Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
November 30, 2007
LAW: Swift Justice and the Immigration System

The speed of the deportation process at work - the name may not ring a bell for some of my younger readers:

CINCINNATI - A lawyer for a former autoworker accused of being a Nazi death camp guard on Thursday challenged the right of the nation's chief immigration judge to order his deportation.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the accused guard John Demjanjuk's challenge to a final removal, or deportation, order issued in 2005. The federal government has been trying to deport him for three decades.

The three-judge panel didn't say when it would rule, but it's usually several months after arguments before the court issues a decision.

The arguments revolved around whether an immigration judge had the authority to order the removal of Demjanjuk, 87.

Of course, this is why both advocates and opponents of aggressive use of the deportation system are fooling themselves and/or their listeners; whatever the merits of other options for controlling the border (employer enforcement, fencing, etc.), we simply don't and aren't likely to ever have procedures in place to handle large numbers of deportation proceedings with great dispatch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:08 AM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 28, 2007
BASEBALL: Hot Stove Roundup, Vol 2

*The Cubs re-signing Kerry Wood as a closer candidate makes all sorts of sense; Dempster was just terrible for much of 2007, and Wood clearly can't stay healthy unless handled very, very carefully; the steady, manageable workload of a closer may give him the chance to finally unleash his nasty stuff without hurting himself, while keeping super-effective Carlos Marmol in the setup role.

*Mark Prior for sale - well, now, that all depends on the price, doesn't it? The Cubs now have the pitching depth to prefer to cash in Prior and put the era of waiting on his and Wood's return to health behind them, and certainly Prior has upside. I'd think the best match would be someone like Tampa that can afford to wait on a guy who could still turn it around someday, though if I'm Prior I'd like to go to an organization with some track record for reviving injured pitchers (Cincinnati? St. Louis?).

*The Torii Hunter signing is fairly convincing evidence that Arte Moreno has turned into the late-70s Gene Autry or mid-90s Angelos, with more money than he knows what to do with. Sure, Hunter can probably marginally help the Angels in 2008; he's a good player, an excellent glove man with power. But 5 years and $90 million? Hunter is 32, he's never had a .340 OBP in his career, and his value is in his range as a CF; he's a terrible bet to hold his value in his mid-30s. Plus, they spent too much money last year on Gary Matthews for no other reason than his ability to play center field; I suppose you could deal Matthews and eat his contract (he's 33 and fell off the cliff in the last two months of the season after a solid enough first half, batting .180/.324/.269 from August 2 through the end of the year). I had thought the smart play for a team seeking a center fielder, especially a non-desperate team like the Angels, would be Mike Cameron, although after 2005 and 2007, Cameron will probably refuse to sign with any team that wants him to play alongside another center fielder.

The Hunter signing presumably sends Reggie Willits to fourth outfielder status, where if he plays his cards right he could have an Orlando Palmeiro-style career with his good OBP and speed; Willits' total lack of power doomed him as an everyday player, and from what I saw this season he's a terrible outfielder.

*It should surprise nobody familiar with the last decade and a half of Kansas City baseball to see the Royals pursuing Jose Guillen. At age 32, Guillen is essentially the same offensive player as Hunter, maybe a slightly better hitter for average, but without Hunter's good attitude, durability, consistency and glove. That's exactly the guy you want to pay millions to add to a young rebuilding team. Icing on the cake? "Guillen faces a possible suspension next season after being linked to the purchase of steroids and human growth hormone earlier this month in a story appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle."

*No, I can't see how anybody but the Yankees gets Johan Santana. The loss of Hunter probably means that Melky Cabrera would be a logical way to make a deal happen without the Yanks parting with both Hughes and Chamberlain. But that's a deal I'd make in a heartbeat if I'm the Yankees; there's no pitching prospect in history who had a better than 50/05 chance of becoming as good as Santana is now, and Santana's lefthanded, still reasonably young and healthy.

The Mets ... I just don't see what they offer that gets a deal done without Wright or Reyes, and they're not dealing one of those guys.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
November 26, 2007
BASEBALL: Hot Stove Roundup, Vol 1

*The Daily News has a long profile of Duaner Sanchez's comeback trail (from the pictures, Sanchez looks skinnier) and an interview with Randy Niemann about Sanchez's rehab, both of which are necessarily inconclusive about how much the Mets could count on Sanchez this season; he would be a big help.

*The Mets appear to be pondering cutting newly acquired Johnny Estrada, who is coming off elbow bone spur surgery and - like nearly every catcher the Mets have had lately - is coming off a terrible year throwing out baserunners. I'm not wedded to Estrada, but he's an adequate enough alternative that I'd be skeptical of making a deal for Ramon Hernandez unless it can be done cheaply; Hernandez would be an upgrade, but hardly a huge one, as he's 32, coming off a season in which he slugged .382, and has caught 110 games just once in the past four seasons.

