Monday, March 31, 2008

Frog with no legs is deaf

On July 8, 2007, License to Wed, a critical failure, opened at the US box office, and ended up taking in $10,422,258 for its opening weekend. It finished the year 50th on the list of the top-grossing movies of 2007.

There were also five Iraq-war related movies released in 2007. Each of which started with its fundamental premise a belief the George Bush is evil, the United States shouldn't be in Iraq, the US is wrong, the military is evil - standard left-wing, blame America first sensibilities. The people involved in these movies are some of the biggest box office draws in the world. Robert Redford, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep headlined Lions for Lambs. Brian De Palma directed Redacted. Rendition starred Reese Witherspoon and Grace is Gone starred John Cusack. Tommy Lee Jones was the star of In The Valley of Elah.

Despite the starpower, and critical acclaim vastly exceeding License to Wed, not one of those movies finished ahead of it on the list. In fact, those five films combined opening weekend box office results were $10,935,511. That's right, the combined draw of those five critically acclaimed, high-powered films was slightly less than 5% higher than License to Wed.

So, what came out of Hollywood last weekend? You got it - another "the army is wrong" film, Stop-Loss. Anyone want to guess how well it did? Maybe this headline will contain a hint: Stop-Loss DOA.

The great thing about that piece is the quote from the "studio source" explaining why all of these movies are failing:
"It's not looking good - no one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off. It's a function of the marketplace not being ready to address this conflict in a dramatic way because the war itself is something that's unresolved yet. It's a shame because it's a good movie that's just ahead of its time."

There are really two different things in that statement that need to be addressed.

First is the obvious business issue - if the studio knows before it releases it that there is no audience for the film, why the hell are they making and releasing it? Assume, for the moment, that the source is exactly right about why there is no audience, the fact is, they're saying up front that there is no audience. They are spending money making, promoting and releasing a movie that they already know no one wants to see. Does Paramount actually have share-holders? Is anyone responsible to them?

The second point, however, is going to challenge one of the assumptions from the first point. The source is assuming that people just aren't ready for Iraq-themed movies. I'm not aware that there's any evidence to support that point of view. If you want to say that the American public is not ready for movies pointing out how venal and ugly the US actions in Iraq are, that it's not ready for movies about how evil the US Army is, well, I suppose that's true. But this studio source is acting like the scientist in the old joke*, who carefully measures how far a frog can jump with four, three, two, one and no legs, and concludes that a frog with no legs is deaf. You can't keep making anti-American movies and assume that American audiences aren't going because they're about the war in Iraq.

Well, I guess you can, if you're a Hollywood studio executive, but there's a serious flaw in the logic behind the statement. If there was a movie about the war in Iraq in which the US Army was a force for good and not evil, the results may well be different.







* - A scientist puts a frog on the floor and says, "Jump, frog, jump!" And then he writes in his notebook, "frog with four legs can jump 20 feet."

He then cuts off one of the frog's front legs, puts the frog on the floor and says, "Jump, frog, jump!" And then he writes in his notebook, "frog with three legs can jump 15 feet."

He then cuts off the frog's other front leg, puts the frog on the floor and says, "Jump, frog, jump!" And then he writes in his notebook, "frog with two legs can jump 10 feet."

He then cuts off the frog's other rear leg, puts the frog on the floor and says, "Jump, frog, jump!" And then he writes in his notebook, "frog with one leg can jump 5 feet."

He then cuts off one of the frog's front legs, puts the frog on the floor and says, "Jump, frog, jump! Jump, frog, jump!" And then he writes in his notebook, "frog with no legs is deaf."

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Global warming juxtaposition

Yesterday, Sterling Burnett, over at Planet Gore, reviewed a new book from Canadian journalist Lawrence Solomon about the climate scientists who don't subscribe to the current political orthodoxy on anthropogenic global warming.
As a jacket blurb puts it, “What he found shocked him. Solomon discovered that on every “headline” global warming issue, not only were there serious scientists who dissented, consistently the dissenters were by far the more accomplished and eminent scientists.”
...
The Deniers is among the most effective in showing how science is being fundamentally undermined in the current politicized atmosphere of climate research. In addition, like no other book or paper I know, it provides a concise but thorough overview of the myriad weaknesses of the consensus view, the quality and substance of the criticisms of that view, and the stellar qualifications of those scientists labeled derisively as “deniers.”

