Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Boston's great integrator, RIP

One of the most surprising things about Baastin to people in the South, and even to some northeasterners, is one simple fact: Boston is one of the most racist cities in the country. As encapsulated by one comment in the recent movie, The Departed, by Matt Damon's character to Anthony Anderson: "You're a black guy in Boston, you're already f----d."

But the biggest sports icon in Boston was the great basketball innovator, and the great basketball integrator, Arnold "Red" Auerbach.

Ultimately, the Auerbach influence in the NBA had no parallel in Boston. As former Celtic forward Tommy Heinsohn once noted, Russell led the Celts to 11 titles but the city named the airport tunnel for Ted Williams, whose teams won nothing. When Russell moved into an upscale neighborhood in Boston, vandals broke into his house, shattered the windows, graffiti'd the walls and defecated in his bed. The Monk has lived in Boston, as has MonkCousin1. It really is a nasty little racist city.

But Auerbach did make it the home of the NBA's Yankees.

Born in Brooklyn, the son of a Jewish immigrant who ran a dry-cleaning business, Auerbach's success was a product of his own tenacity -- he literally talked his way into the Celtics' head coaching job after an undistinguished college playing and previous coaching career.

Then he made history.

First, Auerbach erased the color line in the NBA by making the Celtics the first team to draft a black player, Chuck Cooper (who was the second black player to actually play because Earl Lloyd received court time first).

Then, in 1964 Auerbach became the first coach to start an all-black lineup.

Lastly, when Auerbach retired in 1966, with 9 NBA titles in hand including eight in a row, he became the Celtics president and appointed the first-ever black coach in the NBA, the franchise's center, Bill Russell.

Auerbach was an innovator on the court too: he pioneered the concept of the Sixth Man, who would come off the bench to ADD something to the team instead of just offering rest for the starters; he also game-planned and scouted opponents to a degree theretofore unknown; and he designed the controlled-break fast pace that the Celtics used to win 11 titles in 13 years.

His front-office moves also displayed creativity and foresight: Auerbach traded up to the No. 2 pick to obtain Russell whilst concurrently telling the Celts' owner to make a deal with the Rochester Royals' owner to ensure Russell would be available. In 1978, Auerbach picked Larry Bird with the No. 6 overall pick in the NBA Draft even though he knew Bird would not play until after the '79 season. Auerbach's coup led the NBA to change the draft rules to prevent drafting eligible players and waiting on them to leave college.

Auerbach remained a force in the Celtics front office for decades -- he hired KC Jones, architect of the most recent Celtics' successes -- and became the eminence gris of all the NBA, cigar at the ready.

He died Saturday at age 89.

Red Auerbach, architect of the Celtics, icon of the NBA. RIP.

Friday, October 27, 2006


UPDATE: Here's a list of key legislation where the GOP and Democrats differ.

Republicans MUST TURN OUT AND VOTE in key races and try to hold onto a slim majority in both Houses (or at least one, in which case I'd prefer the Senate for the sole reason of being able to push through -- possibly -- some more conservative jurists).

I recall very clearly in 1992 when a very dear conservative friend of mine evinced disdain for Bush the father essentially saying "Let's elect a Democrat and we'll get a real conservative in in four years." Anyone Republican who is thinking that this year is STUPID, STUPID, STUPID. 1992 brought us eight dissolute years of Clinton.

Here is the best reason why Republicans need to get out and vote, holding their noses if they must:

Key House Committees/current (GOP) chair/likely Dem chair
the numbers in brackets show the rating of each member by Americans for Democratic Action - a 'perfect' liberal gets 100.