*The Reds' signing of Francisco Cordero seems like the classic move that hurts the Brewers more than it helps the Reds; Cordero is a solid but hardly a great closer, despite a gangbusters start to 2007 (he had a 4.66 ERA from June 9 through the end of the season, although his 51/10 K/BB ratio and 4 HR in 38.2 IP in that stretch suggests that he wasn't really throwing that badly), and his absence probably leaves the Brew Crew to trust to the erratic Derrick Turnbow again, but the Reds are far from being in a position to really take advantage of an upgrade at closer, and you'd think they would focus their efforts on other positions. Then again, given the bandbox they play in, Cordero's career 0.64 HR/9, even after spending much of his career in Texas, may have been irresistable.

*I'm still convinced that Tom Glavine is going to completely hit the wall next season. If he gives the Braves 95% of what he gave the Mets this season, they'll be happy, since they are desperate for someone to come in and eat innings, and Glavine can always do that. But I'm fairly certain that his bag of tricks has run dry, and it was only his tremendous savvy and experience that let him paper over that for much of 2007.

*Cerrone quotes Dayn Perry on Bartolo Colon:

Colon has some near-term upside. He’s coming off injury and his conditioning habits leave much to be desired, but he's still got excellent stuff, and his performance down the stretch last season proved he’s still got something in the tank. He makes sense provided he's willing to sign a low-base, incentive-laden contract. If the market is such that he commands a multi-year deal, then consider him no longer worthy of this list.

I agree with that in the abstract - Colon was horrendous last season, but if you look at the numbers his 76/29 K/BB ratio in 99.1 IP indicates a guy who may not be entirely finished, though I don't trust him further than I could throw him (which is not far). But "down the stretch"? He threw just 13.2 innings after July 23, and his 3.95 ERA in three starts is way too little to draw any conclusions from. If anything, the season trend indicates a guy who came back solid but ran out of gas, as his ERA was in the threes into mid-May. Anyway, I agree with a number of the guys on Perry's list as being potentially low-profile signings who could help a team.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:28 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 25, 2007
BASEBALL: Stay Classy

The Onion nails this one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Billion-Dollar Marty

When I looked at the long list of tax hiking Democratic Governors back in the spring, I gave an incomplete grade to Maryland's new Democratic Governor, Martin O'Malley, not out of any illusions about whether he was anything but a standard-issue tax-and-spend liberal but simply because he hadn't done anything yet.

Well, no need to wait longer for the verdict. E.J. Dionne, predictably, hails O'Malley's billion-and-a-half dollar tax hike, passed earlier this week:

Facing a $1.7 billion budget deficit, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley -- who offered the above observations in an interview -- led the legislature this week to approve $1.4 billion in taxes and $550 million in spending cuts. It's been a long time since we've seen that kind of balance from the federal government.

At the same time, the legislature extended health coverage to 100,000 residents and approved new money for transportation, education and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. . . .

The final budget package contains its share of questionable concessions to this group or that. The middle class bears more of the burden of the tax increases than O'Malley had hoped. The income tax hike for those earning over $500,000 a year -- the rate goes from 4.75 percent to 5.5 percent -- is a modest step in the right direction.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:56 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 24, 2007
BASEBALL: Smorgasbord of Idiocy

Via Pinto, you really have to go read Phillies blog crashburnalley's email exchange with Bill Conlin (you may remember Conlin as the dumb, obnoxious, loudmouthed guy from ESPN's The Sportswriters Sports Reporters, which is saying a lot in that crowd). Honestly, I was surprised to learn that Conlin had email. This is a highlight:

The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler’s time on earth–I’m sure he would have eliminated all bloggers. In Colonial times, bloggers were called “Pamphleteers.” They hung on street corners handing them out to passersby. Now, they hang out on electronic street corners, hoping somebody mouses on to their pretentious sites. Different medium, same MO.

Leave aside the familiar forms of statistical illiteracy that gets Conlin to this point in the argument, let's consider an analogy in which Conlin:

1. Praises Hitler for the very thing that made him Hitler
2. Wishes for mass murder of bloggers


3. Somehow paints the pamphleteers who called for American independence as the bad guys.

It's a depthless hole.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:46 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
November 22, 2007
POP CULTURE: Hollywood's "Social Conscience" In A Nutshell

Julia Roberts designs Armani bracelet for World AIDS Day. Mother Theresa should have been so virtuous.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 AM | Politics 2007 • | Pop Culture | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: ...And A Tax Hike

As if he hasn't had enough stumbles, NY Governor Eliot Spitzer is now considering breaking outright his campaign promise not to raise taxes, which he previously bent rather severely with proposed business tax hikes and aggressive sales tax enforcement against Native Americans. He's apparently pondering an income tax hike:

Governor Spitzer is considering a proposal to raise income taxes on wealthier New Yorkers, according to a labor-backed political party that is pushing for the increase....

