What makes an MVP?

Posted by Ricky West

This will be my final post as the Crank is returning from his much
deserved vacation.  I want to thank him for allowing me this opportunity to
reach a new audience and reignite the vigor for political debate that I’d lost a
few months back when I went into virtual hibernation.  I’m truly not worthy. To all who felt like looking me up on google & pummeling me: I truly enjoyed it, it was a blast, and I wish you all the best….don’t take this politics stuff too seriously.  Oh, and I was right and you were wrong. 🙂

The year 2002 gave us Miguel Tejada as the AL’s MVP.  In 2006-2007, the
NBA gave us Dirk Nowitzki as its league’s MVP.  To me, both decisions were
ludicrous and simply reinforced the oft-held notion that sportswriters are lazy
and simply vote for the best players on the best teams. 
gave his arguments
against Tejada almost 6 years ago, before the award was

The usual argument, then, erupts over whether you can give the award to
Rodriguez, who played for a last place team, as opposed to Thome – no,
scratch that, as opposed to Giambi or Miguel Tejada, both of whose teams
made the playoffs, despite the obvious fact that neither of them was the
best player in the league at his position. Some people have also mentioned
Soriano as a candidate, but while Soriano was clearly among the top 10
players in the league, he wasn’t on the same elite level as the others
offensively (because he was just a point above the league on base
percentage) and didn’t compensate with especially dazzling glove work (Soriano
is no better than, at his best, an average defensive second baseman, and
probably less than that).


as Mel Antonen of USAToday notes
, it’s often the players who prefer to
look at the numbers and the writers who go with the argument that
"intangibles" that make "winners" are an important factor.)

An argument can most certainly be made against giving an award to the person
who simply had the best numbers.  NFL teams with horrific defenses often
have quarterbacks who throw for more than 4,000 yards simply because they’re
always playing from behind, for example.  I agree that it would be a bad
precedent for adopting the practice of simply awarding personal achievement that
may come at team expense.  Then again, if you just look at the top teams
and eliminate the players that have the misfortune to be surrounded by
excellence that the front office acquired, you can end up with laughable
decisions like giving the esteemed Bill Russell the MVP during the season when
Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points and 27 rebounds.  And, before anyone
retorts that Wilt simply shot it every time he got it that season, keep in mind
that he was 3rd in the league in FG percentage that season. I’m sorry, when
someone has the greatest offensive season in league history, the greatest
rebounding season in league history and is the 3rd most efficient field goal
shooter, they’re the MVP.  It wasn’t Wilt’s fault that Russell was
surrounded by 8 future hall-of-famers (not taking anything from Russell, the
greatest winner in sports history…he just wasn’t as good as Wilt, period). 
Or, Joe Dimaggio winning the MVP when Ted Williams is the triple crown winner.

In the case of A-Rod & 2002, you had Rodriguez having arguably the greatest
offensive season for any shortstop in major league history:

G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB  BB  BA   OBP   SLG  OPS  TB  HBP
162 624  125  187  27  2  57  142   9  87 .300 .392  .623  1015 389 10

And, for anyone who says that it was just a case of
Rodriguez putting up offensive numbers, he also won the gold glove that season. 
So, you had a player who was not only the best offensive shortstop that season
(he was the best offensive player in baseball) but he was the best defensive
shortstop that season.  Who got the MVP?  Another shortstop.  One
who wasn’t as good offensively or defensively.  Yes, clutch hits and
intangibles are huge, but they don’t erase the sheer dominance that A-Rod
displayed that season. 

Likewise, let’s consider the case of Dirk Nowitzki. 
Truly, the best player on the best team in the NBA that season.  Yes, he
faded in the playoffs, but the voting occurs before the playoffs.  Let’s
ignore Kobe Bryant’s statistical dominance over Nowitzki, substantial as it is. 
It’s quite simple: Kobe Bryant was the scoring champion that season.  Kobe
Bryant was 1st team all-defense (Marcus Camby was the defensive player of the
year).  Much like A-Rod winning the gold glove, Kobe Bryant was the best
defensive player at his position.  Dirk Nowitzki, on the other hand, was
neither the best offensive nor defensive player at his position.  Nowitzki
wasn’t among the top 4 defensive players on his own team, by the way. 
Again, you have the best offensive player in the league and best defender at his
position being denied simply because he played on the ‘wrong’ team.  With
the passage of time, we know that Bryant wasn’t the cause of the Lakers’
mediocrity last season, but rather it was the rest of the team getting
better as they made the NBA finals this year*.

