Right To Choose At Stake In Presidential Election

From an email I sent to friends on November 20, 2000:
The Democratic Party now says all pregnant chads must be delivered; all chad pregnancies must be carried to term. I say every chad must be a wanted chad. If a voter has exercised his or her right to control when and whether to deliver the chad, the states should have no authority to force them to be delivered. It is fundamental to the scheme of ordered liberty that the right to decisions made in the privacy of the voting booth stay there. Liberty finds no refuge in a recount of doubt.


Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website.
Well, trial�s over, and the Crank is open for business. I�m still getting over the bitterness, so I may wait for the end of the postseason awards to put the finishing touches on the Subway Series Diary. Instead, without further ado…
With the votes in for Giambi, who should have actually been named the 2000 American League MVP? Well, as usual, I like to set out my criteria for the award first: it should usually be given to the player who does the best job of scoring or preventing runs. At the end of this column I�ll talk a bit about the more intangible factors, but first we have to look at the bottom line: the numbers.
Baseball players have two basic jobs: putting runs on the scoreboard, and keeping the other team off the scoreboard. All the other goals � wins, pennants, championships � are team goals that the player can contribute to but can�t control. Now, in a close MVP race, contributions to the �team� goals � like leadership and clutch performance � can matter. The award is for the player with the most actual value to his team, after all, not the most productive talent. If one player really does contribute big hits at big times, that makes him more valuable � even if we know that that extra value is largely luck or chance. But at the end of the day, the guy whose individual accomplishments produce and/or prevent the most runs is almost always the most valuable player (and the most deserving of the award).

Continue reading THE 2000 AL MVP BALLOT

Why we are where we are (September 13, 2000)

This is a slightly edited-for-publication version an admittedly overwrought email I wrote to friends during the lowest ebb of George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign. For perspective, it’s an interesting look back:
[D]o you have any idea what the Bush campaign is thinking? I mean, this has been a brillantly run campaign — up to a point — but it is really starting to seem that the people in charge (maybe the candidate himself) don’t understand what their real assets are. Let’s review a little history that we all recall:
In the primaries, those of us who supported McCain were told that Bush was preferable because he would sell the conservative agenda, just with a happier face than in the days of Newt. When McCain failed to trumpet his own conservative themes — attacking the cultural-conservative base when he should have been pressing the fact that he had a more conservative record than Bush on school choice and Social Security reform — I was left with no choice but to believe Bush.
I may not agreee with every particular but the platform is a thing of beauty, and when he gives speeches on its central themes — we can all recite the priority list of Education, Tax Cuts, Social Security Reform, Medicare Reform, and Rebuilding the Armed Forces — the candidate himself explains them extremely persuasively. In Texas, Bush zeroed in on his core issues and wouldn’t be led astray or goaded into going negative.
Let’s review:

Continue reading Why we are where we are (September 13, 2000)

Mets-Braves and NL Pennant race wrapup

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website
Sadly, albeit temporarily, it�s time for me to go; in my day job as a lawyer I�m working on a trial starting October 2, and while you can never predict how long these things will take, it will be after the baseball season before I�ve got the free time to write again. Rather than depress you with a column on the AL Wild Card race, I�ll depress myself with a look at the team I�ve followed most closely: the Mets.
I’m a die-hard fan, going back to the dark days of the late seventies, and I hate to panic over a two week slump. But the reasons for the Mets’ decline are serious; I have a bad feeling about this one.
In mid-August, the Mets had the best record in baseball. On August 18, they were 73-49, a 97-win pace. On August 25 they thumped Randy Johnson 13-3. As recently as August 30, they stood tied with the Braves in first place. Their record from August 19-September 11, however, is 8-13. Their record from August 29-September 11 is 3-9. Any way you slice it, the team is slumping and getting worse.
The Braves, over the same period, have not played real well either, but not nearly as woefully as the Mets. They are 10-13 since August 18, but 5-3 since September 2. They appear to be righting the ship.
With the Diamondbacks sinking faster than expected under the weight of a brutal schedule and a limp Unit, neither of these teams needs to panic � as long as they play modestly well, they will both be back in the saddle for the postseason. The Braves have the toughest schedule, though not by a huge margin, and with six games head-to-head the division race is hardly over.
But the signs for the Mets are very bad. For the fourth year in a row, the Mets have followed the same pattern. Start the season with a bunch of holes in the rotation and lineup, and struggle from the gate. Jettison the non-performers (usually at least one starting pitcher and a centerfielder), rebuild with relief help and middle-of-the-road veterans at the trading deadline, and get blazing hot in June, July and into late August/early September. Then, the sinking starts…
While the Mets� starting rotation � particularly Mike Hampton and Glendon Rusch � has been brilliant even during the downswing, the offense, defense and bullpen have all been in a tailspin. Which are causes for alarm, and which are just passing? Let’s break it down…

Continue reading Mets-Braves and NL Pennant race wrapup

NL West Matchup (Giants v. Diamondbacks)

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website
The National League West race has to be the most under-reported story of the baseball season, at least here on the East Coast. You would never know from the local media — with the exception of the �Mike and the Mad Dog� show on WFAN radio, and only because Chris �Mad Dog� Russo is a San Francisco Giants fan — that the NL West has the best composite record of any division in baseball (winning percentage of .526 through Saturday night. Or that, as Peter Gammons reported this week, every division in baseball has a winning record except the NL Central). Or that the West had 4 contending teams for the first half of the season. Even with the Rockies dead and the Dodgers only theoretically alive, the West promises a fierce two-team race down the stretch, with Arizona trailing the Giants by only 3 games.