Support for a tax increase is coming from one of Mr. Spitzer's firmest backers, the Working Families Party, a grassroots operation financed by a coalition of labor unions and community groups....

Party leaders have not finalized details of the plan, but they are expected to call for raising the income tax rates of New Yorkers earning at least $200,000 to $500,000 a year.

This is on top of Spitzer's new plan to tax Internet sales and new MTA fare hikes. Because really, the first thing people think of in New York is that taxes are so low and the business climate is so friendly...

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 21, 2007
BASEBALL: Hole Plugged

The abortive Yorvit Torrealba experiment at least made me a lot happier to see the Mets deal Guillermo Mota for Johnny Estrada. Mota, of course, had to go, and I was surprised they didn't have to pay someone to take him - but then, he has a good arm and OK control, so there's always someone who thinks they can get a good year out of him.

As for Estrada, who's 32 and in the last year of his contract, the danger sign is his declining plate patience - 25 walks in two years, a .296 OBP last season - but he batted .278 and slugged .403 last year, and did better than that (albeit in Arizona) in 2006; if that's your #8 hitter, you could do worse. (As a switch hitter he might be available to platoon with Castro, but Estrada hits lefties just fine).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:00 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 20, 2007
POP CULTURE: Valuing the Writers

In light of the writers' strike, Jonathan Last asks why the writers don't get paid more simply by operation of the market:

Writers make a lot less money in comparison to directors and actors than they used to. And the less money you make on a project, the less control you can exert over the creative process.

And I think it's safe to argue that, in general, the more control writers have on a project, the better it generally turns out. (By better, I mean both commercially and artistically.)

The importance of writers in TV is, I think, self-evident. They trump everyone else (except the showrunner, but on good shows, the showrunner is normally a writer, too) in terms of their contributions to the success or failure of the finished product. . .

Actors are quarterbacks, directors are running backs, and writers are offensive linemen. That's about how they contribute to the product, and how they're paid. And just like it was a welcome change when left tackles finally started being compensated more closely to their value a few years back, I think we should be happy to see writers moved a tiny bit closer to their real value.

His whole post is worth reading...the analogy isn't perfect in terms of market structure: writers have more of a free market than NFL linemen had pre-free-agency, but as Last notes in the comments, the market they have is not the most effective one, given the stranglehold a handful of consumers (i.e., network heads) have on the decision to hire them.

As Last notes, writers bring a large marginal value to the table: it's far more common to see TV shows fail for bad writing than for bad acting, so improving the writing can dramatically improve the expected return on investment on a show (unless the show's concept is so bad as to be beyond salvage by any writer). That's partly a function of an inefficient market (i.e., inability to identify the best writers, as compared to a relatively efficient market for locating good actors), possibly partly a scarcity-of-quality issue, and partly that - unlike novelists or movie writers - TV writers are signed in advance of turning out multiple stories, so the network heads may not want to pay in advance without assurances that a given writer will produce consistently good work.

The problem with writers not getting their due in terms of their marginal value to the projects they work on is, I would guess, the combination of the first and third points: networks don't have - or don't feel they have - a really good system for telling the difference between good and bad writers, and lack confidence that today's good writer will continue to churn out quality tomorrow. At least, that's my speculation. Because if the networks really did believe they could measure the difference between good writers and bad ones there would be a very big marginal investment return to be made by expanding your writing budget to snag the best ones.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:01 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 18, 2007
BASEBALL: Multiple Second Choices

Matthew Cerrone, always the best source for compiling all the Mets trade/free agent rumors, notes word here and here that while the Mets were focused for some time on David Eckstein, and while Tadahito Iguchi - who I had thought might be a reasonable, inexpensive option - is asking for a 3-year deal, the team may now be on the verge of a 4-year contract for Luis Castillo.

Save us from such options. Iguchi is a solid enough bat, though he has benefitted from playing in hitters' parks, but he's 33 and coming off an off year; Eckstein's 33, has no power, hasn't played 130 games since 2005, and his value depends entirely on hitting singles and getting hit by pitches. And Castillo, who is still a useful player and was once a very fine one, is 32, has less power than Eckstein, and most of all has such bad knees that a 1-year contract is a risk, let alone 4.