Appropriations Lewis, CA [0] Obey, WI [100]
Armed Services Hunter, CA [5] Skelton, MO [75]
Energy Barton, TX [0] Dingell, MI [95]
Financial Serv Oxley, OH [0] Frank, MA [100]
Govt Reform Davis, VA [5] Waxman, CA [100]
Homeland Sec. King, NY [0] Thompson, MS [95]
Judiciary Sensenbrenner, WI [0] Conyers, MI [95]
Rules Dreier, CA [0] Slaughter, NY [95]
Ways n Means Thomas, CA [15] Rangel, NY [100]
Speaker Hastert, IL [0] Pelosi, CA [95]
Whip Blunt, MO [0] Hoyer, MD [95]

A Democratic takeover in the House would mean San Francisco's Pelosi as Speaker (most likely) and a veritable 1970s freak show of unrepentant liberals like Dingell, Waxman, Conyers and Rangel running some of the most powerful committees in the House. And you can bet that Conyers will try to impeach the President.

And, in the Senate:

Appropriations Cochran, MS [0] Byrd, WV [95]
Armed Services Warner, VA [10] Levin, MI [100]
Banking Shelby, AL [10] Sarbanes, MD* [100]
Budget Gregg, NH [5] Conrad, ND [85]
Energy Domenici, NM [15] Bingaman, NM [95]
Finance Grassley, IA [5] Baucus, MT [90]
For' Relations Lugar, IN [10] Biden, DE [100]
Health, Labor Enzi, WY [10] Kennedy, MA [95]
Judiciary Specter, PA [45] Leahy, VT [100]
Rules Lott, MS [5] Dodd, CT [100]
Intelligence Roberts, KS [0] Rockefeller, WV [100]

If you don't want to go to bed with Snarlin' Arlen, just imagine waking up with Dick Leahy! Democratic Senate leaders would include a rogue's gallery of Carl Levin, the narcissistic Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy and Christopher Dodd. Byrd will probably be Majority Leader. Paul Sarbanes is thankfully retiring but that probably means Dick Durbin will sneak in somewhere.

And the top items on the Democratic agenda:
1. Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct
2. Cut and run in Iraq - just blame the mess on Bush
3. Roll back tax cuts
4. NO conservative jurists
5. Become more internationalist -- Make nice to the UN and follow meekly
6. Impeach Bush

Moqtada must go

You always know where Ralph Peters stands. He is very strident and occasionally a touch off the reservation.

But his piece today -- KILL MUQTADA NOW -- is extremely compelling. Al-Sadr has been a seeping wound in our side since 2003 and we need to stanch it.

I lost faith in our engagement in Iraq last week. I can pinpoint the moment. It came when I heard that Maliki had demanded - successfully - that our military release a just-captured deputy of Muqtada al-Sadr who was running death squads.

As a former intelligence officer, that told me two things: First, Iraq's prime minister is betting on Muqtada to prevail, not us. Second, Muqtada, not the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is now the most powerful man in Iraq.

At his news conference, Bush was asked about another statement made by Maliki just hours before. Our troops had conducted a raid in Sadr City, Muqtada's Baghdad stronghold. The Iraqi PM quickly declared that "this will not happen again." He was signaling his allegiance to Muqtada. Publicly.

Oh, Maliki realizes his government wouldn't last a week if our troops withdrew. He doesn't want us to leave yet. But he's looking ahead. For now, Maliki and his pals are using our troops to buy time while they pocket our money, amass power and build up arms. But they've written us off for the long term.

Does that mean we should leave?

Not yet. Iraq deserves one last chance.

But to make that chance even remotely viable, we'll have to take desperate measures. We need to fight. And accept the consequences.

The first thing we need to do is to kill Muqtada al-Sadr, who's now a greater threat to our strategic goals than Osama bin Laden.

We should've killed him in 2003, when he first embarked upon his murder campaign. But our leaders were afraid of provoking riots.

Back then, the tumult might've lasted a week. Now we'll face a serious uprising. So be it. When you put off paying war's price, you pay compound interest in blood.

We must kill - not capture - Muqtada, then kill every gunman who comes out in the streets to avenge him.