Continue reading NL West Matchup (Giants v. Diamondbacks)


Let’s take a quick look at this deal. Short term, it’s not a terrible move if Bichette is used properly. I know I said that about Mike Lansing and Ed Sprague, but part of the proper use of Bichette is to eat Lansing’s playing time with Offerman and Merloni holding down the infield. If he plays at the expense of Trot Nixon or the revived Troy O’Leary, the Sox are in beeeg trouble.
Astonishingly, some people thought Bichette was a “disappointment” in Cincinnati because he didn’t hit there the way he did at Coors. That’s like being surprised that you are not as tall sitting down as standing up. I was pleasantly surprised that Bichette managed to pull off an on base percentage over .350 and a slugging percentage over .450 in Cincinnati, numbers better than his road stats in recent years. His avg/slg/obp this season is 295/466/353, above the league average but not far above.
Bichette was slightly below average in on base and slugging among NL outfielders, so he can still hit some and can help if he’s grabbing at bats from Lansing (195/218/255 the past month) or Brogna (200/333/294 the past month, still not hitting as well with the Sox as Mike Stanley with the A’s). Offerman has also been weak lately, but I still think he is a better hitter than that and somebody has to play second. With the Sox twelfth in the league in scoring (producing just 4.5 runs per game since the All-Star break compared to 5.24 before), a guy who’s a just-above-league-average hitter, even to DH, can help. The main offensive downside is that Bichette was leading the NL with 18 GIDP. Despite the presence of so many slow, over-30 righthanded hitters on the roster, the Sox had been best in the AL at avoiding double plays (just 96 so far; Bichette would be 20% of the team total), probably because there have been so few baserunners since those guys all arrived. Of course, this assumes that Jimy knows not to try Bichette in the field, where he is at best a stationary object, his feared throwing arm long a thing of the past.
As I’ve noted with Duquette’s earlier deals, what makes this stink is (1) the appearance that Dan Duquette thinks these guys are good ballplayers and (2) the salary, since Bichette brings a fat $6.5 million price tag (he makes as much money as Jeff Bagwell does in 2001) that will drag the Sox budget like Jacob Marley’s chains next season, to say nothing of dragging around Bichette himself at age 37. Also, while one of the guys they traded sounds like a stiff, the other one (Chris Reitsma) is reportedly stuck in AA only because he was hurt the last two years; his numbers between A and AA this season (an ERA around 3 and a K/BB ratio of about 3-to-1) suggest a guy who might turn out to be a good pitcher. He’s still just 22.
All these guys are pieces, spare parts, that may help the Red Sox get to the playoffs — but why spend the money on that? Pedro or no Pedro, this is not a World Championship team, not with all these holes and Nixon not ready for his close up. And this was already a team that could get in. For the small benefit of slightly improving the odds of a first-round or maybe ALCS exit, the Sox coughed up a decent pitching prospect and swallowed a big salary. That’s a bad deal.

Todd Helton vs. .400

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website
Now that Nomar Garciaparra�s bid to become the first .400 shortstop in 104 years has gone by the wayside, the media monster trains its sights on Todd Helton. Will he be the first .400 hitter since Ted Williams and the first National Leaguer to turn the trick since Bill Terry?
Let�s get to the key fact first: after Wednesday afternoon�s game, the Rockies have 19 home games left and 16 road games. That favors Helton, who is hitting .432 at home but .360 on the road. The tough schedule issues come in the last week. Will the lefthanded Helton, batting almost seventy points lower against lefties, sit out against Randy Johnson? Arizona comes to town for a four-game set before the season�s final series, and Johnson is likely to pitch, particularly if the D-Backs are still in the race. Following that, Colorado ends the season in Atlanta. Will Helton face Maddux, Glavine and Millwood? Will he face lefty-killer John Rocker (AKA the man who lost to Brent Mayne)? Or will he mostly see minor-league relievers as Bobby Cox pulls his starters after five innings, as has been his practice in past season-ending serieses (except in 1998, when the opponent was the Mets and they were fighting for a wild card)?

Continue reading Todd Helton vs. .400


An email I sent in 2000, reformatted for the blog archives. Note the “no great external threat” language from President Clinton.
The Democrats keep telling us that Republicans are the old guard, looking backward, while they are looking forward. But who’s looking backward for inspiration? Re-read this, near the very end of the President’s speech:

CLINTON: “In February, the American people achieved the longest economic expansion in our history. When that happened, I asked our folks at the White House when the previous longest economic expansion was. You know when it was? It was from 1961 through 1969.
Now, I want the young people especially to listen to this. I remember this well. I graduated from high school in 1964. Our country was still very sad because of President Kennedy’s death, but full of hope under the leadership of President Johnson. And I assumed then, like most Americans, that our economy was absolutely on automatic; that nothing could derail it.
I also believed then that our civil rights problems would all be solved in Congress and the courts. And in 1964, when we were enjoying the longest economic expansion in history, we never dreamed that Vietnam would so divide and wound America.
So we took it for granted.
And then, before we knew it, there were riots in the streets, even here. The leaders that I adored as a young man, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, were killed. Lyndon Johnson — a president from my part of the country I admired so much for all he did for civil rights, for the elderly and the poor — said he would not run again because our nation was so divided.
And then we had an election in 1968 that took America on a far different and more divisive course. And you know, within months, after that election, the last longest economic expansion in history was itself history.
Why am I telling you this tonight? Not to take you down, but to keep you looking up. I have waited, not as president, but as your fellow citizen, for over 30 years to see my country once again in the position to build the future of our dreams for our children.
We are — we are a great and good people. And we have an even better chance this time than we did then, with no great internal crisis and no great external threat. Still, I have lived long enough to know that opportunities must be seized or they will be lost.”

Is it just me, or is this basically a way of telling the Democratic convention that after lo these many years in retreat and hiding, if we can elect Al Gore the coast will be clear for Great Society Big Government liberalism to come out in the open once again?

Hall of Fame: Tony Perez, Jim Rice and Gary Carter

Column on Tony Perez, with comments on Gary Carter and Jim Rice (Originally posted 8/11/00 on the Boston Sports Guy website):
Carlton Fisk is easy, although I plan to return later this year to the tougher question of who was better, Fisk or Gary Carter. For the moment it’s enough to say that both should have been obvious first-ballot Hall of Famers. Leaving aside the active guys (Piazza, Rodriguez) and the Negro Leaguers (Josh Gibson, who was almost certainly greater than anyone to play the position in the majors), you would be hard pressed to list the ten best catchers of all time without both Carter and Fisk (the rest of my list: Bench, Berra, Cochrane, Campanella, Dickey, Hartnett, Buck Ewing, and Bill Freehan).
Lots of commentators have taken apart Tony Perez’s credentials; let’s skip the heavy-duty number crunching here because anyone who takes that angle has to regard Perez as much less than immortal.
Look at the stats: Perez is near the bottom of all Hall of Fame first basemen in batting, on-base, and slugging; the only one lower in both slugging and on-base percentage is the inexplicable selection of George “Highpockets” Kelly, who was sort of a poor man’s Cecil Cooper. Three points here:

Continue reading Hall of Fame: Tony Perez, Jim Rice and Gary Carter

Bid McPhee, Hall of Famer?

