Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
January 30, 2009
POLITICS: Steele It Is

Congrats to Michael Steele on his victory in the race for Chairman of the Republican National Committee. We'll have an editorial on Steele up at RedState shortly, as soon as we get past the latest site outage.

UPDATE: Our editorial is here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:09 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Catchers and the Hall

My very large long-brewing project, my annual THT Hall of Fame column, is up in Part I today, on the post-1920 catchers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:54 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
January 29, 2009
BASEBALL: For All The Cubs Fans

Feel the love:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:37 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
January 28, 2009
POLITICS: Obama Merchandising

For those of you who couldn't get enough of the White Sox hat has an increasingly bizarre array of Obama merchandise, some of which may not be exactly safe for viewing at work. I simply lost it at "Barack Obaca." There is something seriously wrong with the people who come up with this stuff, some of which would make Turkmenbashi blush.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: But It's Different When He Says It!

In case you missed it, a glimmer of hope - and change! - that the Daily Show might yet figure out how it's safe to make fun of Obama:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:01 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Ethics of Cornering A Thin Market

Jack Marshall at the Hardball Times, after defending in general how Scott Boras does his business, argues that he's violating legal-ethical duties to his clients:

Imagine you are a lawyer who is retained by a parent to sue a school district in a sexual molestation case. You believe you can win and are pretty sure that you have a chance to break the bank and take almost all the assets of the district. Now another client comes to you wanting to sue a school in the same district to get damages for a horrible injury sustained by her child on a defective jungle gym. You can’t take the second case. If you achieve the objective of the first client, there won’t be money left for the second one. If you achieve the goals of one, you can’t possibly achieve the goals of the other.

The remedy for conflicts of interest is often informed consent. If both clients completely understand the implications of hiring the same lawyer to sue the same client with limited resources, can’t they just decide to trust the lawyer and hire you anyway?

The answer is no. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers, specifically Rule 1.7, declare that the waiver of all parties is sufficient to waive the conflict only if the lawyer reasonably believes that the representation of one client won’t interfere with the representation of the other. In this situation, you can’t reasonably believe that, because it is impossible. To the extent that you help one client, you hurt the other. It is an unwaivable conflict.


If the Yankees were the team most likely to contest the Dodgers for Manny Ramirez, in the event that New York did not wrap up Teixeira, Boras was undermining his own client's bargaining power by helping Teixeira reach an agreement with New York. If the Angels signed Sabathia, as was a realistic possibility, it would have made the team an unlikely bidder for Teixeira or Ramirez. Sports commentators, talking heads and bloggers sensed this, speculating that Boras might "steer" Teixeira to an East Coast team to keep open a West Coast landing place for Manny. But Boras cannot ethically manipulate one client's fate to benefit another. For a lawyer, doing so is grounds for bar discipline; for a non-lawyer, it is simply disloyal and wrong.

Boras represents two fading, star veteran catchers: Ivan Rodriquez and Jason Varitek. The Red Sox, with a veteran pitching staff, would like a veteran catcher. Varitek has appeal to Boston because he has anchored the team for over a decade and has been the team captain; Rodriguez might be attractive because, based on last season at least, his skills have not declined as steeply. With two different agents, I-Rod and Tek would be competing with each other for the job in Boston or other teams seeking a veteran catcher. But with the same agent, such competition is either impossible or unethical.

Read the whole thing. I'm not sure how I come out on this - it's an interesting argument, and it passes the test of being true at a fundamental level - for example, an agent representing Varitek might reasonably have chosen to argue that he was, specifically, a better investment than Rodriguez; representing both, Boras cannot do that. On the other hand, the pond at issue here is so small that if you never represent two players with possibly competing interests, you'd hardly be able to represent more than about 10 players.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:07 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Law 2009-14 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Second Circuit: Second Amendment Doesn't Apply To The States Unless The Supreme Court Tells Us Otherwise

Setback for the Constitutional Right To Bear Nunchaku

NunchakuThe United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the federal appeals court sitting in Manhattan, rejected this morning a legal challenge by an attorney convicted on Long Island of possession of nunchaku, or chuka sticks, who argued that the Second Amendment protects his right to bear these traditional Okinawan weapons.

The court's decision, however, did not address whether the Second Amendment protects a right to have nunchaku in your home, as it instead disposed of the legal challenge on the considerably more significant grounds that the Second Amendment is not "incorporated" as a restriction on state government by the Fourteenth Amendment:

It is settled law... that the Second Amendment applies only to limitations the federal government seeks to impose on th[e individual] right [to keep and bear arms recognized in Heller]. See, e.g., Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252, 265 (1886) (stating that the Second Amendment "is a limitation only upon the power of congress and the national government, and not upon that of the state"); Bach v. Pataki, 408 F.3d 75, 84, 86 (2d Cir. 2005) (holding "that the Second Amendment's 'right to keep and bear arms' imposes a limitation on only federal, not state, legislative efforts" and noting that this outcome was compelled by Presser), cert. denied, 546 U.S. 1174 (2006). Heller, a case involving a challenge to the District of Columbia's general prohibition on handguns, does not invalidate this longstanding principle. See Heller, 128 S. Ct. at 2813 n.23 (noting that the case did not present the question of whether the Second Amendment applies to the states). And to the extent that Heller might be read to question the continuing validity of this principle, we "must follow Presser" because "[w]here, as here, a Supreme Court precedent 'has direct application in a case, yet appears to rest on reasons rejected in some other line of decisions, the Court of Appeals should follow the case which directly controls, leaving to the Supreme Court the prerogative of overruling its own decisions.'" Bach, 408 F.3d at 86 (quoting Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/Am. Express, Inc., 490 U.S. 477, 484 (1989))...Thus, N.Y. Penal Law ss265.00 through 265.02 do not violate the Second Amendment.

I will leave it to the Second Amendment scholars to discuss the proper reading of Presser; suffice it to say that judicial conservatives who argued that the Fourteenth Amendment does not incorporate the whole Bill of Rights into prohibitions against the states lost that fight years ago, and it will be an ironic twist if liberal champions of incorporation (including the new Justice Department) suddenly rediscover skepticism about the doctrine to protect state-level gun controls. Conservatives as well will face the issue of how to square the weight of pro-incorporation precedent with arguments for reconsidering the doctrine and limiting its further expansion. But make no mistake: sooner or later the Supreme Court is going to have to return to the issue, and its decision will have vast impact on whether Heller becomes a limitation on state and local gun controls or remains limited to federal gun control.

It also remains to be seen, given the novelty of the weapon involved, whether the Supreme Court will be interested in taking up this question in this case, if a certiorari petition is filed, and what position Obama's Justice Department will take if one is and it is asked by the Court to weigh in. Stay tuned.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:08 AM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
January 27, 2009
BASEBALL: Lego Stadia

If there's one thing I am invariably a sucker for, it's Lego geekery. Behold: Major League Stadiums in Legos. We did an Olympic Coliseum and an aircraft carrier when I was a kid (the latter involved just building the deck and hull and sticking a control tower from an airport set on top), but never one of these.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:10 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Obama SoxThere's a long tradition of your basic ceremonial honors between the White House and the National Pastime, all of which is well and good even during times when you may not like the current occupant of the Oval Office. But really, does the game need to do this?

The Chicago White Sox are aiming to release a President Barack Obama-themed version of their cap in time for the start of spring training.

The club has developed two prototype designs of its club hat with Obama marks on the side and back. The hats have been approved by MLB Properties, and the White Sox now are awaiting a formal blessing from the Obama administration before league licensee New Era goes into production. Both designs will be made if accepted by Obama.

Even for those of us who love baseball and love politics, it's better to keep the two separate. It's bad enough that Obama* is being merchandised like he's the latest George Lucas character (I swear some of the newspapers are only staving off bankruptcy by selling Obama commemorative memorabilia to his fans), and that businesses all over the place seem completely unaware of the fact that 59 million Americans voted against the guy - but to go and stick Obama logos on the hats of an MLB team is going too far. It would have been cheesy for the Rangers to do that for Bush even though he used to own the team; it's no different with Obama.

