Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
November 25, 2008
POLITICS: New York Senate Shuffle

So, assuming Hillary Clinton is, in fact, leaving the Senate to become Secretary of State (and assuming, see here, here and here, that she can Constitutionally take the job), that sets off the next round of political merry-go-round for New York: who will be appointed by Governor David Paterson to replace her?

Recall the setting. Hillary was re-elected in 2006, defeating Yonkers Mayor John Spencer; her term would be up in 2012, but Gov. Paterson gets to nominate a replacement, who would then face the voters in a special election in 2010. Gov. Paterson was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2006 and took over as Governor earlier this year after Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer is up for re-election in 2010, meaning that all three major statewide offices will be on the ballot in 2010, two of the three filled with incumbents who would be facing the voters for the first time, an unusually fluid situation.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:49 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
November 24, 2008
BLOG: Banning Chemical Weapons in School

Now this is serious.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Bizarro World

Who ever thought we'd live to see newspapers describe anyone as reaching out to Republicans by appointing...Hillary Clinton?

Meanwhile, expect some interesting questions for Eric Holder.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Troubles For Hugo

Hugo Chavez: not that popular. Of course, Venezuela's entire economy rests on the price of oil, and like other oil producers, he's going to be a lot shorter of money in the near future. Chavez, of course, has used the combination of oil money with brutality and chicanery towards the opposition and electoral processes to stay atop Venezuela. With the money that supplies the carrot less plentiful, expect more of the stick.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/WAR: Searching For Terror

Attorney General Mukasey's fainting spell at his Federalist Society speech (and his heckling by a member of Washington's state Supreme Court) have obscured an excellent speech on the Bush Administration's approach to terrorism and the rule of law. It's worth pondering in light of recent judicial developments, including from the Second Circuit (the federal appeals court sitting in Manhattan with jurisdiction over New York, Connecticut and Vermont) this morning.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:45 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Old Deal

Patrick Ruffini notes the disjoint between Democrats' claims to represent youth and new thinking and the hoary old 1970s/1930s ideas they are trotting out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:18 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Wages of War

Eric Posner looks at the humanitarian benefits and costs of the Iraq War.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:15 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: This Week In Weed

Apparently, marijuana-selling cafes near schools are too much even for the Dutch, and indeed there is broader concern that the cafes are, predictably, bad news:

The Dutch coffee shop policy has come under fresh criticism after the Dutch cities of Bergen op Zoom and Roosendaal, located near the Belgian border, said they will close all their shops within two years to combat drug tourism and crime.

Is this the last hurrah for the land of the Hemp Festival? Perhaps not, as apparently the inevitable result of the continuation of the legal-pot policy is on the way: the government becoming the nation's monopoly dope dealer:

HOLLAND is pioneering cannabis plantations to supply the drug to coffee shops in a bid to cut out criminal gangs.

Dozens of Dutch mayors voted for the scheme at a "weed summit" to discuss how to enforce their relaxed drug laws.

Cannabis can be legally sold at licensed shops and people can carry up to five grams without prosecution. But cultivation and dealing is outlawed, which has created an illicit two billion Euro ...annual trade. The plantations would supply cannabis legally.

Marijuana policy is a slippery thing to get hold of; there's a libertarian case to be made for letting people waste their lives getting high on a drug whose ill effects are more similar to those of booze and cigarettes than to those of crack or meth or heroin, and of course there's the fact that enforcement against such a widely-used and easily-grown substance tends by nature to be arbitrary, invasive, cost-ineffective and shot through with hypocrisy. But legalization, as the Dutch have had time to experience, nonetheless presents its own perils. Personally, I tend to think the issue ought to be left to the most local governments possible, and the Dutch experiment reminds us that a local-control regime can lead even the most libertine communities gradually to wake up and smell the potheads.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:39 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
November 22, 2008
BASEBALL: Billingsley Broken

Chad Billingsley has a fractured fibula from a fall on ice. Hopefully, the prognosis of being ready to go by the spring is on target. The Dodgers have a bunch of talented young pitchers, but as the one who has proven the most so far, Billingsley's probably the single player - even beyond Russell Martin - most important to the franchise's future, as a 23-year-old coming off his first 200 IP/200 K season.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:29 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Church and School

Sally Quinn of the Washington Post has a recommendation for the Obamas to choose the National Cathedral as their place of worship that is practically a parody of liberal attitudes towards religion:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:29 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
November 21, 2008
WAR: Anti-U.S. Protest In Iraq

Peaceful protest. Which says it all, really, about how Iraq has changed since the days of Saddam; the fact that this is Sadr's people doing what people in democracies do also tells us how far we've come in the last 2-3 years.

Next you know, they'll be taking the subway. Or sending aid to California. Or this:

More here and here (at pp. 4-6). Unfortunately, instead of giving America credit for what our troops (and our allies) have sacrificed to make this all possible, we will now hear four years of this:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:59 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Media Shocked To Discover How Farming Works

In a perfect emblem of (1) how insular the media really is and (2) the national spotlight that will continue to focus on the Governor of Alaska wherever she goes, Sarah Palin did one of those typical silly ceremonies politicians across the country get asked to take part in, and went and pardoned a turkey in advance of Thanksgiving. But while the President has a turkey brought to him, Gov. Palin went to the turkey, handing down the pardon from a barnyard in Wasilla, then giving a news conference to reporters.

Why did this end up in the national news, including a sneering report on MSNBC? Well, the turkey farm went on with its usual business this time of year of slaughtering turkeys for Thanksgiving tables, and cameras caught a farm employee doing just that in the background while Gov. Palin talked to reporters:

The NY Daily News pronounced this a "shocking video" (you can catch the longer video of the whole pardon ceremony from the NY Post, although the Post's video - via the Anchorage Daily News - has to keep panning away from Gov. Palin to follow the guy slaughtering turkeys).

Folks, this is how farming works: you raise animals, then you kill them and eat them. Here in New York City, we don't get much exposure to the business end of that process, but people across the country who have farmed or hunted know that it's part of life, and has been as long as human beings have been eating animals. It's not a bad thing to have some people in public life who aren't shocked by where our food comes from.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
November 20, 2008
POLITICS: Freezer Burn

Quin Hillyer tells the inspirational story of Joseph Cao, a Vietnamese immigrant who rose up from his youth in re-education camps after the fall of Saigon and lived to survive the decimation of his community in Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of his house in Hurricane Gustav, and is now the Republican challenger to William Jefferson. Cao has an uphill battle; we'll see if the voters in that District are willing to give honest government a chance or if they'll stick with the old loyalty to Jefferson.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:34 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Start Me Or Trade Me

Aaron Heilman wants to start in Queens or start somewhere else. Heilman's failure last season at least takes away the "he's too valuable in the pen" card - I personally think that (1) he needs a change of scenery so badly the Mets probably have to sell low and get rid of him and (2) the logical destination is St. Louis. Heilman's 30 years old, reasonably healthy, has a history of some success but has lacked consistency and has lately been failing - that is, to a T, the profile of the kind of pitcher LaRussa and Duncan have made their careers with, from Dave Stewart to Eckersley to Chris Carpenter to Lamarr Hoyt to Isringhausen to Storm Davis to Looper to Lohse to Todd Stottlemyre, etc.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:54 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Needs hip surgery, could be out as long as until June. Given his tail-off this season, that could be very worrisome. Much as I loathe the Phillies, Utley is one of the game's real stars, and this has all the hallmarks of a "he was never the same again" injury. I hope I'm overreacting.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:46 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Moose It Or Lose It

While he was still issuing non-denial denials last night, it certainly looks all but official that Mike Mussina is retiring. It's a shame for the game, and a decision Mussina may regret later on. Mussina can afford to retire, of course - according to, he's made $144 million in his career - but even if he hung on 2 or 3 more years, he'd still be 42 or 43 years old and never have to work again, with maybe 40+ years of retirement ahead of him. But you only get a limited number of years to play Major League caliber baseball.

Sure, Mussina's very unlikely to have another year like 2008. After a a 4.59 ERA in 2004, a 4.41 ERA in 2005, a 5.15 ERA in 2007 and a 5.75 ERA in his first four starts in 2008, Mussina, who turns 40 in December, can be forgiven for thinking that the pendulum will swing back down sooner rather than later, and deciding to go out on top. But still: the man has won 270 games and is coming off a 20-win season when he struck out 150 batters and walked 31. Mussina almost certainly deserves to go to Cooperstown, as discussed below, but from here on in, even another 5 or 10 or 15 wins is going to make his case that much easier, and it's hardly improbable for him to get to 300 wins; given the exclusivity of that club, it's hard to imagine a competitive professional athlete never looking back and wondering if he could have done that. Plus, of course, Mussina's on the Yankees; if he drops back to a 5.00 ERA next year, he'll still win games. And who wants to retire having pitched 8 seasons with the Yankees and never won a championship?

Buster Olney argues that it's about the age of his kids:

Mussina's logic in retiring now is that he really felt like that if he was going to continue playing, it was going to be because he would pursue 300 victories -- and with 270 wins, he felt that realistically, he probably would have to pitch three seasons to get those last 30 victories. And he did not want to pitch three more seasons, not at a time when his youngest children are beginning to play youth sports and he can coach them.

Well, OK...I get that if his family's in Pennsylvania he doesn't get the same kind of time at home as if they were in New York, and he'd still be 3-4 hours from home even if he signed with the Phillies. But this is a guy who is off for three full months of the offseason, the kids can come to NY for the's still not a bad life.

Anyway, assuming Mussina calls it quits, will he make the Hall? I'd assume he will - especially now that the "he never won 20" knock is gone, and probably the writers, ever suckers for a human interest angle, will give him a break on falling short of 300 because he could have if he'd wanted to.