In an interesting juxtaposition, also yesterday, the news came out that former United States Vice President Al Gore has continued his marginalization campaign by telling 60 Minutes that "those who still doubt that global warming is caused by man...are acting like the fringe groups who think the 1969 moon landing never really happened, or who once believed the world is flat."

In his Oscar-winning propaganda piece, Al Gore dismisses any scientist who has ever taken any money from an energy company with the old Upton Sinclair line, "it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." It is incredibly ironic that man who has made, and is continuing to build, a fortune entirely upon political demagoguery on a debatable scientific issue would choose to bring that up. After all, who profits more from marginalizing real scientists who disagree with him than Al Gore? Whose salary was ever more "dependent on not understanding it" than Al Gore?

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ten down...

five to go.

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The ticket?

The Drudge headline, over a picture of the two men together, links to a My Way News story about today's fund-raising trip shared by John McCain and Mitt Romney, and says "The Ticket?" I have to say, I'd be strongly in favor of that...

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Table-pounding partisans

As we approach the presidential election, there will be arguments for each candidate. More importantly, from my point of view, there will be arguments against each candidate. Many of them will be made by well-meaning partisans, and they will be legitimate arguments to vote against a candidate.

And they will be completely disingenuous.

One of the things that I've resisted doing is criticizing Barack Obama for, in Ronald Reagan's words, "youth and inexperience." Clearly, he has nowhere near the track record or experience that one would like to see in the President of the United States. He's been in the US Senate for less than one full term and he's never held any kind of executive position. Any arguments that he's too inexperienced and callow to be elected are legitimate.

But if I were to make them, it would be a lie. It would be to imply that, if only he weren't so young and inexperienced, I might vote for him. And the fact is, based on his entire career, the people he's chosen to align himself with and his voting record, there are no realistic circumstances under which I would ever vote for him. The old saw about trial lawyers goes something like "if the law's on your side, pound on the law; if the facts are on your side, pound on the facts; and if neither the law nor the facts are on your side, pound on the table." Criticism from me about Obama's youth and experience would be the equivalent of pounding on the table.

It's a legitimate argument, but it's so far down the list of legitimate arguments, that it really is irrelevant to my decision. And if the situations were reversed, it would not prevent me from voting for a candidate with whom I otherwise agreed. Which is why it would be disingenuous.

It's kind of like the NFL tie-breakers. If you go far enough down the list, you get to things like net points in division games. It's relevant, but the NFL is unlikely to ever actually make a decision based on it, because there are more important things that will separate the teams before you get to it. Obama's youth, his past drug "experimentation," McCain's temper, the Keating five, Hillary's "misstatements" about her trip to Bosnia - all interesting, all legitimate and all so far down the list as to be essentially irrelevant in making a decision.

And there will be a lot more of it over the next eight months. There will be criticism of John McCain's temper by people who would vote for Hillary Clinton, concern about McCain's age from those who would support Walter Mondale in a race against Mitt Romney and accusations of racism or sexism made against people who would happily vote for Condoleeza Rice made by those who wouldn't consider it.

I want to try to avoid doing that, as much as possible. But there will be a lot of it. And it's important to understand, when you're listening to a partisan, that a lot of the criticisms are nothing but table-pounding...

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I tell you this, so that I can tell you...

"Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien"
- Voltaire

In English, "the best is the enemy of the good" (or, as frequently cited, "the perfect is the enemy of the good.")

Why am I starting a post with that quote? Because it describes what has happened to me several times in the last couple of months. I have something I want to say, something I think could be good or interesting. And then, when I start, there's more that needs to be researched, more that needs to be said, and nothing's ever finished and ready to post. Which is silly.

So, in order to provide full value for my reader's entertainment dollar, I have made a commitment to stop attempting perfection, and start posting frequent, short and (probably) lousy posts!

OK, that's not true. (I hope)

But I do want to touch on something I wanted to write about a while ago, and, while it won't have everything I want to say, it will have some of what I want to see. More importantly, it will set a framework for discussion of various issues that have come up before, and will come up again.

OK, having written that, and finished a nice long post, I've decided to break it into two. ;-) So there will be something immediately following this. Quickly.

(Well, unless I think I can make it better by working on it longer. That can't cause problems, can it?)

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

If I were a Freudian, what would I make of this?