Our policy of all-carrots-no-sticks has failed miserably. We delivered Iraq to zealots, gangsters and terrorists. Now our only hope is to prove that we mean business - that the era of peace, love and wasting American lives is over.

And after we've killed Muqtada and destroyed his Mahdi Army, we need to go after the Sunni insurgents.

Al-Sadr lives on our forbearance. We need to regain the initiative and that means going on the offensive. The cries of outrage will be many and the body count will climb but for the blood we've spilled and the chance of truly changing fundamentally the Middle East so that it primary export will not be Islamofascism antithetical to our liberal democratic values and our existence, it needs to be done.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How to screw up a team: The Parcells way

The Monk grew up in NYC and is a lifelong Giants fan. The Monk has lived in the Dallas area for 11 years. Dallas sportswriters are neither as cynical nor as nasty as NY sportswriters. That said, they know their football because this is primarily (and before the Stars and Rangers made playoff runs in the mid-90s, exclusively) a football town; thus, they're not straw-chewing, moonshine jug swillin' country hicks that fell off the turnip truck.

Franchise quarterbacks like Eli Manning and Donovan McNabb took snaps in their team's first preseason game, even if only for one series or one quarter. So the Dallas sports media noticed something amiss when Cowpatties' head coach Bill Parcells played backup QB Tony Romo for the whole of preseason game 1. After Romo's solid performance, the fans and much of the media immediately began raising issues of "quarterback controversy" and "play Romo now!" That idiocy made life that much worse in Cowmanure land -- Drew Bledsoe had to wonder to some degree about his job, Parcells had to answer questions about his quarterback, etc.

All this may have been Parcells' intent. He's as Machiavellian as they get and famous for painful motivational techniques -- after all, in preseason 2000 he continually yelled at star cornerback Mark Collins: "Flipper Anderson, Flipper Anderson -- why weren't you in the Pro Bowl last year? Flipper Anderson!" Anderson is the wide receiver who caught the game-winning TD against the Giants whilst guarded by Collins . . . who'd literally broken his ankle earlier in the game and continued to play.

Then again, it's more likely that Parcells has caused a complete mess. He overplayed the Romo card, then backed himself into a position where he basically had to use Romo after a colossal Bledsoe mistake in the second quarter Monday night.

Or did he? As Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback, points out, the Cowboys took their stupid pills before the game:

So both Dallas quarterbacks ended the game in the doghouse, and TMQ thinks bad coaching is the explanation. Early in the contest, G-Persons leading 7-0, Dallas had a first-and-10 on its own 1-yard line, the most dangerous spot on the field. Dallas' coaches called for Bledsoe to take a five-step drop backward into his end zone; he barely avoided a safety. Now it's second down, and what do Dallas' coaches call? Another dropback: sack, safety. The Cowboys' offensive line messed up on this play -- LaVar Arrington came through the "B gap" untouched, the right tackle and right guard both ignoring him. But the key mistake was the coaches' calls, not the players' performance.

Now we're at the Giants' goal line with 1:38 left in the first half. It's second-and-goal, Dallas holds all three timeouts, plenty of time to run the ball. Instead, the Cowboys' coaches call a short square-out. When you're at the goal line, the short square-out is the riskiest play you can call. Defenders are up at the line, so the cornerback is in position to break on the ball and intercept it; and in this situation the pass travels almost entirely sideways, giving the corner time to react. Dallas' coaches should know how risky the short square-out at the goal line is because three weeks ago when the Cowboys were at the Philadelphia goal line in the closing minute, game in the balance, Dallas' coaches called a short square-out that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Maybe, just maybe, the Giants watched film of that. So what do Dallas' coaches tell Bledsoe to throw? A short square-out, interception. Just to prove it was no fluke, when the Cowboys reached Jersey/A's 11 late in a game that was still contested, Dallas' coaches again called a short square-out, again intercepted, and this time it was returned for the icing touchdown. Afterward, did Bill "Mr. Personality" Parcells blame himself or his staff? Somehow he didn't get around to that.

