Thursday, March 30, 2006

Choi, Graffanino, WEEI

There have been a few questions sprinkled on the air at WEEI - by the hosts - that don't seem quite as impenatrably mysterious as they're making them seem. As a public service, I'm going to address them.

Graffanino was great last year - why didn't they just keep him as their 2nd baseman?

Because Mark Loretta's a significant upgrade. There's a reason that Graffanino's never gotten more than 379 at-bats in a season. Career-wise, Loretta's got a .030 point OBP advantage, as well as .015 points of SLG. And Loretta's a better defender. They're the same age, so there's no advantage there. Graffanino was very good for the Red Sox last year, but you cannot expect similar performance this year. It's an upgrade, and a sizeable one.

Why did they offer Graffanino arbitration? Didn't that cost them $500,000 for nothing?

Graffanino was a type A free agent. If someone had signed him, they'd have gotten a draft pick for him. And they assumed that, if they got to spring training, there would be a market for him if they decided he didn't fit on their roster. As they couldn't find a deal, they had to waive him, but he didn't cost them anything, as KC claimed him, and became liable for his entire contract.

Why did they claim Choi? Isn't that $750,00, wasted, down the drain?

They didn't have a good option for a potential catastrophic failure of Mike Lowell. Now they do. Choi is a player with flaws, but with skills also. League average defense, better than average plate discipline and OBP, he would allow them to move Youkilis to third. At a cost of ~1/2 of 1% of their Major League payroll. No brainer...

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Early Show on the Card resignation - sparkling journalism, yet again...

CBS' The Early Show dealt with the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card this morning, and, in the process, demonstrated again their lack of interest in presenting anything that might be beneficial to the President in a positive, or even a neutral, fashion. This attitude showed itself more, however, in the way that things were said, rather than in what exactly was said. There were the typical offhand accusations of insincerity, but most of the reporting was fairly straightforward. And the questions that Harry Smith asked of Mary Matalin were, for the most part, appropriate. But the tone and attitude that Smith displayed were not.

The first piece was the news report on the resignation, from CBS' White House Correspondent Bill Plante. Of course Plante's report started, as most CBS reports on the President do, with emphasis on negatives.

The president is trying to turn the page on the last three months of bad luck and bad news

After a clip from a Presidential speech, they went back to Plante, who gave the news that Card had resigned. And then immediately made the aforementioned accusations of insincerity.
With the President's poll numbers sagging, his friends have been vocal about the need for new blood on the staff. But the White House portrayed this as Card's decision.

"Portrayed this as Card's decision." Is there a possibility that it actually was Card's decision? Apparently not. At least that's what Plante is clearly implying. Maybe he's right, but "portrayed" is clearly, in this context, a synonym for "lied," when "said" or "stated" might be more appropriate.

There was also the obligatory criticism of the move.

But the new chief of staff is an insider, not exactly new blood.

(Maybe Plante could have followed that up with a list of Presidential chiefs-of-staff who were not "insiders." I don't think that would have taken very long...)

The real bias in the broadcast, however, showed in Harry Smith's interview with Mary Matalin. First, we start with the standard media template on the quoteworthiness of Republican Senators - they're newsworthy only when saying things that are either controversial or critical of the President. Rather than directly criticize the Bolten appointment, as Plante did earlier, Smith let Trent Lott do it.

Bolten, is a White Wouse insider. Head of Office Management and Budget. Been with the president since the beginning. There are people on the hill, Trent Lott says this is no change at all.

Later, as Matalin was outlining Bolten's qualifications, Smith made the comment "that's a wonderful resume." It looks fine written down, but watching, he was interrupting, and the tone was extremely sarcastic. And the next time that she spoke, he interrupted her again, still sarcastic: "now you are giving an argument for why Andy Card should still be in his job.
As I said, the questions were not necessarily inappropriate, but the tone certainly was. The tone was sarcastic and contemptuous, both of the White House and of Matalin.

In other words, a fairly typical morning on The Early Show...

Technorati tags: Matalin, Card, Bolten, Smith, resignation, TheEarlyShow, CBS, news

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006


In 1826, on July 4th, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the only two United States Presidents to sign that document, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died. This is not the level of that in terms of historical conincident deaths, but it is interesting (at least to me) that, following the death yesterday of Lyn Nofziger, Caspar Weinberger has passed away today. (Coincidentally, Weiberger has exited in the same place that I entered, lo these many years ago, Bangor, ME. That's not particularly relevant to anything, but I note it because I noticed it...)