Interesting little "dust-up" in The Corner this morning, which started with Mark Levin posting a little observation:
Attention Christopher Hitchens and the other faith-bashers. The faith-denying Marxist Nirvana known as the People's Republic of China is murdering Tibetans. Just thought you'd want to know ... or maybe not.

Not a big deal, one would suppose. But Andrew Stuttaford and John Derbyshire have, as near as I can tell, completely read something into it which just isn't there.

Stuttaford: "...the current atrocities in Lhasa have little or nothing to do with the communist regime's godlessness and almost everything to with its nationalism, imperialism, and authoritarianism."

Derbyshire: "I am glad to know that Mark has some sympathy for the Tibetans and their religion. He does know that Tibetan religion is atheist, doesn't he?"

Talk about missing the point. Levin, of course, said absolutely nothing about the religion of Tibet. Nor did he suggest that the atheistic attitude of the Chinese was driving the atrocities. What he pointing out, and addressing to Christopher Hitchens and those of his ilk who argue that religion is one of the primary sources of woe in the world, is that the atheistic "faith-denying Marxist Nirvana known as the People's Republic of China is murdering Tibetans." You know, committing atrocities. Not in the name of religion. Not because of Tibet's religion. It isn't a religious clash at all, and he wasn't suggesting that it was. It was counter-example addressed to the proponents of a worldview which holds that religion is the source of evil in the world, that atrocities occur because religious mindsets prevail, that "religion poisons everything."

Which is debatable at best, preposterous at worst. But the objections offered by Mr. Stuttaford and Mr. Derbyshire don't even address Mr. Levin's point. They are non-sequiturs, offered by the two Corner contributors who seem most embarrassed to be associated with religious people whenever the topic of religion comes up, and it would seem to say far more about them and their attitudes than about Mr. Levin, Tibet or China...

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Game 2 - Boston at Oakland (in Tokyo)

Live-blogging the Major League Baseball season since yesterday...

(Chris Lynch is up and blogging, too...)

UPDATE:
Well, the Oakland offense has, through two games, been far more consistent than the Boston offense. Oakland scored 5 runs in each game in Tokyo, the Red Sox scored 6 in one and only 1 in the other. So they finish the far east portion of the schedule at 1-1, and the dream of an undefeated season falls.

The big play of the game was obviously the three-run Emil Brown HR in the third, after which there was never a sense that the game was going to be competitive. The Red Sox had nine baserunners, and only in the third, when Youkilis drew a two-out walk with Lugo already at second, did they have two on at the same time. None of their hits came with runners on base.

The star of the game was Rich Harden. Making his first MLB start since last July, he went six innings, allowing only 3 hits, 3 walks and 1 run, while striking out 9. An outstanding performance.

The two teams will next meet on Tuesday in Oakland to conclude the four game series.

UPDATE:
Corey fails to keep the deficit at three, giving up a double and a single for another Oakland run. They go to the top of the ninth down 5-1.

UPDATE:
The A's also do not score in the seventh. The Sox have six outs remaining to make up a three-run deficit.

UPDATE:
Well, inning one PH (Post-Harden) isn't an improvement. They waste a two-out Crisp double and go to the bottom of the seventh still down by three.

UPDATE:
Manny goes deep, and cuts the lead to three, 4-1. That's all they get, but I'd be surprised to see Harden, with 95 pitches already, come out for the seventh. This game's still got a ways to go.

UPDATE:
David Aardsma makes his Red Sox debut with a quick and clean, nine pitch, no base-runner inning. Still 4-0 after five, and Harden's very likely to pitch the sixth. If they're lucky, he's tiring. Even if not, this should be his last inning, but it would be nice to see some offensive productivity with Youkilis, Ortiz and Ramirez due up.

UPDATE:
Boston doesn't score in the fourth. In somewhat of a shocker of a development, neither does Oakland, as Lester decides to pretend he's a Major League pitcher, and retires the A's in order on 10 pitches. Why he waited until he had a four-run deficit to pitch that way, I don't know. Maybe he's trying to enhance the drama of the series by letting the Red Sox try to put together another come-from-behind victory.

UPDATE:
And the walk and HR bite the Red Sox again. Lester walks the lead-off batter in the third, and after a fly ball out and a single, gives up a 3-run homer. That makes this officially a bad performance from young Mr. Lester. Four hits, three walks and four runs through 2 1/3 innings isn't going to get it done very often.

