fix the security problems at Los Alamos may help the political future of Bill Richardson, given the extent to which those failures in the first instance represent one of the major black marks on his record (his role in the creation of the UN Oil-For-Food fiasco is another story).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:14 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Five Things You Don't Know About Me

I'm deeply delinquent in getting to this one, but Matt Welch tagged me in the blog game of "5 Things You Don't Know About Me". Let's start by acknowledging that you won't be surprised that I could give you variations on Matt's #2 until you begged for mercy. And I cannot possibly top #4 on Drezner's list.

1. I'm seriously double-jointed, and in high school once got caught by a teacher demonstrating - in class - my ability to put my foot behind my head. While sitting in a desk. (Note: at 35, I can no longer do this). Fortunately, this was a sufficiently absurd spectacle that the teacher just chuckled and went back to writing notes on the board.

2. I've never ridden a bicycle. I tried once, briefly, on my honeymooon in Ireland, but didn't last. There's actually a very long list, in fact, of things I have not done, from breaking a bone to skiing to smoking a cigarette (I even lived across the street from a golf course for six years without ever playing golf), but that one sticks out.

3. People who went to college with me know this - we had a "lip synch" contest, and my senior year I did "Old Time Rock n' Roll," by myself, "Risky Business" style (since it was onstage, I could get away with white spandex shorts in lieu of just briefs). Somewhere, video exists of this. Amazingly, no alcohol was involved.

4. True fact: I have never met Bill Simmons. Bill and I have known each other for many years, from reading each other's columns on the college newspaper at Holy Cross (which is a very small place, after all) to having many mutual friends to Bill giving me my start writing on the Web on his old "Boston Sports Guy" site to joining each others' WhatifSports leagues to being in regular email contact for the past several years. But we've never actually sat down together. Funny world - I've met people ranging from Ted Williams, Tom Seaver and Warren Spahn to Barbara Bush, Clarence Thomas and Rudy Giuliani. But not Simmons.

5. Felix Millan singled home Leo Foster to beat Rick Rhoden and the Dodgers 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth on August 28, 1976. That was the first major league game I attended.

Who should I "tag"? Patterico, Geoff Young, Academic Elephant, Beldar, and Pejman.

UPDATE: John Salmon joins the fun.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:35 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Does Whatever A...

You are Spider-Man

Iron Man
Green Lantern
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:33 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Craig Whitney and Gerald Marzorati

If you are keeping track of names of journalists who act like slippery partisan activists, those should be added to the list, according to NY Times public editor Brian Calame's scathing expose of a NY Times Magazine piece on abortion in El Salvador. You have to read the whole thing, but it's all there: the running of a check-able falsehood, the use of a local stringer who was a paid activist with a stake in the controversy, the disinclination to let the readers know the truth once it was discovered.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:32 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: The People Rule

The Sixth Circuit says nothing in the Fourteenth Amendment requires racial preferences in university education.

It's still amazing to me that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative ran better with the voters than the GOP candidates did, even in a state where the Democrats control everything and have failed miserably in managing the state's economy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2006 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Total War?

An argument that American war-fighting doctrine has been on the wrong track since John F. Kennedy. I agree with the argument in theory; wars are about breaking the enemy's capacity and will to fight, nothing more and nothing less (though I was wrong, I thought in 1991 that it was an acceptable outcome to wreck Saddam's military, even though of course it would have been more satisfying to remove him from power; in retrospect it is clear that we can never again fight a war without removing the opposing regime). In practice, I'm not sure I agree that all of our military doctrines since 1961 have been quite as misguided as the author suggests, given the world political realities involved. But it's a provocative argument.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | War 2007-14 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Year in Review

You must read Dave Barry's year in review (via Instapundit). I could not believe it when he had jokes in there about the Winter Olympics - that was less than a year ago? It seems like another century. It's been a long year. A few classic lines:

This was the year in which the members of the United States Congress, who do not bother to read the actual bills they pass, spent weeks poring over instant messages sent by a pervert. This was the year in which the vice president of the United States shot a lawyer, which turned out to be totally legal in Texas.


[January] dawns with petty partisan bickering in Washington, D.C., a place where many people view petty partisan bickering as honest, productive work, like making furniture.


In Paris, thousands of demonstrators take to the streets and shut down the city to demonstrate the fact that, hey, it's Paris.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:17 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: A What?

If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, it warms my heart, in a small way, to see Justice Stevens declare that "I can see myself as a conservative, to tell you the truth, a judicial conservative." (H/t) Stevens is best described as a quirky maverick liberal who became, over time, a more doctrinaire liberal. Which is in some ways unsurprising - Justices naturally tend to change at least their tone based on the rest of the Court, and Stevens came to be the leader of the liberal wing, as Justice Blackmun was before him and after Justice Brennan retired, and just as Rehnquist was more measured as Chief Justice than as the lone dissenting conservative. A prediction: Justice Alito won't really come into his own as a distinctive voice on the Court until after Justice Scalia is gone.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:11 AM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
January 3, 2007
BLOG: Flipping the Calendar

As usual this time of year, I'm creating new categories for the new year. This is especially important for those of you who come here directly to the baseball category page, which should now be here. Update your bookmarks accordingly. Also note that posts about the 2008 presidential race will be in the Politics 2008 category.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:37 AM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball 2007 • | Blog 2006-14 • | Politics 2006 • | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 • | War 2006 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 2, 2007
BLOG: Still Dark

On deadline today; work has not let up over the past few weeks. I plan to be back to regular blogging tomorrow.

In the meantime, a thought for the past week - you could not buy a better contrast between American and Arab politics than the lives and deaths of Gerald Ford and Saddam Hussein. One man, decent and modest, fought for his country in his youth, rose to the highest office in the land largely on the basis of being sober and inoffensive, and lived three decades of peaceful retirement after being asked by his people to leave; though widely recognized as one of our lesser presidents, he has nonetheless been accorded the honors of a state funeral and fulsome praise from his countrymen. The other, cruel and megalomaniacal and with delusions of historic grandeur, brough ruin, repeated war, and invasion, had to be pulled cowering from a hole in the ground by foreign troops and was sent by his people forcibly to the gallows, mourned only by a disgruntled few, his death celebrated by the many.

Also: Congratulations to Jon Henke! Or, more properly, congratulations to the Senate Republicans on hiring Jon Henke.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:01 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)