And he should. Let's look at the career records of pitchers since 1893 with between 250 and 300 wins, ranked by ERA+ (park-adjusted league ERA divided by career ERA; 100 is a league-average pitcher, higher is better; G+ is games over .500). I've left off here 5 such pitchers who pitched mostly or entirely before the mound moved back in 1893 (Al Spalding, Bobby Mathews, Tony Mullane, Gus Weyhing, and Jim McCormick), of whom only Spalding's in the Hall, since there's no point comparing Mussina to the standards by which those guys are judged:

Randy Johnson295135.6484039.1137n/e
Carl Hubbell25399.6223590.1130IN
Bob Gibson25177.5913884.1127IN
Jim Palmer266116.6383948.0126IN
Mike Mussina270117.6383562.2123n/e
Bob Feller266104.6213827.0122IN
Red Faber25441.5444086.2119IN
Bert Blyleven28737.5344970.0118Out
Ted Lyons26030.5314161.0118IN
Fergie Jenkins28458.5574500.2115IN
Eppa Rixey26615.5154494.2115IN
Robin Roberts28641.5394688.2113IN
Tommy John28857.5554710.1110Out
Red Ruffing27348.5484344.0109IN
Jim Kaat28346.5444530.1107Out
Burleigh Grimes27058.5604180.0107IN
Jack Morris25468.5773824.0105Out

Now, there are two guys on this list who still don't belong here - Randy Johnson will most likely cross the 300-win barrier next season if he's healthy for even about a third of the season, and Bob Feller would probably have won 300 and had better career averages if he hadn't missed more than 3 years of his prime to World War II. And of course, career totals aren't the be-all and end-all (Roberts, in particular, is in the Hall for his dominant prime, not his career totals). That said, two things should jump out at you here: a lot more of these guys are in the Hall than out, and Mussina looks a lot more like the guys who are in with no questions asked than like the guys who are out (243-game winner Juan Marichal comes up as the most similar player to Mussina). He may be superficially similar to Jack Morris, but he's really much more similar to Jim Palmer - all three had good offenses behind them (Mussina probably had less defensive support than Morris, and definitely less than Palmer), but Mussina's record is pretty consistent with his ERAs. The worst you can say is that Mussina, in line with modern practice, has thrown a lot fewer innings, but recall as well that he's thrown an extra 139.2 innings of postseason work. And he's been fantastically consistent - 17 straight seasons winning in double figures with only one losing season, 9 straight 200-IP seasons, 12 straight with ERA+ better than 100. In today's American League in particular, that's more than enough for me.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:43 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Keep Counting Until You Win

If you want an illustration of why Republicans are so mistrustful of Democratic efforts to recount and recount and keep counting until they can overturn the Election Day results (and then immediately stop counting) - as Al Gore tried unsuccessfully to do, and as Christine Gregoire succeeded in doing in the Washington Governor's race four years ago, look no further than Minnesota and Al Franken's effort to pick off the 59th Democratic Senate seat by invalidating Norm Coleman's Election Day victory.

I haven't covered all the twists and turns of this lawyer-intensive effort, but a few to give you the flavor. Franken has been pressing to have all "undervotes" by Obama voters counted as votes for Franken on the theory that they are Democrats who undoubtedly meant to vote for Franken. The Orwellian name "undervote" aside, these are ballots where there's no vote marked for the race Franken was running in. It was silly to suggest, in 2000, that it was impossible for voters who voted Democrat in other races to have decided they really didn't want to vote either for Bush or for Gore - certainly plenty of voters found both candidates unsatisfactory, and if some of them accidentally forgot to vote, it was possible they meant to vote for Nader (or Buchanan - hey, if people could vote for both Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008, they can surely vote for any number of odd combinations). But it's positively ludicrous to make this argument in this race. First of all, we heard all year about Obama's "historic" appeal and we are supposed to believe that it's impossible that anybody would vote for Obama and not be equally enamored of Al Franken? Second, even losing the state by 11 points, John McCain won 44% of the vote in Minnesota (1.275 million votes) - more than Franken or Norm Coleman, who each got 42% (1.211 million votes). Obviously, a fair number of people on both sides of other races were not as enthused about the two Senate candidates. One reason was that there was a serious third party challenger in the race - Dean Barkley, who got 15% of the vote. A truly accidental undervote could just as easily have been a Barkley voter. This is why it makes sense to count only actual votes as votes.

Then take a look at an example of a Coleman vote that Franken's people say is unclear.

Now, after all that recounting, resulting in improbably large but not sufficient gains for Franken, what's his response? "the Franken campaign said the race starts over today tied 'zero-zero, with 2.9 million to go.'" In other words, no count matters except a count that gives the race to Franken. Repeat as often as necessary to create an excuse to have the count resolved not by Minnesota voters but by the Democratic majority of the U.S. Senate.

On a humorous note, Erick notes that "Franken said that he was 'cautiously optimistic' that he would prevail in the recount," and contrasts that with this quote from one of Franken's books:

Cautiously optimistic? That's not good. That's an optimist's way of saying, "We're screwed." I've instructed my wife that if a doctor ever tells her that he's "cautiously optimistic" about my test results, she is to pull the plug immediately.

Pull away, Al.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 18, 2008
BASEBALL: Jeter and Everett

I just located online Bill James' article from the Fielding Bible following the 2005 season using Derek Jeter and Adam Everett to illustrate different approaches to evaluating shortstop defense. It's an excellent read, as always. From the conclusions:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:19 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Great Moments in MVP Voting

In 1967, Elston Howard finished 17th in the AL MVP balloting. The 38-year-old Howard, who appeared in 108 games that season, batted .178/.233/.244 for two teams. Presumably he got named on ballots for his 42 games with the pennant winning Red Sox, for whom he batted .147/.211/.198, scored 9 runs and drove in 11.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:14 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

As I have noted previously, this year's AL MVP race is a mess because so many of the possible candidates got hurt. Carlos Quentin went down for the season from his own foolishness at a key point in the race for a team that went all the way to a 1-game playoff. Evan Longoria, the best player on the league's best team, missed a month; Ian Kinsler missed more. Curtis Granderson played brilliantly upon his return from injury, but his team was already down for the count when he started his season. A-Rod, the defending MVP, led the league in slugging again but missed 24 games. Milton Bradley was the league's best hitter, but he was only able to appear in 126 games (and the Rangers were happy to get that much from him).

Nor can you really give it to a pitcher. I've explained already why K-Rod is a silly MVP candidate. And Cliff Lee had a great year, but not the kind of super-dominant season necessary to give the MVP to a starting pitcher who threw 223 innings for an also-ran team (I did argue for Pedro as MVP in 1998, 1999 and 2000 - in retrospect, that 1998 column looks kinda silly - so I'm not averse in extreme cases to giving it to a pitcher).

What does that leave? I'm fine with giving the award to a player on a non-competitive team, but not if it's a guy who doesn't play a key defensive position and isn't clearly the best hitter in the league, so sorting through Josh Hamilton (and his gaudy RBI totals), Miguel Cabrera, Grady Sizemore (neither of whom even had a particularly great year by their own standards), Aubrey Huff, and Nick Markakis is pointless. Among the contenders, Justin Morneau likewise was just another good first baseman. You want the award with your bat, you have to seize it.

Probably the best offensive player among the guys who stayed healthy all year and played for a contender was Kevin Youkilis, who batted .312/.390/.569, drove in 115 runs and grounded into only 11 double plays and pitched in as a respectable substitute at 3B in addition to playing first. Youkilis would not be the worst MVP, but fundamentally, it comes down to the two guys who were competitive with him with the bat and contributed more on the defensive side: Joe Mauer and Dustin Pedroia. Let's look at the offensive tale of the tape:


PA=Plate Appearances
TOB=Times on Base
XO=Extra outs (GIDP plus Caught Stealings)
LgOPS=Park-adjusted League OPS, from

As you can see, you can make a case for either of them with the bat. Mauer has the 37-point edge in on base percentage; Pedroia has the 42-point edge in slugging. Pedroia scored 20 more runs and racked up 80 more total bases on the strength of 93 more plate appearances, but he also used up 80 more outs in those extra 93 plate appearances, so the marginal offensive value to the team was pretty much negative. On the other hand, that also translates to an extra 19 games in the field (Mauer caught 139 games), which is important when comparing two good defensive players at key defensive positions. Pedroia stole 20 bases, something Mauer at age 25 has already stopped doing. But note the LgOPS figure: Fenway was a much more favorable offensive environment this season, so while both players hit better at home than on the road, overall you have to apply a bigger discount to Pedroia's numbers.

Baseball Prospectus' VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), which rates hitters compared to a replacement-level player at the same position, rates Pedroia #3 and Mauer #4 in the league, with A-Rod at #1 and Sizemore at #2.

What about "clutch" performance with the bat? I'm not a great believer in clutch ability as a persistent trait, but there's no question that in determining value in a particular season, it's fair to look at who actually did come through in big situations. Let's look how they hit with men in scoring position, men on base and in the late innings of close games:


Both fine performances, but advantage: Mauer for his superior batting and OBP figures with men on base, which is how he managed more RBI in fewer opportunities. Pedroia, of course, finished the season withg a flourish, but Mauer, with his team in a death struggle for the division title, batted .365/.414/.490 the last month of the season, a tough time of year for a guy who's been behind the plate all season.

It's a close call, but at the end of the day, I have to rate Mauer slightly ahead with the bat, given that most of Pedroia's offensive advantages simply come from playing in a better hitters' park and burning a lot of extra outs. And then you turn to the defensive side. That's more subjective, given the difficulty of getting good defensive stats. The Win Shares system, which tabs Mauer as the AL MVP over Youkilis and Morneau (with Pedroia tied for sixth), rates him second only to Kurt Suzuki for the most valuable defensive player in the league (Suzuki's the only catcher in the AL to catch more innings than Mauer), with Pedroia seventh. ESPN's Zone Ratings peg Pedroia as the second-best AL 2B behind Mark Ellis; among the catchers, Mauer's rated #3 behind Suzuki and Dioner Navarro in catching base thieves. The Fielding Bible +/- ratings rate Pedroia at +15, the fifth best 2B in MLB. Clearly, both guys contributed a good deal with the glove.

It's hard to get a good comparison, but good catchers who can hit are really hard to come by, and ones who can stay in the lineup for 633 plate appearances are even rarer. And consider that the 25-year-old Mauer also did such a good job with the Twins' young pitching staff - the overachievement of the Twins' young arms (between Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano, the Twins gave 128 starts to four pitchers who had an average of 20 career starts and 126 innings entering the season) was a big part of how they ended up in the race to the season's final day despite being buried by most commentators after the Santana trade. Catchers used to win a lot of MVP awards; that's fallen out of favor (Pudge Rodriguez in 1999 is the only catcher to win the award since Thurman Munson in 1976; Mike Piazza couldn't even win when he batted .362/.431/.638 and drove in 124 runs playing for a contending team in Dodger Stadium), but Mauer is pretty much the textbook example of how a catcher can make a big difference on several fronts, from getting on base to hitting in the clutch to cutting off the running game and handling the pitchers (he's the closest thing we'll likely see in our lifetimes to Mickey Cochrane). He could easily have been MVP two years ago when he became the first AL catcher to win a batting title; between Mauer's offensive and defensive contributions, I'd say he should win it this year after being the second.

UPDATE: Pedroia wins, Morneau finishes second. The tools of ignorance once again get no respect. The good news? K-Rod finished sixth.

SECOND UPDATE: I suppose Pedroia's strong second half was just too much to overcome. Pedroia was batting .262/.313/.365 on the morning of June 14, but from June 15 to the end of the season he hit .375/.422/.590 and scored 78 runs in 88 games. That sort of thing tends to leave an impression. I really have no idea what we should expect from Pedroia next year - my guess would be less power overall, but maybe a few more homers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: There's No Tying In Football

Yes, it's definitely Andy Reid's responsibility to make sure his players know that it's possible to have a tie in an NFL game. I mean, that doesn't let Donovan McNabb off the hook for the fact that he still doesn't know the rule:

"I guess we're aware of it now," McNabb said. "In college, there are multiple overtimes, and in high school and Pop Warner. I never knew in the professional ranks it would end that way. I hate to see what would happen in the Super Bowl and in the playoffs."

Uh, they keep playing if it's tied in the playoffs or Super Bowl. But McNabb apparently didn't know that, either.