UPDATE:
The Red Sox draw a couple more walks in the top of the third, and pick up a stolen base, but don't score. Harden's struck out five and allowed no hits so far.

He's also thrown 60 pitches. He may get through the fifth, but he won't go any further than that. The Oakland Bullpen's going to have to pitch again today. (Of course, with Lester at 39 pitches through two innings, so is the Boston bullpen...)

UPDATE:
Once again, the A's jump out to an early lead, and Boston's playing from behind. And the Red Sox starting pitcher is giving the A's too many base runners, with two walks through the first two innings. 1-0 Oakland after two.


UPDATE:

Lester's first inning today is better than Matsuzaka's yesterday. Only one walk, only 16 pitches, no runs. Harden also gave up a two-out walk and nothing else. 0-0 after one. There is a tendency to say "scoreless" but that isn't really correct, is it? After all, the team's have scores - they each have 0 runs. One could say that they are "scoreless," I suppose, in the sense that neither team has scored yet, but the game itself isn't scoreless...



Game 2

Jon Lester vs. Rich Harden

Tokyo Dome

What could be more exciting?

First pitch - 6:09 AM at Fenway Park...

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Game 1 - Boston at Oakland (in Tokyo)

"Live-blogging" via gameday audio:

UPDATE:
Well, that certainly wasn't the nice, clean Papelbon inning we were looking for. And it took the help of a dreadful base-running play by Emil Brown, getting caught in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd on an RBI double. But the bottom line is this - Boston wins 6-5, and they are now 1-0. That's right, the Red Sox have the Best Record in Baseball.

Okajima gets the Win, Street the Loss, Papelbon the Save. Ramirez drove in 4 and Moss 2 for the Red Sox. And the important thing is that the Red Sox win.

And that 'W' is all that you're looking for. Not pretty at all, but just good enough...

UPDATE:
The Red Sox don't score again, so they'll hand the ball and a 6-4 lead to Jon Papelbon in their quest to remain undefeated and in sole possession of first place in the AL East.

UPDATE:
Manny Ramirez hits his second two-run double of the night, and the Red Sox take a 6-4 lead in the top of the tenth. Hopefully Papelbon outperforms Snyder...

UPDATE:
The first nine innings were such fun that they're going to keep going. 4-4 after nine.

UPDATE:
If Boston's going to win, they're going to have to do it in extra innings. They're just a clean Okajima inning away from getting the chance.

UPDATE:
Brandon Moss' first Major League HR is the first run that the Red Sox ever score against A's closer Huston Street. That ties the game at 4, with the Sox still batting in the top of the ninth.

UPDATE:
The Red Sox bullpen has retired the last nine A's. Unfortunately, the batter before that hit a two-run homer, which is why we're going to the ninth with Boston down 4-3. Lowell, Moss and Varitek due up against Street.

UPDATE:
Youkilis and Ortiz hammer the ball against Foulke, but both right at outfielders. If the Sox are going to win, they're going to have to score their first run ever against Huston Street in the ninth.

UPDATE:
Snyder and Javier Lopez retire the A's in order in the bottom of the seventh. We go to the eighth with Oakland up 4-3.

UPDATE:
It's a good thing when your fastest runner (Ellsbury) leads off the seventh with a single. It's a bad thing when the next batter (Lugo) grounds into a double play on the first pitch. Boston doesn't score in the top of the seventh.

UPDATE:
Snyder gets out of the sixth without further damage. We go to the seventh with the Red Sox down by one in a game that will be decided by the bullpens.

UPDATE:
Matsuzaka won't be the winner. Snyder gives up a single and a home run to the first two batters he faces, and Oakland re-takes the lead, 4-3.

UPDATE:
Matsuzaka's night is, indeed, done, as Kyle Snyder starts the sixth. But Daisuke could be the winner, as he made it through five and left with the lead. Snyder takes the mound with the Red Sox up 3-2.

UPDATE:
With a runner at second in the first inning, Ortiz popped out to third. With runners at first and second in the sixth, he fouled out to third. But this time, Manny followed with a double inside the third-base bag, and two runs scored. Following a Lowell strike out, Brandon Moss, playing because J.D. Drew was a late scratch with a stiff back, singled to right, driving in Manny with the go-ahead run, and driving Blanton from the game. The Red Sox did nothing against Blanton for five innings, but he seemed to tire quickly. Which is not surprising - in an ordinary spring, this would have been his next-to-last spring start. "Real opening day" is, after all, still a week and a half away.