Ultimately, the Cowdungs have put themselves in this position by playing head games with Bledsoe and the team. Romo is no solution -- he lacks the arm for sideline throws (the Giants missed two interceptions on deep outs, never mind the three they actually pulled in), he lacks experience to lead a preseason Super Bowl contender, and the offensive line in front of him is pretty poor. Even mobile QBs can be sacked (the Giants pulled down Michael Vick SEVEN times last week; in 1986, the prototype of the modern strong-armed, strong-bodied mobile QB, Randall Cunningham, took 72 sacks -- a record until David Carr continually landed on his arse in 2002). Young and mobile QBs make bad decisions, too.

Simply stated, Parcells screwed up from game 1 of the preseason. Then again, The Monk enjoyed the fallout as the suddenly defensively adequate Giants (give credit to Tim Lewis for adjusting the defense during the bye week -- the team is decidedly better on defense now than it was before the Giants' week 4 bye) whomped the Cowoffal in Irving on Monday, with The Monk in attendance.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

How Courts aid and abet vote fraud

The Missouri Supreme Court evidently has only one member who is not aggressively stupid. In a recent decision, that court struck down Missouri's voter ID law. That law contained so many safeguards, that only a Herculean stretch of the legal imagination could find a flaw with it. Brendan Miniter noted its access safeguards: "the IDs were made available at no charge[, the] law was to be implemented over a two-year period, and people who lacked proper identification would be permitted to cast a provisional vote next month."

So how could the law be unconstitutional? Because the POTENTIAL cost of obtaining the official document needed to procure a voter ID (if you don't already have a Missouri driving license or US passport) somehow constitutes a poll tax. That's the only rationale courts have used to kill these laws, and it's historically and legally ignorant.

In other words, the $15 a Missourian would have to pay for a birth certificate (which s/he should already have in his possession anyway) to get the voter ID is somehow a poll tax. This is garbage. As Miniter notes, "Poll taxes . . . required a person to pay a fee every time he voted and were adopted for racially discriminatory purposes."

Who benefits from these moronic court decisions? The Left, and often the radical Left (which has minimal use for honest democracy). As Miniter notes:

. . . there's a reason that Democrat partisans are more interested in raising the specter of Jim Crow than in protecting the integrity of the voting process. And here's a clue: While the Missouri Supreme Court was preparing its decision earlier this month, the Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran front-page stories about the thousands of fraudulent voter registrations submitted by Acorn, a national left-wing group financed in part by organized labor.

According to the Star, Acorn's voter registration drive generated some 35,000 applications, "but thousands of them appear to be duplicates or contain dubious data." The report went on to note that "[n]ear the top of the fishy list would be a man named Mark who apparently registered seven times over a three-day period using his mother's home address and phone number." Mom told the paper he hadn't lived there in six years.

Acorn and its affiliates have been among the most active and vocal opponents of voter ID laws in Missouri and nationwide. Now we know why.

The Stupid Party's coming disaster?

Former Delaware Governor Pete DuPont analyzes the probable Democratic Congress and how much the Republicans deserve to lose. Here's the crux of it, and note that The Monk is within the 75% below:

Most Americans have not yet thought much about [the Democrats'] agenda, or the leaders who will set it. But they are tired of the Republican congressional performance. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows 16% of Americans approve of congressional performance while 75% disapprove.

No wonder: Republicans gave line-item veto power to the Democratic president in the 1990s, but refused to give it to the current Republican president. They haven't made the Bush tax cuts permanent. They wouldn't bring individual ownership of Social Security retirement accounts to a vote. They haven't done anything on health care. And they have raised federal spending by $750 billion since 2001 and for fiscal 2006 approved 10,000 earmarks costing $29 billion. Conservative principles seem to have faded away, and ethical principles have weakened--names like DeLay, Ney, and Foley make the point.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Barnes to Conservatives: VOTE

The Monk touched on this before, but Fred Barnes lays out the full case for conservatives, moderate conservatives, libertarians, religiocons, etc. to vote this November, and vote Republican.

the reasons given for staying home on Election Day are pathetically disconnected from the realities of politics and political power.