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Quote of the day

Lyn Nofziger, long-time Ronald Reagan associate/assistant/press person has has died at the age of 81. Over in the Corner Peter Robinson has posted some of Nofziger's comments on various issues. This one I liked..
At other times I wish I were a Libertarian because Republicans are too much like Democrats. What I actually am is a right-wing independent who is registered Republican because there isn't any place else to go.
- Lyn Nofziger

And honestly, which of us hasn't felt that way?

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Monday, March 27, 2006

A Red Sox dialectic

Odds and ends, my responses to some points I've seen in other place. A dialectic on the 2006 Red Sox, 1 week out from opening day.
The Red Sox could win as few as 85 games.

Not without major injuries. They won 95 essentially without Schilling and Foulke last year, and then upgraded.
The bullpen is full of question marks.

How good do the answers have to be to be better than what they got last year? Not very. And Delcarmen and Hansen are available and probably ready to help, which they weren't last year. If Seanez doesn't perform, he'll be replaced.

And Foulke will be fine. He's a year removed from his marital issues, he's had both of his knees repaired - last year was a disaster, this year won't be. I understand people being concerned about him, but I'm not. Not at all. He's been too good for too long to stink for no reason.
First base is a real uncertainty.

Not at all. Youkilis will get most of the at-bats, Snow will get the rest, they'll be better than Millar and Olerud were last year. Upgrade.
3B is a real uncertainty.

3B is a downgrade unless Lowell bounces back. But if he's awful in a month, they'll drop him, put Youkilis at 3rd, Choi and Snow at first, and still be competitive with what they got from the corners last year.
SS is a real offensive uncertainty.

No it's not. It's bad. The offense takes a hit there, no question. But Renteria wasn't great, and at least the defense will be significantly better. Probably a net wash, possibly even an upgrade, depending on whether Gonzalez is putrid or just bad. If he puts up a .310 OBP with 15-20 HR - not at all inconceivable in Boston - as much as I hated the signing, he's an upgrade.
No one knows what to expect in right field.

I do. You expect Pena to face lefties and hit .285/.340/.525, making him an asset. You expect Nixon to play 120 games, hit .285/.360/.480. They'll have good production in right field.
The starting pitching has age and health issues.

Like everyone else's starting pitching. I see no reason not to expect Schilling ca. 2004 this year - he's healthy and there's no sign that he's over the cliff. I see no reason not to expect a standard Tim Wakefield season. Wells will miss a couple of starts, have a couple of disastrous starts, and pitch a lot of really good games where he goes 6-7 innings and allows 2-3 runs. Clement will be alternately brilliant and awful, with a bunch of decent-but-not-great games sprinkled in. Beckett's a question mark, because there are apparently concerns about his shoulder, but Papelbon can start if need be, DiNardo is probably ready to be a league-average starter, Lester may be ready later in the year - they've got options if someone goes down.
The team will suffer because the World Baseball Classic distracted them from having a good spring.

Complete and total non-issue. Utterly irrelevant, and anyone, at any point in this season, on any team, or in any fandom, who points to the WBC and says "hey, that really screwed up our spring - that's why we're losing games," will earn my eternal derision and mockery...

Obviously, something will go wrong during the course of the year. Maybe a lot of somethings. The 2001 Red Sox were the most talented team in baseball, and finished 1 game over .500 when Martinez, Varitek, Garciaparra and Garces all missed most of the season. You get those kinds of issues, you struggle. But there's no reason, other than sheer bloody-mindedness, to expect them.
That sounds like a lot of spring training based optimism.

I'm contemptuous, as people who've read my stuff before well know, of analysis based on spring training performances, other than in really specific cases, e.g., Schilling and Foulke appear to be recovered from previous injuries. No one pitches enough innings or gets enough at-bats to actually make performance analysis legitimate, and that's been my position for a long time (as everyone who was around during the Shea Hillenbrand experiment remembers...)
Maybe the WBC really was a distraction. We'll know if they play good baseball when the season starts.

They will. Or they won't. Either way, it won't be because Jason Varitek and David Ortiz spent two weeks away from Fort Myers. It's just silly.
I'm sure it has been a distraction. The Red Sox have only had patchwork lineups on the field during spring training.

Like everyone else in baseball. Veterans don't travel. No one plays more than 3 or 4 innings until the last couple of weeks (after the WBC ended.)

Not that it matters. I've said this before and I'll say it again - it's not a "team sport." It's an individual sport, with those individuals operating essentially independently, but sharing the field. Some familiarity is nice between the SS and 2nd baseman, and for the other infielders with the first baseman. It's good if the catcher knows the pitchers. But that's all very doable very quickly, and they've had more than enough time.
Francona had a problem in one of his seasons in Philly, where he admitted that he didn't have the team ready to play. Maybe that will happen again.