But Reid's been McNabb's coach since 1999. And he never covered this? Wow.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Football | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
November 17, 2008
BASEBALL: The Right Choice

Pujols wins the NL MVP, Howard second, Braun third, Manny (!) fourth.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:15 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Rove's Road Out

I'm pretty much in agreement with all of Karl Rove's thoughts on rebuilding the GOP, and in fact a fair amount of it overlaps with my Obama Administration Survival Guide. Obviously, Rove's list isn't comprehensive, but it's a start.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:30 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Saluting History

Yes, this is the actual picture gracing the back cover of the NY Daily News' "Man of History" special edition:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:20 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

The NL MVP balloting will be announced this afternoon. To my mind, there's only one candidate: Albert Pujols.

There seems to be a fair amount of sentiment for Ryan Howard, as there was before the Mets' collapse for Carlos Delgado, and for the same reasons....but Pujols is the best player in the league, he had arguably his best year with the bat, he's a better defensive player and baserunner than Howard or Delgado or Lance Berkman, he doesn't play in an offensive haven like Philly or Houston, and his team, with a deeply unimpressive collection of supporting talent, won 86 games, was within 2 games of first place on July 22 and 4 games on August 1, and within 2 games of the wild card lead on August 16 and 3 1/2 on September 9. Pujols led the league in Slugging and OPS, was second in batting and on base percentage, and despite missing two weeks with an injury he managed to lead the league in Total Bases and Times on Base and finish third in homers, fourth in RBI, third in hits, second in walks and fourth in doubles (Chipper Jones was the only really comparable hitter in the league in percentage terms, but Pujols had 641 plate appearances to Jones' 534). There's really no serious dispute that if you put Pujols on the Phillies or Mets in place of Howard or Delgado, the team with Pujols would have improved by several games, and the Cardinals would have gone nowhere.

Pujols batted .357/.462/.653 on the season, .335/.443/.613 on the road. Howard batted .251/.339/.543 on the season - a 106 point gap in batting average, a 123 point gap in OBP, and a 110 point gap in slugging. Howard may have had the great September, but Pujols batted .398/.491/.745 in August and .321/.427/.702 in September. With 2 outs and men in scoring position he hit .326/.592/.791. On the whole, Ryan Howard batted .276/.370/.638 with 18 HR and 51 RBI and 38 Runs from August 1 to the end of the season; Pujols, with a lot less help from his teammates, batted .363/.461/.725 with 16 HR, 49 RBI and 35 Runs over the same period.

Howard batted .241/.317/.514 on the road, making him an easier out on the road than Yadier Molina, Cristian Guzman, Brian Schneider, Kazuo Matsui, Aaron Miles, Marco Scutaro, Jeff Keppinger, or Rich Aurilia (Pujols led the majors in OBP on the road), and a less fearsome slugger away from Citizens Bank than Jayson Werth, Xavier Nady, Casey Blake, Cody Ross, or Mike Cameron (Pujols led the majors in Slugging on the road).

Pujols batted .354/.494/.638 with men on base, compared to Howard's .309/.396/.648 (yes, Howard really did elevate his game with men on base - there is some reason for him being in this discussion). Pujols batted .339/.523/.678 with runners in scoring position, compared to Howard's .320/.439/.589. The difference? Howard had 47 more plate appearances with men in scoring position (223 to 176) and 29 more with men on base (351 to 322). As with Francisco Rodriguez' save opportunities, Howard is an MVP candidate almost entirely because of the opportunities his teammates gave him. He may have raised his game in those situations, but even then, as in the stretch run, he couldn't raise it to Pujols' level.

Berkman had a better year than Howard, but also doesn't stack up to Pujols, and unlike Howard's RBI advantage he did nothing better than Pujols except steal 18 bases. He batted .312/.420/.567, .306/.413/.514 on the road. He had a horrendous September, batting .171/.343/.289.

There are a number of other guys who have good arguments for being on the ballot besides Howard and Berkman - Jones, Delgado, Hanley Ramirez, Tim Lincecum, four other Mets (David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana), Chase Utley, Ryan Braun, maybe even Manny down at the end of the ballot. But there's only one choice for #1: Albert Pujols.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
November 14, 2008
POLITICS: The Kiddie Porn Party?

Honestly, I read things like this post at Ace, and it makes me wonder how Republicans ever manage to win elections. Ace notes two stories about aides to Democratic Senators getting arrested for possession of child porn. My reaction to reading the story about the aide to Barbara Boxer this morning was to think that this was something we Republicans could run with. But really, I couldn't get my head around making this a partisan issue with a straight face. And Ace, who is certainly not above bare-knuckles partisanship, can't really either:

Personally I don't think it's a trend, or indicative of Democratic sexual habits, either. Some people are wired wrong, and it really doesn't matter what philosophy such people embrace -- if they get off on child porn, they're going to get off on child porn.

But I do happen to know for a fact that had these been Republicans, the media would be greatly interested in the "trend."

And therein lies our problem. Most of your major conservative bloggers and pundits are going to point to this sort of thing as a media bias story rather than going for the jugular by accusing the Democrats of all being a bunch of perverts. Because that's exactly how the Left side of the blogosphere plays this sort of game - think of the Mark Foley or Ted Haggard stories in 2006, in Haggard's case a guy most conservative bloggers had to go Google because we'd never heard of him. All you heard was how these particular screwups were emblematic of something larger. People lingered over this stuff, writing about the stories again and again and again. Foley got replaced in Congress with Tim Mahoney, who turned out to have a horribly messy sex scandal of his own involving payoffs to his mistress. We didn't get 24/7 media saturation with Mahoney the way we did with Foley, not even the media looking into what the Democratic House leadership knew and when they knew it. Partly that's because the national media doesn't want to go there, but maybe, in some sense, because our hearts weren't really in making it so. And until that changes, we're still going to have a serious online activism deficit on the Right.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:09 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (53) | TrackBack (0)

Excellent move by the Yankees to buy low and pick up Nick Swisher (don't be fooled by David Pinto's headline) coming off a terrible year in which he hit .219. Swisher's only 28, he can play 1B and RF and even play center in a pinch; he was an excellent player in 2006 and 2007, and he had productive stretches in 2008 (in 71 games from June 3 through August 26, he batted .262/.374/.545, averaging 41 HR, 91 walks, 116 Runs and 116 RBI per 162 games). It was really just his batting average that fell off, as his Isolated Power was essentially unchanged from 2007. Swisher will always struggle with his average, but basically he's a good player hitting .255, but not when hitting .220.

Pinto notes that Swisher particularly struggled on the road, so a change of park alone won't help him. It's certainly possible that he's just washed up young, as sometimes happens to young players with his skill set (the Yankees had a similar failed experiment with Morgan Ensberg, who's a couple years older, this season), but the odds favor a return to productivity, similar to Johnny Damon after his off-year at age 27. Swisher was probably miscast as a leadoff man, batting .210/.354/.324 in the role (by contrast, he actually hit better when playing center field than 1B, so you can't blame the strain of a tougher defensive position). My guess is that he's the kind of player who will particularly benefit from a lower-profile role down in the lineup, even on the bigger stage New York provides.

The Yankees got him fairly cheap (cheap enough that I'm left wondering why Omar Minaya didn't go after him, given the Mets' holes in the OF corners). Part of the reason, as usual, was money: Swisher "has three years left on a five-year, $26.75 million contract." Wilson Betemit has his uses but is pretty much your classic expendable utility infielder at this point, and has been used mostly as a first baseman of late. Jeff Marquez, a 24-year-old starter who posted a 3.65 ERA with just 5.45 K/9 in 2007 at AA and a 4.47 ERA with 4.47 K/9 mostly at AAA this season, would appear to be a marginal prospect at best. 23-year-old Jhonny Nunez has a career minor league ERA of 3.64 and has pitched just 27 innings above A ball, and so can't really be projected much; I don't know anything about him but his numbers, but my guess is that a guy his age with good K rates and spotty control will probably get converted to the bullpen. As Pinto discusses, Kanekoa Texeira, the reliever the Yankees got in return, seems a much better prospect than either of them; he "does exactly what a team wants; lots of strikeouts, few walks and a minuscule number of home runs."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Budget By The Numbers

Time for some hard numbers to follow on this post discussing "fiscal conservatism" and provide some historical perspective on the GOP's successes and failures in controlling taxes and spending. Here's the budget presented as a percentage of GDP since 1947, along with the partisan control of the three elected branches. The fiscal year numbers generaly refer to the year after the budget was passed, as discussed below the fold - thus, for example, Reagan was elected in 1980, took office in 1981, and his first budget was Fiscal Year 1982. Given the ongoing nature of appropriations, 2008 and 2009 are still estimated numbers. I left off the estimates for beyond that, since those will be Obama's budgets and nobody knows yet for certain what his budgets or the economy will look like, and anyone who makes any sort of fiscal projections that far ahead has no clue what they are doing. In addition to revenues, spending and the deficit I added in the national debt and expenditures on interest to give some perspective on the impact over time on the budget of deficit spending.

I continue to believe that the number that matters most is spending as a percentage of GDP, which peaked over 20% twice under all-Democrat governance (the first time, on the eve of the GOP wave of the 1952 elections), started booming regularly above 20% after the Democrats got their post-Watergate majorities in Congress (Fiscal Year 1975, actually the budget the year of Watergate before those elections when the White House was prostrate, saw spending spike from 18.7% to 21.3% in a single year) and peaked at 23.5% in the second year of the Reagan defense buildup (and while the economy was still in recession), when the GOP held the White House and the Senate, and bottomed out in 2000, Clinton's second term, when the GOP held both houses of Congress and the economy was riding the dot-com boom. Spending under Bush - driven partly but not wholly by wars and entitlements - crept back up to pre-Gingrich levels, and looks to set new post-1994 highs since Pelosi and Reid took over. One of the lessons of which is the influence of Congress, and specifically the House, on the budget. We're creeping back towards 21% for the first time since the last time we had unified Democratic governance.

As to taxes, fiscal years 1998-2000 under Clinton were the all-time high watermark for the nation's tax burden, peaking at 20.9% of GDP and setting the stage for Bush to run on a tax cut platform. Taxes under Bush bottomed out in the first year of the full Bush tax cuts at 16.4%, the lowest share of GDP since 1951, but have been rising since then with economic growth through FY 2007 (unlike spending, taxes are directly linked to the economy, but the distribution of economic activity still impacts tax receipts). Obviously that will abate with the economy's decline this year.

The deficit, of course, is the number you're familiar with; it peaked the same year as federal spending (FY 1983), dropped by two thirds from FY 2004 to FY 2007, but is rising rapidly again since the GOP Congress left town. The national debt has never really recovered from its sustained growth from FY 1982-FY1996, but lower interest rates have made the costs of that debt much more tractable (which also means that if rates ever return to late-1970s levels, the federal taxpayer is doomed).