I understand the need for stopgaps, but this is ridiculous. I really like Castillo, but there is no way you are going to get more than two good years out of him. At some point you might be better off taking the offensive hit to get a glove wizard like Anderson Hernandez out there. All in all, this offseason has been a frightening reminder of how slim the pickings are these days at C and SS.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:20 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Best news of the week: Mets have not signed Torrealba after all, and have broken off negotiations. Somebody - apparently his agent - obviously screwed up big time by leaking this as if it was a done deal.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:02 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
November 16, 2007
LAW/WAR: 9th Circuit: Responding to NY Times Waives State Secrets Privilege

When the New York Times disclosed a top-secret program of surveilance of international phone calls with suspected terrorists, the Bush Administration faced a critical choice: defend the program in public - including correcting misimpressions left by press reports - or try to preserve such secrecy as had not been shattered by the Times. Both choices had substantial downsides, but today the Ninth Circuit held (in a decision that is otherwise somewhat of a split decision* in a challenge brought to the program by "Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a designated terrorist organization, and two of its attorneys") that the Bush Administration waived its legal defense that a full judicial review of the program would involve disclosure of state secrets because the Administration responded to the Times in a way that confirmed the program's existence and some facts about it:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:39 PM | Law 2006-08 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: If It's Possible, All Three of Them Will Lose

Mark Cuban challenges Bill O'Reilly to debate him with Keith Olbermann as the moderator. Via Hot Air.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:38 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Barack Files: The Truth Isn't Out There

Apparently you can fit Obama's experience on no pieces of paper.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:37 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/BASEBALL: What Could Eliot Spitzer Do To Be *Really* Unpopular?

Pushing driver's licenses for illegal aliens, gay marriage, extremist legislation on abortion and having his top aides investigated for perjury is one thing; but going after Derek Jeter over back taxes...that would definitely be too far.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:34 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Law 2006-08 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: "A bout of gas or indigestion does not justify a race to the courthouse."

Hoo boy. The DC Circuit this morning rejected a class action - filed by an M.D. - by people who drank milk before discovering they were lactose intolerant, demanding warning labels on milk:

Tort law does not provide protection from the obvious or "widely known" risks of consuming a particular food. The risk that some people will get gas after consuming certain foods, such as milk, is widely known. A bout of gas or indigestion does not justify a race to the courthouse. Indeed, were the rule otherwise, a variety of food manufacturers as well as stadiums, bars, restaurants, convenience stores, and hot dog stands throughout the country would be liable to millions of would-be plaintiffs every day.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Take This Evolving National Consensus And Shove It

SCOTUSBlog notes that the State of Louisiana - in opposing a certiorari petition - is pointing to a trend of adding child rape to the list of capital crimes as a basis for finding that it's not cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to execute a man who raped his 8-year-old stepdaughter:

The state said that the Court, if it agrees to hear the case, should focus not only on how many states treat rape of a child as a capital crime, but also on a trend toward applying the death sentence to more crimes where the victim is not killed. Five states, like Louisiana, now have capital punishment for child rape, all enacted since 1997 with the most recent, in Texas, in 2007.

Moving beyond that specific crime, the state’s brief said, 15 out of the 38 states and the federal government – 41 percent of the jurisdictions, it notes — "authorize some form of non-homicide capital punishment." That includes treason, espionage, aircraft piracy, aggravated kidnapping, and some drug trafficking crimes.

"The trend toward capitalization of non-homicide crimes, child rape in particular, is significant," the state asserted. "Six states have now enacted the death penalty for child rape after this Court [in Coker v. Georgia, 1977] held that the death penalty for rape of an adult woman was unconstitutional."

This argument puts the Court's liberals and swing vote Justice Kennedy to the test to see if they actually mean what they say.

If you recall, the Court in cases such as Atkins v Virginia, involving the execution of the mentally retarded, and Roper v. Simmons, involving the execution of defendants who were under 18 at the time of the crime, has pointed to some variant of an "evolving national consensus" drawn from a trend in state statutes dealing with the death penalty as a basis for finding that the meaning of the Eighth Amendment has been changed sufficiently to extend the constitutional rule to force the dissenting states into line. In Roper, that "evolving consensus" consisted of four state legislatures and one state court changing positions between 1989 and 2005. As I have argued previously, because Article V of the Constitution provides a specific mechanism for the meaning of the document to be altered by action of three-fourths of the states voting in a specified way on a specific written amendment proposed either by two-thirds of the states or two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, this line of reasoning is hopelessly irreconcilable with the text of the Constitution.

But for now, we are stuck with the doctrine; the issue is its application. Is it possible for the "national consensus" to "evolve" in a direction that Justices who oppose the death penalty* don't like or agree with? Or is this, like so many liberal Constitutional doctrines, a one-way ticket?

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:29 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 15, 2007
BASEBALL: Yorvit Who?

So, the Mets have apparently located $14.4 million they don't need and given it in a 3-year deal to Yorvit Torrealba, who backed into the Rockies' starting catching job this season when rookie Chris Iannetta wasn't ready to hit major league pitching; Torrealba thus cleared 225 at bats for the first time in his career. ESPN notes:

The Mets . . . are signing Torrealba mainly for his defense. Rockies pitchers gave Torrealba a lot of credit for how he called a game, though he did not have a high success rate when trying to throw runners out.