And if that happens this year, it'll be Francona's fault again. And if he tries to blame the WBC, I'll chortle derisively at him.
Isn't there a lot of uncertainty? Aren't there a wide range of possible outcomes?

Of course there's uncertainty. Of course there's room for a wide range of outcomes. If you look for where I said "I guarantee that the team will win at least 95 games and the World Series" you'll look in vain, because I didn't say that, or anything like it.

What I have said is that this looks to be an improved team over the one that won 95 games last year. That I don't see any reason to expect Schilling or Foulke to perform at last year's bad levels. That I don't see any reason not to think that they've upgraded at first base, 2nd base and center field. That I think they've got options if Lowell's done. That the offensive downgrade at SS has a chance to be offset by the defensive upgrade.

Now, they really didn't have a Lowell-implosion contingency plan until this week, but now they do. Youkilis at 3rd and Choi/Snow at first is probably as good as what they had last year from Mueller and Millar. At least comparable.
Hasnt the competition improved? What about the other clubs that they'll be playing?

They've stayed the same. Some of them are better, some are worse. As a group, unless the talent level in MLB is dramatically different this year than it was last, the rest of baseball is, as a group, about what they were last year.

Will the Red Sox schedule be easier or harder this year than last year's? Probably, but not much, and it's not obvious in which direction. Yes, Toronto may have improved (though I'm nowhere near as impressed by their offseason as many are) but the Red Sox went 7-11 against them last year. Maybe they're actually improved, and Boston goes 8-10 against them this year.
Maybe the "expected" level could be 95 wins, if only an average number of things got right or wrong.

Which is the point that I'm making. I don't assume that everything will be perfect and they'll win 95. I assume that some things will go better than expected, some will go worse, and they'll win 95-100. It's a very talented group.
But aren't there really a large number of things that could wrong this year?

I disagree. I think it's about the same number of things as in any season. Maybe Lowell's decline is permanent and real, but it gets offset by Gonzalez putting up an OBP of .319 (as he did last year) and a SLG of .419 (as he did two years ago.*) Maybe Beckett goes down for a month, but Papelbon takes his spot and pitches great for a month. Maybe Seanez is dreadful, so they cut him and Delcarmen is lights out. There are questions, just like with every team out there. But for just about every question (there are obviously no capable replacements for Ramirez or Ortiz or Varitek, and Schilling going down [or completely losing it, which I think extremely unlikely] would be a problem), they've got a potential competent replacement. I don't think that's cock-eyed optimism at all - I think it's realism.
Aren't you just trying to sell a rosy scenario?

Rosy scenario, for a team with this talent level, is 1998 Yankees or 2001 Seattle Mariners, 114-116 wins. I'm not predicting that. Just that the expected scenario for this team, with this talent level, is somewhere in the mid-to-high 90s in wins, with another playoff appearance.

* - I hated the Gonzalez signing, but if he plays great defense and hits .265/.315/.420 with 20 HR, he's a useful player.

Technorati tags: RedSox, Boston, SpringTraining, Schilling, Beckett, Francona, Foulke, Youkilis

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Down with stability"

There is no one I ever read for whom I more frequently say "I wish I'd written that!" than Mark Steyn. It's unbelievable - he writes all the time, he writes about everything, and it's always brilliant. He's got a fantastic piece (yes, the term "fantastic Steyn piece" is a redundancy) in the Jerusalem Post today that, as always, cuts through the nonsense and looks at the big picture of the US efforts in Iraq.
"Containment" is not a strategy but the absence of strategy - and thug states understand it as such. In Saddam's case, he'd supposedly been "contained" since the first Gulf War in 1991, when Bush Sr. balked at finishing what he'd started. "Mr. President," Joe Biden, the Democrat Senator and beloved comic figure, condescendingly explained to Bush Jr. in 2002, "there is a reason your father stopped and did not go to Baghdad. The reason he stopped is he didn't want to be there for five years."

By my math, that means the Americans would have been out in spring of 1996. Instead, 12 years on, in the spring of 2003 the USAF and RAF were still policing the no-fly zone, ineffectually bombing Iraq every other week. And, in place of congratulations for their brilliant "containment" of Saddam, Washington was blamed for UN sanctions and systematically starving to death a million Iraqi kids - or two million, according to which "humanitarian" agency you believe.

The conclusion?
In 2002, Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, warned that a US invasion of Iraq would "threaten the whole stability of the Middle East." Of course. Otherwise, why do it?