Where do we go from here? On spending, the item most directly under political control, I'll be very surprised if we're not above 22% by Obama's second budget (and that's assuming that the checks he plans to cut to non-taxpayers are not counted as "spending"). Tax revenues will probably drop in the next year or two, as the chaos in the financial and housing markets have slashed the tax base, and that's before we get to the impact of rising marginal and investment tax rates.

Anyway, the bottom line here is pretty much what you'd expect: Republicans have had better luck cutting taxes than spending; a GOP Congress and specifically a GOP House is more important to fiscal discipline even than a GOP President (this would be even more dramatic if we looked at the size of the GOP caucus in the House); and unified Democratic governance is a recipe for growth of the federal government across the board.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: No Way To Lose An Election

Sending "suspicious white powder" in the mail.

UPDATE: Mary Katherine Ham has more.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Talking Down

So, I have reached the point with our two-and-a-half year old daughter where she actually talks down to me. Coupla examples.

1. She's sitting on the toilet (having been potty trained earlier than her siblings) and wants me to read her a book, one with the "Wheels on the Bus" song in it. I can't find it in her room.

Me: "I can't find the Wheels on the Bus book in here. Do you know where it is? Can I read you another one?"

Her: "It's the one with the stripes on the side. Now do you understand?"

2. She tells me she wants to play cars, but I can't make out whether she said wanted to play cards or play cars.

Her: "I want to play cars"

Me: "Cards, or cars?"

Her (leaning her face in and speaking slowly and deliberately): "Say cars."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:18 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
November 13, 2008
BASEBALL: Pieces of Seasons

Steve Treder has an excellent Hardball Times piece on the best short seasons by hitters, including parts of seasons when a player switched teams. Two current free agents are prominently featured, as you might expect.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:12 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: The Election and the New York Courts

A look at how the election could affect the state court system.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:37 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: "Fiscal Conservatives" Unclear On The Concept

The Washington Post, looking at the GOP rout in the Northeast, sells the hoary old myth that there is a large and coherent "fiscally conservative and socially liberal" faction that got ignored by the national party:

What happened, say some current and former Republican leaders, is that the national party moved away from the issues of fiscal conservatism, small government and lower taxes. As the base of the party shifted to the South and West, social conservatives and evangelicals moved to the forefront, and issues such as abortion, school prayer and gay marriage took primacy on the national party's agenda -- in the process turning off more moderate voters in this part of the country.

"I'm a Northeasterner. I grew up in New York City," said Christopher Healy, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party. "The evangelical members of the party have their issues, and their issues are important to them." But here, he said, "the Northeastern brand of Republican philosophy . . . is based on smaller government and less taxes. We're not interested in what's going on in the bedroom."

Former senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island was the epitome of the moderate-to-liberal northeastern Republican -- strongly pro-choice on abortion, a supporter of gay marriage and stem cell research, an opponent of the war in Iraq. As a fiscal conservative, Chafee opposed President Bush's tax cuts.

I'll leave aside for now the social-issue side of this argument (hey, when did Congress vote on school prayer?), the short answer to which is that smaller government and more federalism is the best way to reassure Northeastern voters that they can support social conservatives nationally without disturbing their own states' social policies at home, and focus on the problem with the use of the term "fiscal conservative": it has no fixed meaning.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
November 11, 2008
BUSINESS: Liar's Poker Folds

I've been waiting for Michael Lewis to write the definitive account of the credit crisis. This is an excellent start.

Here's a few of his vignettes on the housing market madness at the foundation of the crisis, although he has much more on how it worked its way through the financial system:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:43 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Holliday On The Road To Fremont

Now, we're starting to get some real activity in the baseball offseason. The big news is a projected, non-finalized blockbuster deal sending Matt Holliday to the A's for a package that reportedly includes Greg Smith, Huston Street and Carlos Gonzalez. I'll try to look at the on-the-field angle once we have a final report of the players involved, but this is an interesting deal from the perspective of analyzing the A's franchise, since it represents the A's doing the big-market thing and packaging young players for an established star, represented by Scott Boras, who is going to command a huge salary on the free agent market after the 2009 season (much like when they acquired Johnny Damon, who promptly had a lousy year and then left). It remains to be seen whether Lew Wolff is planning to pull the trigger on a big contract for Holliday now that the A's are heading for a new stadium and a new city.

On that subject, Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman ran for re-election as a supporter of finally bringing the A's to Fremont by 2012 (his opponent was against the plan), and Wasserman's victory is widely seen as a victory for the new stadium. Wolff sees it that way, and is still hopeful that the park can be ready by 2011:

Despite challenges to building a new baseball stadium, Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff said "we can get it done" in Fremont.

Wolff said Monday at a luncheon of the Associated Press Sports Editors that, "We're getting close to receiving the first drafts of the environmental impact reports," according to "We've run into lots of things, which every developer does in California."

Some Fremont resident concern about traffic and public transportation access to the project, for example, has dogged the project.

Still, Wolff cited last week's election results in Fremont as a development that broke in his favor. Voters in the city re-elected incumbent Mayor Bob Wasserman, a strong supporter of a plan by the Oakland Athletics to build a $500 million stadium surrounded by 3,150 residential units and enough retail and restaurant space to fill almost nine football fields.

The bad news:

Wolff would change the team's name to the Athletics at Fremont, and the classic brick ballpark, scheduled for completion in 2012, would be named Cisco Field after the computer networking company.

Ugh. I suppose "at" conveys their transience better than "of" ... given the franchise's history, they may as well just call them the Traveling Athletics and be done with it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:14 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: How To Tell The "Culture Wars" Are Not Over

Peter Beinart had an article in the Washington Post the Sunday before Election Day arguing that the culture wars are over; according to Beinart, Sarah Palin was failing to connect with voters because

Palin's brand is culture war, and in America today culture war no longer sells....Although she seems like a fresh face, Sarah Palin actually represents the end of an era. She may be the last culture warrior on a national ticket for a very long time.

Beinart is wrong - completely wrong. We can tell that the "culture wars" are not over because Democrats and liberals are still fighting them. We know culture warriors won't disappear from national politics because one of them just won the presidential election. And if Beinart means that conservatives are losing the culture wars, that's far from a certain bet, and one the Democrats would be ill-advised to take.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:44 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
November 10, 2008
POLITICS: Score Another One For The Palin Critics

Palin with Lieberman

Apparently, according to Newsweek, Gov. Palin refused to appear onstage with a New Hampshire Senator and a New Hampshire Senate candidate because they are pro-choice.

Except that the Senator in question, John Sununu, is pro-life.

And except that the other candidate wasn't running for the Senate (Newsweek may have missed this, but Sununu was up for re-election, so there were not two Republicans running for the job this year).

And except that she did do public appearances with both men.

And except that she did make public appearances with other pro-choicers.

But you know, other than getting basically every possible fact wrong, Newsweek's doing OK there.


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (35) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Not Letting Up

For conservatives and Republicans tempted to follow Fred Barnes and lay low a while, just notice what sites like the Huffington Post are up to these days: the #1 topic over at HuffPo right now, by the frequency of tags used, is "Sarah Palin":


The Left will not let up its assault on Gov. Palin for any "honeymoon" period. We on the Right will indeed need both patience and perspective, as Barnes suggests, and elected Republicans will surely need to find some common ground with the new Administration. But we're all adults here; let us not pretend that calls for "unity" are intended to be mutual.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:13 PM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2012 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Palin Push-Back

As has often happened with Gov. Sarah Palin during the campaign, we've had a battery of headlines from a single report, putatively based on an unnamed source, and only later do we get the facts. Let's look at some of the McCain and Palin aides now going on the record to respond:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Daley Thoughts

If you've read my Integrity Gap series on Barack Obama, or lengthier treatments like David Freddoso's book, you will be familiar with what was probably the most scandalously under-reported story of 2008, which is President-Elect Obama's deep and longstanding ties to machine politics in Illinois, most notably to the Daley machine in Chicago. You'll also recognize two other key themes: Obama's ties to politically well-connected housing interests ranging from slumlords like Tony Rezko to Beltway powerhouses like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ACORN, and Obama's practice of providing official favors to his benefactors.

Last week we saw the first sign of these dynamics playing out in Obama's first staff hire, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago pol and former "senior adviser and chief fundraiser" for Mayor Daley who made hundreds of thousands of dollars sitting on Freddie Mac's board during a time when the board was criticized by the SEC for failing to stop the company's accounting irregularities and shady campaign donations. * *

Now, the second act: Obama reportedly wants Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a/k/a "Public Official A" in the Rezko indictment, to appoint as his replacement in the U.S. Senate Valerie Jarrett, the co-head of Obama's transition team. Jarrett, of course, is a former Daley aide and Chicago housing developer who gave Michelle Obama her first big job working for Mayor Daley.

Let's recall Jarrett's involvement in Grove Parc Plaza, one of the conspicuous failures (at least from the perspective of the tenants, rather than the developers) among the housing projects built by Obama's friends:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:21 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
November 9, 2008
POLITICS/WAR: Joe Biden Was Right

...for the first time in decades, in fact, on foreign policy: within the first day after the election, Russia and Iran both rattled their sabers to start testing President-Elect Obama. And an Obama foreign policy adviser reacted immediately by backing down in the face of the Russian statement. (It will be good to have Obama start getting his advisers confirmed so we don't have to keep sifting through his hundreds of foreign policy and economic "advisers" trying to figure out which ones speak for him).

Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Obama. The rest of us have been given no choice but to depend on you.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:03 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Least Valuable of All

A little detour to the days of yore: Looking back in baseball history, no discussion of the least valuable players in any single season can be complete without Joe Gerhardt in 1885.

Baseball in the 1880s had a number of very good 1- or 2-year teams (such as those turned in by NL franchises in Detroit and Providence), but the decade was really dominated by three franchises: in the NL, the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs) of 1880-86 and the New York Giants of 1885-89, and in the American Association the St. Louis Browns of 1885-89 (the Browns moved to the NL after the AA folded in 1891, and are now the Cardinals).

The Giants, in fact, got the nickname that stuck with them largely from the 1885 team, which featured six Hall of Famers in their primes:

*Towering, slugging 27-year-old first baseman Roger Connor (at 6'3" a huge man for the era) was probably the second-best hitter of the decade behind Dan Brouthers - Connor held the career home run record until Babe Ruth, although in those days power was mostly about doubles and triples, which he also produced in bulk - and Connor had his best season, batting .371/.435/.495 compared to a league Avg/OBP/Slg of .241/.284/.322, for an OPS+ of 198 (i.e., nearly twice as good as the league-average hitter).

*25-year-old catcher Buck Ewing, at 5'10" also on the tall side even for a mid-twentieth catcher, batted .304/.330/.471 (OPS+ 155). As Bill James has documented, Ewing's peers regarded him as the best player in 19th century baseball; his batting stats don't entirely bear that out, but in his prime he was as good a hitter relative to his leagues as all but a handful of catchers in the game's history, and that's before you get to his defense. We don't have stolen base data before 1886 or caught stealings before the mid-teens, but in 2008 the average team stole 0.57 bases per game in the NL, 0.58 in the AL; in 1886, the NL average was 1.35. So, even adjusting for the open-ended definition of stolen bases in those days, there were a lot of people running. A typical modern catcher averages less than an assist every two games, with around half of those being caught stealings; Ewing, for his career, averaged 1.6 assists per game - a role much more active, between gunning down base thieves and pouncing on bunts, than today's catchers (Ewing's career range factor, measuring number of plays made per game, was 11% better than the league, and 8.6% better at third base, where he played part-time in his later years).