The president and Republicans need to be taught a lesson: We hear that a lot from conservatives. And maybe Bush and company do. But allowing Democrats to take over Congress won't achieve that. It won't lead to a Republican course correction any more than losing the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections taught Democrats to move to the right. Politics doesn't work that way, and it never has. Losing simply hurts a political party. A landslide loss in 2006 would merely weaken the Republican party. And, for the foreseeable future, the Republican party is the only vehicle through which conservatives and moderates can accomplish their goals.

Would Democrats join with social and religious conservatives to curb abortion and block same-sex marriage? Never in a million years. Would Democrats please small-government conservatives by cutting taxes and limiting spending growth? Not a chance. Would they thrill libertarians by pursuing privatization of Social Security or by resisting the demands of the global-warming faddists for a full-blown regulatory state? Don't bet on it. Would they satisfy moderates by compromising with conservatives? Only under duress. Rather, the prerequisite for attaining any of these goals is a Republican Congress. It's as uncomplicated as that.

The other ballyhooed reason for not showing up on Election Day is that Democrats, once in power again, will misbehave so egregiously that Republicans will roar back in 2008, stronger and more conservative than ever. No doubt Republicans thought this in 1954 when Democrats won back both houses of Congress. But that was followed by 40 years of Democratic control of the House and 26 years of Democratic rule in the Senate. And for most of those years, Democrats held on to power in defiance of a rising conservative tide in the country. They know how to keep power once they get it.

Stupid ballot initiatives

The WSJ (subscriber only) has two editorials on economically foolhardy ballot initiatives, one in Ohio and another in California. In Ohio, the initiative would basically open employer records of employee information to unions whilst constitutionally requiring a higher minimum wage. Ohio's unemployment level is 5.7%, compared to the US level of 4.6% (no, liberals, Clinton never came close to that low of an unemployment level). Minimum wage increases also raise unemployment levels (two words: Santa Fe -- the effects of its "living wage" legislation have been horrible for jobs in the NM capital). So much for Ohio's job solution attempts.

In California, the concept is stupider, as the WSJ explains:
The jewel in this liberal crown [of proposed tax hikes] is Proposition 87, which would raise taxes on oil extracted from California by 1.5% to 6%, depending on the price per barrel -- all in the name of reducing energy consumption and dependency on foreign oil. Let us run that by you again: The idea here is to tax California oil in order to get Californians to use less Saudi oil. Brilliant.

In California, such idiocy has a very good chance of passing.

Saluting the Hungarian rebels, 1956

Today is the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising against Communism. One eyewitness to the events of that Autumn recounts the events today on Opinion Journal.

Here's a too-short explanation of the situation from my travelogue on The Monk's visit to Budapest in 2003:
Hungary was on the wrong side of both world wars -- in WWI it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (although it was the junior partner) and lost more than just Austria when the Empire was split at Versailles. Instead, large parts of what were ethnically Magyar, and nationally Hungary, became territory of other countries -- Western and some Southern areas of Hungary were included in Yugoslavia, some northwest and northern lands became part of Czechoslovakia, and Transylvania and much of eastern Hungary was seized by Romania . . . In World War II, Hungary sought to appease the crocodile only to be its last meal -- its dictator's compliance with Hitler did not prevent Hungary from being conquered, nor did it prevent Hungary from having the second-highest number of Jews killed in the Holocaust despite the fact that deportation of Hungarian Jews didn't even start until 1944. Ultimately, Hungary was on the wrong side of the WWII peace -- included in the Soviet "sphere of influence" under Yalta and soon after a client state of the USSR.