Diplomats use "stability" as a fancy term to dignify inertia and complacency as geopolitical sophistication, but the lesson of 9/11 is that "stability" is profoundly unstable. The unreal realpolitik of the previous 40 years had given the region a stability unique in the non-democratic world, and in return they exported their toxins, both as manpower (on 9/11) and as ideology. Instability was as good a strategic objective as any. As Sam Goldwyn used to tell his screenwriters, I'm sick of the old cliches, bring me some new cliches. When the old cliches are Ba'athism, Islamism and Arafatism, the new ones can hardly be worse, and one or two of them might even buck the region's dismal history. The biggest buck for the bang was obvious: prick the Middle East bubble at its most puffed up point - Saddam's Iraq.

YES, IT'S come at a price. In the last three years, 2,316 brave Americans have given their lives in Iraq, which is as high as US fatalities in Vietnam - in one month, May 1968. And, if the survival of Saddam embodied the west's lack of will, the European-Democratic Party-media hysteria over the last three years keeps that question open. But that doesn't change the facts on the ground. Instead of relying on the usual ineffectual proxies, Bush made the most direct western intervention in the region since General Allenby took Jerusalem in the Great War. Now on to the next stage.

I agree with every word.

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Yankee stuff

Tony Massarotti, in this morning's Herald, addressed what many do not yet seem to have realized - the Yankees have got real serious starting pitching problems.
But the pitching? Even before spring training began, the Yankees had questions. Randy Johnson is 42 and Mike Mussina might as well be. Carl Pavano is hurt. Now, Jaret Wright is, too. Chien-Ming Wang and Shawn Chacon were two of the saviors of the Yankees staff last season, along with 34-year-old nomad Aaron Small.

So far this spring, Pavano (back) and Small (hamstring) have been lost to injury. Wright (back) is now out, too. Opening Day is currently 10 days away and the Yankees do not have a fifth starter, though Torre is hopeful that Wright will not be out long.

I'm not sure that an early return for Jaret Wright is actually something to be hopeful for, but this take is, I think, pretty accurate. Johnson and Mussina can both be expected to be very good. After that, they're very, very iffy. Pavano and Wright are both expensive, injury-prone, and authors of a single good season sprinkled among a sea of bad-to-mediocre ones. Aaron Small was unbelievable last season, unbelievable in a Faustus-sells-his-soul-for-a-good-short-run fashion. Chacon and Small are the perfect illustrations of "journeyman catches lightning in a bottle" and no one thought Wang was a serious prospect a year ago. Scott Erickson is a former famous person who, according to Peter Gammons "took no-hit stuff to the mound more often than anyone else," but was never great, and his last season that was at least mediocre was seven years ago. They may be able to piece a competent staff together, but they're likely going to need to score a LOT of runs to be competitive.

They will, of course, score a lot of runs. Massarotti addressed this, too, in a way that seems like he was serious but isn't particularly realistic.
Oh, the Yankees have quite a lineup this season, the kind that could score 1,000 runs with no trouble at all. The Yankees will start a candidate for the Most Valuable Player award at nearly every position on the diamond. America has not seen a cast like this since “The Godfather.”

Since the 1950 Red Sox scored 1027 runs, there has been one (1) major league team that scored more than a 1000 runs, the 1999 Cleveland Indians with 1009. The idea that any lineup in baseball could score 1000 runs "with no trouble" is just silly. The 2005 New York Yankees were 114 runs shy of that mark, scoring 886. They have replaced some Tino Martinez at-bats with Jason Giambi at-bats, and Tony Womack's at-bats with some Robinson Cano at-bats. They've also replaced some of Womack's and a lot of Bernie Williams' with Johnny Damon's. But no one in the lineup, other than Cano, is under the age of 30. Other than CF, there is no position where they can realistically expect a significant upgrade over what they got last year. (Actually, looking at their roster, it seems likely that Bernie Williams will still be in the lineup every day, playing DH with Giambi at first. The alternative, unless I'm missing someone, is Giambi at DH with Andy Phillips at first. Neither one of those is a great situation.)

In any event, I'll be shocked if they score 950, never mind 1000. Right around 900, give or take 20, is what it looks like to me, without a significant projection effort. 1000 runs would be more than a 12% improvement over what they did last year. I don't see it...

Technorati tags: NYYankees, Pitching, BostonHerald, Massarotti

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Roe V. Wade for men?