Torrealba only caught 13-of-74 base-stealers, while the man he replaces, Lo Duca, nailed 17-of-89.

So, he's here to call games for Pedro Martinez? You'd think when you sign a defense-first, catch-and-throw catcher, you'd at least get a guy who can throw. The money here is bizarre; good catchers are scarce, but it's not like Torrealba's skill set is at all hard to find cheap. Certainly he's a lesser player than Ramon Castro, who will be signed far more cheaply to back him up (granted, Castro's not physically up to playing every day). I suppose I could understand skimping on the catching position - deciding that it's not worth spending a fortune on guys who are not really stars, like Michael Barrett - but if that's your goal, why plunk down $14 million? Why not just beat the bushes for some other guys who can hit .240 for peanuts?

Torrealba will be 29 in 2008, and is a career .251/.391/.313 hitter, .242/.377/.299 away from Coors Field; there's no reason to think he is due to make a big step forward as a hitter, and those numbers are poor even for a #8 hitter. Despite batting less than 400 times in 2007, he managed to finish in the top 10 in the league in GIDP. There is no possible explanation for this deal.

UPDATE: Cerrone talks to a Denver writer who calls Torrealba a "clutch hitter." In 2007, Torrealba batted .201/.254/.270 with men in scoring position and .205/.298/.277 with two outs. His career batting line in the postseason is .238/.357/.298.

BOTTOM LINE: I would score this signing as being similar to the contract the Phillies gave Adam Eaton. Honestly, if they were going to sign a guy who can't throw, they may as well have brought back Piazza.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:46 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Bonds Indicted

Breaking: Records in hand, Barry Bonds has just been indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice:

Baseball superstar Barry Bonds was charged Thursday with perjury and obstruction of justice, the culmination of a four-year federal probe into whether he lied under oath to a grand jury investigating steroid use by elite athletes. I don't really know enough yet to say more.

UPDATE: The short answer here is, perjury and obstruction are serious crimes; at the same time, they - and their close cousin, lying to federal investigators - can sometimes be all too easily resorted to by overzealous prosecutors. The key issues in these cases, at least as far as the debate over whether charges should have been brought, comes down to the degree to which the defendant (1) blatantly misrepresented some fact and can't reasonably be said to have just forgotten, misunderstood the question, or shaded the truth, and (2) placed, at least for some period of time, a genuine roadblock in the way of a legitimate investigation or lawsuit (i.e., the difference between hiding a fact and merely offering a strained characterization of known facts).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:35 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Norma Rae Rod

Although I thought it was just more hilarious Boras-driven smoke-blowing at the time, in retrospect we should have recognized Friday's report that the union was claiming to be concerned about collusion in the event that A-Rod did not get his $350 million contract as a signal that things were not going as planned. So the news that A-Rod has apparently all but finalized a deal to return to the Yankees after all, and done so without Scott Boras after Boras hopelessly alienated the Yankees (and probably at a mutual savings by cutting out Boras' fee - what, Boras is gonna sue?) is an occasion for some schadenfreude all around, even if it does make the Yankees that much stronger again: the Yanks and A-Rod are now stuck in an unhappy marriage neither can afford to leave, and Boras is publicly humiliated, out a whole boatload of commission, has had his bridges burned by his best-known client, and best of all fails miserably at the one thing that people have been forced to respect him for, i.e., his ability to judge the market.

Of course, this saga has had its twists and turns before, so stay tuned to see if the early reports on this all pan out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
November 14, 2007
BLOG: The Static Channel

Apologies for the general lack of content and specific lack of baseball content - it's been crazy in a couple of ways, and I admit that the baseball stuff has been crowded out a bit from all the work that has gone into the Romney series, of which two installments remain. Hopefully I can return soon to the hot stove league and postseason awards beat.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 10, 2007
BASEBALL: Off The Lidge

I wasquite unhappy to see the Phillies swing a deal to get Brad Lidge (with a couple of other useful players changing sides in the deal), who I had sort of been hoping the Mets might pursue. Lidge wore out his welcome for good reasons in Houston, and even after winning back the closer job he pitched badly down the stretch, with ERAs above 5.00 each of the last two months. So the Phillies get a quality arm, but one who may or may not be a reliable closer; it still improves their pen. But a team with an established closer could probably have put Lidge in the setup role where he has seemed more comfortable since 2005's fiasco.

The other major deal so far is a depressing one all around - for the Braves, who dealt a quality player in Edgar Renteria to replace him with a cheaper youngster, and for the Tigers, who made final the admission that Carlos Guillen has gone from a top-hitting shortstop to a first baseman whose bat will be unremarkable for the position.