*34-year-old center fielder Jim O'Rourke had a year typical of his long career, batting .300/.354/.442 (155) and scoring 119 runs in 112 games. The team's two other veteran outfielders batted .326/.346/.421 (146) and .293/.317/.362 (118).

*They also had 25-year-old shortstop John Ward, a Hall of Famer more for his pitching and his role as a union organizer and all-around poineer; Ward was the team's second-weakest hitter at .226/.255/.285 (73).

*The team had two ace starting pitchers, both 300-game winners; against a league ERA of 2.82, 25-year-old Mickey Welch had his best season, going 44-11 with a 1.66 ERA, while 28-year-old Tim Keefe went 31-12 with a 1.58 ERA. The two accounted for 89% of the Giants' decisions.

Overall, in the shortened seasons common at the time, the Giants cruised to an 85-27 record, for a .759 winning percentage, a 123-win pace in a modern schedule. (Their Pythagorean record was the same, reflecting the league's second-best offense - by a run and a quarter over #3 - and by far its best pitching/defense team.) But there was one problem:

They finished second.

You see, the White Stockings, behind among others Hall of Famers Cap Anson, King Kelly and John Clarkson - the latter going 53-16 with a 1.85 ERA, the second-highest win total of all time - went 87-25 (.777), a 126-win pace by today's schedule and good enough to take the pennant by two games. They didn't have the Giants' pitching depth and defense, or a hitter as good as Connor, but other than a .209-hitting half-time catcher they had no real holes in their lineup, and so scored a run a game more than the Giants. Despite winning the season series against the White Stockings 10-6, the Giants spent the last two thirds of the season looking up in the standings, and scored just 8 runs in three straight losses to Chicago at the end of September to ice the race.

In the middle of this you had the 30-year-old Gerhardt (himself 6 feet tall), who played every inning of every game at second, and batted a staggeringly anemic .155/.203/.195 (29), considerably worse than the team's pitchers. Gerhardt scored just 43 runs, compared to 51 for the pitchers and a team average of 85 for the other 7 lineup spots. Amazingly for the day, he had more strikeouts than runs scored. He may not have been that fast, either - in a league where everybody ran constantly, he played everyday in 1886 as well and stole just 8 bases. This is just a breathtakingly disastrous offensive showing for a guy on a great team that was having a great season and coming up short. It's hard to think of a team this good that had a guy whose OPS was less than a third of the league playing anything like every single game.

Did Gerhardt make up for it with his glove? At a remove of 123 years, based on the numbers alone, it's hard to say. Manager Jim Mutrie, who won 3 pennants and more than 60% of his career games, must have seen something in him besides the absence of warm bodies on the rosters of the day to justify that awful bat. The Giants were a tremendous defensive team, which speaks well of Gerhardt - while they led the league in strikeouts handily (4.61/game compared to a league average of 3.75), the low ERAs testify more to a great record on balls in play - their defensive efficiency rating (% of balls in play becoming outs) of .701 was almost 30 points higher than that of the #2 team and good even for a 21st century team, let alone a team with guys playing the infield barehanded or wearing gloves that to the modern eye look more like Isotoners; their .929 fielding percentage was likewise 13 points above the nearest competition, and in those days fielding percentages really made a difference, with most fielders making an error one times in ten.

Individually, Gerhardt's numbers don't really stand out. His range factors and fielding percentages had been much higher than the league from 1877-1884, but in 1885 he was at .911 fielding percentage compared to .900 for a league-average second baseman, and 5.95 range factor compared to a league average of 5.70 - good but hardly great for a guy playing every inning. On the other hand, his range factors jumped back up in 1887 when he left the Giants, so some illusion created by the team context may be involved even beyond the fact that Keefe and Welch were comparatively high-K pitchers for the day.

Anyway, the evidence suggests that Gerhardt was probably a pretty good fielder, but it's hard to see at this distance how he could possibly have been good enough to make up for that catastrophic showing with the bat, when a mere .210 hitter would likely have won the Giants the pennant.

Maybe Gehrhardt wasn't as disastrous on both sides of the ball as the famous John Gochnauer, who in 1903 batted .185/.265/.240 (54) and made 98 errors at shortstop (with fielding percentages and range factors far below the league averages of the day) for an Indians team that somehow finished 77-63, and maybe he wasn't as epically futile with the bat as Bill Bergen, who compiled a career OPS+ of 21 including three years at the end of his career as a starting catcher batting .139/.163/.156 (1), .161/.180/.177 (6) and .132/.183/.154 (-4). But in the annals of guys who turned in a total flop at the plate when even ordinary incompetence would have been the difference in a pennant race, Gerhardt's place in history is surely secure.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:35 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
November 7, 2008

The President-Elect wasted no time kicking Republicans when they're down with his petty, graceless crack today (for which he had to apologize) at the expense of 87-year-old Nancy Reagan, last seen leaving the hospital a few weeks back with a broken pelvis:

Obama was asked at his press conference today if he'd spoken to all the "living" presidents.

"I have spoken to all of them who are living," he responded. "I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any seances."

As Ben Smith notes, Obama's left-wing talking points on this one weren't even accurate. But hey, I guess sneering at the Reagans is "in" again.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (46) | TrackBack (0)

Patterico goes to the archives with a quote from the late and very much lamented Michael Crichton on why we believe the newspapers even though we know better:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

One of my recurring themes on the media is that the preference for liberal politics - big government, social liberalism, political correctness, disdain of conservatives and the religious - is really only the tip of the iceberg of what is wrong with the mainstream media. The state of sportswriting, business and legal journalism, pretty much anything that gets covered in the papers and on TV is subject not only to political bias but also to a whole host of other individual and institutional biases and prejudices and axes to grind, laziness, sloppiness, failures of substantive knowledge and logical reasoning...the blogosphere has no shortage of flaws of its own, but the fact that so many bloggers have had careers doing things (the law, the military, business, medicine, etc.) means in general that you get a class of people who have substantive knowledge and exposure to more rigorous disciplines than the typical journalist. Crichton, with his medical background, brought that same advantage to his craft as a novelist, and we were richer for his work (I read a whole bunch of his books; my favorites were The Great Train Robbery and Disclosure).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 PM | Politics 2008 • | Pop Culture | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Rapid Robert

Bob Feller at 90. A nice profile of the last remaining star of the 1930s (Feller broke in in 1936 and went 24-9 in 1939; he and Stan Musial are reallly the only major stars left from the pre-war era). H/T.

Given how short a pitcher's prime can be (Feller's last year as a great pitcher was at age 28, although he managed a 22-8 record at age 32 and 13-3 as a sore-armed 35-year-old), Feller probably lost more of his best baseball to the war than any other great player; he missed three full seasons and most of a fourth to the war from age 23-26, after winning 24, 27 and 25 games the prior three years and 26 his first full year back, and retired 34 wins short of 300. Granted, we don't know if he would have broken down earlier without that break in his years of carrying a major league workload (the man averaged 309 innings and 26 complete games a year from age 19-22), and we don't know if he would have lasted longer if he hadn't thrown 371.1 innings and 36 complete games for a team going nowhere his first full year back. When I ran my translated pitching stats project some years ago, Feller was one of four pitchers who really stood out as throwing a lot more innings per year in his prime than his contemporaries, the others being Robin Roberts, Phil Niekro and John Clarkson. He was and is, in any event, one of the all-time greats.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:50 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Never Right

Will Collier cautions that conservatives tempted to listen to David Frum should remember his history of making the same arguments - conservatism is doomed, we need to hand over more power from the grassroots to the elites, etc. - in the 1990s, including on the very eve of the great 1994 wave:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:44 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Honeymooner

It's rather poignant to watch the media love-fest over Obama's 'honymoon' period - the fawning over Michelle's pricey fashions, the breathless announcements of how wonderful everything will be as hope soars on clouds of euphoria - and wonder how the Bush presidency would have started if we'd been given a beginning like this, rather than the corrosive and unrelenting assault that consumed his presidency from Election Day 2000 onward. I don't think there's a better metaphor than the NY Daily News running front-page headlines about the Obamas bringing a dog to the White House while Bush's dog Barney bites a Reuters reporter. Victor Davis Hanson: "When I hear a partisan insider like Paul Begala urging at the 11th hour that we now rally around lame-duck Bush in his last few days, I detect a sense of apprehension that no Democrats would wish conservatives to treat Obama as they did Bush for eight years." H/T. Indeed, they expect that we won't; they count on it. Ace, unsurprisingly, is having none of the pleas for unilateral unity:

Sorry, folks. No frakkin' sale. We remember "Jesusland." And stuff like this. And if you have a few hours, scroll through Malkin's "Bush Derangement Syndrome" archive. We remember everything - being called racist warmongers, Christianist nutbags, racists, and all the rest of the vitriol you folks threw at us in your "AAAHHH CHIMPY MCBUSHITLER HALLIBURTON IS THE EVILEST" stage of political development.

You spent the last eight years engaged in a disgusting orgy of divisive political hatred and now you want to play nice and pretend we're all united now? I for one am not going to treat President Obama the way you treated President Bush. That doesn't mean, though, I'm going to just forgive and forget the fact that you've polluted the political landscape with your bile and patchouli-stanking spittle.

I've already said my own bit on how the Right should respond. We certainly should not have any illusions that a good deed today will ever be repaid. And we can all enjoy a laugh at the whiplash on the other side. Goldberg: "Alas, that [dissent is patriotic] standard only works for liberals. When conservatives dissent it's called being 'divisive.'" Lileks: "I'm off to the Mall to sell razor blades so people can scrape off their 'Question Authority' bumper stickers."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:34 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Where His Bread Is Buttered

Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's first and most important staff hire as Chief of Staff: on the wrong side of the credit crisis, but the right side for his own pocketbook. Shocking, I know. The good news about making his first pick a hyper-partisan Chicago pol with a scandalous financial past is that it does away with the whole "new politics" pretense right from the outset. Even the NYT notes that "Democrats are second-guessing one of his first and most important post-election decisions: Why is he asking Representative Rahm Emanuel - "Rahmbo," one of the capital's most in-your-face partisan actors - to be his chief of staff?" Obama will be coming for the GOP with the long knives, and Republicans will need to go into that with our eyes open. Washington never changes, after all; only the names change, and so far those aren't changing much either.

Then there's Rahm's plan for compulsory national service. And they said Republicans were the ones plotting to bring back the draft.

On the upside, Emanuel supported the Iraq War:

On Iraq, Emanuel has steered clear of the withdraw-now crowd, preferring to criticize Bush for military failures since the 2003 invasion. "The war never had to turn out this way," he told me at one of his campaign stops. In January 2005, when asked by Meet the Press's Tim Russert whether he would have voted to authorize the war-"knowing that there are no weapons of mass destruction"-Emanuel answered yes. (He didn't take office until after the vote.) "I still believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, okay?" he added.