* - Kung fu grip not available on all models. Batteries sold separately.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:31 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Ten Lessons From the Bush Administration

There are many things - good and bad alike - to look back on from the Bush Administration, as befits only the 12th man in our history, and only the 7th since 1837, to serve a full 8 years in the Oval Office. Whether we like the task or not, conservatives need to continue defending the successes and good decisions of the Bush years, as the inauguration of Barack Obama will not cause Bush's critics to relent in their campaign to keep his reputation from recovering and to try to discredit conservative ideas and philosophy with Bush's unpopularity. But that doesn't mean we should fail to draw lessons from Bush's failures.

I'd like to reflect here on ten lessons for future presidents, at least Republican ones, from things that went badly for Bush. (My lessons are different from those of Bob Woodward, who is amusingly unaware that his Lesson #10 would totally eviscerate his Lessons #2 and 4-6, as well as being unaware that saying "[i]nstead of a team of rivals, Bush wound up with a team of back-stabbers with long-running, poisonous disagreements about foreign policy fundamentals" is like saying "instead of a dozen eggs, Bush wound up with twelve eggs.").

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:53 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
January 26, 2009
POLITICS: You, Too, Can Date A Maxim Model

All you need is the writing brilliance to come up with penetrating lines like "Yes We Can."

On the one hand, I should be proud of Favreau as a fellow Holy Cross grad. On the other, well, the Obama camp spent the election season spreading the fiction to gullible supporters and reporters that Obama writes his own vague, unmemorable, substanceless speeches, so any attention Favreau gets is a source of amusement all its own.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

I am pleased to announce that my political commentary will now be appearing at yet another outlet, the brand-newly-launched The New Ledger. More on TNL to follow.

As I have noted before, and as we saw previewed with Barack Obama's executive order repealing the ban on taxpayer funding for international groups that perform abortions and Democratic plans to put federal matching funds for abortions and contraception into the stimulus package, there is no question that the new Democratic majority in Washington intends to go on the offensive in the culture wars in general, and in particular to use federal taxpayer money to subsidize and incentivize more abortions while bulldozing democratically-enacted state law restrictions on the practice and cracking down on private conscientious objectors who do not wish to participate in abortions. TNL contributor Christopher Badeaux takes an in-depth look at the Freedom of Choice Act, what it means and how it is likely to be pushed in Washington in stages rather than as a single omnibus assault that would trigger massive opposition by the Catholic Church, among others.

UPDATE: Obama appears to be backing away from Pelosi's effort to put money for abortions in the stimulus bill.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:41 PM | Blog 2006-14 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Hey, Why Not?

The Royal Treatment looks at KC's audacious, desperate effort to move Mark Teahen to second base. Stranger things have happened, but usually to organizations with a better idea what they are doing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:39 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: The Doctor is Making Street Calls

Our old friend and occasional guest blogger Dr. Manhattan is back, this time blogging at The Atlantic's Business section. Adjust your bookmarks accordingly. His first entry cautions against oversimplifying the argument, now in vogue, that the root of Wall Street's downfall was public ownership (i.e., firms capitalized with shareholder money rather than owner-operated), noting that closely held hedge funds have also fallen prey at times to excessive and imprudent risk-taking:

[S]uppose we have an employee-owned investment firm, organized as a private partnership, which aims to become a major financial institution. In Lewis' formulation, it should be the least likely candidate to run excessive leverage and blow itself up with untrammeled risk-taking. In fact, it might spare no expense on the risk-management side and only use the most highly sophisticated analysis to protect the franchise.

I am thinking, of course, about Long-Term Capital Management.

Read the whole thing. This is a useful caution, but I'm skeptical of argument by anecdote (and I note here that Dr. Manhattan is simply marshalling one anecdote against a handful deployed by Michael Lewis), as all it does is demonstrate that partnerships are not wholly immune to the problem. In fact, defenders of free markets will almost always tell you that the whole point of a free market system is that you can get a variety of different responses to the same set of incentives, and inevitably some of them will be successful responses and some will be failures. Like democracy itself, the free market is designed not to be error-free but error-correcting; by contrast, replacing free market systems with concentrated, centralized decisionmaking does nothing to reduce the natural tendency to human error, but simply reduces the number of decisionmakers working on a problem, restricts the range of possible innovations and removes the mechanism for flushing erroneous decisions out of the system.

If you accept for the sake of argument that (1) large and thinly-evaluated risks are bad and (2) publicly owned firms are more likely to take them than private partnerships, you can make the case that publicly traded financial firms are riskier than privately held ones without necessarily having to shoulder the burden of proving that privately held firms are always prudent in managing risk. That's a point that at the end of the day is one for systematic study, not anecdote.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:18 PM | Business | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Losing A Little Steam

The House That Dewey Built looks at Papelbon's first/second half splits. The results are clear but far from dramatic, and are consistent with the way a lot of closers are. I'd be more concerned if it were not for his 25 career innings in the postseason, in which Papelbon has a 0.00 ERA, 7 saves and has struck out 22 batters while allowing just 16 baserunners. If he was just burning out at year end, he wouldn't be doing that. The lesson instead is that, as the Yankees have done with Rivera most years, Papelbon's workload should be held down in the regular season even at the cost of the occasional game to ensure he remains fresh enough to keep dominating in October.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:12 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Cold Stove

In baseball, as in politics, my blog posts generally come from two sources: one, I have ideas that I put into research and produce a longer or more labor-intensive end product; two, I react to the news of the day, to what I read online, get emailed to me or talk about.

I've got some of the former on the burner at present, but the latter has really been slim pickings lately. It feels like the pilot light went out on the hot stove league this year. You can read up on Ben Sheets' medical report, but I'm not a doctor so your guess is as good as mine. After carrying a heavy workload from age 23-25, Sheets averaged just 21 starts and 135 IP a year from 2005-2007. Last year was supposed to be his salary drive and he still fell a hair short of 200 IP and finished badly. Sheets is pretty much the classic guy who will be either a bargain or a total waste of money because it's impossible to put a reliable value on his health.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:50 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: "I have nothing against white male construction workers," but....

H/T (I prefer a little less commentary on videos like this, but the transcriptions are useful).

Not that he's calling for repealing the Jim Crow era Davis-Bacon Act, either. You know, there's sort of an economic case for the government trying to do infrastructure investments counter-cyclically (i.e., spend more building roads and the like during periods of recession), when labor and materials are cheaper...but that case goes out the window when you have a statutory mandate like Davis-Bacon that precludes the federal government from taking advantage of a weak labor market to save taxpayer dollars.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:44 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
January 23, 2009
BLOG: Lost in Transcription

Tim Blair takes on a catastrophic failure of copy-editing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:08 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/HISTORY: Remembering Paris
The peace we seek in the world is not the flimsy peace which is merely an interlude between wars, but a peace which can endure for generations to come.

It is important that we understand both the necessity and the limitations of America's role in maintaining that peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve the peace, there will be no peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve freedom, there will be no freedom.

But let us clearly understand the new nature of America's role, as a result of the new policies we have adopted over these past four years.

We shall respect our treaty commitments.

We shall support vigorously the principle that no country has the right to impose its will or rule on another by force.

We shall continue, in this era of negotiation, to work for the limitation of nuclear arms, and to reduce the danger of confrontation between the great powers.

We shall do our share in defending peace and freedom in the world. But we shall expect others to do their share.

The time has passed when America will make every other nation's conflict our own, or make every other nation's future our responsibility, or presume to tell the people of other nations how to manage their own affairs.

Just as we respect the right of each nation to determine its own future, we also recognize the responsibility of each nation to secure its own future.

Just as America's role is indispensable in preserving the world's peace, so is each nation's role indispensable in preserving its own peace.

Together with the rest of the world, let us resolve to move forward from the beginnings we have made. Let us continue to bring down the walls of hostility which have divided the world for too long, and to build in their place bridges of understanding--so that despite profound differences between systems of government, the people of the world can be friends.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 AM | War 2007-14 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
January 22, 2009
BLOG: This Means War!


Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:11 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Dissenting Note on Gillibrand

I spoke too soon below in saying Kirsten Gillibrand was the non-nepotism choice for the NY Senate seat:

Gillibrand's father, Doug Rutnik, is an Albany insider and lobbyist whose ties to former GOP powerhouses Joe Bruno, George Pataki and Al D'Amato are legendary. In fact, Gillibrand won her seat when a state police domestic violence report about the GOP incumbent, John Sweeney, was mysteriously leaked, ostensibly with the acquiescence of the Pataki administration, which had its own reasons to oppose Sweeney.

Wayne Barrett also looks at where Gillibrand's voting record has diverged from her own party (his commenters are already hopping as well on Gillibrand's opposition to same-sex marriage):

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:03 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: It's An Epidemic!

Another Giants wide receiver shot in the leg.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 PM | Football | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Looks Like Gillibrand

GillibrandThe New York Senate selection process, while not as big a disaster for the Democrats as in Illinois, has looked at times like a family soap opera, as Basil Paterson's son had to decide who should replace Bill Clinton's wife in the Senate: John F. Kennedy's daughter? Mario Cuomo's son, who was once married to Robert F. Kennedy's daughter? We also had the amusing spectacle of Democrats, fresh off the Obama victory, having to explain yet again why a completely unqualified candidate should get the job, and of the Kennedy family feeling cheated that Caroline wouldn't get to join Uncle Ted in the Senate (he inherited his seat years ago) because she had tax and nanny problems.

Now, multiple sources are reporting that Albany-area two-term Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, who isn't related to anybody (but did work for Andrew Cuomo at HUD in the late 1990s), will be Paterson's pick. As I have discussed before, this is a ticket-balancing choice: Paterson is a black urban liberal from Harlem (if that's not redundant); to win statewide, he needs to draw support from upstate and reach out to white voters, while Gillibrand is relatively young (42), telegenic, Catholic, a mother of two young children and represents a traditionally Republican district she won in 2006 from the excessively hard-partying John Sweeney. Gillibrand might want to get out of Dodge - her district is sooner or later going to give her a tough re-election battle (in 2008, Gillibrand and her self-funding opponent combined to raise more money than the combatants in any other Congressional district in the country), and her district may be eliminated anyway in 2012, as New York is likely to lose Congressional seats. Democrats are reportedly shrugging off the possible loss of her seat on the grounds that hey, they have enough seats already, similar to the view they took in sacrificing the Governorship of Arizona and removing an incumbent Senator in Colorado.

Liberals may not that be happy with Gillibrand, who is no centrist but nonetheless in her career so far bears about the same relationship to a deep-blue-state liberal that Lindsey Graham does to a deep-red-state conservative: she's a member of the Blue Dog caucus with a 100% rating from the NRA, opposed Eliot Spitzer's plan to give drivers' licenses to illegal aliens, is a sponsor of the SAVE Act and of employer verification of legal status of workers and, supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent. I'd expect her to drift leftward in the Senate, but if you're a Democrat looking to install someone in a safe seat, you might want someone more reliable. On the other hand, her moderate positions on a few issues may make her a tough opponent in 2010, when she has to run for the last two years of Hillary's term.

You can read the latest writeup here on possible GOP challengers for Gillibrand's House seat.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:09 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Deficit Disconnect: A Farewell to Rubinomics

RubinomicsRiddle me this. One argument you hear tossed around these days is that Bush's tax cuts somehow had something to do with the currently poor state of the economy. The argument is almost never backed by any serious attempt to explain how this is, simply that because the Bush critics don't like his tax policy it must be to blame.

More to the point, the case for blaming low taxes for the economic downturn is diametrically opposed to the "Rubinomics" line that liberals everywhere spent the first seven years of Bush's Administration pushing. The argument, at the time, was that low taxes would lead to big deficits, and big deficits would push up interest rates by "crowding out" private access to credit as safe federal borrowing sopped up all the available credit.

In fact, the conventional economic wisdom today is that precisely the opposite happened - that we had a credit bubble, and in particular a housing credit bubble, because interest rates were artificially low and private access to credit got too cheap, resulting in too many loans being made at rates that were not sufficient to cover the credit risks, especially systemic risks, being taken. When credit finally did get expensive, after the bubble burst and a lot of the lenders got essentially wiped out, the problem was less a market-wide lack of capital than a lack of faith in the ability to identify credit-worthy borrowers - interest rates didn't shoot up uniformly so much as they rose in comparison to the rates for sovereign borrowers like Uncle Sam (in the parlance of the markets, spreads widened). And even that only happened after years of overexpansion of private credit side by side with low taxes and high deficits.

In other words, the Rubinomics crowd, who claimed so much credit for the tech boom of the 1990s on the theory that eliminating the deficit had created prosperity by lowering interest rates, turned out to have their diagnosis completely wrong, or at any rate so oversimplified given the many other variables involved as to be meaningless. Which was pretty much what the supply-siders had been saying all along: not that deficits are a good thing, but that in the grand scheme of things, the economic effects of deficits on access to cheap private credit is not one of the major drivers of economic prosperity, nor of economic downturns.

Of course, Rubinomics won't have much if any influence in the Obama Administration, which is turning its back on the economic theory and practice of the post-1940 period and heading for old-fashioned Keynesian 'pump priming' and trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. And the onetime disciples of Rubin will simply declare that this is what they have always believed in, and that it still means low taxes are bad. Change, after all, means never having to say you're sorry.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 PM | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Professional Hitter

David Pinto looks at Edgar Martinez as a Hall of Fame candidate. There's really no doubt that Edgar was a better hitter than at least two thirds of the position players in the Hall. His career OPS+ of 147 is equal to those of Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell, and among the 40 players ahead of him on that list, only 8 are not in the Hall of Fame - three flawed players from the 1880s (Pete Browning, Dave Orr and Charley Jones), Federal League star Benny Kauff (who was later banned, at least informally, from baseball), short-career sluggers Charlie Keller and Gavvy Cravath, and Mark McGwire and Dick Allen. Martinez' peak years were especially fearsome.

But you know, somebody has to be the best hitter not in the Hall, and if you were to design a player to fit that bill, it would look a lot like Edgar:

-No defensive value (after a couple early years at third base, he spent the bulk of his career as a DH).

-Slow baserunner.

-Relatively short career; Martinez was more or less in his prime from 1990-92 and 1995-2003, which does add up to twelve really good years, albeit separated by a lot of time lost to injury in 1993-94. There's not a lot outside that. His real peak was seven seasons from 1995-2001. That said, his 8672 career plate appearances dwarfs the totals for guys like Keller and Cravath, and indeed is more than anyone above Fred McGriff on that chart.

-Not really as good as his raw numbers; Martinez played in a hitter's era, and until 2000 played in a hitter's park.

-Injury-prone; besides the 1993-94 period, Martinez missed more than a third of the season in 2002 and missed at least 20 games in 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2001.

-Played for teams that seemed to chronically underachieve, not winning a single pennant with Griffey, A-Rod, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer and Jay Buhner, and then going belly-up in the ALCS after winning 116 games in 2001.

Martinez isn't a friviolous Hall candidate, and in fact you could make some of the same points about McGwire, who I regard as above the line, but I just think he has too many strikes against him.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:40 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
January 21, 2009

Obama supporters = not gracious in victory.

McQ has more.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:21 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Metaphor Overdose

"Former French President Chirac hospitalised after mauling by his clinically depressed poodle"

Tough day for the Al D'Amato of Europe.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:40 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Welcome To The Big Rock Candy Mountain

Do you think this woman might possibly be disappointed in Obama a year from now?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:59 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
January 20, 2009
POLITICS: "So Help You God?"

Hail to the Chief:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:36 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Farewell to Bush & Cheney

Our latest editorial over at RedState. Not a comprehensive look back, by any means.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:21 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Fashion Question of the Day

Will Obama wear a stovepipe hat? Even some on the left think he's overselling his campaign to convince people that he's Abe Lincoln:

Simply put, some scholars think the comparisons have gone a bit over the top hat.

Sean Wilentz, a scholar in American history at Princeton, said many presidents have sought to frame themselves in the historical legacies of illustrious predecessors, but he couldn't find any examples quite so brazen.

"Sure, they've looked back to Washington and even, at times, Jackson. Reagan echoed and at times swiped FDR's rhetoric," said Wilentz. "But there's never been anything like this, and on this scale. Ever."