Since the Tigers were dealing from need, the deal has little upside for them, and instead fixes a hole, upgrading offensively - though not dramatically, in the long term - from Sean Casey to Renteria. The Braves could well end up with a great deal if 25 year old shortstop Yunel Escobar and the two prospects they got for Renteria - Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens - pan out (from what I gather, Moff Jurrjens is the better prospect of the two). Or, they could just like players with unusual names.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:02 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
November 9, 2007
POLITICS: We Were Just Kidding About That Democracy Business

Apparently Gov. Corzine intends to go forward with his stem cell plan even after the voters rejected it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:00 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Trouble With Mitt Romney (Part 3 of 5)

The third of a five-part series on why Republicans who are serious about winning the White House in 2008 are wasting our time on Mitt Romney. For background, check out Part 1, Part 2, my explanation of why I'm with Rudy, and my take on Mike Huckabee.

III. What, Precisely, Does This Man Stand For?


In Part III, we take on the issue that has dogged Mitt Romney throughout his campaign for the presidency: the charge that he is a flip-flopper. The fact that he has that reputation is itself damaging, as John Kerry could tell you; it's not as if the Democrats will not know how to make maximum use of it if Romney wins the nomination (I'd advise him to avoid windsurfing in the interim just to be safe). What I'd like to explain here is precisely why it is that the flip-flop label sticks so easily to Romney when it doesn't seem to attach to other politicians who have changed their positions now and again.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
November 7, 2007
POP CULTURE: The Sad Thing Is...

I was, at one time or another, a regular viewer of something like half the shows on this list.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:26 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: NJ Voters Reject Corzine's Half-Billion Dollar Stem Cell Boondoggle

Democrats nationwide have been operating on the assumption that taxpayer funding for stem cell research is endlessly popular with the voters (for all the talk of "banning" research on embryonic stem cells, remember that nobody has advanced a serious proposal to make such research illegal; the issue is whether to spend taxpayer money on it despite the substantial moral/ethical objections of a significant number of taxpayers).

Yesterday in New Jersey, that theory was put to the test, and appears to have gone down in defeat before what is usually accounted as a liberal Northeastern electorate:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:09 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
November 4, 2007
BASEBALL: Posada Crossing Town?

The papers have been full of the rumor that the Mets may pursue Jorge Posada:

Industry sources are becoming increasingly baffled at the sluggish pace the Yankees have taken with the five-time All-Star catcher. Even though Posada has filed for free agency, the Bombers are in an exclusive 15-day negotiating rights period with the catcher but apparently have not presented an offer since the end of the season.

It appears inevitable that Posada will not sign a deal with the Yankees before Nov. 13, the date that other teams can get involved in the bidding, so the Bombers run the risk of another club blowing the catcher away with a huge offer.

The Yankees are believed to have internally discussed an offer of three years and $40 million, but one source believes it will take more than that to bring Posada back to the Bronx, most definitely if he gets out into the open market.

Mets sources say GM Omar Minaya has identified Posada at the top of the team's list of free agent targets. Like he did with Pedro Martinez before the 2005 season, Minaya might be willing to go above and beyond to secure the rights of a possible Hall of Famer.

If the Mets offer Posada four years - or possibly five - it would leave the Yankees in a difficult spot, as they would be committing more years than they wish to a catcher who will turn 37 next summer.

Bidding against the Yankees always involves a high probability of failure, especially when you are talking about them re-signing a veteran who's been in their organization his whole career. Cerrone notes that some reports are, wisely, suggesting that Posada may just be getting the Mets' name in the mix to improve his leverage.

That said, what's the downside? There are few big-money free agents that the Mets would otherwise pursue - I don't really see them getting A-Rod - and there's no question that, given their current roster, Posada would help the Mets more than anyone else on the market, especially since there are really no other quality catchers out there - the Tigers picked up Pudge's option, Lo Duca and Kendall are basically just singles hitters, and Damian Miller is 38 (other than Posada, Michael Barrett, at 31 coming off a single bad year, may be the #2 guy on the market, and perhaps I should not be so quick to write him off). So, it's worth a try.

Would he be worth a 4-5-year deal in the $50-70 million range? Well, after some of last season's contracts, it's hard to know where the market is, and you can't evaluate dollars in a vacuum. Posada's not young - he's the same age as Lo Duca and only three years younger than Piazza. He's a year younger than Javy Lopez and a year older than Mike Lieberthal, and both of those guys are finished. When I looked at comps for Piazza two years ago, I did not find the most encouraging signs even for the most elite catchers in their late 30s. Posada was not worked that hard in his youth, catching 110 games in a big league season for the first time at age 28, but he's now caught 1360 games (not counting the minors and the postseason - he's probably caught in nearly all 96 of his postseason games), and that takes its toll. He's also not the greatest defensive catcher, although his arm is stronger than Lo Duca's (faint praise, I know).