There's a wonderful piece in the Boston Globe (of all places!) by their lone conservative voice, Jeff Jacoby, on an issue of great cultural importance.
the old code was swept away by the Sexual Revolution. With the Pill and easy abortion came the illusion of sex without consequences. Pregnancy could be avoided or readily undone. Men didn't have to marry women they impregnated; women didn't have to reserve themselves for men who were committed or whose intentions were honorable. With the devaluation of sex came the devaluation of fatherhood. Men got used to the idea of sex without strings. So did women, many of who also got used to the idea of motherhood without husbands. Government helped, too, mandating welfare benefits for unmarried moms, and child-support checks from "deadbeat dads." With the incentives for marriage weaker than ever, more and more children were born out of wedlock. In 1950, just 4 percent of births were to unmarried mothers. By 1980, the rate was more than 18 percent. It stands today at nearly 36 percent.

One of the greatest examples in human history of the Law of Unintended Consequences shows up in our welfare system. It is easily understood, but the emotional plea to provide sustenance to the weak and helpless, to provide some support for women with babies but not husbands, is strong and understandable. Unfortunately, it has devastating negative consequences. Any time you subsidize behavior, you get more of it. Always. You pay women to have babies without husbands, you get more women having babies without husbands. We, in America, have been doing it for 40 years now.

Does anyone want to argue that it makes the world a better place?
A 25-year-old computer programmer in Michigan, Dubay wants to know why it is only women who have "reproductive rights."...His ex-girlfriend chose to become a mother. It was her choice not to have an abortion, her choice to carry the baby to term, her choice not to have the child adopted. She even had the option, under the "baby safe haven" laws most states have enacted, to simply leave her newborn at a hospital or police station. Roe v. Wade gives her and all women the right - the constitutional right! - to avoid parenthood and its responsibilities. Dubay argues that he should have the same right, and has filed a federal lawsuit that his supporters are calling "Roe v. Wade for men." contends that as a matter of equal rights, men who don't want a child should be permitted, early in pregnancy, to get "a financial abortion" releasing them from any future responsibility to the baby.

Jacoby rightly rails against the "rights without responsibilities" position that this represents. It's an excellent piece...

Technorati tags: Jacoby, Globe, RoeVWade, Dubay

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Quote of the day

How can anyone, looking down the gun-barrel into the stone face of Zarqawi, say that fighting him is a "distraction" from fighting al Qaeda?
- Christopher Hitchens, Wall Street Journal

The Hitchens piece today is excellent, and I recommend it highly. I think that he does a marvelous job outlining the issues facing us in Iraq, and the importance of handling them the right way.

...we can demand to know, of the wider international community, if it could afford to view an imploded Iraq as a spectator. Three years ago, the smug answer to that, from most U.N. members, was "yes." This is not an irresponsibility that we can afford, either morally or practically, and even if our intervention was much too little and way too late, it has kindled in many Arab and Kurdish minds an idea of a different future. There is a war within the war, as there always is when a serious struggle is under way, but justice and necessity still combine to say that the task cannot be given up.

Interestingly, I also think that John Derbyshire's piece at NRO yesterday (To Hell with the “To Hell With The ‘To Hell With Them’ Hawks” Hawks) is a good read with a good analysis. I tend towards the Hitchens position rather than the Derbyshire position, but these are both good articles that have good arguments to make, and make them well...

Technorati tags: Iraq, Hitchens, Derbyshire, war

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Another one bites the dust

So now, joining Willie McGinest and David Givens in what looks like a general exodus from Foxborough, Adam Vinatieri's gone. This is ... disappointing.

Certainly, as a Patriots fan, I'm sorry to see Adam go. He's been a very consistent player for the team for 10 years now. There was always a feeling that, if the game was on the line, the kick would get made. He's not been perfect, but in key situations, he's been close to it.

I think that you can easily make the argument that he made the greatest single kick in NFL history. In January of 2002, in the first round game against the Oakland Raiders, with the snow falling and the wind swirling, with the Patriots down 3 and out of timeouts and less than 2 minutes left, Vinatieri hit a 43 yard field goal that propelled the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory.

He hit game-winning kicks in 2 different Super Bowls as time was running out. He hit a 40+ yard kick with a frozen ball against Tennessee in the play-offs in 2004. His record in domes and overtime is nearly perfect. He's been exactly what you want a kicker to be - nearly automatic.

Either the Patriots have decided that he's not worth what the Colts are going to give him, or Adam has decided that it's time for him to move on. Certainly, he's a celebrity in New England, with endorsements and extra income that are unlikely to be available in Indianapolis (or anywhere else.) He's got credibility and affection in the fan base here that he doesn't have anywhere else. The numbers on the contract are only rumors right now, but sounds like about $2.5 million per for the next 3 years, which, with the salary cap at $102 million, doesn't seem outlandish for a kicker as reliable as Adam's been. (Certainly, the Colts are familiar with what happens when you can't trust your kicker late in a game...)