Eric Foner, a Columbia historian who has written extensively on the Civil War era, agreed that comparing one's self to Lincoln sets a rather high bar for success, and could come off like "a certain kind of hubris."

"It'd be a bit like a basketball player turning up before his first game and saying, 'I'm kind of modeling myself on Michael Jordan,'" he said. "If you can do it, fine. If you're LeBron James, that'll work. But people may make that comparison to your disadvantage."

Actually, he has yet to prove he's not the Harold Miner of presidential politics.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:55 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Only Appropriate Tribute

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 18, 2009
POLITICS: Coincidentally....

New politics.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:43 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Vetting Not Included

One hopes the new Administration's homeland security policy will be less porous than its inauguration invite list:

One of the religious leaders invited to address Barack Obama’s inaugural prayer service Wednesday heads an Islamic group named by federal prosecutors as a co-conspirator in a terrorism-fundraising trial in Texas.

Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, is scheduled to join Christian ministers and Jewish rabbis offering prayers for the new president and his family during a service at the National Cathedral in Washington, organizers announced Friday.

Mattson’s group calls itself “the largest Muslim umbrella organization” in North America. However, in May 2007, federal prosecutors included ISNA on a list of nearly 300 co-conspirators filed in a criminal case charging that the Holy Land Foundation of Richardson, Texas, funneled more than $12 million to Hamas.

The U.S. government designated Hamas as a terrorist group in 1995.

A trial in Dallas in 2007 for the foundation and five of its leaders ended with acquittals and mistrials. However, Holy Land and the five officials were convicted of all 108 charges in a second trial last year.

More background on Mattson herself here and here.

There are two possibilities here. One is that the Obama people simply didn't check out Ms. Mattson's background, which seems doubly implausible given that she spoke at the Convention in August. The other is that they have deliberately taken sides against DOJ's view of the Holy Land case (that's surely how the targets of that investigation will view the invitation - as a vindication that their activities are no longer frowned upon), and implicitly against the broader project of Justice's efforts to shut down the laundering of funds through Islamic charity groups inside the U.S. That's a very dangerous signal indeed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:21 PM | Law 2009-14 • | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Never Considering The Consequences

My RedState colleague Moe Lane has excellent point about efforts to criminalize differences over national security policy now that the Democrats have unchecked political power and are convinced they will never lose it:

I submit to all of you that the true reason that the American Republic has endured, public bribing by the legislature or no, is because of a very simple rule: political defeats do not end the game.

This cannot be emphasized enough, and it doesn’t get emphasized at all. Every time that the White House changes hands, we get to read self-congratulatory epistles about how wonderfully easy and simple and painless is the transfer of power. No tanks in the street, no tense moments at the various government agencies as the crop of old political appointees leave office to make room for the new crop of political appointees; there’s not even a mob. But do you know why that happens? It happens because the people leaving those jobs and positions are well aware that, when they get home, there won’t be a squad of masked gunmen from the opposing faction there to murder, rape, beat up, arrest, or drag into internal exile themselves and their families.

Folks who think that Republicans, upon returning to power, would have no possible basis for throwing a lot of Democrats in jail over policy differences...well, they're the same people who back in about 1991 would have told you that sexual harrassment charges and the Independent Counsel statute would never be turned against the people who brought them into national politics.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:06 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
January 15, 2009
BASEBALL: Biggie or Smallie?

David Pinto notes, contrary to reports on the dimensions of Citi Field, that the hitters who have tried the place out in the winter think it will be a launching pad. I don't see any reason why that would be true, but we'll see how it plays during the season.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:54 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Out of Bluff

McQ rounds up commentary from Armed Liberal and Spencer Ackerman on how the ascension of Obama to the presidency means anti-Iraq-War left-wingers (Obama included) are going to have to put up or shut up on choosing between their natural anti-war inclinations and their rhetoric about how important Afghanistan is.

This is part of a broader phenomenon I've noted before in left/liberal political argumentation: the tendency to be hawkish about whoever the United States is not in immediate conflict with, and the subsequent tendency to back down when a conflict actually approaches. The Democratic shift from hawkishness on Iran in 2002-04 to dovishness on Iran in 2005-present (see here for one example) is one of the more glaring examples. (It's not actually limited to foreign policy, but that's another day's argument). For all the huffing and puffing about Saudi Arabia, for example, you can be sure the left would drop all its complaints about the Saudis in a nanosecond if the United States actually tried to confront them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:46 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (34) | TrackBack (0)
January 14, 2009
BASEBALL: Trivia Question of the Day

Name the only post-1900 player to score 300 runs over his last 3 seasons in the major leagues.

The feat was done 4 times in the 19th century: Jim McTamany, who ended his career when the American Association went out of business, scored 369 runs in 1889-91; Hall of Famer John Ward scored 338 runs in 1892-94; Mike Griffin scored 325 runs in 1869-98, and the 19th century's best third baseman, Bill Joyce, scored 321 runs also in 1896-98. There are a variety of reasons why careers tended to end abruptly back then, in these cases generally due to economics (guys like Ward and Joyce could make better money doing something else). But can you name the lone post-1900 player to hang it up after averaging 100 runs scored a year for his last 3 years? Answer below the fold.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:33 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
January 13, 2009

Derek Lowe has reportedly signed with the Braves for 4 years and $60 million. The Braves can use a durable rotation anchor, and Lowe has averaged 212 innings a year in his four years in LA, so this isn't entirely a terrible idea. But it's not a good one. The Dodgers got a lot of value out of their 4-year, $36 million deal with Lowe, but signing an extreme groundball pitcher without great strikeout rates from age 32-35 is one thing; signing him from age 36-39 is another. Lowe benefitted tremendously from Dodger Stadium; he has a 4.68 ERA on the road over the past six seasons, with 2005 being the only year below 4.10 in that period. Even if you just look at his Dodger years, Lowe averaged a 4.03 ERA on the road (4.89 runs per 9 - Lowe always allows a lot of unearned runs), 5.69 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, and 0.75 HR/9, not bad on any count none of those particularly impressive enough numbers to suggest a guy who will be worth $15 million a year when he's 38. The signing turns the screws on the Mets by raising the market price for Oliver Perez, but if they end up with Perez instead of Lowe, I'll be happy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:23 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Weeds

Bill Roggio gives an overview of the resurgent conventional military strength of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Western Pakistan.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:55 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Recount Limbo

My State Senator is still in limbo due to Democratic recounts and court challenges to his election. While we hear a lot of complaints these days about needing to have one president at a time, at least we have one; Frank Padavan's constituents don't entirely have a State Senator at all, nor do Norm Coleman's constituents have a U.S. Senator. And it's January 13.

You know, I haven't followed all the twists and turns of the battle over Padavan's seat, but one thing I have concluded from watching it, and the Al Franken, Christine Gregoire and Al Gore efforts to overturn Election Day results, is that we really do not have any way as a system to deal with these kinds of challenges in a way that gives the supporters of the losing candidate - especially a candidate who was ahead on Election Day - even the slightest bit of confidence that counting decisions made after the election, under the auspices of lawyers and partisans, are at all fair and honest. Which is, as I have been saying for 8 years now, the real point of the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore opinion. There are, to be sure, opportunities for ballot fraud and other shenanigans before and during an election, and the system has to provide some remedy for those, at least in provably serious cases. But before 2000 there was an ethos - not always respected, by any means, but to which politicians (most famously Nixon in 1960) at least needed to pay tribute - that the loser of an election did not open a second scorched-earth front designed at refighting every ballot that could conceivably be quibbled over, and that you needed a really serious reason to try to overturn the Election Day Count. That is Al Gore's lasting legacy to our democracy, and it's a deeply malignant one.

Machines, of course, can make mistakes, and if we had confidence that the counts produced by heavily lawyered recounting processes were really a more accurate and precise count, it would be worth the cost in money, time, disruption of transitions and hard feelings about democracy to review them. But we have no such confidence; we are, as a society, simply throwing resources at a series of additional counts that give us no reason to think they are any more accurate, and many reasons to think they are much less impartial than a machine count. A machine count is done behind your basic Rawlsian veil of ignorance: both sides may know they stand a chance of getting a raw deal in a close race, but they know it's basically an even chance. When lawyers and partisan vote-counters get involved, all that goes out the window, and the race to amass a superior quantity of umbrage is on.