In 1956, Hungarian premier Imre Nagy (imm-ray nah-dee) sought to relax Communist controls and grant freedoms (including, ultimately, elections) to the Hungarians. The USSR deposed him and set up a puppet government; students led riots and the Soviets sent in the soldiers. The students led attacks against the USSR soldiers (and created the "Molotov cocktail" for Evgeny Molotov -- the Soviet official in charge of pacifying Hungary) and the rest of the world stood by and watched (Eisenhower reportedly regreted this later). The Soviets quelled the riots, squashed dissent and dissenters, set up show trials for Nagy and some followers and gave Nagy to the horrific Gheorghie-Dej regime in neighboring Romania, which later executed him. Simply stated, neither the Soviets nor Romanians are well-liked in present-day Hungary

The response to the Hungarian Uprising was one of the two low points of the Eisenhower Administration. In answer to a question on whether he had made any mistakes during his presidency, Ike reportedly said "two of them, and they're both on the Supreme Court" in reference to Earl Warren and William Brennan. But Ike's failure to make a strong statement condemning the USSR's actions in Hungary, and his fit-of-pique reaction to the Suez operation launched by the French, British and Israelis that same year, stand as two of the worst misjudgments of the Cold War.

This is more of a day to celebrate the bravery of the Hungarians than bash the cluelessness of Eisenhower. In that vein, David Pryce-Jones offers a fine summation of the result:

More than epic, it was Homeric, something to remind mankind of the heights we can rise to in order to be free. Dragged along by events, the newly installed Prime Minister Imre Nagy did his best, but he had behind him a lifelong career as a Communist, and he made the fatal mistake of trusting the Russians. We know now that Khrushchev and the Politburo in the Kremlin always preferred a military solution to a political compromise with Hungary. They tricked the Hungarians into coming to arrange a treaty, arrested the delegation, sent the tanks in, smashed up everything, judicially murdered Nagy and at least 300 others, imprisoned over 20,000 and drove 200,000 into exile in the West.

“Help Hungary. Help!” was the final appeal on the radio, put out by Gyula Hay, the playwright and in his day a veteran Communist too. In sad fact, the United States did nothing, making it plain that the Soviets could do their worst. On hearing that a revolution had broken out, President Eisenhower limited himself to saying, “The heart of America goes out to the people of Hungary.” Heart is all very well, but what about muscle? Robert Murphy, then undersecretary of state and an experienced trouble-shooter, summed up Washington’s failure: “Perhaps history will demonstrate that the free world could have intervened to give Hungarians the liberty they sought, but none of us in the State Department had the skill or the imagination to devise a way.”

Too bad for Murphy and the US, some things really do not change.

Litigation Day?

John Fund wonders if the day after Election Day will become Litigation Day because the losers and their supporters will file innumerable lawsuits to overturn election results. Answer: only if the Democrats do not win Congress.

After all, it's the Democrats who file innumerable lawsuits (Gore, Kerry, St. Louis lawsuits in '04 to change voting times), commit voter fraud throughout election day (Wisconsin, Chicago, Ohio), and then falsely accuse Republicans of committing voter intimidation (Commission on Civil Rights, etc.).

Meanwhile, Republicans usually go quietly into their goodnights (John Thune -- that's why Tim Johnson is in the Senate) if they lose unless something REALLY stinks to high heaven like the felon vote helping Christine Gregoire in Washington or only Democratic officials performing recounts in Florida (2000).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Try to lie credibly, please

The US officially recognizes the capital of Ukraine as Kyiv, not Kiev. The former is the Ukrainian spelling (translated from Cyrillic, naturally), the latter is Russian.

The US is courting Ukraine and Viktor Yushchenko, its western-leaning President. So this little touch would help de-Russify the Ukraine. Here's the part that redlined The Monk's BS meter:
Ukraine's Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko, elected on the wave of the 2004 Orange Revolution's mass protests against election fraud, has sought to take his nation out of Russia's influence and join NATO and the European Union.