UPDATE:
Well, after a truly painful beginning, Matsuzaka settled down nicely. If his evening's done after five (which I suspect will be the case), this is how it broke down:

First two innings:
6 outs - 13 batters, 60 pitches, 2 hits, 4 walks, 1 HBP, 2 runs

Next three innings:
9 outs - 10 batters, 35 pitches, 0 hits, 1 walk, 0 HBP, 0 runs

But after two, you had to wonder whether he'd make it through 3, so that isn't a disaster outing. The question is, are the Red Sox going to score any runs and take him off the hook? They've done nothing so far...

UPDATE:
Not only do the A's not score in the fourth, they don't get any baserunners. And Matsuzaka only threw 8 pitches. He might make it through five. Unfortunately, the Red Sox haven't done a thing with Blanton, so the score is still 2-0 Oakland.

UPDATE:
The third inning was more successful. The Red Sox still haven't scored, but they got two base runners instead of one. And Matsuzaka only walked one and threw 15 pitches. He might make it through four...



Game time:
It is not unusual for me to have the Red Sox game on while I'm showering. This, however, the first time it's ever happened during the morning before-work shower. And hearing the game while riding to work is also peculiar.

In any event, the season is now underway. And, through two innings, it's off to an excruciating start. The first inning was painful, as the Red Sox had a runner at 2nd with 1 out and failed to score when Ortiz and Manny did nothing. And then Matsuzaka took 30 pitches to get through the first, while allowing two walks, a hit batsmen and a home run, and two runs. The Red Sox got another hit in the 2nd, erased on a double play, and Matsuzaka threw 30 more, although the A's didn't score. But it has just been painful to listen to.

After 2 - 2-0 Oakland.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

2008 Red Sox preview

Opening day is usually an afternoon game. Sometimes, it's a Sunday night. But this is the first time that the Red Sox are ever going to open on a Tuesday morning at 6:00 AM. 7:00 PM local (Tokyo) time, of course.

I've not had much to say about the Sox during this spring. Partly that's been because there really hasn't been a lot going on. And partly because of sports fan psychological damage incurred during the Super Bowl. But, with the season about to start, I need to say something. So, here it is, my opening day preview.

Last year, the Boston Red Sox were both a) the best team in baseball and b) the World Series Champions. (Those don't actually go together all that often.) Can they repeat either of those?

Last year:

The 2007 Red Sox underperformed their Pythagorean projection winning percentage. As they allowed only 657 runs while scoring 867, the could have been expected to win 101 games. Instead, they won 96, finishing the season tied for the best record in baseball with the Cleveland Indians. During the offseason, they have had very little roster turnover, heading into 2008 with the core of the 2007 team intact.

Offense:

Last year, the Red Sox were a very good, but not great, offensive team.



2007 Boston Red Sox
TeamAL Rank

Batting average0.2795th

OBP0.3622nd

SLG0.4443rd

Runs per Game5.353rd


They got a fantastic year from Mike Lowell, and should have no expectations of a repeat. They got a very poor season from J.D. Drew, which also shouldn't repeat.