Summation: No, don’t give out the top awards to the guys
who put up the best numbers.  However, you don’t ignore those who are
obviously the best and most valuable in the league simply because their
teammates aren’t quite up to par with the top franchises.  Or, in the case
of Wilt & Teddy Ballgame, the sportswriters hate you.

Thanks, again, Crank! 

*Note: I most certainly do not bring Kobe Bryant into
the discussion because I’m a Laker fan or Bryant fan.  Currently, the NBA
player I dislike the most is Kobe Bryant. Thus, this is purely an argument based
on the merits, not the personalities.

Finally, note to self: Something you believe + the words “Rush” and “Limbaugh” pasted at the top = blog comments gold!

I guess I’m on a roll

Posted by Ricky West

I’ve long heard the charges that the right was leaning too much on the Falwells & Robertsons to bring evangelicals to politics. Now, there are charges that the left is allowing Jeremiah Wright & this Pflegler guy to define lefty religion/politics. After hearing those two over the past few months and reading many of their comments, I must ask: when did it become en vogue for reverends to curse? I guess this is a lot like the Mel Gibson episode, where everyone was aghast about what he said about Jews (and I’m not ignoring that) and basically forgot the part about him driving drunk. In this case, you have preachers saying things that are politically – and in Wright’s case, patriotically – incendiary, and virtually everyone has overlooked the fact that those two are dropping four-letter words on a constant basis. Is this a regional thing? I know in the south, to say it’s be frowned on by the community would be an understatement.

BLOGS: Oh, my; plus, ‘I’m intolerant of intolerance’

Posted by Ricky West

I told myself that I wouldn’t turn Crank’s site into a blog that talks about other blogs, but all I can say is…..wow.
Also, a tangential comment about this:

Hate dominates like the Celts in the East
Michelle Malkin wants to snitch
Like you tell the police
She ought to be shot

Not the lyrics and not anything about Malkin. Heck, the real crime to me is that people are still buying into the shinola that is hardcore rap (save yourself the effort), but for some reason it reminded me of an old episode of Politically Incorrect, the Maher show that at least tried to entertain instead of spread propaganda, where a no-name rapper was there to discuss the issues of the day (yeah, probably alongside Carrot Top). Anyway, the guy got around to admitting that he and his group were communists, not long after Maher had held up the band’s CD and urged people to purchase it at their local retailer, since the rapper was there as part of the band’s junket.
Reminds me of the young groupies following Rage Against the Machine (who rocked, by the way) and their willingness to adhere to the words urging them to stick it to the capitalist powers that be. Apparently, a part of the mechanism for the impending Marxist revolution was purchasing RATM CDs, shelling out cash for a moshpit-laden concert and making all the band members millionaires. What, you believed the lyrics?


Maybe I’m missing something. Wouldn’t be the first time, of course:

Minority Americans have been flocking to the nation’s “swing counties,” hotly contested areas that could play a crucial role in this year’s election.
That’s got to be good news for Barack Obama, bidding to become the first black president.
Blacks and Hispanics are moving to counties that already were racially diverse, such as Osceola in central Florida and Mecklenberg in North Carolina, home to Charlotte. They also are moving to key counties that remain predominantly white, such as Lake in Northeast Ohio, Lehigh in eastern Pennsylvania and Oakland outside Detroit.
If this year’s election is as close as the past two, demographic shifts in these counties could make a big difference.
The racial changes reflect national trends: 93 percent of all counties are less white than they were at the start of the decade, according to new Census estimates. But the changes are even more profound in swing counties of potential battleground states, counties that were decided by razor thin margins in 2000 and 2004 and could decide statewide winners this year.