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website
Who was the greatest second baseman of the 19th century? It may seem like a very academic question, but for one of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees it was critical.
Taking a break this week from the hubbub of the pennant races, I’m going to take an overdue look at the Hall of Fame Class of 2000. Part 2, later today, will focus on Tony Perez, and I’m skipping over Norman “Turkey” Stearns. I have no more idea than the man in the moon how good Turkey Stearns really was; the Negro League stats (including several consecutive home run titles and a career batting average of .359) are too spotty to be conclusive but they certainly don’t contradict his case for the Hall. According to the HOF web page, his contemporaries compared him to Al Simmons.
First, though, let’s start with the little-analyzed selection of John “Bid” McPhee.

Continue reading Bid McPhee, Hall of Famer?

Grading the Deadline Deals (AL)

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website
The trading deadline is past; Peter Gammons can take a breath again, although from appearances he�s still exhaling pent-up rumors. What emerges are a few common themes:
1. Almost every deal that was made was to fill teams� weak spots with acceptable contributors, rather than to upgrade from contributing players to stars. The order of the day was the Mike Bordicks and B.J. Surhoffs of the world, not the Sammy Sosas and Albert Belles.
2. The contenders mostly held on to their top prospects; nobody sold the crown jewel of their farm system. Most teams, whether their farm system is loaded with talent or just trickling players, have 2 or 3 prospects who are critical to the organization�s future. Nearly none of those prospects were moved, unless you count Ed Yarnall.
3. The players who were dealt by the contenders were mostly high-risk players rather than sure contributors: guys with talent whose stock had fallen sharply. The guys they got in return were mostly low-risk players who are likely to keep doing what they were doing for a few more months.
Let�s look at the deals that were done over the past two months and try to grade the teams (hey, if I didn�t run a column like this they would yank my amateur sportswriter�s license); I�ll take on the AL this week and get to the NL races later, unless something more interesting intervenes.

Continue reading Grading the Deadline Deals (AL)

Gore For Us

You know, I tend to vote primarily on ideology and party lines. But a lot of voters out there are not so inclined, and tend to ask the question, what are you going to do for me? Politicians spend a lot of time honing their message for particular interest groups, tailoring their strategy for winning them over.
What hit me the other day (maybe this is a sign of too much time in the car) was this: Al Gore does not even want my vote. Think about it broadly: white male voters between the ages of 21 and 60 who work in white-collar private-sector jobs and/or earn at least $40,000 or $50,000 per year (or earn susbstantial taxable capital gains) make up, I suspect, a decent-sized chunk of the electorate. There must be at least as many of us as there are so-called “soccer moms,” or unionized blue-collar workers, and the group probably compares somewhat favorably in size to black voters, or college students who vote, or even to elderly voters who take prescription medication. Or maybe I have my numbers wrong, but there must be enough to at least make a dent in a close election.
But what is Al Gore offering us? All his tax breaks, his “Social Security plus” plan, virtually all his economic incentives cap out somewhere around $50,000 per year. He wants to pour huge dollars into schools, but how does that help people like me who want their children raised in schools that are permitted to teach faith and moral virtues? And not only is he neither reaching into the goodie bag for us nor offering to lighten the load of government, but he doesn’t talk to us, doesn’t speak our language, doesn’t even have any apparent strategy to win our votes. When Gore talks about economic growth, he puts on the green eyeshade and talks about balancing the budget, about deficits and debts and surpluses and government “investment.” He always zeroes in on government, never talks about lifting regulatory or tax burdens, about the virtues of private investment and private business, about getting out of the way. When Gore talks about individuals, when does he ever mention people like us?
(As a practical matter, Gore isn’t offering much to nonwhite male voters in these categories either, but at least he claims to feel their pain).
Bush, of course, does — he wants to cut my taxes, he wants to help me save for retirement, and he regularly addresses issues of concern to middle- and upper-income voters, the people who pay most of the taxes and work to pay the bills. And when you look at the polls, that’s why white male voters as a whole — including the blue-collar voters that Gore is at least trying to win over — are flocking to Bush at something like a 2-to-1 margin. How on earth can you overcome a gap like that and be president? How can a candidate win public office by winning only a third of the very demographic group of which he himself (and most of his publicly mentioned likely running mates) are members? And why wouldn’t you even try?
Well, of course, Bush had my vote anyway; obviously I believe that Bush’s plans are better for the public weal as a whole than Gore’s, and while I would like a tax cut I don’t necessarily need one. I tend to focus more on what Bush can do systemically for issues like education and Social Security and Medicare. But when you look at this on a purely selfish level, it’s hard to see why anyone in our position would give their vote to Gore. Hey, he isn’t even asking.
This is an email I sent to friends on August 1, 2000.

Ranking The AL Contenders

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website
The next three weeks or so should be decisive in the pennant races. The close races are decided in September, often in head-to-head games, and to some extent they can turn on freak happenings, bad bounces and the like. But it�s the stretch after the All-Star break that decides which races will be close and who drops out of the pack. Plus, the trading deadline is less than two weeks away.
It�s a tough time of year, if you’re a ballplayer. By late July, many pitchers have been saddled with a bunch of losses, guys who started hot have slumped, a lot of players know that this won’t be a great year for them, and nearly every team has lost some big guys to injury. The three-day vacation is over, the last interleague matchups are gone with the All-Star hype, even if the All-Star Game itself has turned into a cross between the Pro Bowl and the lowest levels of Little League (“But Joe, little Johnny will cry if he doesn’t get to play!”). Days off get few and far between from here to September. Even fans can have it tough if vacations mean being out of radio or TV range of hometown baseball coverage.
With the AL race shaping up, it�s time to rate the contenders. Astonishingly, only two AL teams (the White Sox and Mariners, no less) are on a pace to win 90 games, and only one (love those Devil Rays!) is on track for 95 losses. Baseball�s economic/structural problems haven?t been magically solved in four months, but predictions that the standings would remain static throughout the new millennium, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, seem a bit overwrought at the moment. Things always change.
I ranked the eight contenders in the AL position-by-position. I would have left out the Angels, who I just can’t see as serious contenders with their pitching, but right now they are second in the wild card race and just percentage points behind the Yankees, so I had to include them.