As with any free agent, it comes down to what the Mets are willing to lay out financially. The Mets have no significant catching prospects on the way, and short of waiting and hoping for Joe Mauer to go on the market, they aren't likely to get an elite catcher any time soon. I'd make a run at him.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:33 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
November 3, 2007
POP CULTURE: I Did Not Know That

Sean Connery's golfing buddies: Craig T. Nelson and Joe Pesci.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:15 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: The Big Spread

Seriously, did you ever expect to see a team that was (1) the defending Super Bowl champs, (2) undefeated 7 weeks into the season, (3) playing at home, (4) against a team they beat in the playoffs the previous year, (5) who just lost their leading rusher for the season...and be a 5-6 point underdog?

I'm not saying the oddsmakers are crazy, given how the Patriots have played this season, but it remains an astonishing set of circumstances. As for the "Game of the Century", don't we expect these same two teams to likely meet again in the playoffs?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 PM | Football | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 2, 2007
POLITICS: Edwards on Hillary

Devastating anti-Hillary ad put out by John Edwards:

Via Stop Her Now.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 1, 2007
BLOG: More Quick Links

*California wildfires lead to a shoulder injury that could cost Joel Zumaya half of next season.

*Tom Maguire on Paul Krugman willfully ignoring evidence of how the Iranian regime's assistance to Al Qaeda did, in fact, contribute to the September 11 attacks. Krugman just can't help himself.

*A note about something missing from the California disaster: looting.

*Matt Yglesias looks at evidence that independent voters are more aggreived about illegal immigration than anything else, a finding that surprises me. Via OTB. It's pretty clear that the government needs to rebuild confidence in border security before the political environment will again permit serious consideration of a path to legalization.

*Don't put your suicide note on YouTube unless you really mean it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hillary's Pander-Monium on Illegal Alien Driver's Licenses


So after straddling, wavering and then waffling and contradicting herself in a nationally televised debate on Eliot Spitzer's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens, and then blaming Tim Russert for daring to ask her the question (another example here of her playing the gender card to deligitimize criticism), Hillary Clinton has finally decided that pandering to left-wing extremists is the safer course, albeit kicking and screaming about having to be even this specific:

"Senator Clinton supports governors like Governor Spitzer who believe they need such a measure to deal with the crisis caused by this administration's failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform,'" her campaign said.

Mrs. Clinton's aides said her statement was intended to signal that she broadly supported Mr. Spitzer's goal of awarding driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Mr. Spitzer initially proposed a blanket program of awarding full-fledged driver's licenses to illegal immigrants; in the face of sharp opposition from the Legislature, he backed off and presented a two-tier program system of awarding licenses to illegal immigrants.

Mrs. Clinton's advisers said that she had not studied either plan, and was not specifically endorsing either of them.

Still, the wording of the statement was murkier than what many of her opponents have said in either supporting or opposing Mr. Spitzer's initiatives. Among those opposing it were Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut; Senator Barack Obama of Illinois supported it.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:52 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Stone Cold Politics

Matt Labash's Weekly Standard profile of GOP political operative Roger Stone is one of the funniest, most fascinating things you are likely to read about a practitioner of politics at its most bare-knuckeled (the man has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back). I'd be here all day if I started to excerpt it, so I'll just say: read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:51 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: You Say "Macaca," I Say "Jimmy The Greek," Let's Call The Whole Thing Off


Joe Biden's arch-nemesis - his own mouth - has struck again, according to a one-day story on Page A7 of the Washington Post:

Biden also stumbled through a discourse on race and education, leaving the impression that he believes one reason that so many District of Columbia schools fail is the city's high minority population. His campaign quickly issued a statement saying he meant to indicate that the disadvantages were based on economic status, not race.

After a lengthy critique of Bush administration education policies, Biden attempted to explain why some schools perform better than others -- in Iowa, for instance, compared with the District. "There's less than 1 percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than 4 or 5 percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with," Biden said. He went on to discuss the importance of parental involvement in reading to children and how "half this education gap exists before the kid steps foot in the classroom."

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:47 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: A-Rod On The Block

Thoughts and observations on what is certain to be the #1 headline story of the offseason:

A. Yeah, announcing his free agency in the middle of Game Four was a totally classless move, and seemed uniquely designed to peeve the Red Sox, who would be one of the likely bidders...but it may be that Boras had a significant conversation that day with another owner and felt the need to make the announcement to avoid any suggestion of tampering.

B. Nobody can be happier about how this worked out than Texas, which gets off the hook for $21.3 million at a stroke. A-Rod should get a standing O next time he comes to town.

C. For the most part, A-Rod should and will be remembered in NY roughly the way Clemens is in Toronto - he came, he played well, he took the money and ran - but of course his postseason failures will overshadow the two MVP seasons.