As much as I don't like that he's gone, however, I still have enormous respect for, and trust in, Bill Belichick. Maybe this is a dreadful mistake, maybe they've screwed up big time. But maybe not. Certainly, there have been moves they made that upset the fans, and they've made decisions that didn't work out. But there have been far more hits than misses, and they've earned some slack on decisions like this.

And as long as Belichick's on the sideline, and Brady's in the huddle, they're going to be a very strong team...

Technorati tags: Vinatieri, Patriots, Colts, kicker

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Red Sox stuff

A couple of odds and ends as we go inside two weeks to opening day:

  • I've not yet done a real analysis of what I expect this year. But I think that they're going to be very strong. I think that they should expect better run prevention, with improved defense at SS and 2B (and possibly 1B), and improved pitching, both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. I think that they've downgraded offensively at SS, and probably 3B. I think that C is likely to show some offensive decline as well, with Varitek now 34 and Bard probably an offensive downgrade from Mirabelli. But I think that the outfield, 1B and 2B could all show offensive improvement. They scored 910 runs last year. My gut reaction is that 900 again this year would not shock me. This has the potential, again, to be an excellent team.

  • Which is not to say that there aren't question marks. Because there are. I expect Schilling to be much closer to 2004 Schilling than 2005 Schilling, but I could be wrong. I expect Foulke to rebound, but again, I could be wrong. If Manny or Ortiz get hurt, if Nixon gets hurt (which is not unlikely), if Lowell doesn't bounce back at all, if Crisp goes down or just can't play in Boston (which I think is unlikely), if Beckett spends more time on the DL than in the rotation, those are all things that could have a significant negative effect on the record. If Varitek gets hurt, they've got a real problem behind the plate. If Gonzalez gets hurt, it probably helps the team, but that's the only position where that is true.

  • We all have knee-jerk reactions to things. When I heard of the Arroyo-Peña trade yesterday, I almost knocked myself out when my knee hit the side of my head. Had I written about it when I first heard it, it would have been hard work to edit the profanity out.

    Upon further reflection, I think it's a decent trade. I'm not certain that it makes the team better, because it might not. But it's conceivable that it will. It definitely helps make them younger, which, all else being equal, is a good thing, but it's not enough reason to make a bad talent swap. Older and better is better than younger and worse...

    The reason my knee jerked is this:
    Wily Mo Peña - Career OBP: .303


    I'm an OBP guy. That's what I want to see from my hitters, first, last and always. It's the first thing that I look at, it's the most important thing a hitter does. Gary Huckaby used to say "OBP is life and life is OBP." I used to say (and still do, on occasion) "OBP uber alles!"

    But sometimes you've got to look beyond, and it is undeniable that there are extenuating circumstances in the case of Peña. He was signed to a Major League contract at age 17, which meant that he had to be in the big leagues at age 20, despite the fact that he wasn't ready to be there. At an age when he should have been polishing, figuring out how to hit, how to work pitchers, how to lay off breaking balls, down in the minors, he was sitting on the bench in the Majors. From the ages of 21-23, he's only got 812 at-bats. That's not enough to improve anything.

    He has excellent power. In the last two years, he's got 45 HR in only 647 AB. Of the 183 ML hitters who've got 15+ HR over the last two seasons, his AB/HR rate is 17th. He strikes out way too much, which doesn't particularly interest me, and walks way too little, which does. GM Theo Epstein was saying yesterday that there are historical examples of players with power but no plate discipline who develop it, but we're talking about an extreme lack of plate discipline here. Really, the historical examples boil down to one - Sammy Sosa. Now obviously, if Pena does produce Sammy Sosa ca. 1999 type performance over the next 4-5 years, then it isn't a good trade - it's a great trade. I think that's unlikely, but it is possible. Apparently, there are indicators that he's starting to learn how to lay off the slider, at least occasionally, from right-handed pitchers, which would go a long way towards making him a productive hitter. If he could become a consistent .270/.350/.550 performer, this is a very good deal. I think .260/.330/.550 is more likely, but even that's a productive corner outfielder - just not a star.

    And he makes a good platoon partner for Trot Nixon.