2007 Boston Red Sox
PlayerGamesGSABRuns Hits 2B3BHRRBIBBHBPKSBCSBAOBASPctOPS

>400 AB

David Ortiz 149147549116182521351171114103310.3320.4450.6211.066

Manny Ramirez 13313148384143331208871792000.2960.3880.4930.881

Mike Lowell 154150589791913722112053371320.3240.3780.5010.879

Kevin Youkilis 1451365288515235216837715105420.2880.390.4530.843

Dustin Pedroia 1391325208616539185047742710.3170.380.4420.822

J.D. Drew 140126466841263041164791100420.270.3730.4230.796

Jason Varitek 131121435571111531768718122120.2550.3670.4210.788

Coco Crisp 14513752685141287660501842860.2680.330.3820.712

Julio Lugo 14714057071135362873480823360.2370.2940.3490.643

100-400 AB

Jacoby Ellsbury 33281162041713188115900.3530.3940.5090.903

Eric Hinske 8449186253812362128354300.2040.3170.3980.715

Alex Cora 835220730511053187923110.2460.2980.3860.684

Wily Mo Pena 734015618349151714258010.2180.2910.3850.676

Doug Mirabelli 48331149233051611141000.2020.2780.360.638

0-100 AB

David Murphy 302110100001000.50.51.52

Brandon Moss 15525672101406000.280.3790.440.819

Bobby Kielty 20115261220195117000.2310.2950.3270.622

Jeff Bailey 329110011001000.1110.1110.4440.555

Kevin Cash 128272310044113000.1110.2420.1480.39

Royce Clayton 816100000003000000

Pitchers

Josh Beckett 301111121001001000.1820.1820.2730.455

Julian Tavarez 3474010000103000.250.40.250.65

Daisuke Matsuzaka 32104000000002000000

Curt Schilling 2482010000001000.50.50.51

Tim Wakefield 3142000000002000000



Gone:
- Eric Hinske
- Wily Mo Pena
- Doug Mirabelli
- David Murphy
- Royce Clayton

Here:
- Sean Casey

As I said, there's been very little turnover on the roster. Casey replaces Hinske as the backup 1st basement, Kielty stays as a backup outfielder. Kevin Cash replaces Doug Mirabelli as backup catcher/Wakefield caddy. Any variation on the 867 runs scored will be the result of performance differences in the players who are here, as opposed to player replacement. The only likely exception to that is Center Field, where most people expect Jacoby Ellsbury to get the bulk of the playing time, and Coco Crisp to get traded.

Outlook:

Drop-offs should be expected at 3rd base and catcher, as Cash is even worse than Mirabelli and Varitek's another year older. Improvements should be expected in Center and Right, as Crisp and Drew had down years. It would not be surprising to see Manny have a "comeback" season of sorts. On the whole, I think that they'll score somewhere between 875-900 runs, somewhat, but not tremendously, better than 2007.


Pitching:

The 2007 Red Sox were the best pitching/defense team in the AL. Their 657 runs allowed were 42 runs fewer than second place Detroit.



2007 Boston Red Sox
Red SoxAL Rank

Runs allowed6571st

Runs per game allowed4.061st

Walks/Inning0.3355th

Strikeouts/Inning0.7993rd




2007 Boston Red Sox
PlayerGamesGSW L WPctSvShoIPHRERHRBBKERAK9BB9HR9

Starters

Josh Beckett 30302070.74100200.67189767317401943.278.71.790.76

Curt Schilling 2424980.52901151165686521231013.876.021.371.25

Daisuke Matsuzaka 323215120.55600204.6719110010025802014.48.843.521.1

Jonathan Lester 121140100636133321031504.577.144.431.43

Tim Wakefield 313117120.5860018919110410022641104.765.243.051.05

Julian Tavarez 34237110.38900134.6715189771451775.155.153.410.94

Kason Gabbard 774010141281717318293.736.373.950.66

Clay Buchholz 43310.750122.671464010221.598.743.970

Devern Hansack 31010007.679542554.75.875.872.35

Relievers

Jonathan Papelbon 590130.2537058.33301212515841.8512.962.310.77

Bryan Corey 90101009.336220461.935.793.860

Manuel Delcarmen 44000-1044281110417412.058.393.480.82

Hideki Okajima 660320.65069501717617632.228.222.220.78

Brendan Donnelly 270210.6670020.67198705153.056.532.180

Javier Lopez 610210.6670040.67361614218263.15.753.980.44

J.C. Romero 23010110202477215113.154.956.750.9

Mike Timlin 500210.6671055.33462321714313.425.042.281.14

Kyle Snyder 460230.40054.33452923732413.816.795.31.16

Joel Pineiro 310110.50034412019314205.035.293.710.79

Eric Gagne 200220.50018.6726141419226.7510.614.340.48



Gone:
- Kason Gabbard
- Brendan Donnelly
- J.C. Romero
- Joel Pineiro
- Eric Gagne

Here:
- David Aardsma

A brief glance shows that they aren't going to miss any of the relievers they've "lost." Gabbard gave them several effective starts, and they could need those at some point. But they've got appropriate depth to deal with a couple of minor pitching injuries/dl stints. We could see Hansack, Tavarez, Justin Masterson or Michael Bowden all make starts this year. Schilling is iffy, at best, but Lester's a year removed from chemotherapy and poised to become a full-time effective starter. Matsuzaka, who pitched very well at times but wore down as the year went, had had a year to become accustomed to the culture and game, and should be better. Buchholz is clearly ready to pitch in the Major Leagues, although there clearly is going to be an innings limit for him, and if he were to make 30 starts, he'd probably exceed it.