Continue reading Ranking The AL Contenders

Remembering 1986

(Originally posted 7/13/00 on the Boston Sports Guy website; reposted here with a link to a Bill Simmons column on Bill Buckner)
In preparing for this week�s Mets-Red Sox matchup — subtitled, “Who Wants To Be Knocked Out Of The Pennant Race In July?” — I happened to mention that I could write a column on the 86 World Series in my sleep if Sports Guy Nation could handle it. Strangely, my host on this website actually encouraged this. I think he�s trying to get me killed. Still, knowing when to keep my mouth shut has never been one of my virtues.
One other note: Upon beginning this column, I promise not to mention B___ B_______. Here we go…

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The NL Outfielders

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website.
I was going to do a column with my NL All-Star team picks to follow up on last week, but frankly a lot of the NL roster is uncontroversial (the only bona fide head-scratcher is Darryl Kile), and the major controversy (second base) is one where I am not certain I can be impartial. There are very few active players whom I have watched play more baseball games than Edgardo Alfonzo and Jeff Kent, and no matter what the evidence (which is a close call) says, I find it impossible to conceive of Kent as a better player.
The one position that interested me was the outfield. The NL has a remarkably balanced mixed bag of outfielders, and ranking them is really an intriguing endeavor. I set out to rank the top ten, regardless of who they play for.
Let’s look at the 2000 hitting stats of the top 11 outfielders in the league. To keep this manageable, I left a number of guys out here because they are having seasons out of context (Klesko), are not established players (Hidalgo), have been hurt too much (Larry Walker), or are just playing at very high altitude (Hammonds):

Continue reading The NL Outfielders

2000 AL All-Star Ballot

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website.
To figure out who belongs on the All-Star team, you first have to decide what kind of players you want to pick. In theory, I prefer to see the All-Star Team populated by the best players in the game, regardless of whether they happen to be having the best year. After all, nobody looks back and says, “gee, Willie Mays shouldn’t have been on the All-Star Team in such-and-such year because Jim Hickman had a great month of May.” The opposite method leaves you with Jack Armstrong starting the All-Star Game. In practice, though, I look at this year’s stats as much as anyone.
I guess we have to accept that the real question is this: Who would we pick if the All-Star Game were voted on in September? It seems wrong that guys like Albert Belle and Ken Caminiti (who wasn?t on the team in 1996 when he was NL MVP) get punished for saving their best work for the stretch drive.
If Nomar is hitting .280 at the break and Mike Bordick is hitting .390, it’s a safe bet that Bordick will wind up pretty close to Nomar at the end of the year, so we can fairly honor Bordick for being a better player in 2000. If Bordick is hitting .330 and Nomar is hitting .310, though, I’d rather have Nomar; let’s be serious about which one of them will hit below .260 after the break and which will hit around .330 (we will get to the real numbers on the shortstops below).
You know the rules: 30 roster spots (too many, really, but necessary because we have to take team representatives) and one player from each team. I will pick my own starting squad since the balloting’s still open. I will also leave players off the roster if they are on the DL. A note on stats: I usually write my column over a few days, so the stats here may not all be updated through today. But I don’t compare players based on different days’ stats.
Before I fill in the lineups, let’s start by making room on the roster for the guys the All-Star Game exists for: great players in their prime, having seasons that adequately reflect their greatness. The game would be a farce without the following guys: Pedro, Nomar, Jeter, Alex and Ivan Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, Roberto Alomar, Mike Mussina, and (although I don’t see them as Hall of Famers) Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams. Manny Ramirez would fit this bill if he was healthy, but he’s not.
Then there are good players having monster years: Carlos Delgado, Jason Giambi, Edgar Martinez, Troy Glaus, Derek Lowe, Darrin Erstad.
That leaves us with 14 more roster spots to fill, and four teams to account for: Kansas City, Minnestota, Tampa Bay and Detroit.
Now for the lineups:

Continue reading 2000 AL All-Star Ballot

Sammy Sosa For Trot Nixon?

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website.
This column is a companion piece to Sports Guy’s feature on in-season trades from last Friday. My own take on such trades is that you usually make the Mike Boddicker and Doyle Alexander trades to push for a division title — even though they both sounded pretty dumb around 1996, when John Smoltz was the Cy Young, Brady Anderson hit 50 homers, and Curt Schilling was emerging as a dominant power pitcher.
As a Mets fan in the 1980s, I used to be more down on dealing prospects because prospects are a cheap, renewable resource; use them as the Indians and Braves did in the mid-90s (Chipper, Thome, Manny, Javy, Millwood, Colon) and you can basically replace an aging contender with a younger one without missing a beat. The alternative, I thought at the time, was the 80s Yankees: forever bringing in Winfields and Griffeys and Hendersons and Don Baylors and Jack Clarks, shipping out young pitchers like Doug Drabek, Bob Tewksbury and Jose Rijo and forever mired in second place until they gradually sunk back into the cellar.
Experience has changed that view. First of all, I watched almost every Mets prospect of the past 6 years (other than Alfonzo) be destroyed by injury, often at the AA or AAA level. (Cue up the theme music, to the tune of the Go-Gos �Vacation�: �Jay Payton on the disabled list! Jay Payton needs to have surgery!�) I was less upset when the Mets made the Hampton trade (giving up two potential stars for a free agent pitcher and an outfielder who might or might not have one last good year left), because who knows whether Octavio Dotel can stay healthy?
Today�s high-offense environment — in which pitchers throw more pitches per inning to increasingly-selective, ibcreasingly-powerful hitters — has made it more difficult to break in talented young pitchers without injury or horrific ineffectiveness (Jeff Suppan anyone?). And the increase in homers has extended the productive phase of power hitters� careers into their thirties. As a result, trading young arms and injury-prone outfield prospects for established stars is a more sensible gamble than it was ten years ago. If I was the Yankees, I�d even have to consider dealing Nick Johnson, who looks for all the world like a young Jeff Bagwell and has even drawn comparisons to Lou Gehrig, because Johnson has never been healthy for a full season and may never be (ditto the Mets and Alex Escobar).
As Mets fans learned after 1990 and Mariners fans may see after 2000, even teams with a core of young talent can see their window of opportunity close in a hurry for many reasons. True fans would rather live with the championship and the consequences than spend years afterwards wondering �what if we�d added one more bat…�
There are still three exceptions:

Continue reading Sammy Sosa For Trot Nixon?

Shoeless Joe and Charlie Hustle

This is a slightly edited version of a column on Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose that first ran on the BSG site in June 2000.
You might remember that a number of prominent members of Congress shepherded through “commemorative” legislation in the fall of 1999 urging Major League Baseball to honor Shoeless Joe Jackson with induction into the Hall of Fame. (Warning: the link is to a PDF file. There was also a companion bill that passed the South Carolina Legislature in 1998, but I’ve mislaid the link since this article first ran.) It seems like a big contrast to the events of the last few years, as baseball continues to refuse Pete Rose permission to be honored for his accomplishments — they barred him from the 25th anniversary festivities of the ’75 Big Red Machine and continue to insist on keeping him out of Cooperstown.
Putting Shoeless Joe in the Hall of Fame would be outrageous; the people involved with this legislation should be ashamed of themselves. While Rose is also deserving of sanction, his case is a much different story; I will explain below why he should be allowed into Cooperstown.