Or think about it this way: up until the day of an election, the forces of partisanship have limited resources, less than perfect information about which elections will be closest, and face the reality of having to spread those resources over races for different offices that may be close in different geographic locations. Thus, the sheer effort that has to go into stealing elections will naturally be disbursed. That doesn't stop election fraud from happening, but it mitigates its influence, making it less practical to use as a routine tool of nationwide partisan combat. But recounts are just the opposite: once the initial counts are in, both sides know exactly which race results can be overturned in the courts, and exactly how many vote changes they need to do it. This is unhealthy in the extreme.

Restoring public confidence in the electoral system requires work on a lot of different fronts, but one major candidate should be a serious effort in state and federal races across the country to raise the showing required to trigger a recount or lawsuit over election results, to preserve the option only for the most serious and severe cases of malfeasance. The current system is unsustainable and ultimately dangerous to democracy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:19 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Book Review: But Didn't We Have Fun?

I recently finished reading Peter Morris' book But Didn't We Have Fun?, a look at the development of baseball from the dawn of organized amateur baseball in the mid-1840s until the dawn of organized professional baseball in 1869-71. It's a good, quick read (230 pages), and worthwhile for the novice fan looking to learn some history or the experienced student of 19th century baseball.

Morris focuses on two angles: a historical narrative of how the game progressed, and an effort to bring to life the spirit and atmosphere of mid-19th century amateur and semi-amateur baseball. My interest in the book was mainly in the former, though the latter consumed a great deal of the book and offered a lot of fascinating detail. Morris' view is that baseball developed through a process of basically Darwinian evolution, a series of sudden mutations that sometimes (but not always) superseded the old ways because they provided inherent advantages, thus forming breaks in the historical continuity from older games to baseball, and from early amateur baseball to the professional game.

There are several of these critical junctures Morris identifies, including the sudden explosion of interest in baseball in 1857-59 with the 1-2 punch of the growth of rail transport and the widespread distribution of written rules, the first professional player (probably primeval pitcher Jim Creighton for the Excelsiors of Brooklyn in 1859, although it would be a decade before players were paid openly), and the key tours by various clubs. But two are particularly crucial.

First, Morris argues that baseball was, in essence, invented by 25-year-old Alexander Cartwright and the other members of the New York Knickerbockers (Cartwright was not the leader of the club) around 1845, by adopting a set of written rules that made two key innovations that separated baseball from myriad earlier games like "town ball" (versions of which existed with extensive variations in many locales) to say nothing of more distant cousins like cricket and rounders (Morris discusses at some length the extent to which baseball did and did not owe a debt to various of those other games). One of these rules was the creation of foul territory, which had a couple of significant effects: it allowed the game to be played on smaller fields more suited to urban areas (as Morris makes clear, baseball was always, despite its pastoral mythology, an urban game that began in New York City and spread outward from the larger cities to rural areas), and it forced the ball into the field of play, thus putting a premium on fielding the ball rather than just chasing it. (Like many early baseball innovations, Morris explains that this one was to some extent driven by the exigencies of the available land, which at the time was a limited space in Hoboken). The second and really crucial innovation, providing the dramatic break from "town ball" and its ilk and effectively creating the new game of baseball, was the decision to eliminate the practice of throwing out baserunners by hitting them with a thrown ball. As Morris explains, this didn't just change a single rule to make the game more resemble its modern counterpart; it was revolutionary because it singlehandedly (1) placed a premium on fielding skill, (2) eliminated a significant source of injuries, and (3) enabled the use of a harder ball that would travel further when hit (you needed a really soft ball if you were throwing it at men wearing no protective gear), thus creating a faster-paced, higher-scoring game. Morris spends a lot of time discussing the early game's equipment in the days before manufacturers existed to turn out baseballs, bats and bases and before fields were dedicated to play; the ball was hard to make and replace (he has one amusing anecdote about a town where the baseball cores were made from fish eyes), and so was a precious thing - it's not hard to see why men like Albert Spalding saw a great business opportunity in sporting goods by the 1870s.

Of course, the third and most significant of all the decisions made by Cartwright was to write the rules down, enabling the "New York game" to be memorialized and spread around the country just at the moment when an explosion of newspaper circulation and inter-city transportation were creating the first true mass national market for entertainment. Morris is at great pains to explain that the Knickerbockers' goal was not to do anything but formalize rules for a club that had already been playing ball for two years but struggled to keep its members' interest, and indeed the first decade after 1845 showed little growth in the game before those changes in the nation's communications and transportation networks created the conditions for it to spread. One of the core themes of his book is to remind the reader, sometimes by repetition to a fault, that the point of the early game was to have fun and that its participants had quite a lot of fun despite the stuffy formality of the style in which their rules were written down.

The second milestone was the construction of the first enclosed ballpark, the Union Grounds in Brooklyn in 1862. Morris follows a long series of steps that led the way from the organized amateur game to professionalization, but the critical one was that professional teams needed steadier sources of revenue than member dues or wealthy patrons, and that meant charging growing crowds for admission - which in turn meant enclosing the field so such charges could be enforced. As with college football or the Olympics, you can use all the subterfuges you want to hide the compensation of the players, but there's nothing "under the table" about the game's sources of revenue, and once the stadiums were built at considerable expense even for a fairly primitive park (Morris noted that the very first park had a pagoda in center field for the owner and guests, effectively the first luxury box), a club had no choice but to put its best efforts into fielding an entertainingly competitive team, making professionalization inevitable.

Morris' book goes into a lot of additional, colorful detail on the games, the rituals that surrounded them, and the many logistical difficulties faced by early baseball, such as road trips in the days before trains had reliable schedules. He explains how the first team to travel west of the Alleghenies, the original Nationals of Washington in 1867, were aptly named because they were essentially financed by the federal government (in those days before civil service reform, the head of the club was able to hire several players to patronage jobs in the Treasury Department). I have a few criticisms. First, as I said, Morris works a little too hard to remind the reader how much fun the early players were having and how important their rituals were to them. Second, some stories felt undertold - Cartwright himself gets only the most passing treatment - appearing on just two pages of the book - compared to the more fleshed-out portraits of key figures like Henry Chadwick and Harry Wright, and while Jim Creighton is a pivotal figure, the tragic story of his death at age 21 in 1862 (the same year, probably not coincidentally, that Brooklyn was building the Union Grounds) is scattered in footnotes rather than being given a full treatment.

Jim CreightonMorris credits the diminutive Creighton with being the first man to change the pitching position from an ordinary fielder to a baffler of batters, with his tricks for increasing velocity and movement and his penchant for throwing pitches that trailed away from the hitter (with terrible physical costs to himself - in the absence of ball/strike calls, hitters would just wait him out, in one instance cited by Morris leading Creighton to throw over 330 pitches in three innings). Here are two accounts of Creighton's death; Morris suggests that his death from a home run swing may be apocryphal, but he doesn't offer an alternative theory. First:

On October 18, 1862, playing against the Union Club of Morrisania, NY, Creighton hit a home run. John Chapman, who was on-deck, heard something snap during Creighton's swing. After Jim crossed home plate he assured Chapman that his belt had broken. Four days later the Excelsior star was dead having ruptured his spleen or bladder in the process. He had bled to death of internal injuries. Jim Creighton was 21.


He swung so mighty a blow in the manner of the day, with hands separated on the bat, little or no turn of the wrists, and incredible torque applied by the twisting motion of the upper body, that it was reported he ruptured his bladder (later review of the circumstances, aided by modern medical understanding, pointed to a ruptured inguinal hernia).

After four days of hemorrhaging and agony at his home at 307 Henry Street, Jim Creighton passed away at the tender age of 21 years and 6 months, having given his all to baseball in a final epic blast that Roy Hobbs (the cinematic one, that is) might have envied. He, like so many others, is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York with his grave marked by a granite obelisk adorned by a marble baseball.

(You can read an 1887 recounting of Creighton's death here).