The big question mark right now is how do they replace the 151 innings that Schilling game them, very good innings. Some of those will go to Lester, some will go to Buchholz, and some will go to Tavarez and the other 5th starters. The bullpen has got a great closer and 2-3 plus relievers. And a manager who's done a good job running a pitching staff. The 657 runs allowed last year was outstanding, but this staff looks just as good as, if slightly more uncertain than, that one. Let's peg the project runs allowed at 660-690.


Outlook:

If I'm right about the runs scored and allowed, then we're looking at a team that's somewhere between .607-.638 Pythagorean. That translates to 98-103 wins.

Are there things that could go wrong? Absolutely.

- Beckett gets hurt
- Lowell crashes
- Manny continues to decline
- Ortiz drops off
- Lester and Buchholz aren't ready

That said, this is a very good team again. I feel very comfortable predicting that they win 96-100 again. They are probably the favorites to win the AL East, but the Yankees are excellent still/again, and the 2nd place team in the East is going to win the Wild Card.

So, my official AL East prediction:


Official Lyford 2008 AL East Prediction
WL%GB

Boston9864.605 --

New York9567.5863

Toronto8379.51215

Tampa Bay8280.50616

Baltimore7092.43228

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Today is the day on which the western Church recognizes ("celebrates" is not the right word) the crucifixion of Christ. As I was pondering this today, I was struck, for the first time, by the centrality of this day on the calendar.

Growing up, Christmas always seemed the most important Christian holiday. As I got older, I started to think that it was Easter. But today, I'm thinking that Good Friday is it. It certainly isn't the most cheerful, but if the central purpose of the incarnation was Jesus dying for the sins of mankind...well, this is the day on which we commemorate that event. With the incarnation, God took on flesh and became man. The resurrection foreshadows what will happen to all of us on the day of judgement, and it built the church*. But it is the death on the cross that is the central, pivotal act, as Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world, and died that we might live.




This video consists of various depictions of the crucifixion, with the wonderful "God So Loved the World" by Sir John Stainer, from his oratorio The Crucifixion, as the background music...





* - At the crucifixion, the disciples of Christ, the ones who needed to convey the Gospel to the ends of the earth, made up a very small and disheartened group. It was the resurrection, and then Pentecost, that provided the Holy Spirit and the inspiration for the evangelism that followed.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

If the characters aren't real, it doesn't work

Derb responded to a reader's comment ("I tried one of Clarke's novels once, but couldn't get into it. His characters just didn't seem like real people") on Arthur C. Clarke:
Reading sci-fi for human interest is like reading your newspaper's sports pages for stock quotes. That's not what it's about. What's it about? To quote the title of an Isaac Asimov essay on this very topic, it's about "Those Crazy Ideas."

But if you aren't applying "those Crazy ideas" to humans, if you aren't examining or considering the impact on humans, or human analogues, then how do you get emotionally invested enough to maintain interest?

I have never read any Clarke, and don't have any opinion of his writing ability. I can't comment on either his characters or his ideas. But I do know that, with rare exceptions, characters* that don't feel or seem "like real people" really distract from a work of any type. The term "suspension of disbelief" was apparently coined by Coleridge nearly 200 years ago, but it is accurate and widely accepted - the success of a work of art depends on the audiences ability suspend their disbelief of the settings or subjects, to accept the premises on which the work is based. I have no problem suspending disbelief for technical issues (most of the time), for "those crazy ideas," but if the characters don't feel real then it doesn't matter. (Think about how much suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy the Harry Potter series - but it doesn't matter a whit, because Rowling's characters are so vivid and real.)

In short, the "crazy ideas" may be what the author is in love with, what he's most concerned with, but if he doesn't give the reader a reason to care about someone in the book, it's not going to work for most readers.



* - The characters don't have to be real, but they need to seem real. And they don't need to be human. Watership Down is a tremendous work, with characters displaying real human characteristics despite the fact that they're rabbits. Animal Farm works because, accepting the premise, the characters behavior and dialogue are all true to the logic of the situation.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Endurance

In 14 days, six men crossed 800 miles of this ocean



in this boat




How is that possible?