Continue reading Shoeless Joe and Charlie Hustle

Semi-Random Notes

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website.
A few semi-random notes:
* Continuing last week’s theme about the toll of Pudge Rodriguez’s heavy catching workload, we need to incorporate that dreaded phrase, “At this pace … ” Paces are pretty meaningless — particularly in April — except maybe to demonstrate precisely how far (or not far) out of whack a player is with his past performance. Once you move into June, however, paces will at least provide an early heads-up that certain records might be challenged this year.
For instance, through Tuesday, Pudge was on pace to ground into 42 double plays, easily breaking Jim Rice’s single season record of 36. Detroit’s Deivi Cruz (who bats at the bottom of baseball�s worst lineup) is also ahead of Rice�s pace (38), and two others are on a pace to tie the record: Ben Grieve and Garret Anderson. Rodriguez grounded into a major-league leading 32 DPs last year and was caught stealing 12 times, thus giving back about as many outs on the basepaths as he created with his throwing arm ( he�s been caught 3 times in 4 tries this year). Somebody should keep track of the record for “Most outs given back.”
* Years from now, if you ask me when I knew the home run explosion of the late 1990s had finally gone too far, I will probably point to the moment in last Sunday’s Mets-Devil Rays game when the Rays got back-to-back homers from Felix Martinez and Esteban Yan. Yan’s homer came on the first pitch thrown to him as a professional baseball player. He hadn�t swung a bat in a game of any kind in ten years.
* A CBS Sportsline column claimed that some people say that Antonio Alfonseca has �an unfair advantage� in having six fingers to grip the ball. Who are these people? Randy Johnson has an advantage in being 6�10� and throwing 98 miles an hour. Ted Williams had an advantage in having insanely good eyesight. Hall of Famer Mordecai �Three Finger� Brown had an advantage because a greusome childhood accident left him with a mangled right hand, which he used to put movement on his pitches that no one without his �handicap� could duplicate. Is that unfair? Get over it.
* Where are they now? In case you missed it, ESPN.com reported in a May 19, story about Terry Steinbach that Dana Kiecker is still pitching, throwing amateur “town ball” in his native Minnesota. There… now you can sleep at night.

Continue reading Semi-Random Notes

Catchers and Graveyards

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website
Here in NY, where the Baseball Crank resides, the question comes up often: should Mike Piazza be moved from behind the plate? The issue is front and center again after Piazza suffered his third concussion in three years Wednesday night, in a bloody mess. All three were as a result of being hit in the head with a bat.
Piazza’s a defensive liability, the argument goes, the team will never go far if he wears down in October every year and he’ll last longer at the bat. In the AL, the issue is the same, albeit for different reasons: should Ivan Rodriguez move, and if so when? Piazza says he wants to stay a catcher as long as he can. Rodriguez, who doesn’t get asked the question as often, says in a few years he’d like to move to 2B to prolong his career.

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Players vs. Fans

Last week’s melee at Wrigley Field, touched off by fans stealing Chad Kreuter’s hat, triggered the usual bout of hand-wringing over out-of-control fans and players who crossed the line by attacking them. (Next on FOX: “When Backup Catchers Attack!”) What is wasn’t, was something new. While it has never been a common occurrence, players have been going into the stands to settle scores with the fans for as long as the game has been played before paying crowds.
Just a few examples:

Continue reading Players vs. Fans


Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website
So, Rickey Henderson, baseball’s would-be all-time runs leader, is unemployed again. Boo hoo. Someone will probably pick him up, eventually, although it’s worth noting that he was cut by a team, the Mets, with one of baseball’s worst outfields. The question is, should anyone pick him up?

Continue reading WHERE TO, RICKEY?

Down With The One-Out Specialists

The column that started it all; originally posted on the Boston’s Sports Guy website.
Hi. This is my debut column here on the Boston’s Sports Guy website as The Baseball Crank. Bill Simmons has been generous enough to spare some room in his corner of cyberspace for my column, which will be a rant of irregular schedule and questionable wisdom, probably starting out every other week but hopefully (day job and long-suffering wife permitting) working up to a weekly spew of bile. Some of you (those who read Bill’s “Ramblings” column in college, back when we actually had to print words onto paper) may remember my byline there as the “Angry Young Man.” Of course, I’m not as young these days, plus I don’t really want an irate letter from Billy Joel’s lawyers, so I’ll be writing here as The Baseball Crank. (For you history buffs, “crank” is what they called fans around the turn of the last century.) I had also considered being the “Cranky Old Fart,” but that will have to wait just a bit longer.

Continue reading Down With The One-Out Specialists

McCain For President

This is an email I wrote to some friends on February 14, 2000. Some of it now looks embarrassing in retrospect – particularly how little I was thinking about foreign policy and judicial nominees at the time, and the fact that I failed to foresee McCain’s veer to the left. Other predictions, particularly with regard to the Democrats’ behavior after 2000 and the guilt-by-association problem with Bush’s financial supporters, hold up fairly well.
Here is why, as a conservative Republican, I support McCain for president (in no particular order; I won’t bother discussing the broader policy questions of why I would vote for McCain over Gore, since I would not expect to presuade anyone on that kind of score). I address two topics: why McCain has a better chance of beating Gore in the fall, and why he is better suited to the presidency than Bush.

Continue reading McCain For President

New Hempshire . . .