If that signals Obama sobering up on Iraq now that he actually has to govern, all to the good. The nation needs the Democrats to govern responsibly. It's not like the anti-war faction has anywhere else to go, after all.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:06 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
November 6, 2008
BASEBALL: When To Hang It Up

Thomas Wayne at Dugout Central looks at where Ken Griffey might land next season. I'm just not sure he brings anything to the table at this point...I mean, would the Mets have use for Griffey to take Endy Chavez' job, for example? Teams keep around reserve outfielders who can do specific things, not just old guys who might or might not have one last good season in them as a part-timer. He notes that they had Moises Alou this year (lotta good that did), but Alou was coming off hitting .341. I just don't see the upside to giving him a roster spot at this point. He'll probably sign somewhere, but the smart move at most is a spring training invite.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Being There

Let us consider five relief pitchers' MVP candidacies:


What would you say if I told you that only one of these pitchers even got a single vote for the MVP, even though Pitcher C pitched for a contending team (a second-place team that finished four games out of first place) and the other four all pitched for division winners? Could you guess which one placed in the MVP balloting?

You might guess A, who carried the largest innings workload, was clearly the most effective (most strikeouts, by far the lowest opposing slugging %), and allowed easily the fewest inherited runners to score. Then again, Pitcher A didn't convert a very large percentage of save opportunities. He did finish fourth in the Cy Young balloting, though.

You might well guess C, who had the best ERA, the best save percentage, the second-most games and innings, and the fewest walks, although his home run rate was the second-highest. Unless you count him out for his team losing the pennant race. He, too, finished fourth in the Cy Young balloting.

What about Pitcher E? He appeared in the most games, and had a better ERA than Pitchers B and D, but he also pitched less than an inning per game, significantly fewer innings than A or C; his save percentage was only the third best on the list; his strikeout rate was easily the lowest without offsetting advantages in the walks or homers column.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 5, 2008
POLITICS: Emanuel In Or Not In As Chief of Staff

The first major personnel announcement of the new Obama Administration is out, and the word is that Congressman Rahm Emanuel has been offered the post of Obama's chief of staff. The announcement didn't exactly go off smoothly, as this NBC report shows:

From NBC's Andrea Mitchell A senior Obama advisor confirms to NBC News that Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel has accepted the job of Chief of Staff for the Obama White House.

*** UPDATE *** In an email to NBC News, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg denies the reporting that Emanuel has accepted the chief of staff job.

If you're reading tea leaves for what kind of Administration Obama will run, Emanuel does not exactly embody "new politics" and a "post-partisan" future. He's a Chicago Democrat who worked as a "senior adviser and chief fundraiser" (his words) for Mayor Daley and later worked in the Clinton White House, and he's known as a hardball-playing scorched-earth arch-partisan in the Tom DeLay mold. He's been widely seen as a possible future successor to Nancy Pelosi.

Will Emanuel take the job? If his spokesperson is publicly denying that he's taken it, that's basically a public slapdown to Obama's people for jumping the gun in leaking his name, and it's certainly a sign of initial dysfunction in the naming of what is probably the single most important staff position for a new president who will be facing a sharp learning curve as a new executive.

UPDATE: Allahpundit has more background (with links) on Emanuel.

SECOND UPDATE: After the initial fumbling, Politico reports that Emanuel accepts the job.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (58) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: President Obama and the National Pastime

Lester Munson at ESPN has a long and interesting look at what Obama's election means for baseball and the world of sports in general, including his likely strong support for the 2016 Olympics in Chicago:

Japanese Olympic officials already have expressed their concern that Obama could turn the tide in favor of Chicago when the IOC votes in October.

"Mr. Obama is popular and good at speeches, so things could get tough for Japan," said Tomiaki Fukuda, a senior Japanese Olympic Committee board member.

If Sen. John McCain had won the election, the U.S. bid to play host to the 2016 Olympics might have been negatively affected. Many IOC members remember McCain's scathing investigation of the bribery scandal involving IOC members who helped award the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. Two members of the Salt Lake City bid committee were indicted, and McCain's investigation led to major changes in the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Many IOC members remain bitter over McCain's aggressive efforts for reform.

An Olympics in his home city of Chicago in the late summer of 2016 would be a grand finale for an Obama presidency that would be about to wind down if he were re-elected to a second term.

(OK, I didn't have to include that paragraph about McCain, give me more than a day on that reflex...the irony is that the bribery investigation led to Mitt Romney taking over the Salt Lake City Games, which led to Romney's political rise - talk about your chains of unforeseen consequences).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:32 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Other Sports • | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Council of Elrond Reconsidered

Over at RedState yesterday a bunch of us had some Election Day fun with a little tongue-in-cheek geostrategy about the Council of Elrond. A good diversion from a discouraging day.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:03 PM | Politics 2008 • | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The 2012 GOP Field (First Call)

As promised, here's my initial thoughts on what the Republican field will look like in four years. Obviously, there are many variables along the way, ranging from how beatable Obama looks to the 2010 midterms; I'm just forecasting with the known knowns we have today. As usual there will probably be 10 or so candidates, but from where we sit today there look to be four slots from which to put together a credible primary campaign:

(1) The Populist Candidate: With its Washington leadership beheaded, the GOP is likely to become more of a populist and culturally conservative party in the next four years. Mike Huckabee showed this year the power and the limitations of a pure populist campaign, far exceeding expectations with nearly no resources or name recognition (although Huck was out of step with the populists on one of the major causes of grassroots frustration with DC, immigration). Against the backdrop of a tax-spend-regulate Obama Administration, a crucial challenge will be squaring populism with the GOP's need to appeal to economic and fiscal conservatives to expand out of the Huck-size niche. Realistically, the populist candidate is likely to end up as the most moderate serious candidate in the field.

As things stand today, Sarah Palin is the obvious populist candidate and, for now, the very-very-early frontrunner for the 2012 nomination, given her now-massive name recognition (the woman's every TV appearance is a ratings bonanza), amazing talents as a retail politician, appeal to the base, and the GOP tendency towards nominating the next in line. Granted, only two candidates in the part century (Bob Dole and Franklin D. Roosevelt) have won a major party nomination after being the VP nominee for a losing ticket (not counting Mondale, who'd already been VP), those two waited 12 and 20 years before doing so, respectively, and recent history has been unkind to those who tried (Edwards 2008, Lieberman 2004 - see also Quayle 2000).

I'll expand another day on the challenges facing Gov. Palin - the short answer is that inexperience is the easiest thing in the world to fix, but she'll have to face tougher budgetary times in Alaska in light of falling oil revenues, she'll have to withstand what is likely to be an ongoing national campaign by the Democrats to take her down or hobble her re-election efforts to cut off the likeliest threat to Obama, and she'll have to develop and sell her own, independent agenda and demonstrate a greater breadth and depth of knowledge on national politics than are required from the running mate slot. Upside in the primaries: the socially conservative, moose-hunting hockey mom could potentially be well-suited to the early GOP primary/caucus electorates in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan.

(2) The Establishment Candidate: The GOP by tradition tends to fall in behind whoever is the candidate of the establishment - of country clubs and boardrooms and Beltway insiders. Part of being a Republican, of course, is having the maturity to understand that being the establishment candidate is not a bad thing. But an angry grassroots is going to take some serious persuading to pick another establishment figure.

The best establishment candidate should be Jeb Bush, for a variety of reasons, but four years won't be enough - if any length of time is - to rebuild the Bush brand within the GOP, let alone the general electorate. That leaves Mitt Romney as the logical next step; Mitt is currently out of office and thus less equipped to get more experience, but he'll have the money and energy to spend four years staking himself out as a consistent conservative voice and putting the distance of time between 2012 and the flip-flop charges of 2008. South Dakota Senator John Thune is also sometimes mentioned, but after 1964, 1996 and now 2008, the GOP has hopefully learned its lesson about nominating legislators for President, especially sitting Senators. Newly re-elected Indiana Governor and former Bush budget director Mitch Daniels (see here and here) will have his name come up but more likely as a VP nominee.

(3) The Full-Spectrum Conservative: The Fred Thompson role from 2008 but one that will pack a lot more potential appeal in 2012. Bobby Jindal is the best of the lot, but while he's already got an impressive resume, Jindal's so young (he's 37, which makes him the age Romney was in 1985), so he can afford to wait out several more election cycles; he's up for re-election in 2011, which makes running in 2012 very problematic; and he really and genuinely wants to stay in Louisiana long enough to make real changes in his beloved home state's legendarily corrupt and dysfunctional political culture. The other main contender for this slot is South Carolina's Governor Mark Sanford, now in his second term as Governor after 3 in Congress. SC is the most favorable turf for a candidate of this type among the early primary states, so with Sanford running as a favorite son he could basically block out any other challengers, and if he doesn't run for re-election in 2010 (offhand I don't know whether he's term-limited), he'd have a logistical advantage over Palin, who will presumably still be in office as governor of a geographically remote state.

(4) The National Security Candidate: After four years of Obama, there's also likely to be strong sentiment for adult leadership on national security. Traditionally, the GOP has tended to prioritize this issue (in 2008, both McCain and Giuliani ran primarily as national security candidates). But especially with Senators in disfavor, the supply of candidates with more national security credentials than a typical Governor is short - most of the Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld types in the party will be past their prime by 2012, and I continue to doubt that Condi Rice could be a viable candidate for a multitude of reasons. The name you're likely to hear is CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus, but Gen. Petraeus - who I assume will remain on active duty for another year or two, at least, and who President Obama dare not fire - has no political experience and no known domestic-policy profile (we don't even know if he's a Republican). My guess is that if we nominate a governor in 2012, Gen. Petraeus will be much in demand as a running mate. After that, I'm not sure who will even try to fill this slot in the primaries.

Sorry, but that's the list; the no-more-McCains sentiment among the base will make it impossible for someone like Tim Pawlenty to mount a credible campaign as a moderate, nobody will bother trying to re-create the crippling damage inflicted on Rudy Giuliani from running with a record as a social liberal, and no Ron Paul type candidate (especially Ron Paul) is ever going to make a serious dent. It's those four slots or bust.

And I, for one, am definitely not committing yet to who I'll support as between Palin or a Sanford or Jindal run or maybe somebody else (obviously I'm not a Mitt fan). There's two long years ahead of us before that choice begins to arise.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Politics 2008 • | Politics 2012 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Obama Administration Survival Guide

The WildernessThe nation awakens today to a grim day (although less grim than it might have been, as the late Senate races come in and the prognosis for a decent-sized GOP resistance looks much better). But America has endured worse. Here's 12 ways I recommend that conservatives and Republicans prepare to face the next four years under President Obama (yeah, get used to that one):

(1) Oppose Obama, Not America: The absolute wrong way to react to life in the minority is ... well, what we saw from too many people on the Left the past 8 years: calling everyone from the President on down to individual soldiers and Marines war criminals, parroting the propaganda of our enemies, exposing classified national security secrets on the front pages of the newspapers, and generally doing whatever possible to stymie the national defense and convince the nation and the world that America is the bad guy. We're better than that. When Obama fails to act to defend America and its interests and allies, or violates the basic common-sense principles of national security and foreign policy, we will of course be unsparing in our criticism. But we should not emulate the Left; indeed, the day may even come when Obama needs defending from the Left for doing what needs to be done, and we certainly want to encourage him to take actions that provoke that reaction.