But these are minor quibbles. Anyone interested in how the game of baseball came to be, and how it became a professional game, will be interested in Morris' book.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
January 12, 2009
BASEBALL: The Schneid

Adam Rubin looks at some data, in relatively small samples (we're talking 50-60 at bats in some cases, although the selected items all point the same way) suggesting that Mets relievers and some of their starters were markedly less successful with Brian Schneider catching than Ramon Castro. (I got the link from Bill James Online; James is skeptical of how dramatic the data is). The difference seems mostly to be in home runs allowed, as no homers were hit off Heilman, Wagner, Sanchez or Feliciano with Castro catching, and markedly fewer off Pedro and Santana. Of course, one has to consider alternative explanations: for example, Castro started only 4 games in September, when several key relievers were tired and wearing out, and Castro played more of his games at pitcher-friendly Shea (22 starts at home, 18 on the road). And Keith Woolner, who has studied the issue with deep math, is unconvinced that catcher effects on ERA are anything more than random chance (more here). That said, it's a question that merits further examination, since Schneider's defensive value is the main reason he has a job.

So, with that in mind, let's look at the overall numbers for ERAs with Schneider catching and not catching, based on the Hardball Times numbers for Catching ERA over the past five seasons:


Looks to me like there's not a significant effect teamwide in 2008, and even less of one over the long term, although individual seasons seem to show Schneider as a huge net positive in 2004 and a large negative one in 2006-07. Granted, the opposition-slugging data in the article may be more probative for the relievers than ERA, but even so, where are the OBPs? This suggests some cherry-picking of the data here, and honestly given that the source of the data is guys who work for agents, I have to wonder if they have an agenda in passing along the selection they are sending Rubin.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Via Jonathan Last, an interview with Christopher McQuarrie, screenwriter of "Valkyrie" (which I have not seen, although I think I can guess how it ends). A lot of interesting stuff; I liked this:

Q. ... Saw "Valkyrie" and really enjoyed it. What struck me was that the film is a throwback to a time before "Saving Private Ryan" -- when movies about World War II didn't have to be Big Important Statements and could just be thrillers.

A. Thank you. What we've been trying to get across -- and what the criticism of the film seems to be -- is that we had the audacity to make a World War II movie that wasn't "important" -- as in, a giant statement about war. I mean, what more do you need than a bunch of Germans trying to kill Hitler? Isn't that all kind of obvious -- do they really need to be sitting around talking about their objection to war?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:42 PM | History • | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Bartlett Off His Game

Rays Index looks at Jason Bartlett's defensive decline in 2008. (H/T Pinto). I find it kind of surprising that Bartlett's numbers were not good - the Rays as a team improved dramatically with the glove in 2008, by far the largest factor in their one-year improvement, and Bartlett was leading the AL in Zone Rating when I looked at the individual members of their defense in late May. ESPN no longer appears to carry Zone Ratings, but while his Zone Rating was .859 at the time, the Hardball Times has his Revised Zone Rating at .807 for the year, sixth among AL Shortstops; that would appear to support the interpretation that Bartlett's injuries took a toll on his defense over the year. It's also a testimony to the resilency of the Rays - Bartlett's glovework, like Eric Hinske's power bat, was a key factor in the Rays' early success that deserted them as the season went on, yet they kept plugging in different contributions from different people as the season ran on.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:16 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Rickey and Rice

So the Hall of Fame has inducted Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice, and has yet again snubbed Mark McGwire, Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines.

My quick take:

1. As I explained in my column on the tablesetters, Henderson's a no-brainer, but Raines should be in too.

2. Rice, I would not have voted for but I regard him as right on the bubble and not a particular embarrassment to the Hall. I came down against Rice for the reasons set forth here (more on Andre Dawson, a comparable but much weaker candidate here) but I had previously supported Rice, who was a genuinely fearsome slugger for 12 years even adjusting for the context of his home park and his proclivity for GIDP.

3. Blyleven, of course, should be in; I stand by what I wrote 8 years ago on Blyleven, Morris and Tommy John.

4. McGwire belongs in the Hall, it's just too late in the day to set a standard for the Hall other than excellence on the field.

5. I discussed Alan Trammell here.

Here's the voting trends for the long-term candidates (Henderson got 94.8% of the vote, meaning 5.2% of the BBWAA is unfamiliar with Major League Baseball), I'll be updating the chart as I get the full tallies:

Six Year Voting Trend:

L. Smith42.336.638.845.039.843.344.5

Note that other than Mattingly dropping below Parker, the order of the candidates in terms of vote totals was unchanged (I left off Dale Murphy and Harold Baines, both of whom are trapped in the area between 5-15% of the vote). Tommy John now drops off the ballot after 15 years, and all the first-time candidates properly drop off for lack of the 5% minimum other than Henderson (David Cone was a HoF quality pitcher in a number of seasons, and Mo Vaughn in his prime was a comparable hitter to Rice, but neither had the kind of durability needed to make a serious Hall case for players of their quality).

Vote totals here, 2003-08 sources here; the Hall has a drop-down menu of all past votes here.

UPDATE: One final thought about Rice: the one thing I really hope is that the election of Rice is not used as precedent to put in Dawson.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:08 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Billable Hourly

The American Lawyer continues that hardy perennial of legal journalism, "the death of the billable hour is at hand!", with a look at some clients ditching hourly billing in the UK. But even the article admits that replacing the billable hour requires swimming against the tide in the UK:

In the United Kingdom, lawyers and clients have never had the same all-consuming obsession with hourly billing as their American peers. Still, over the last 20 years hourly rates have become the dominant currency here as well...

As I have argued before here and here, while it's true that lawyers and clients alike tend to despise hourly billing (albeit for different reasons), at the end of the day, (1) it persists because you can't replace it without alternatives that have serious potential problems of their own, and (2) no matter how creative lawyers may be in proposing alternative billing structures, they will only catch on if clients provide the impetus for change, which in turn will happen only if clients are comfortable that they are able to meaningfully evaluate the cost-effectiveness of lawyer services, which most clients can do with hourly bills from long experience. The vast amounts of ink spilled on this topic every year almost always fail to grapple with those basic dynamics.

Edmund Burke, the great conservative theorist, famously remarked that "[a] state without some means of change is without the means of its conservation," and that's as true in the law or any business as it is in government or culture - an attitude that all change is always bad is a very dangerous one. But the fact remains that in trying to change any entrenched practice, you have to start by asking why things are the way they are and how your proposed alternative is going to deal with those conditions. We'd all love to see the hoary old billable hour interred, but legal journalism that advocates change in the industry without grappling with those realities doesn't end up accomplishing very much for the profession of law.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
January 9, 2009
POLITICS: Poe v Palin

Gov. Palin draws a challenger. I'm sure he'll have basically a license to print money in national fundraising from left-wing blogs (assuming he's the Democratic nominee).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:50 PM | Politics 2009 • | Politics 2010 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Nice Try

The Ninth Circuit rejects the Unabomber's lawsuit to get his bomb-making materials and manuals back. I'm sure that was a tough call.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:45 PM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 8, 2009
BASEBALL: Ahistorical Comment

Neil Best of Newsday informs us that Hall of Fame pitcher Addie Joss "became a sportswriter after he retired!" I find it hard to think that anyone who knows anything about Joss is unaware that he died in mid-career. Maybe there's a bizarre inside joke there I'm missing.

UPDATE: Well, we all make mistakes. Best has issued a correction, as noted in the comments here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:38 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Welcome to the Big Citi

Eric Simon at Amazin Avenue talks to Greg Rybarczyk about his theory that Citi Field is going to be a very hard place to hit home runs, which if true is terrible news for Delgado in particular (he's suffered enough from Shea) but great news, of course, for Johan Santana. (H/T) Assuming that Rybarczyk is right about the dimensions, it certainly won't be a hitter's haven like Citizen's Bank Park (on the Bill James Handbook's list of guys with the shortest average home run distance, the top six are three Phillies and three Astros), but besides altitude, which remains constant, the two biggest reasons for Shea being a pitcher's park were visibility and wind, and while the new park is more enclosed and appears to have better lighting, it's premature to guess exactly how those will play out. Still, that large power alley in right center (where Wright hits a lot of his opposite-field shots) and deep straightaway right field suggests a Mets future where you need a CF & RF with good range and not to rely on lefthanded power hitters unless they really specialize in pulling the ball straight down the line.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:36 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Bill James vs the BCS

The master takes on college football's arcane ranking system: "It is very difficult to objectively measure anything if you don't know what it is you are measuring." I'm enough of a Bill James geek to recognize this passage as a slight rephrasing of a piece of the Oakland A's comment in the 1984 Abstract:

[T]he rankings are routinely described as "computer" rankings. Computers, like automobiles and airplanes, do only what people tell them to do. If you're driving to Cleveland and you get lost and wind up in Youngstown, you don't blame your car. If you're doing a ranking system and you wind up with Murray State in western Kentucky as the national football champion, you don't blame the computer.