D. Where does he go from here? An awful lot actually depends on whether A-Rod is regarded as a credible shortstop. He was a good defender at short and keeps himself in good shape, and in the post-Ripken era, big men are no longer discounted at the position...still, at 32 years old, after 4 years away from the position, I don't know how many teams are willing to gamble $25-30 million a year on him being able to play short again. Let's review the main options, understanding that there's only so much credibility we can give to public reports that various teams are or are not interested, given especially that (i) Boras likes to use the media to drum up a belief that 45 big-market teams are pursuing his player and (ii) the teams, presumably growing wise to this tactic, have every reason to publicly downplay their interest. This list is not really in order:

1. The Angels do look like the main suitors - they're a contender, A-Rod could stay in his comfort zone in the AL, their third baseman (Chone Figgins) can easily move to any number of other positions, and ownership has shown a willingness to lay out big bucks.

2. The Cubs are a large-market contender that could use the buzz, but (1) their ownership situation remains unsettled (that didn't stop them last winter from signing Soriano, but A-Rod will want a lot more money than Soriano), and (2) with Aramis Ramirez signed comparatively cheaply, they would only interested in playing him at SS.

3. The Red Sox, if they re-sign Lowell, will similarly be more interested in supplanting Lugo. They have the money and the audacity, and with Manny entering the last year of his deal, they could do it, but they have been publicly coy.

4. The Yankees. I actually don't see this happening - A-Rod just stiffed them publicly and took their $21 million subsidy from Texas off the table. Particularly if the point of hiring Girardi is to take a harder line in the clubhouse, it would be a bad precedent for the team to go back on the public pledge that the deal was take it or leave it. Also, Yankee fans will pretty much universally blame Rodriguez, not the team, for letting him walk. That said, they don't have a Plan B at third base (Wilson Betemit would have the job if the season opened tomorrow).

5. The Giants have a gaping hole at pretty much every position, and they certainly won't let A-Rod's unpopularity and postseason failures deter them. But after the Barry Zito debacle, they may not be eager to take Boras' calls again.

6. The Dodgers would actually make a huge amount of sense giving their crying need for a power bat (they were next to last in the league in HR), but I don't know about their willingness to spend money. Certainly they have the resources if they decide to get in the game.

7. The Mets. Minaya has the budget and the daring, but with Reyes and Wright in place on the left side of the infield, A-Rod simply isn't worth as much to the Mets as to almost any other team - one of the three would need to be relocated to 1B, 2B (where Reyes was already a failure) or LF (where they just re-upped Alou).

8. The Phillies have no credible 3B and could probably swing the money, plus an A-Rod signing would give them the best infield in the game's history. But the Phils are another big-market team that hasn't gone big in the free agent market. They probably need to be chasing a closer so they can get Brett Myers back in the rotation, but the list of options isn't extensive, with Joe Nathan re-upped by the Twins and Rivera unlikely to leave NY (that leaves Isringhausen, Francisco Cordero and some risky or low-quality closer candidates like Wickman, Todd Jones, Jorge Julio or Kerry Wood).

9. The Orioles are a stop of last resort for free agents with no real rationale for going anywhere else, and they could use an upgrade from Melvin Mora.

10. The Rockies, like the Mariners, are something of a stealth big-market team - their payroll has gone as high as $71 million in the past, and coming off the high of 2007, a big splash with a new marquee star could help give them ongoing credibility. Many of their players are still young and signed cheaply, so they could afford it. But Garret Atkins is 28 and a solid player at third - also signed cheaply - and they may be focused instead on planning ahead at first base, although Todd Helton sounds like a man who is no longer contemplating retirement.

11. Finally, what about the Nationals? They've got the new ballpark, no real payroll and the need to make a splash and prove they won't be Expos Part Deux. But they, too, would need to play him at short, given that their best young player is a third baseman (Zimmerman had some defensive struggles this season but he's still very young and a highly talented defensive player).

On the whole, I'll be surprised if A-Rod ends up with a significant upgrade compared to what the richest team in baseball could offer him with the added advantage of a $21.3 million subsidy - but there are enough possible bidders out there that he will probably end up with at least a few more years at a salary similar to what he was getting.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:40 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Heroes Under Fire

If you read just one story this week about Iraq, make sure that it's Jeff Emanuel's story of incredible perseverance under fire by four U.S. Army snipers surrounded and badly outnumbered on a rooftop in Samarra in August 2007. Really, print it out and read it at leisure, but make sure you read it.

You might also go by Jeff's site and toss some cash his way to support the kind of front-line reporting that made this possible.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:34 AM | War 2007-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links

*As the comments to this post noted, the Bush Administration is obviously producing good economic news to distract the media from the progress being made in Iraq.

*I find your lack of conservatism disturbing.

*I'm no Obama fan but this T-Shirt sold to benefit his campaign is pretty clever.

*Definitely not safe for work.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)