(2) No Chicken-Hawking: This is a corollary of #1: given his shaky draft history, Bill Clinton at times appeared afraid of criticism over deploying the military on grounds that he didn't serve. We should never make Obama feel that he should blanch at defending the nation simply because he never wore the uniform (fortunately, on that score, Obama's defining personality trait is hubris). We've had civilian leadership before, we'll have it again.

(3) Don't Question The Verdict: Was there voter fraud in yesterday's election? Were there other shenanigans both legal and illegal? I'm sure there were, and others who follow those stories will no doubt be expanding on them in the weeks to come. Chronicling specific instances of misconduct is an important service - to expose the miscreants and their connections to the Obama campaign, to punish and deter and provide a basis for someday preventing a recurrence (although don't expect the Obama era to see anything but massive resistance to taking even the most tepid steps against voter fraud). And likewise, of course, there is still plenty more to be examined in Obama's fundraising, to say nothing of the untruths he told to get elected and the really shameful behavior of the media.

But fundamentally, he got more votes where it mattered and he won the race. Supporters of Gore and Kerry who refused to accept those realities in 2000 and 2004 ended up doing a lot of lasting damage to public confidence in our electoral system. The step of challenging the results of an election is a grave one not to be taken without serious evidence. Let's not repeat their mistakes with conspiracy theories.

(4) Don't Blame The Voters: Yes, it's tempting to go off into the place where Democrats were fuming about "Jesusland" four years ago. And yes, Obama got a lot of votes for bad reasons or from vacuous people. Hey, there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and in America, and a fair number of them vote - they vote when we win, they vote when we lose. Winston Churchill was a great believer in democracy as the least-worst system of government, but he's also the guy who once said that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

For all that, it's counterproductive to lose faith in the collective wisdom of the American voting public over the long term. Even when the public makes a mistake, it usually has a reason - and while electing Obama will be clearly shown over time to have been a mistake, the GOP also has some serious introspection to do about how we let things come to the point of giving the public a reason to do what it did. And we need to retain faith that rebuilding our party around the principles that have succeeded in the past, and adapting those principles for the world of the next decade, will win them back.

(5) Don't Get Mad, Get Even: Yes, it's a cliche, but unfocused rage goes bad places. There's a lot of work to do to prepare the ground for the GOP to come back as it did in 1994, 1980, and 1966-68. The Left drew first blood on the Bush second term only a few weeks after the election, with the Bernard Kerik nomination. We'll have a target-rich environment to work with as the kind of urban machine politics the Democrats have made famous comes to the White House, and we'll have fun doing it.

(6) We Play For 2010, Not 2012: I'll be writing up shortly my early thoughts about the GOP presidential field in 2012, and plenty of others will too. Do it, get it out of your system, come to the aid of the people who will make up future presidential fields, but whatever you do, don't get into primary-season, my-gal/guy-or-the-highway mode again until we are through the 2010 elections. There will be a need in the party's future for Palin and Jindal and Sanford and Huck and Mitt and all the rest; we're all in this together.

(7) Prioritize: More on this later, but Obama and the Congressional Democrats are going to have a long list of issues they want to press, and we can't stop all of them. The GOP needs to divide issues into four buckets:

a. Things we are prepared to go to the mat to stop
b. Things we want to force the Democrats to commit themselves to so we can take the dispute to the voters
c. Things, however modest, we actually think we can accomplish even with the Democrats in power
d. Things we want to propose as positive agenda items even knowing they'll go nowhere, to lay out our own roadmap for the future.

(8) Watch Your Budget: We're all going to have to prepare for tougher economic times, plus the burden of Obama's tax hikes. Don't overextend your own finances.

(9) Grow A Thick Hide and Get Your Taxes in Order: Joe Wurtzelbacher won't be the last Obama critic to feel the weight of government intrusion for standing up to Obama. David Freddoso and Stanley Kurtz won't be the last conservative journalists to have their investigations stonewalled and campaigns organized to drive them off the radio. And get used to being called a racist, as everyone who gets in Obama's way is, sooner or later. Understand now that you will need to stomach all that and more, and you won't get rattled.

(10) Buy More Life Insurance: Well, at least if, like me, you live or work in a city that's a top terrorist target, and have roots too deep to leave. Our risk tolerance will have to go up.

(11) Pray: Well, this one speaks for itself. Pray especially for the unborn.

(12) Get On Living: Life is short and there's more to it than politics. We'll need committed activists, and as a whole our movement will need to be relentless - but thinking about politics too much is unhealthy, especially when you have a long wait ahead for any progress. For my part, starting tomorrow I'll be back to doing more baseball blogging. Take a break whenever you need one, spend more time with your family. And teach your kids that every minute of life is worth it even when the world seems to have gone mad. Many generations before us have done so in tougher times than these.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:37 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (69) | TrackBack (0)
November 4, 2008
POLITICS: Karl Rove Has Been Vindicated

One of the most unambiguous conclusions from Obama's victory? Karl Rove was right.

For the past 8 years, we've had a debate over the best political strategy for approaching a national election. There were, in essence, two contending theories.

Karl Rove's theory - one he perhaps never explicitly articulated, but which was evident in the approach to multiple elections, votes in Congress, and even international coalitions run by his boss, George W. Bush - was, essentially, that you win with your base. You start with the base, you expand it as much as possible by increasing turnout, and then you work outward until you get past 50% - but you don't compromise more than necessary to get to that goal.

Standing in opposition to the Rove theory was what one might call the Beltway Pundit theory, since that's who were the chief proponents of the theory. The Beltway Pundit theory was, in essence, that America has a great untapped middle, a center that resists ideology and partisanship and would respond to a candidate who could present himself as having a base in the middle of the electorate.

Tonight, we had a classic test of those theories. Barack Obama is nothing if not the pure incarnation on the left of the Rovian theory. He ran in the Democratic primaries as the candidate of the 'Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.' His record was pure left-wing all the way. He seems to have brought out a large number of new base voters, in particular African-Americans responding to his racial appeals and voting straight-ticket D. As I'll discuss in a subsequent post, the process of getting to 50.1% for a figure of the left is more complex and involves more concerted efforts at concealment and dissimulation, but the basic elements of the Rovian strategy are all there.

John McCain, by contrast, was the Platonic ideal Beltway Pundit-style candidate, and his defeat by Obama ensures that his like will not win a national nomination any time soon, in either party. McCain spent many years establishing himself as a pragmatic moderate, dissenting ad nauseum and without a consistent unifying principle from GOP orthodoxy; McCain had veered to the center simply whenever he felt that the Republican position was too far. McCain held enough positions that were in synch with the conservative base to make him minimally acceptable, but nobody ever regarded him as a candidate to excite the conservative base.

Now, it's true enough that the partisan environment was terribly challenging for Republicans in 2008. That's why so many of us on the Republican side were willing to go with McCain in the first place. But here's the thing: if you believed the Beltway Pundit theory, that shouldn't matter. If a significant and reliable bloc of voters consistently preferred the moderate, centrist candidate over the more ideological and partisan candidate, in the same way that conservatives prefer the more conservative candidate and liberals prefer the more liberal candidate, you would have a base from which a candidate like McCain could consistently prevail against a candidate like Obama, and partisan identification would be trumped by moderation and proven bipartisanship.

But there is no such base. Centrist, moderate, independent, voters are generally "swing" voters, always have been and always will be. Among those who are at least modestly well-informed, they are a heterogenous lot - some libertarian, some socially conservative but economically populist, some fiscally conservative and socially liberal, some isolationist and anti-immigrant, etc. It's not possible to make of them a "base" - the only way to approach the center is to lock down the real base at one end or the other of the political spectrum, and then reach out to voters in the middle, understanding the real tradeoff that what appeals to one "swing" voter may be anathema to others.

Of course, the dismal approval ratings of the Bush Administration at the end of its days testify to the serious arguments over whether Rove and his boss chose the wrong mix of reaches out to the center as they built their "compassionate conservative" coalition; that's a separate debate. It is likewise a fair debate over the ways in which future conservative candidates can and should make compromises to get the GOP back to that 50.1%. But what's not open for debate, after tonight, is the sheer futility of trying to build a coalition from the center out. Because the center won't stand still for any candidate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:19 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Welcome Back, Carter

Well, we have our answer now: at this writing, it's pretty clear that Barack Obama has won the Presidency, bringing back the Carter Administration with a vengeance. Needless to say, I'll have a number of postmortem posts on this, but don't expect them all in one gulp, as there's a number of angles to approach here over the next several days and weeks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:46 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (33) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Optimistic To The End

I'm not making an electoral college prediction, other than to reiterate yet again that whoever wins Pennsylvania, wins the election. If pressed, my popular vote prediction would be Obama 52, McCain 48, but of course I remain hopeful things will go differently.

This, which I've seen linked in a few places, makes the argument for why Obama is toast, based in part on looking at where the candidates have been traveling. It may be right; I can't know (they gotta go somewhere). All I can say is, the people on the Right writing these things are going to look like either fools or geniuses in a few hours. (Although I think the comparison of the Kerry and Obama media strategies is spot-on either way, and I'm not endorsing his assault on Nate Silver - Nate has his obvious biases, but he's a data guy, and like Gerry Daly in 2004, he's working with the data, right or wrong. I've already had to eat crow once this year when I challenged the PECOTA system's projection that the Rays would win 88 games).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:12 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Palin Power

Unsurprising poll result of the year: Sarah Palin is more popular with Republican voters than John McCain. 71% of GOP voters say Palin was the right choice for VP, compared to 65% supporting McCain as the best choice for the Presidential nominee, 74% of Democrats who say Obama was the right choice, and 76% of Democrats who say Biden was the right choice. (It's perhaps unsurprising given the nature of primary battles that both parties' presidential candidates face more lingering doubters in the ranks).


Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:59 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: "People who love their country can change it!"

Just in case you were wondering whether the Obama campaign's "change" slogan means changing the government or changing's an actual SMS message received by one of my RedState colleagues today from the Obama campaign:

People who love their country can change it! Make sure everyone you know votes for Barack today.

Contrast John McCain:

My country has never had to prove anything to me, my friends...I've always had faith in it and I've been humbled and honored to serve it.

America remains, in Reagan's words, a country with a government, not the other way around. Let's hope it stays that way.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:37 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Personally, I'd Vote For Lando's Running Mate

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Via Gabriel Malor at Ace's place. Amazingly, Billy Dee Williams was available.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:33 PM | Politics 2008 • | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The Weather Underground, the SDS, the anti-war movement...hey, what's a 60s radical reunion without the Black Panthers?