And so, "whenever the computer rankings don't jibe with the 'human polls,' they fix the computers." He gets crabbier after that, in classic Bill James style.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:50 PM | Football | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Joe Posnanski, the best working baseball writer, has a fine Hall of Fame column (although I seriously disagree with him on Tommy John, and kinda disagree on Grich and Trammell), with a marvelous digression about Barry Manilow and the songs of the 1980s. His earlier effort on the Hall was good too, and has some interesting historical walk data - basically, the recent high tide of walk rates in 1994-2000 in the AL (in the NL it was just 1999-2000) has largely receded to historical levels akin to those of the 1969-93 period (walks have always been less common in the NL, even before the DH; the all-time high was the AL in the late 40s, with the NL season high set in 1894).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:57 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/HISTORY: Deep Throat's Puppets

I had meant to link to this earlier - Stratfor had a tremendous writeup, on the occasion of the death of Mark "Deep Throat" Felt, on the real meaning of the revelation that Felt was Woodward & Bernstein's source. Basically, it's a reminder that anonymous sourcing is just another way for the media to be beholden to powerful figures, usually in the government, who are often acting in unsavory ways even when they tell the truth (and when a news report is anonymously sourced, there's no way to have any conifdence that it is true). Stratfor focuses on the fact that Woodward and Bernstein were basically naive pawns in Felt's continuation of J. Edgar Hoover's power game - particpants in, not opponents of, the dirty tricks of the era. Here's the key takeaway:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:07 AM | History • | Politics 2009 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Harry Reid Can't Spot The Sucker

Strange New Respect time: like Moe and Glenn (and the people Glenn links to), I find myself astounded to be in complete agreement with this post by the usually loathesome Jane Hamsher. If Harry Reid says something's not going to happen, that's usually a sign that it is just around the corner.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:19 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
January 7, 2009
BASEBALL: Burrell and Abreu and More

Joe Sheehan looks at the corner outfield options in the free agent market, comparing those who have signed (Pat Burrell with the Rays for 2 years at $8 million per, Milton Bradley with the Cubs and Raul Ibanez with the Phillies, each for 3 years at $10 million per) to the guys still unsigned (Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn). Pretty much none of these guys can play much defense at this stage of their careers - Sheehan notes the Bill James/Fielding Bible +/- ratings and UZR have them all deep in the negatives except Bradley, who is too brittle to play the field but will have to anyway with the Cubs. I was surprised that Burrell is actually a year older than Bradley.

As a Mets fan, I have to say I was thrilled to see Burrell sign with the Rays; it will be worth a win or two a year just for the Mets to have him out of their division. The deal looks like a bargain for the Rays, who get him much cheaper than the more fragile Bradley or than Ibanez, who is five years older; Burrell brings power and patience balance, although I should note that despite a reputation as an aggressive, athletic team, the Rays were second in the AL in walks last year and fourth in homers.

Burrell has benefitted a lot from Citizens Bank Park, but his road numbers are not shabby. Here are the three-year road totals for the corner OF/1B who are free agents, were traded or got renewed this offseason, ranked by road OPS:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
January 6, 2009
POLITICS: The Democrats Play To Type

PhotobucketI argued during the general election campaign that the single most scandalously under-covered story of the campaign was Barack Obama's thorough immersion in machine politics in Chicago. And I confidently predicted, on November 3, that Obama, if elected, would continue to be haunted in office by those and other ties to his Chicago past. But even I didn't imagine that the continuing saga of Chicago political corruption and Obama's role as a willing tool of machine politicians would explode so quickly that the Governor of Illinois would be arrested for trying to sell Obama's Senate seat just five weeks after Election Day. Now, we have Bill Richardson withdrawing from his appointment as Obama's Secretary of Commerce due to a federal grand jury investigation of pay-to-play practices in his administration in New Mexico. Of course, while the exact nature and timing of the Blagojevich and Richardson scandals came as a surprise, it was inevitable that the foul odor of political corruption - and not just from Chicago - was going to settle over Democrat-controlled Washington. It would have been shocking if it didn't. Anyone who believed that the election of Obama would mean even the slightest bit of "new politics" was a fool of the highest order; Obama's constant harping on that theme, given his longstanding willingness to avoid rocking the boat in Chicago and DC, was simply a cynical fraud.

In Blagojevich's case, the first instinct of various Democrats has been to argue that this has nothing whatsoever to do with Obama. Other than, among other things, the fact that Obama endorsed Blago for re-election in 2006, knowing full well that Blagojevich was up to his eyeballs in corruption probes (go watch Blagojevich's opponent's final commercial from that campaign, to say nothing of the extent to which those probes focused on Obama's and Blago's mutual close patron Tony Rezko, eventually convicted of corrupting the Blagojevich Administration); while Illinois' Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan, among others, declined to endorse Blago at that point, Obama assured the voters that "We've got a governor in Rod Blagojevich who has delivered consistently on behalf of the people of Illinois" and told the press that "If the governor asks me to work on his behalf, I'll be happy to do it." Then there's the fact that it was Obama's own Senate seat for sale, or that one of the apparent prospective buyers was Jesse Jackson Jr., recently seen as the national co-chair of Obama's campaign. Or that Obama political guru David Axelrod, who got himself in hot water by admitting to contacts between Obama and Blago, is a former adviser to Blagojevich and Rahm Emanuel as well as Mayor Daley's spokesman on corruption issues (a busy job if ever there was one). Or that Emanuel, Obama's very first staff hire and himself Mayor Daley's former chief fundraiser, was in close contact with Blago and had taken over Blago's House seat in 2002 with the help of Blago's other main patron (at the time), his powerful father-in-law Alderman Dick Mell (Rahm apparently inherited a good bit of Blago's Congressional staff) and was talking to Blago about arranging another transfer of their House seat to a stooge who would keep it warm (note: this was the seat vacated by Dan Rostenkowski's federal conviction). Meanwhile, Obama had been pressing initially to give the Senate seat to Valerie Jarrett, another Rezko-linked housing developer who got Michelle Obama her first political job working for Mayor Daley.

Blago and Obama, December 2008The more you spin this stuff out, the more you are forcefully reminded that what was most of all missing from the media's pre-election reportage was context, the kind of context that makes the disparate threads of this stuff hang together. (See this Michael Barone column for an example of how that works). Look at this NY Times article on Chicago's dolorous history of political corruption and ask why it could not have run before the election.

Take one of my favorite examples, Obama's run for Congress in 2000. Follow the chronology (more here and here):

1999: Congressman Bobby Rush challenges Mayor Daley in a primary. Daley's great fear is a candidate who will unify the African-American vote; Rush, who is black, fails to defeat Daley.

2000: Obama retaliates against Rush by running against Rush in a primary for his seat. Obama loses, and is saddled with large campaign debts after having put surplus campaign expenses on his personal credit card.

2001: Obama, a sitting State Senator with a background as a "civil rights litigator", gets $8,000 a month to provide unspecified legal advice to Robert Blackwell, a Chicago entrepeneur - more than Obama's State Senate salary and 81% of Obama's income from his law practice. Campaign debts get paid off.

2002-04: Obama helps steer $320,000 in earmarked state grants to Blackwell's company to subsidize ping-pong tournaments.