. . . as Paul Tsongas used to call it, actually meant something this year. I’m actually thinking of donating a little money to McCain — I’m still not sure who to vote for (I haven’t heard enough from him on the three most important domestic issues, education reform, Social Security reform and selection of federal judges) but I’d hate to see his campaign peter out for lack of funds (though it would be ironic). A fight to somewhere close to the finish (which can only happen if there’s a split decision on March 7) would, I think, be good for the party, particularly since Bush (if he wins) has enough cash on hand to keep the machine rolling (unlike Dole in 1996, who was forced into a quiet period after the primaries while Clinton and his media allies filleted him on tobacco and abortion). The bad primary fights are the ones you get when one candidate has no chance, like Forbes or Buchanan. Bradley may be like that, hammering Gore on integrity and ethics rather than engaging an accross-the-board issues debate. But Bush and McCain both need to keep one eye on November, and both fancy themselves civil-minded moderates, so there’s only so bad it will get.
I don’t think Bush will actually move to the right on any issues, as the pundits warn — he’ll just have to learn better how to sell the conservative agenda. If he can’t do that he can’t win anyway. He actually is a real conservative already — “compassionate conservative” is BS, I’ve always thought he should call it “smiley face conservative,” because it’s about explaining the existing agenda’s virtues (i.e., why conservative policies are a better deal for the middle class and the poor) through a nonthreatening candidate, rather than actually changing policy (which is fine with me).
Gore-Bradley, by contrast, is still highly unlikely to be a real race, but it could be a long ugly fight like Dole-Forbes in 1996 and Clinton-Brown in 1992. Bradley has a lot of cash and he’s showing signs of being bitter enough at the direction of his party to stay and fight long after Gore has effectively clinched. Having Gore constantly taunting him for being a quitter can’t help the case of people who want him to bail out early for the sake of party unity. Gore has already moved left but I don’t think he’ll really move any further — but he could take some punishment by the unprecedented spectacle of a fellow Democrat breaking the code of silence on the ethics of Clintonism.
The real message of New Hampshire, as I see it, is that the strong showing of McCain and Gore and the late revival by Bradley proves one thing: the voters are NOT tired of negative campaigning or of strongly and specifically worded appeals to integrity and combat. Bush’s just-the-agenda, forget-the-last-8-years strategy captured the popular imagination in the summer of 1999 because people were sick to death of arguing about impeachment, but a year later the voters are looking for someone to explain how we reached that nadir in the first place and how to avoid a repeat, not of the acrimony, but of the scandal itself. The Clintonites argued that the only really bad thing was GOP insistence on “divisiveness,” on casting judgment (this is the type of logic that says high crime statistics mean cops are arresting too many people). Contrary to what they would have you believe, I think that once people moved past the don’t-rock-the-boat stage of opposing impeachment during a market boom they began to recognize that this was not a morally neutral argument — that there is some virtue in alarming people when their government has grown corrupt and its leaders too accustomed to the habits of deceit. To voters concerned about such issues, Bush’s conscientious objector status on the ethical issues comes accross as unduly timid. McCain roared ahead in the polls late in large part, I think, because he promised GOP conservatives that he would go after Al Gore on Gore’s dubious honesty (don’t forget that McCain voted to remove the president from office), while Bush increasingly looked vulnerable to the kind of one-sided smear campaigning that is being used against Bradley. Bringing out dad — who never did learn to fight back against Bill Clinton — only underlined that.
This is an email I sent to friends on February 2, 2000.

My 1999 AL MVP Ballot

This is an email I sent to friends on October 5, 1999, reformatted for publication
The AL MVP race, to my mind, is one of the easiest in memory. There are many fine hitters, including several who play key defensive positions, but no one of them towers over the others. The one irreplaceable commodity in the American League this season was Pedro Martinez.
Pedro: 23-4 .852
Rest of Red Sox: 71-64 .526
Oakland A’s: 87-75 .537
A’s without Gil Heredia: 74-67 .525
There you have it — the rest of the Red Sox weren’t good enough to catch the wild card, and were only slightly over .500 without him. Take out Pedro and Gil Heredia — an average pitcher, close to the league average in ERA, who was in the A’s rotation all year — and the race is too close to call. I thought last year that Martinez meant more to his team than any other player, and last year was an off season next to this one. I mean, look at the Red Sox, seriously — they’re basically the late-50s Cubs, one great shortstop and a whole lot of nothing else special. Want Nomar as your MVP? Explain why Pat Rapp, with an ERA half a run below the league, went 6-7. Why Brian Rose, with exactly the league ERA, went 7-6. Why Bret Saberhagen, with a 2.95 ERA, had a lower winning percentage than David Wells (4.82 ERA), Orlando Hernandez (4.12 ERA), Freddy Garcia (4.07 ERA) or Gil Meche (4.73 ERA). Remember how well the Sox played while Martinez was on the DL? Not.

Continue reading My 1999 AL MVP Ballot

All-Century Team

From an email I wrote in July 1999, formatted for the blog:
Baseball’s nominations for the All-Century Team can be found here:

The rules: Balloting for the team begins July 13 through September 10. Fans will be asked to vote for two players at each infield position, two catchers, six pitchers and nine outfielders for a total of 25 players.

After several days of deliberations, here are my selections:
C-Josh Gibson
C-Johnny Bench
1B-Lou Gehrig
1B-Jimmie Foxx
2B-Rogers Hornsby
2B-Joe Morgan
SS-Honus Wagner
SS-Cal Ripken
3B-Mike Schmidt
3B-George Brett
OF-Babe Ruth
OF-Ted Williams
OF-Willie Mays
OF-Mickey Mantle
OF-Ty Cobb
OF-Hank Aaron
OF-Stan Musial
OF-Tris Speaker
OF-Joe DiMaggio
P-Walter Johnson
P-Lefty Grove
P-Satchel Paige
P-Grover Alexander
P-Sandy Koufax
P-Tom Seaver
The easiest call was 1B. Toughest: picking a second shortstop (none seemed quite worthy, since Banks was a 1B half his career; Ripken has been a very similar player to Cronin); leaving Eddie Mathews off at 3B; leaving Frank Robinson and Barry Bonds off the OF, largely on the defensive reputations of DiMaggio and Speaker; picking Bench over Berra; but worst of all were picking a second at 2B and the pitchers. At second, take a very close look at Gehringer some time; he really was amazing. Also, Jackie Robinson was the kind of player who has his best years in his 20s, and he was 28 when he was a rookie, so he may well have been better than Morgan if the war and the color barrier hadn’t intervened and he’d been able to break in at, say, age 22 (1941).
As for the pitchers, you could take Mathewson, Clemens, Young, Ford, Maddux and Feller (or Spahn or Carlton, for that matter) and I’m not so sure I’d have a better staff. Clemens or Maddux would probably supplant Seaver in another two years or so.
I’m biased against the modern pitchers like Seaver, Clemens, Maddux, and particularly Ford because they had a smaller impact on the pennant race than did guys who pitched 300 innings every year. Ford, in his prime, often started only 28-33 games a year. On the flip side, Clemens and Maddux work much harder than their contemporaries. Also, one has to factor in outside influences — Clemens, Maddux, Seaver (and Carlton and Ryan) all lost parts of prime seasons to strikes, Feller lost almost 4 seasons in his prime (albeit probably saving him from an arm injury) to war, Alexander lost almost a season and a half at his 30-wins-a-year peak to war, Ford missed two prime years to military service, Spahn got a late start due to the war, and of course Paige’s whole career is in the shadows due to the color line. Young, of course, is hard to evaluate because he was pitching 450 innings a year when the mound was 50 feet away. The edge, as I see it, goes to guys like Grove, Johnson, Alexander, Koufax, and Clemens who totally dominated the league at their peak. I was just blown away when I went back to look carefully at Alexander’s numbers from 1914-20 — he was as dominant as Koufax, pitching in a park that was 257 down the right field line and 270 to right center, where even in the dead ball era there were 3 times as many homers hit in the Phillies’ home games. The man threw 28 SHUTOUTS IN TWO YEARS. Take away the war and he would have won about 400 games.
Apologies to some of the Negro League stars, but only Gibson and Paige had reputations so strong that they demanded inclusion. Oscar Charleston was often compared to Cobb and Speaker, but who knows?
I also had some gripes with the nominations. Gary Carter belonged on the list rather than Gabby Hartnett (as did Mike Piazza — Hartnett was not known as a glove man, so give a break to the best hitter at the position). Why bother with Luis Aparicio, who nobody in their right mind would trade for Alex Rodriguez (too young for the list) or Arky Vaughn? In fact, A-Rod, Jeter and Nomar would be as legitimate candidates at short as Banks, who was moved to 1B at a young age. I like Eddie Murray as much as the next guy, but he and Bill Terry don’t have a prayer at 1B, and where’s Johnny Mize? Also, Willie Keeler’s career is pretty sad in this company if you only count his exploits in the 20th century. Nonetheless, nobody who was left off is really deserving of the final honor.