Just when you thought we were done with the 60s for good, too.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:16 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 3, 2008
POLITICS: Gov. Sarah Palin Cleared In "Tasergate"

Ah, the death of a talking point...we have news from Alaska that the investigator for the State Personnel Board has issued a report - contrary to the findings of the Legislature's independent investigator - and concluded that Gov. Palin did not abuse her authority in the case of State Trooper Michael Wooten, the controversy over "Tasergate" or, if you prefer, "Troopergate."

Let's do a Q&A on the 263-page Branchflower report, which I read from cover to cover, and on the 125-page Petumenos report, which I have only yet had the chance to skim. I may return to this after the election when we have more time to walk through the evidence (win or lose tomorrow, Gov. Palin will continue to be an important figure in national politics).

First, the Branchflower report:

(1) A report was issued by one man, Stephen Branchflower.

(2) Branchflower was handpicked, and his investigation directed, by Hollis French - an Obama supporter who has a personal axe to grind in the facts under investigation. Branchflower, French and Walt Monegan, the chief witness in the case, all appear to go way back together in Alaska law enforcement circles.

(3) The only wrongdoing Branchflower could find was under a general statute that says public officials may not engage in an "effort to benefit a personal ... interest through official action" - he did not find a violation of any specific statute, rule or regulation. To conclude that Gov. Palin's actions were in her personal interest rather than the best interests of the Alaskan people and their government, you must believe that her actions were actually wrong.

(4) In order to find that Gov. Palin's actions were actually wrong, Democrats must be willing to argue that an irresponsible and abusive state trooper who made death threats against Gov. Palin's father and menaced her sister in her hearing and used a Taser on a 10-year-old is a good person to have wielding armed authority on behalf of the State of Alaska. Because otherwise they are making a technical legal argument that she did the right thing in the wrong way - yet they don't have any technical violation to hang their hats on.

By contrast, the Personnel Board investigator, Timothy Petumenos, found no impropriety and concluded, regarding Branchflower's report:

Independent Counsel has concluded the wrong statute was used as a basis for the conclusions contained in the Branchflower Report, the Branchflower report misconstrued the available evidence and did not consider or obtain all of the material evidence that is required to properly reach findings.

Read on.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Say What He Will

H/T. As I have said over and over: vote for the left-wing Democrat machine politician, if what you want is a left-wing Democrat machine politician, no more and no less. But really, if he wins, don't expect anybody, a year from now, to take seriously the idea that he was ever anything else. The two-steps like this are just about concealing who he is and what he stands for.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:24 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Stay Classy,


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:53 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

A rare combined baseball and politics post - well, sort of; this is obviously intended to be a little more lighthearted. Updating and correcting this June 2003 post - the Hated Yankees haven't won a World Series with a Republican in the White House since 1958. Counting since 1921 (their first pennant), the Yankees are 19-3 in the World Series (with just three playoff losses) in 40 years of Democratic Administrations, but just 7-10 in the World Series (with five playoff losses) in 48 years of Republican Administrations. They've gone 0 for the last five GOP Administrations while failing to bring home a championship on the watch of only one Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson.

The breakout, by World Series W/L/No Pennant:

Harding/Collidge/Hoover (R): 4-3-5
FDR/Truman (D): 11-1-8
Eisenhower (R): 3-3-2
JFK/LBJ (D): 2-2-4
Nixon/Ford (R): 0-1-7
Carter (D): 2-0-2 (one loss in playoffs)
Reagan/Bush (R): 0-1-11
Clinton (D): 4-0-4 (two losses in playoffs, one strike)
Bush (R): 0-2-6 (five losses in playoffs)

So, you know, if you're not a Yankees fan...

UPDATE: Corrected. Somehow my brain blocked out the Yankees losing the Series in 2001 & 2003.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:42 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Just A Reminder

No outrage, but no surprise either - the Democrats don't care so much about campaign finance reform when they are raising and spending more money.

"New politics."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:50 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: The Missing Victory

Iraq Walls

There's been a strange silence lately in the Presidential election: silence about victory in Iraq.

Number of U.S. combat fatalities in Baghdad this October? Zero, for the first time in the war. It's part of a larger trend:

Thirteen deaths were reported during October, eight of them in combat. The figures exactly match those of last July and reflect a continuing downward trend that began around Sept. 2007. October 2007 saw 38 deaths reported (29 combat); in October 2006 there were 106 U.S. deaths (99 combat) and in October 2005 there were 96 (77 combat).

October 2008 was the best (or, more accurately, least-worst) month of the war so far:

U.S. deaths in Iraq fell in October to their lowest monthly level of the war, matching the record low of 13 fatalities suffered in July. Iraqi deaths fell to their lowest monthly levels of the year....The sharp drop in American fatalities in Iraq reflects the overall security improvements across the country following the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and the rout suffered by Shiite extremists in fighting last spring in Basra and Baghdad.

But the decline also points to a shift in tactics by extremist groups, which U.S. commanders say are now focusing their attacks on Iraqi soldiers and police that are doing much of the fighting.

Iraqi government figures showed at least 364 Iraqis killed in October - including police, soldiers, civilians and militants.

Despite the sharp decline, the Iraqi death toll serves as a reminder that this remains a dangerous, unstable country despite the security gains, which U.S. military commanders repeatedly warn are fragile and reversible.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Making It A Long Night

I mostly agree with Allahpundit's view that McCain could be dead and buried early, given some of the poll-closing times:

7 p.m. Indiana, Virginia 7:30 p.m. Ohio, North Carolina 8 p.m. Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri

Granted, there's been talk that Ohio may not be call-able until very late (traditionally, Indiana and Virginia get called pretty quickly, but that may not be true in IN this year), but if McCain's winning the states he needs to stay in the game, I doubt very much that he loses either Ohio or Florida, at least unless something really...wrong is happening in Ohio, a possibility I'm trying to keep out of my mind right now. In fact, I tend to agree with Erick that "if McCain wins Pennsylvania, he's the President. If McCain loses Pennsylvania, he is not the President. It's that simple."

If McCain pulls out PA, even if he loses NH and longer shot 2004 blue states like MN and WI, he can afford to lose IA, VA, CO, and NM out of the 2004 Bush states and still win the election (go here; that gives him a 273-265 lead). If he doesn't take PA, he really does need to hold the line in most of the Bush states besides IA (in which he's been doomed all along due to the politics of ethanol).

Anyway, if McCain is still in the game at 9:30 or 10pm, it will be time to get optimistic, and not before.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:47 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Speaking of Obama's Unexamined Past

Business International, Obama's first employers out of college had substantial ties to SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), the radical (but nonviolent) Sixties group that gave birth to the Weather Underground (Bernadine Dohrn was one of the heads of SDS before joining the WU). H/T. This longer article pretty well covers the waterfront (including established fact, informed speculation and links) of why this should not surprise us and why there's a shroud of secrecy around Obama's life in the early 80s.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:20 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Change, The Mainstream, and Content-Free Politics

Stepping away for a moment from the right/left axis, there are fundamentally two worldviews of American politics that will, in theory, face off tomorrow.

One is the notion of the Mainstream. Basically, the Mainstream view of American politics is that there's a center to our politics, that things best get done when the two parties work together and marginalize the ideological extremes. This view holds that the real impediment to progress is the resistance of the Right and the Left to compromise. Pretty much by definition, the candidate of the Mainstream is John McCain, the man who practically embodies this view of Washington.

The opposite pole is the idea of Change. This view holds that Washington is at its worst, not its best, when the two parties conspire together against the general population. The Change view notices that Washington has long tended to chew up and spit out grand ideological schemes and idealists and impose a moderating pull towards the inherently corrupt center. The ideal Change candidate must be made of sterner stuff - must be willing to stand sometimes alone against misguided bipartisan consensuses, calling out the whole rotten edifice of favor-sharing and back-scratching. And of course, as I've been through repeatedly in this space, the Change candidate as well, by any sane reckoning, must be John McCain, given the contrast between his dogged pursuit of reform and Obama's business-as-usual attitude towards the corrupt machinery of government.

So given that we have two basically competing visions and one candidate represents both, how is that candidate not obviously winning?

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Confident Prediction About Barack Obama

I will make now a prediction about one thing we will see in the event of an Obama Presidency, and stick by it: Obama will never be free of his past.

During the 8 years of the Bush presidency, we have heard relatively little new information about his pre-presidential career, with the exception of the 2004 effort to dig further into his Texas Air National Guard service to contrast him with John Kerry. There's a reason for this: when Bush ran for President in 2000, the media crawled all over whatever they could find, most famously culminating in the story of his 1976 DUI arrest that broke the week of the election.

Much the same was true of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. The press dealt mostly with their tenure in office, having already fully vetted them prior to their elections. We have seen in recent months the same process for Sarah Palin, with every aspect of her life being turned over by investigative reporters. And of course, John McCain as well.

Contrast the Clinton Administration - during the Clinton years, we had a steady stream of stories, often starting either with legal processes or with reportage by conservative media outlets, bringing us new information about the Clintons' past, ranging from Hillary's 1978 commodities investment (which was fully concealed during the 1992 campaign by concealment of the Clintons' tax returns) to the ins and outs of the Whitewater investigation to Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick to things like the Mena airport saga that came out gradually.

Not all of the stories about the Clintons' past were blockbusters (the Mena story never amounted to anything that really connected all that directly to the Clintons), and obviously the credibility of the he-said-she-said stories of women like Jones and Broaddrick remains in the eye of the beholder (as for Whitewater, the New York Times did a single story on it during the primaries in March 1992 and then promptly dropped the issue). But voters should have had the opportunity to evaluate them before giving Bill Clinton the job, and certainly would have, if he'd been a Republican; and if the media had done its homework, these would all have been old news by 1993. The most egregious case was the commodities deal, which came out in 1994 (see here and here), and which probably would have been the one scandal too many to sink Clinton if it had been properly ventilated at the time. Obviously some of this was due to concealment by the Clintons rather than just media lassitude, but politicians don't get a pass for concealing things if the media wants them dragged out.

Anyway, that said, I will predict with great confidence that if Obama is elected, we will not by a long shot have heard the last of new information about his past in Chicago politics. So much of Obama's early years remains a cipher, due to the destruction of his State Senate papers, his refusal to release scores of other types of documents (as Jim Geraghty relates here, here, and here), to say nothing of the many "missing witnesses" (noted here) who can't be located or won't speak to the media. All those dams can't hold forever. While Republicans and conservatives will, if Obama wins, have plenty to do exposing his activities in the White House, at the end of the day, Obama's past remains a fertile field with many areas of investigation that have yet to be exhausted. We will not have heard the last of it. He will carry his past in the White House like Jacob Marley's chains, precisely because the media has not made him face it all on the trail.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:54 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (37) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: This Week's Schedule

1. Baseball content, and in general a more normal balance of content, should resume around Thursday.

2. Sadly, I never did get to the end of my list of posts to write up before the election. I'll be rolling a few more things out if I have the time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:45 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Blog 2006-14 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)