    Career splits
    PlayerSplitsG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K AVG OBP SLG OPS

    Trot Nixon vs. Left 390516681111851056581380.2150.3040.3280.632

    vs. Right 8382388420699162231154153364270.2930.3790.5240.903

    Wily Mo Peña vs. Left 1272573770110194622960.2720.3420.5370.879

    vs. Right 272573711362223288321920.2370.2850.450.736

    As we can see here, Peña's already been a very productive hitter against left-handed pitching. He'll never be a full-time player until he can hit right-handed pitching, but as a platoon partner for Nixon, that's a good addition. The two of them put together, in a fairly strict platoon, make a ~.890 OPS right-fielder, which is a big upgrade from what they got last year.

    So, as I say, I think that the potential upside is very high, and the potential downside is this - they don't get to trade Arroyo for something else. I think that they'll be able to run pitchers better than Bronson Arroyo out to the mound pretty consistently for the next 4-5 years, so I don't think his loss is a huge detriment, and there's the potential that Pena turns into a pretty good player. He's certainly more likely to be a major league asset in 2007 than any other outfielders in the Red Sox system.

  • I've seen a lot of commentary about how the Red Sox "screwed" Bronson Arroyo, how he gave them the "hometown discount" and they gave him a verbal no-trade, which they've now violated. It is clear that Arroyo wanted to stay, but everyone, including Bronson, said at the time that there was no promise, no "handshake." What they said, according to everyone involved, was that there wasn't any deal in the works. There was a lot of speculation that they were going to sign Arroyo and immediately flip him to Seattle for Jeremy Reed or Tampa for Julio Lugo or Cleveland for Coco Crisp. The Red Sox told Bronson that they had nothing currently in the works in terms of trading him, but there were no promises, no commitments going forward. Everyone knew that this made him a more valuable trading commodity, and his agent actually went public at the time, advising him not to do it for just that reason. He signed it with his eyes open, and the Red Sox clearly didn't lie, as none of those speculated deals happened. He eventually did get traded, which he didn't want, and that's life, but they didn't "screw" him, or lie to him. They did business, as he did when he signed it...

  • Opening day is less than 2 weeks away...

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Communication problems

Yesterday was the big karate tournament of the year, Grandmaster Byrne's 33rd annual All Tang Soo Do Tournament in Lynnfield, MA. My 4 kids and I all competed, though I spent most of the day judging, and it was a great and successful event. But there was an interesting occurrence after my youngest was finished.

Ben was one of the two 7-year old red belts competing, so he was head-to-head with a little girl in all three of the events, breaking, forms and sparring. In each case, he finished first and she was 2nd. So they finished up and got their medals.

And about 15 minutes later, we were standing around, watching a new group compete in that ring, when a woman came up and spoke to Ben. She reached down, shook his hand, and said, "Congratulations. You did a very good job. But it wasn't nice of you to call my daughter a 'loser.' You made her feel bad, and she's crying in the other room."

We were stunned, and could tell that he was too. I started to apologize, and started to pull him through the crowd, telling him that we were going to go talk to her and apologize. But I had no idea where the comment had come from - the kids don't ever use that term, he doesn't ever call anyone names. It was completely out of the blue and out of character. So as we followed her mother towards the door, I looked at him and asked him what he'd said, and why he'd done it. And he told me that "I told her she was a good loser." At which point I started laughing...

You see, in the car, on the way to the tournament, we'd had a behavior discussion. I knew that a couple of them were going to do well, and I knew that one of them wasn't, just because of his age, and the age and levels of kids he'd be competing against. So we'd talked about how important it was to be a good loser, and how it was even more important to be a good and gracious winner. So when he told me what he'd actually said, I understood what had happened - he'd been complimenting her!

Obviously, not a compliment that anyone wants to receive, but sometimes the subtleties are lost on seven year olds...

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Friday, March 17, 2006


So, last night the United States team in the World Baseball Classic reportedly lost to Mexico, 2-1, and apparently is now out of the tournament. It is conceivable that I could care less about this event, but I'm not certain how...

But I do have one comment to make. I've seen a bunch of comments from people about how "embarassing" or "disgraceful" the US performance was in this tournament. Comments from people who are allegedly baseball fans. It's nonsense - utterly preposterous. Baseball does not work that way. The better team may win more often than the worse team (that's certainly the way to bet, if you have to), it cannot "impose its will" upon the other team, not the way a basketball or football team can. Baseball just doesn't work that way. A lined shot at an infielder goes for a double play, a weak swing at an excellent pitcher's pitch results in a bloop double. That's life. The 1998 Yankees won 114 games, but started the season 1-4. Last season, the Devil Rays were very bad and the Yankees were very good, but Tampa Bay was 11-8 against the New York. It's the nature of the beast. The fact that the USA lost to Canada says absolutely nothing about the relative talent levels of the two teams, and it certainly doesn't mean that anyone "choked..."