BASKETBALL: Why Sprewell?

From an email I wrote when the Knicks traded for Latrell Sprewell in January 1999. Obviously, I was wrong.
What would possess the Knicks to trade John Starks and Chris Mills for Latrell Sprewell? Let’s review.
Improve the offense? Sprewell’s career shooting % is .436, so he won’t help the team’s famous lack of shooting accuracy, and his career 3-point % is 20 points lower than Starks’. Plus he plays the same position as the team’s best young player, Allan Houston.
Play the point? Sprewell is a notorious ballhog; that’s why Tim Hardaway hated him. Adding Sprewell will mean fewer shots for Houston and LJ — the last thing the Knicks need — and maybe fewer for Ewing, which could get Sprewell booted from the players’ union.
Play small forward? In a league where the 3s routinely run 6’10” and over, a 6’5″ small forward, next to LJ or Camby at the power forward, will mean a frontcourt that is overmatched on D and can’t rebound. No rebounds, no rings.
Come off the bench? Spree is accustomed to 40 minutes a game, and we know how well he responds to orders from his coach.
Intangibles? Starks is a playoff veteran — the career leader in 3 point shots in the playoffs — while Sprewell has appeared in 3 playoff games and his teams have routinely underacheived. In the NBA, playoff experience matters more than talent. The Knicks have already lost one playoff series and risked another because they couldn’t keep their cool against Miami; we know how well Sprewell controls his anger, and he has a running feud with Tim Hardaway.
Guard Jordan? One of Sprewell’s big plusses is that he is one of the few shooting guards big and athletic enough to go toe-to toe with Jordan for 40 minutes. Now, if only the Knicks could find people to guard Isaiah Thomas and Larry Bird . . .
Put fans in the seats? Don’t get me started. People might have forgiven Sprewell if he had just apologized and taken his puishment like a man, but the Alice-in-Wonderland lawsuits against the NBA, the Warriors, and his own agent have not helped his cause.
Salary cap? I don’t understand the new cap rules, but while dumping Mills is a plus I have to think that Sprewell makes more money than Starks, so this can’t be it.
They’re not losing anything in Mills, and Sprewell really is a younger, better version of Starks, but this deal just doesn’t make any sense at all from the perspective of assembling a winning team and can’t be excused on business grounds.

Impeachment and Consequences

This is an email I sent to friends on December 15, 1998
Be it Resolved: If (Big If) the President is impeached and removed from office, Republicans will suffer no adverse political consequences (other than installing a left-wing zealot in the White House in place of the spineless spouse of a left-wing zealot). Why, you ask? Here’s why. Just think — what, literally, is Bill Clinton’s theme song? “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow . . . yesterday’s gone.” Clinton has survived his many scandals and at least as many flip-flops and broken promises by accusing his opponents of living in the past, of dwelling on old grudges rather than looking to the Bridge To The Twenty-First Century, of being the party of scandal rather than the Man From Hope. What he said yesterday is old news, and it’s nothing but mudslinging to compare it to what he is saying today. Live for the moment! Feel your pain! Ideas have a past and a future, but feelings are fleeting, and Bill Clinton operates strictly on feelings. Clinton is truly Orwellian in his commitment to erasing the inconvenient past, always remaining the ahistorical man. In many ways the American public has expressed an unwillingness to face impeachment and removal because the people are driven by fear of the future — concern that the economy is doing just fine and who wants to upset the applecart? And Clinton has few real friends in politics, only people who ally with him out of expediency, as he does with them (think how he abandons allies in trouble so often, leaving them to their own devices. Where was he, anyway, for Mike Espy? Henry Cisneros, who’s being prosecuted for lies about an extramarital affair? Not to mention his personal associates. He was certainly ready to hang Lewinsky out to dry before she opened her laundry basket). Most of his supposedly loyal aids have left the White House; he has not inspired a committed core of true believers because, after all, what would they then believe in? Clinton’s power and popularity thus derive entirely from three things: his grip on power, fear of change, and his appeals to the emotions of the moment. If he leaves office, all these will be gone. Like the leaders of totalitarian mass movements, once he loses both power and the bully pulpit he needs to keep rewriting history in his favor, his following will evaporate, leaving no trace. Why fear impeachment and removal when they are ancient history? What Democratic congressional candidate will want to run ads about Monica Lewinsky two years from now? Who will want to hear it? People will care about whether they want Bush or Gore in the White House, not whether they liked that Clinton fella when he was in office. He’s old news.