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Bumper sticker thought

Anytime I see the "I'm not anti-Bush, I'm pro intelligence" sticker, I'm curious about whether the driver has degrees from Yale and Harvard...

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Endurance

On June 1, 1916, the following story appeared on page 1 of the New York Times:



On December 5, 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton, on the Endurance, left the Grytviken whaling station on South Georgia island in order to land an expedition party intending to cross the continent of Antartica on foot for the first time. The ship was caught in the ice in the Weddell Sea, and eventually crushed. In one of the most incredible feats ever recorded, all 28 men made it back to civilization.

I just finished re-reading the definitive account, Alfred Lansing's 1959 classic, Endurance. While the voyage has been publicized in the last decade, with the Branagh movie and the bestselling leadership book, there's a lot of the story that I was struck by on the re-reading.

The name of Lansing's book is Endurance, and it's appropriate. And not just because the name of the ship that carried them south was Endurance. (Shackleton named the ship because his family motto was Fortitudine Vincimus — "by endurance we conquer.") The way that they managed to cross the ice, the way that they crossed the sea, the traversal of South Georgia (which had never been done, and wouldn't be repeated for forty years) - all incredible feats. But the endurance that struck me this time was in the little things - the spending of two years constantly cold, wet and hungry, living in unspeakable conditions, in close quarters and conditions of desperate uncertainty and managing to continue working. Just enduring without succombing to insanity, without lying down and dying.

It is an amazing story...

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Friday, March 14, 2008

SNL Obama debate

It disappeared from YouTube, but it's up at hulu.com, and it's still funny and still relevant...

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ERA+, OPS+, runs prevented, and more

Great post from Joe Posnanski about some of the newer stats that he likes. It's a nice antidote to the Daugherty piece that I linked to yesterday...

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Taking pride in ignorance

I'm not sure that there's a much more obnoxious trait than taking pride in ignorance, but there was a piece in the Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday that make one wonder if Paul Daugherty was serious or just tweaking. In any event, the noise coming from Dusty Baker makes me glad that I'm a fan of the Red Sox and not the Reds...
The other day, the Reds manager decided he wanted Joey Votto and Adam Dunn to swing their bats more. "I don't like called third strikes," Baker said.

Can we get an Amen?

It always amuses when fans defend heart-of-the-order hitters by pointing to their on-base percentage. Wow, look at all those walks.

Unless they're intentional walks, or the big boppers are being pitched around, walks aren't what you want from players hitting third through sixth. You want them up there smart-hacking.

As Baker said: "(Votto) needs to swing more. I'd like to see him more aggressive."

Even when I was 12 years old and playing on a 1-15 little league team, we understood that walks were a good thing. Maybe someday Paul Daugherty and Dusty Baker will be 12, and they'll understand it, too...

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Monday, March 03, 2008

This is what the American body politic has needed

An Instapundit reader has come up with the scandal suffix that some Republican should have thought of years ago, calling the Obama/CBC affair "Naftaquiddick." I love it.

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Sometimes, cultural intolerance is a good thing

Having just finished listening to Jim Dale's wonderful reading of the Harry Potter books again, we're taking a Potter break, and currently are listening to Dale's reading of Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. (It's an understatement to say that Dale is very good at this.) Yesterday, we heard the scene in which Fogg and Passepartout rescue the widow from her husband's funeral pyre. That's the hook upon which I'm hanging my posting of the following quote, which I've seen in a few places recently, and which I enjoy on a couple of levels.

The source that I'm using is The Administration of the East India Company: A history of Indian Progress by John William Kaye, published in 1853. At a time and in a place where men believed that not all cultures were equally worthy, and were willing to defend their own.
"[Sir Charles Napier] also," says Sir William Napier, "put down the practice of Suttee, which, however was rare in Scinde, by a process extremely characteristic. For judging the real cause of these immolations to be the profits derived by the priests, and hearing of an intended burning, he made it known that he would stop the sacrifice. The priests said it was a religious rite which must not be meddled with, that all nations had customs which should be respected and this was a very sacred one. The general, affecting to be struck with the argument, replied, 'Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom. Prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs." "No Suttee," adds the historian, "took place then or afterwards."

Let me just say that I love that approach to that problem...

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