They finally pinpointed something pertinent in the final sentence, although the entire story still doesn’t make much sense. As Al Gore and John Kerry found out, losing an overwhelming majority of counties (we’ve all seen the red/blue county-by-county map, right?) means, well, nothing electorally. States matter. Electoral votes matter. If Sen. Obama can eek out some states that were red in ’04, then he’ll be our next president. Winning counties? Besides, is anyone out there willing to put money down that Obama will win NC or Florida? The red states have been the ones increasing their electoral tallies and the ones that are really in play are OH and VA. I know I certainly don’t expect McCain to win Michigan. I’m sorry, I don’t see the story or why a paper would devote space to something that is of zero importance.
That is, unless the story is a rebuttal to the county-by-county map that the right has pointed to for over seven years. Again, I admit that I’m probably missing something, but could there be any other logical reason that an editor gave the go-ahead on such a non-story, because Obama winning counties in Florida means jack squat if he wins Florida. Again, ask Citizen Gore.

PERSONAL: Trust me, I’m aware of my circumstances

Posted by Ricky West

Today, my little girl turns 11. 

My, how time flies.

So, a few weeks back I ask "what do you want for your birthday?"

Her answer: "I want you to take us to see the Braves".

With all the choices out there; a Hannah Montana CD, a trip to some play
zone, a dinner at her favorite restaurant, some video game or toy,
clothes….my little princess wants to go see a major league game with her
Daddy.  As she slowly moves from little-girl into budding-young-lady, I
keep thinking back to that lil’ pumpkin that introduced me to parenthood. 
All the dads out there know, you don’t just love your daughter simply because she’s
your daughter, they cause you to fall in love with them.  Sure,
there are tons of love songs about a man and a woman, but when a daughter blinks
her little eyes at her dad, that is the true epitome of a melting heart.  She’s my
little girl, my princess, my first born and along with her brother & mom, make
what is my world something to look forward to each and every day.

So, while you’re having dinner or watching the Olympics, I’ll be viewing the
Cubs likely pummeling my Braves (the Cubs are my #3 team, behind Atlanta & the
BoSox).  However, the actual outcome of the game isn’t important at all, as
I’ll be sitting beside my little girl, my little middle-schooler, watching
a major league baseball game at her request.

Yeah, I’m that lucky.

Rush Limbaugh on health care

Posted by Ricky West

The libertarian in me is horrified by the notion that the government may
mandate that I take part in a federal health care plan.  Instead of droning
on endlessly, the Godfather of radio laid things out perfectly a few months

A friend of mine in a state
on the East Coast sent me a note.  This is yesterday: "I heard a rather
liberal GOP political consultant here in Raleigh say today that health care
is too complicated to be a deciding issue in the elections; it can’t be
summarized in 30 seconds, it’s just too hard."  So we’re not even supposed
to talk about it, don’t even go there.  Liberal Republican consultants,
don’t even talk about health care, it’s a losing issue, just as you are
saying, Tony.  I don’t accept that it’s a losing issue, and I don’t accept
that we have to accept things about it, like it’s a right or it is too

In less than 30 seconds, I can explain health care in a nutshell.  No
employer, no insurance company, no politician or government bureaucrat knows
better than you about your family’s health needs.  You should have the right
to purchase health care and health insurance as you see fit without
governmental restrictions or penalties, and you should not be of the mind
that your neighbors have to buy it for you.
  Less than 30 seconds
I’ve just explained the concept of fixing health care.


What we also have in this
country are some people who don’t want to use their own assets to pay for
their own health care.  They want someone else to do it.  And that brings in
a very happy and compliant Democrat Party.  It is a matter of individual
priorities.  Let me say it to you as Mr. Buckley might have said it.  Moral
obligations, should one choose to assume moral obligations, are actually
higher on the list of things than rights.  That’s why we set up systems to
take care of the indigent, because we are a moral people.  It is why we have
Medicare; it is why we have Medicaid; it is why we have S-CHIP.  At least
it’s why we started them.  It’s why good people support them.  We can get
into an argument here of whether these programs are more of the same liberal
drivel to create as many dependents as possible, but I think we are a
compassionate country, and we are a country that understands our moral
obligations to people who can’t provide for themselves because of certain
things, and those people nobody will argue with, being taken care of and
helped.  That is precisely why we set up systems to take care of the
indigent.  It is why we take care of our neighbors.  It is why we have our
churches engage in the various community actions that they do and, not to
mention, there’s all kinds of other community organizations that exist for
the express purpose of bringing things to poor, indigent people that they
don’t have and can’t have on their own.  