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

McGinest to Cleveland

Willie McGinest signed with Cleveland yesterday, which is disappointing. McGinest was, at times, a disappointment, as there were some unrealistic expectations that went along with his draft position (4th overall in 1994), but he was a consistent and professional, and at times outstanding, player for the Patriots. Most Patriots fans still have faith that the front office understands what it's doing, and it is possible that Cleveland gave McGinest a little more than the Patriots wanted to spend.

But it doesn't seem to be an exorbitant deal (3 years/$12 million with half guaranteed) and there are many of us, I'm certain, wondering if they wouldn't have been better off to match it and bring him back. In any event, he's gone now, but his legacy with New England is a strong one. In his 12 seasons, they went to the Super Bowl 4 times, winning 3 of them, and he was a key component of those teams. He leaves as the 3rd-leading sacker in Patriots history (behind Andre Tippett and Julius Adams) and as the NFL's career record-holder in post-season sacks.

So best of luck, Willie. I'm sorry to see you go, but thanks for all you did in a Patriots uniform...

Willie McGinest had an incredible career with the New England Patriots. He will always be regarded as a smart, talented, tough team leader who infused professionalism to the team every day and contributed greatly to many championship seasons.
- Bill Belichick

Fair enough...

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

A single comment on Claude Allen

To quote the movie Ruthless People, "this could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth..."

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Friday, March 10, 2006

My new favorite President...

The History Channel Classroom is running, this week and next, an 8-day series on the US Presidents, and I've been making DVDs for use in history. I just came upon a line that made Grover Cleveland my new favorite President...
Cleveland saw the President's job as one that should simply stop bad things from happening, and he did this, quite effectively, by exercising his veto power.

There have been many times when we could have used much more of this attitude...

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Thursday, March 02, 2006


One of the great joys in life is baseball on the radio. It's cold in New England, there's snowfall south of Boston, but in Fort Myers, the Red Sox are playing baseball, and we're able to listen to it, and we'll have a game to watch on Saturday. The winter may try to hold on, we'll see more snow, we'll have more cold days, but winter's essentially over, driven out by the return of the "boys of summer..."

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More media outlets confusing "breach" and "top"

I noted last night that the AP was confusing, intentionally or not, the difference between "breaching" the levees in New Orleans and "topping" the levees. This isn't the first time - after all, the President made the comments back in September, and there was an outcry at the time. One would think that people would have figured it out by now, but apparently not. There are at least two more media outlets making the same error today.

From this morning's Boston Globe:

Bush declared four days after the storm, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility -- and Bush was worried, too.

Again, the transcripts and video show that people were concerned about the levees being topped. That's not the same thing, not by a long shot.

And CBs' The Early Show is doing exactly the same thing.

CBS Reporter Bob Orr: Mayfield warns the levees may not hold.

(National Hurricane Center Director Max) Mayfield: I don't think anybody can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not, but that's obviously a very, very big concern.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

AP going after Bush on Katrina. Again...

The Associated Press is running a piece of video on which they're claiming exclusivity, of some of the FEMA preparation meetings prior to the landfall of Hurrican Katrina. They've also got video of the President speaking to FEMA, and then, later, speaking to ABC in the aftermath. They've chosed to portray the President as oblivious to what happened in New Orleans.

President Bush (speaking to ABC news): I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.

Voiceover: A seemingly direct contradiction to what is said at the briefing.

Max Mayfield (director, National Hurricane Center): I don't think anyone can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped.

Someone at the AP clearly needs to be taking some listening comprehension lessons. There's not only not a "seemingly direct contradiction" between what the President said and what was said at the briefing, there's no contradiction whatsoever. Unless there was something said at the briefing that they didn't include in the report. The President said that no one anticipated the "breach" of the levees. The Director of the National Hurricane Center said that they couldn't say whether the levees would be "topped." Well, that's the difference between your bathtub overflowing, which makes a mess, and collapsing, which is a disaster. People feared that the storm might top the levees, which would cause some flooding in some parts of the city. To the best of my knowledge, there was no public speculation or warning that the levees would actually collapse.
Army Corps personnel, in charge of maintaining the levees in New Orleans, started to secure the locks, floodgates and other equipment so it could better weather the impact, said Greg Breerwood, deputy district engineer for project management at the Army Corps of Engineers.

"We knew if it was going to be a Category 5, some levees and some flood walls would be overtopped," he said. "We never did think they would actually be breached. I don't think anyone raised the question that the city would be flooded to the magnitude it was now."

San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/2/05

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