If you pull together these facts - and I didn't see a single mainstream media outlet put them all in one place the whole campaign - they present a pretty clear picture of Obama as a cog doing the bidding of the Daley machine, being paid back for his duty and then paying off the backer with public money: old-school Chicago politics that fit in neatly with the similar stories that play out over and over in the careers of Daley, Blagojevich and other Obama allies like Emil Jones. And when you have the context, the actions of Obama and Emanuel over the years regarding Blagojevich are not so easily explained away. Illinois has a corrupt governor, and now possibly a Senator selected by that governor, in part because men like Obama saw nothing wrong with keeping one, as well as because Illinois Democrats refused to strip Blagojevich of his appointment power even after his arrest. Harry Reid's hilarious effort to avoid seating the man Blago finally chose may be incompetent or simply a charade, but in neither case does it excuse how we came to this pass.

Perhaps the most ridiculous effort to distance liberalism and the Democrats from Blagojevich was penned a few weeks ago by Thomas Frank for the Wall Street Journal. Frank's column is perhaps the most egregious example of partisan hackery I have seen in recent years, and that's a field that includes powerful competition; it's the kind of column filled with things that make you think 'I know why he would say that, I just don't know why anyone would believe it.'

First, Frank argued that Blagojevich isn't really a liberal. The same Blago who jacked up the Illinois minimum wage, making it the highest in the nation. The same Blago who in 2007 proposed a $7.6 billion tax hike package, the largest in Illinois history, to pay for increased education, healthcare and pension spending during a state financial crisis. Blago's tax hike proposal was so far left it caused an open rift with Mayor Daley, who blasted it as business-unfriendly, and was essentially unanimously rejected by Illinois' Democrat-controlled legislature. He's also the same Blagojevich who was involved in a very public and successful shakedown of a major national bank just the day before he was arrested (see here and here), with what sounded (when translated out of typically gaseous Obama-ese) like the tacit support of Obama. Blagojevich may not be far enough left for Thomas Frank's taste, but if words like 'liberal' and 'progressive' have any meaning to the rest of us, Blagojevich certainly qualifies, at least as far as his fiscal and economic policies are concerned.

Frank's second and even more hilarious contention is that the Blagojevich scandal "interrupts, in spectacular fashion, a long stretch in which most of the Beltway scandal-makers had an "R" after their names." Now, certainly the Capitol Hill Republicans had more than their fair share of scandals the last four years, for which they have been duly punished, but to suggest that Hill Democrats are a clean-government crowd is just laughable. Without mentioning Frank by name, Kimberley Strassel ran a column in the WSJ a few days later naming a sampling of the Congressional Democrats with serious ethics problems right now - Rangel, Jefferson, Mollohan, Dodd, Guitierrez, Reyes, Kanjorski, Murtha (she missed Tim Mahoney, who got booted over a sex scandal just two years after winning his seat due to a Mark Foley sex scandal that Rahm Emanuel helped keep quiet until a month before Election Day). And that's just Congress. We at started up a "Corrupt Democrat Watch" last summer, samples here and here, and we eventually had to put it on ice for a while for lack of manpower; the sheer volume of this stuff from Democratic governors, Mayors, state legislatures and city councils is practically a full-time job to follow (we never did get around to a full roundup on corrupt Mayors like Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit of Sheila Dixon of Baltimore or late-breaking news on Birmingham's Larry Langford). And now, of course, Bill Richardson. The best you can say of Frank's argument is that most of the recent scandals trumpeted by the media involved Republicans.

In the final analysis, Blago's style of graft, while heavier-handed than usual, is inseparable from liberalism as a political ideology and the Democratic Party as an institution. Government, by its very nature, involves giving some people power over the liberty and property of others. Because some government is necessary and because human nature is what it is, there will always be some people who abuse that power, and many of those will do so for personal gain. As a result, we will always have some level of scandal on both sides of the aisle. The root of influence peddling, after all, is the influence, not the peddling.

But there are a number of features of liberalism and the Democratic Party that make them especially and uniquely prone to corruption, always have and always will:

Ideology and Power: Contemporary liberal/progressive ideology stresses, at every turn, that government officials should be given an ever-increasing share of public money to control and disperse, and an ever-increasing role in telling people and businesses how they can use the money and property they are left with. Government officials are, we are to believe, better able to make the 'right' decisions about who gets what and how businesses are permitted to operate. A lot of this is out-and-out substitution of government for the private sector, but for the most part, rather than an avowedly socialist model (in which the state owns resources and their distribution is directly controlled by the politically powerful), American liberals/progressives since Woodrow Wilson have preferred to run what remains of the private sector through a corporatist model in which Big Government and Big Labor, acting in tandem, purport to get the buy-in of Big Business to 'responsible' business regulation. In practice, no matter which system is used, it ends up being a short step from believing you have the right and wisdom to direct other people's property to more deserving recipients and better uses to believing that you are one of the more deserving recipients, and a short trip from telling business how to do its business to telling it who to do business with based on the desire to reward yourself and your friends. The root of money in politics, after all, is politics in money.

Accountability: Republicans, as a rule, get elected by promising to be more faithful stewards of public money (Republicans promise to leave people alone, and it's hard to bribe a man with his own money), and so naturally they tend to get un-elected when they fail to deliver that. Also, even in high-watermarks of Republican power like the 2002-06 period, there are a lot fewer long-term one-party GOP strongholds than there are Democratic ones. By contrast, Democrats who get elected by promising to give people free stuff with other people's money are a lot harder to hold accountable simply because they gave some of it to different people. If you look at a list of Republicans felled by scandal in the past decade, few of them would have lost their jobs if they'd been Democrats.

Urban Machine Politics: It's always been true of American (and not only American) politics that big-city governments are bigger, more intrusive and more corrupt, and it's also always been true that Democrats have, at any given time, long-term headlocks on the great majority of such governments. Machines of that nature are not so much ideological as they are coalitions of self-interest in which political power and political favor are inseparable. Michelle Obama grew up in such a machine - her father worked a coveted City job and worked for the Democratic ward - and it was only natural when she went to work herself for Mayor Daley, and from then on served as a conduit of favors between her career, her husband's career and the Daley machine. It's no accident that the list of corrupt Democrats is usually dominated by big-city politicians who are insulated from challenge to their job security. And of course, the best way to get such insulation, as machine politicians since Tammany Hall have known, is to run on ethnic/racial solidarity, since it's easier to stay Irish (or black, or whatever) than it is to stay honest or competent at your job. Regardless of what the Democratic party's brain may want at any given time, its body is an organism composed of political favor-trading with other people's money.

All of which is why Blagojevich and Richardson should not in any way be seen as an anomaly, any more than Charlie Rangel (the political successor of Adam Clayton Powell, who the House unsuccessfully tried to expel for corruption) and Chris Dodd (whose father was censured by the Senate on ethics grounds) are anomalies among Congressional Democrats. These two scandals at the outset of Obama's term (as well as those held over from Clinton Administration scandals) are not the end of scandal under Obama, or even the beginning of the end; they are, as Churchill would say, only the end of the beginning.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (34) | TrackBack (0)
January 2, 2009

I watched the ball drop New Year's Eve on CNN (we decided we'd had enough of Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years Deathbed Watch), and I have to say, the co-hosting team of Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin had to have the worst chemistry of any on-air partners since the heyday of Monday Night Football's bad booths. I'm not a terribly big fan of Cooper, but he's a Jennings/Brokaw type, a newsman who tries to take his job seriously and has a dry, deadpan sense of humor - and they had him matched up with the unwatchable and unfunny Griffin, whose shtick is slapstick and saying inappropriate things. All she did was step on and undermine his lines, and I swear on several occasions Cooper looked like he wanted to punch her in the mouth, and I'm not sure too many of the viewers wouldn't have sympathized with him. Talk about terrible programming. (She added insult to injury with some heavy-handedly staged flirting with Cooper - a little semi-flirtatious banter is sort of expected in a male-female TV pairing like that, but c'mon, at least half the audience knows Cooper is gay). Meanwhile they sent Erica Hill, Cooper's usual co-host and who normally is on the same wavelength with him, down to the street in a vain effort to get frozen revelers to say something interesting (one area where Griffin's shtick as a provocateur might have at least caused something unexpected to happen). Terribly incompetent TV.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:57 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)