This is a country of high moral obligation, and we meet those moral
obligations at all times.  That is why, because we have such a moral
obligation, and because we are such a compassionate people, and because we
are such a generous people, this is why we try to lower costs and increase
competition so that more people can be taken care of well, so that people
are not left to fall through the cracks.  Now, this doesn’t mean that any of
this is a right.  It is our moral obligation as a society that has us take
care of people who otherwise could not afford this.  But what has
happened is that people who very well could afford it, just as they could
afford a plasma TV or a car or what have you, can afford health care and
choose not to, they choose in fact for others, their neighbors, fellow
citizens, to pay for it, precisely because they have been led to believe
that it is their right to have health care.  And I would submit to you that
the whole notion of having your neighbor pay for what your responsibilities
are can be very addictive, once it starts.

Emphasis mine.

The evidence doesn’t warrant the charge

Posted by Ricky West

Going to the wayback machine.  I posted a similar item on my site
back in 2003, but the html was screwed up & it's not legible at this time,
so why not an update? 

A lot has been said about the inability of national/federal Democrats to win elections in the south.  Much
of what I’ve seen has disproportionately been little more than excuses disguised as rationale, such as the “Nixon southern strategy”, “God,
gays and guns”, or the ever present “confederate culture” (read:
racists).  This sort of rhetoric is usually revisited every two years, as
elections need to be won & villains need to be found.  However, is this actually the case?  Are southerners
actually hostile to

Well, I did some research on just what the political makeup of the
region was as recently as 1996.  I chose the “big” four
offices for each state, Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney
General, along with the respective chambers of their legislatures.  Each
state will have different avenues of choosing their officers so I won’t go
that deep in the analysis but thought that a quick reminder would shed some
much-needed light on the scenario.  Democratic margins are in bold while
Republican margins are in italics.  Here is how things stood in
mid-1996 in the south, and by that I mean the “south” where Maryland,
Missouri or Oklahoma are fine states but not of the southern brand:

Governor – Fob James, Jr. (R)
Lt. Governor – Don Siegelman (D)
Sec. of State – Jim Bennett (D)
Atty. Gen – Jeff Sessions (R)
Senate – Dem., 22; Rep., 12 (1 vacancy)
House – Dem., 83; Rep., 22
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
Governor – Mike Huckabee (R)
Lt. Governor – Vacant
Sec. of State – Sharon Priest (D)
Atty. Gen – Winston Bryant (D)
Senate – Dem., 28; Rep., 7
House – Dem., 89; Rep., 11
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 5)
Governor – Lawton Chiles (D)
Lt. Governor – Kenneth McKay (D)
Sec. of State – Sandra Mortham (R)
Atty. Gen – Robert Butterworth (D)
Senate – Dem., 18; Rep., 22
House – Dem., 63; Rep., 57
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
Governor – Zell Miller (D)
Lt. Governor – Pierre Howard (D)
Sec. of State – Lewis Massey (D)
Atty. Gen – Michael Bowers (R)
Senate – Dem., 35; Rep., 21
House – Dem., 112; Rep., 68
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
Governor – Paul Patton (D)
Lt. Governor – Steve Henry (D)
Sec. of State – John Brown (D)
Atty. Gen – A.B. Chandler (D)
Senate – Dem., 20; Rep., 17 (1 vacancy)
House – Dem., 63; Rep., 36 (1 vacancy)
Advantage: Democrats (6 of 6)
Governor – Mike Foster (R)
Lt. Governor – Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D)
Sec. of State – W. Fox McKeithen (R)
Atty. Gen – Richard Ieyoub (D)
Senate – Dem., 24; Rep., 14 (1 vacancy)
House – Dem., 77; Rep., 27 (1 vacancy)
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
Governor – Kirk Fordice (R)
Lt. Governor – Ronnie Musgrove (D)
Sec. of State – Eric Clark (D)
Atty. Gen – Mike Moore (D)
Senate – Dem., 35; Rep., 17
House – Dem., 85; Rep., 34; 3 Ind.
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
North Carolina
Governor – James Hunt (D)
Lt. Governor – Dennis Wicker (D)
Sec. of State – Janice Faulkner (D)
Atty. Gen – Mike Easley (D)
Senate – Dem., 26; Rep., 24
House – Dem., 52; Rep., 68
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
South Carolina
Governor – David Beasley (R)
Lt. Governor – Robert Peeler (R)
Sec. of State – Jim Miles (R)
Atty. Gen – Charles Condon (R)
Senate – Dem., 25; Rep., 20
House – Dem., 62; Rep., 54; 4 Ind.; 4 Vac.
Advantage: Republicans (4 of 6)
Governor – Don Sundquist (R)
Lt. Governor – John Wilder (D)
Sec. of State – Riley Darnell (D)
Atty. Gen – Charles Burson (D)
Senate – Dem., 16; Rep., 17
House – Dem., 59; Rep., 40
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
Governor – George W. Bush (R)
Lt. Governor – Bob Bullock (D)
Sec. of State – Antonio Garza (R)
Atty. Gen – Dan Morales (D)
Senate – Dem., 17; Rep., 14
House – Dem., 88; Rep., 62
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
West Virginia
Governor – Gaston Caperton (D)
Lt. Governor – None
Sec. of State – Ken Hechler (D)
Atty. Gen – Darrell McGraw (D)
Senate – Dem., 32; Rep., 2
House – Dem., 79; Rep., 21
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 5)