A statistical fallacy in the Continuing NL MVP Debate and elsewhere

From an email I wrote to Rob Neyer in 1998:
Rob —
I should preface this letter by stating that I am (1) a regular and often favorable reader of your column (2) a general subscriber to the Bill James world view and (3) not a Cubs fan. This issue has arisen both in the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa comparison and also in the local controversy over whether the Yankees should replace the oft-injured Bernie Williams with the nearly indestructible (except by himself) Albert Belle.
In your columns lauding McGwire over Sosa, you rely heavily on productivity-related statistics: Slg and OBP. You thus give a team of McGwires an edge over a team of Sosas, per plate appearance.
The problem is this: Sammy Sosa had about 45 more plate appearances than Mark McGwire because he was younger and healthier. A lineup of nine Sammy Sosas would require over 400 fewer at bats by its bench than a lineup of nine Big Macs — almost a full-time players’ worth. And those bench players will naturally not be comparable players to Sosa and McGwire. In real life, this means the Cards were giving extra at bats to John Mabry that the Cubs were giving to Sosa instead of, say, Lance Johnson or Brant Brown (OK, the Cubbies had better alternatives). How can this be irrelevant to Sosa’s value? Granted, in this case the formula credits McGwire with more total RCs anyway, but considering this factor does narrow the productivity difference.
For more sophisticated analysis, perhaps an adjusted RC/27 measure could be devised (adding accuracy at the expense of simplicity) by averaging in a replacement-level player’s productivity at the same position up to the maximum available at bats (though I recognize this would be complex — McGwire already had over 670 plate appearances, so what’s the limit?).
Anyway, thought I’d pass the idea along because the tendency to equate percentage productivity with overall production is all too easy to slip into and should be avoided.
PS — Why does the Runs Created formula discount intentional walks? They may not be “earned” by the hitter but they still put runs on the board. Barry Bonds’ intentional passes are just as much a part of his offense as bases he steals uncontested, double plays he doesn’t hit into because the infield is in, walks because he was pitched around, hits resulting from a shift, etc.


From an email I wrote in November 1998, prior to Bill Clinton being impeached by the House of Representatives.
While I continue to be appalled — as a matter of principle — by the prospect of settling for a ‘censure’ of the President (because it is clearly (1) an insufficient remedy (2) an overstepping of Congress’ constitutional authority and (3) an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder), politics is nothing if not the art of the possible, so it is worth thinking about the many things that the House, the Senate (to have any effect, such a bill must be passed by both houses and signed by The Big Jerk), and possibly the Independent Counsel (if such a resolution is to be truly global) could demand:
1. The first nonnegotiable demand in any negotiated resolution of the impeachment proceedings must be a complete acceptance of responsibility and vindication of the rule of law by the Prez. He must not only admit to lying under oath and to — at minimum — failing to dissuade others from lying under oath in ways that were forseeable to him and worked to his benefit, but he must also concede that it was entirely legal and proper for the independent counsel to investigate him and entirely unjustified for the executive branch to carry on a concerted campaign to delay and frustrate the investigation and to smear duly authorized prosecutors who were exercising the executive power of the United States. He doesn’t have to publicly absolve the GOP — this ain’t beanbag, after all — but if he keeps blaming Starr there can be no peace and no true remorse.
2. He could be required to repay the costs of the 7-month investigation.
3. He could be barred from holding office.
4. He could agree to turn in his license to practice law.
5. It had been suggested that he could agree to remove the worst of his cronies from office, but many such as Morris and Carville are no longer formally employed anyway. But it would have to be people related to the Lewinsky thing — asking for Janet Reno’s head (or Bill Lann Lee’s, for example) would likely be seen as overreaching.
6. He could plead guilty in federal court (say, a friendly forum such as Arkansas so the judge would buy the deal) with a recommendation of no jail time and fines & conditions in the amounts specified in the resolution.
7. OR, he could be left open to future prosecution.
8. He could be forced to testify before the Grand Jury, waive all privilieges, & produce documents (without immunity) as to all other subjects under investigation, including campaign finance.
9. He could be forced to agree explicitly not to pardon Susan McDougal or Webb Hubbell (though this too is probably unconstitutional).
10. Or, of course, in fine Washington tradition a backroom deal could be worked out relating to some issue — Social Security reform, Supreme Court nominations, etc. — but he would likely fail to abide by it.
Just some thoughts, to suggest that the Congressional Republicans may have more options than they let on.

My 1998 AL MVP Ballot

This is an email I sent to friends on September 3, 1998, reformatted for publication.
This is a hotly contested question. Let’s establish a few parameters.
First, if the Rangers win the AL West, it will be almost impossible to beat Juan Gonzalez, even though he is clearly not the best hitter in the league and has no defensive value, because guys who lead the league in RBI on winning teams almost always win.

Continue reading My 1998 AL MVP Ballot

Ken Starr and the Great White Whale

An email I sent in 1998, reformatted and slightly edited for publication.
If Bruce Lindsey had an honorable purpose (Ollie North, ahem), he might choose to run on his sword and claim full responsibility to protect the President. Nixon’s people didn’t do that because they didn’t have a just cause, and neither do Clinton’s. Now the President’s only strategy is apparently to flee the country (which may be good for us anyway) until it’s too late to impact the elections; sources say he won’t testify until September because he will be traveling. The devil is in the details — the more witnesses there are, the harder it is for them to all tell the same lies down to the same details.
Starr, relative to the average prosecutor in a white collar criminal case, is at a huge strategic disadvantage because the constant leaks cripple his ability to keep witnesses in the dark about the immunity/cooperating status of witnesses, the order of testimony, and the substance of grand jury testimony. The leaks have also benefitted Clinton by allowing the appearance of a steady drip of unremarkable revelations; imagine if we knew nothing of the Lewinsky thing and it all came out the day after Labor Day in a report to Congress. I don’t doubt that some of the leaks come from low-ranking people in Starr’s office currying favor with reporters, but there’s no question that the White House has tremendous control over the flow of information here.
Starr can question Clinton anywhere he wants, and hell, he can let his lawyers be there too, but he better not settle for anything less than verbal questions, no written notice, and no limits on the scope of his inquiry.


This article originally appeared in The Crusader, the Holy Cross College campus newspaper for which I wrote a weekly column at the time.
As America lurches closer and closer to war in the Middle East, President Bush has come under heavy criticism. In a nutshell, it is argued that he has not offered one single compelling reason free of all other motives why America is involved in the reckless adventures of Saddam Hussein. This is a manifestation of Americans’ desire to simplify complex foreign policy crises into simple black-and-white issues.
We must be sure not to mistake questions about the US-Israel alliance for an attempt to reduce the situation to a sort of “Arab-good, Israeli-bad” dichotomy. This would be even worse than its opposite, which all too often is resorted to in our policy decisions. The Israelis merely need to be held accountable for their actions, as we try to do with all of our allies.
In Iraq, however, while the situation is in fact complicated, America faces one of those rare cases where (as with Hitler in World War II) virtually all the facets of our foreign policy process indicate the same course of action. In short, there is not just one reason to stop Hussein, but every reason to stop him.

Continue reading ALL THE REASON WE NEED