 (source: World Almanac and Book of Facts)

Republicans hold 7 of 12 Governor seats.
Democrats hold 90% of the Lt. Governor seats.
Democrats hold 2/3 of the Secretary of State offices.
Democrats hold 3/4 of the Attorney General offices.
Democrats control 21 of 24 chambers (senate or house), some with staggering majorities:
The total state house representation within the south: Democrats, 912; Republicans, 500; Independent, 7

The total state senate representation within the south: Democrats, 298; Republicans, 127


Wow, look at those legislative majorities. 
a look at that table again.  Remind yourself that it’s not
representative of 1946 but 1996.  So, instead of the celebrated
excuses listed at the beginning, couldn’t a more prudent conclusion
could be the conventional wisdom that has been put forth from so many:
the south is more conservative than the national Democratic party?
As the Obama campaign moves forward after the convention & some poll numbers come out which shows conservative regions less willing to accept the Messiah's platform that the various forms of the media have been bombarding us with of late (in case you hadn't heard, he transcends politics and is post racial.  What?  You don't agree?  Well, you're a racist) keep in mind that this has always been the case for the last generation, at least.  Democrats have long ruled the south.

Liberals, or their newfound attempt at branding, 'progressives'?  Not so much.


Why did I choose 1996?  Because I was clearing a bookshelf and the
1997 Almanac was there and I started reading it and thought the data
was interesting.]



The complete total base

Posted by Ricky West

I know Crank is a lot like most new-age baseball fans & pays close attention
to OPS (on base plus slugging), as do I.  Like batting average, though,
that can take into account a player’s value only when he’s on the field which
can be deceiving for a player who is as likely to be injured or on the DL as he
is to be on the field.  Take Nomar Garciaparra, for instance, always good
for a high batting average & decent OPS but also rarely available for more than
130 games per season.  My fantasy league has created what we feel to be the
true barometer for a player’s value when it comes to performance on the field:
the overall total base.   The calculation for this category is quite
simple, MLB’s total bases plus walks plus HBP plus steals.  So, other than
when a batter/fielder moves the runner up, this formula encapsulates what a
player has done on the field during the season.  Does this really
matter?  Well, ask any rotisserie (or MLB) owner of Milton Bradley or
Chipper Jones, who have been day-to-day seemingly since June.  Currently,
for players with more than 200 at-bats, the top 20 OPS performers in MLB are:

Player OPS
A. Pujols 1.080
C. Jones 1.066
L. Berkman 1.038
M. Bradley 1.036
M. Holliday 1.032
A. Rodriguez 1.001
R. Ludwick 0.994
M. Ramirez 0.965
C. Quentin 0.952
X. Nady 0.952
P. Burrell 0.950
J. Drew 0.948
B. McCann 0.942
K. Youkilis 0.938
C. Lee 0.937
C. Utley 0.934
R. Braun 0.925
J. Dye 0.924
J. Hamilton 0.921
A. Soriano 0.918

Diehard fans look at that list and know that Pujols was on the DL last month. 
Chipper, #2 on the list, has 327 at-bats (David Wright has 453).  Milton
Bradley, fourth on the list, has two plate appearances in the last week and a
half.  Alfonso Soriano, #20, has missed over a third of the season. 
Fantasy owners know all too well that there are two categories that are of the
utmost importance: at-bats and innings pitched.  If they don’t play, they
don’t help you.  Here are the current overall total base leaders through
Sunday’s games, and chances are that means these are the fantasy ‘studs’ in your

Player TB
G. Sizemore 340
L. Berkman 338
H. Ramirez 336
J. Reyes 327
I. Kinsler 325
C. Utley 322
D. Wright 321
A. Pujols 320
M. Holliday 318
J. Hamilton 315
C. Quentin 312
R. Braun 312
B. Roberts 308
N. McLouth 302
N. Markakis 299
P. Burrell 297
J. Bay 296
M. Teixeira 294
C. Lee 292
P. Fielder 292

Yes, Shady Grady Sizemore is the complete total base champ of baseball, at
this juncture.  Yes, he has a high number of at-bats & a mediocre batting
average  (.269).  At the end of the day, though, when your fantasy
league is tallying up runs, homeruns, rbi and steals (and, maybe, MLBs total
bases) you’re more likely to wish for Mr. Sizemore’s presence on your squad than
Xavier Nady, J.D. Drew or Jermaine Dye.  The old commercial may have said “chicks dig the long ball” but fantasy owners dig players who are on the field. Honesly, who is happy that they picked Howie Kendrick and his batting average?

Assuming that there is no reliable specific data that one can point to in order to judge a player’s worth, does this truly account for a player’s numerical fantasy value? Thoughts? Reactions?

Are you lonesome tonight?

Posted by Ricky West

This campaign season is definitely not a good one for Republicans. It’s shaping up to be not so welcoming to liberals:

There’s an old saying in politics that elections are won or lost one vote at a time.
On Friday, DFL-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken demonstrated how true that saying can be, when a roundtable on veterans issues at Brigitte’s Cafe his campaign scheduled drew only one participant.
Josh John, a St. Cloud resident who said he served in the Navy from 2000-04, had Franken to himself for an hour as he described difficulties he faced returning from his tour of duty and the help he received from his Veterans Services Office and the St. Cloud VA Medical Center.

Note I typed “liberals”, not “Democrats”. Watching Obama run as far from his ultra-liberal past reaffirms what many have known all along: while the country may not be Reaganesque in its conservatism, it most definitely is not a left-of-center country. And, apparently, many Dems know it.
But not Al Franken.

H/T to DrewM.

The worst player in the majors?

Scott Boras, infamous for being a first-class jerk who nonetheless is constantly able to garner big bucks for his clients (often much more than they’re worth), may have been able to offset some of the bad PR throughout the entire A-Rod debacle, where he came out the big loser. He was able to snag a $36 million dollar deal (2 years) for Andruw Jones, who statisticcally appears to be the worst player in the majors. Say what you will about Boras, and there’s not much positive that I can conjure, but knowing that his client is guaranteed well into fiveeight figures next season is quite a feat when you consider that with the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, Jones has lost his grasp on the 4th outfielder’s slot in Los Angeles.
The year-to-date figures are staggering when one considers that Carlos Delgado almost matched the home-run and RBI figures in the Mets game of June 27.

Ricky normally doesn’t blog very much any more at blog.rjwest.com, but in his spare time he enjoys baseball, fantasy baseball, Baseball Tonight on ESPN and knowing that he can renew Tim Lincecum for a pittance on his fantasy team next season. On the downside, he realizes that Andruw Jones would probably be the third outfielder on this season’s Braves team. Plus, his phone service has been on the fritz for about 18 hours, so he’s hoping that he’ll be able to provide Crank with some material early on in his well-deserved vacation.