"I don't think this decision has anything reflective in it," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Thursday.

Keep repeating it and someone might believe it.

A Democratic Congress?

The second worst thing that can happen in this year's mid-term elections is the Republicans retain control of Congress.

The worst thing is the Democrats take control of Congress.

It's a choice between eating a cockroach and eating the fresh feces of a great dane. The first is doable, if done quickly whilst hoping it's all over with swiftly, the second requires extended torture. I'll take the cockroach I know over the dog poo I cannot stand.

It's not an appetizing choice. Dennis Hastert and the House Republican leadership are terrible. But the Democrats have become the de facto legislative arm of their worst constituents: MoveOn, Democracy Now, ACORN, Big Labor. Whereas the Republicans are economically irresponsible, the Democrats are politically irresponsible and cannot do what must be done to keep America secure in the face of the Islamofascist threat.

That's the line to be drawn. Unfortunately, too much of the country is tired of the politics as usual and may think that a change would be advantageous. That's a shallow, cliched thought process . . . fitting for our shallow and cliched politics.

Baseball = is it the new hockey?

The one bad thing about the baseball playoffs in the current three-tier system is that it is less of a battle of the best than it is a melee type of tournament. And the randomness is increasing.

From 1995-99 here are the ranks, by record in the league (not seeding), of the World Series participants (AL v. NL):

1 v. 1
2 v. 1
4 v. 2
1 v. 3
1 v. 1

From 2000-present, look at the ranks:

5 v. 4
3 v. 3
3 v. 4
1 v. 3
2 v. 1
1 v. 3
3 v. 5

Yipes! That's twice since 2000 that a World Series participant had a worse record than the wild card in its league. And since 2000, only three teams with the best record in the league have won the pennant, from 1995-99 that happened in six of the 10 LCS.

This is parity. It's also a devaluation of the regular season. When the Cardinals win the NLCS with an 83-win team that absolutely stank in September, when the Yanks (in '00) win the World Series with an 87-win team that finished the season losing 15 of 18, then the regular season is at the point where how you do means less than ever.

Remember, only one of the 14 teams ('98 Yankees) with 100+ regular-season wins has won the World Series since the advent of the three-tier playoffs. Only four others have won their LCS ('95 Indians, '99 Braves, '03 Yanks, '04 Cards) and two of those teams were swept in the World Series.

What does this mean? Since 1998, only the Yanks have won consecutive pennants. One small dynasty, lots of random World Series participants.

Thus, there's a word to describe the present state of baseball playoffs -- crapshoot. Hopefully, the playoffs won't become such a parody of parity that fans care less because the whole situation seems so random.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Loving the NY one-party state?

Rick Brookhiser notes that George Pataki has done in New York what George Bush did in Texas -- created a one-party state -- but in reverse. Whereas Bush neutered the Democrats and helped transform Texas into a Republican state, the Republican Pataki has enervated the Republicans and minimized the Conservatives (who actually can be a force in NY politics, believe it or not), thereby making New York a one-party state: Democratic.

Wagging the Mess -- can Billy be trusted?

Tonight is game 7 of the stunningly uninteresting NLCS. Do you care? If so, are you either (a) a Met fan or (b) a Cardinal fan? If neither, are you (a) bored with life, (b) a little touched in the head, (c) someone who thinks ESPN's "The Schwab" is cool?

The Monk is a baseball fan generally. I watch playoff games to some degree even if the Yanks have honked. But this series is just wrong somehow. First, the 83-78 Cards are the third-worst playoff team ever (2005 Padres = 82-80, 1973 Mess = 82-79). If they win, they'll do so with three starters who were castoffs from the AL, two of whom were stiffs: Carpenter (injured in AL, but talented), Weaver (mental case) and Suppan (a stiff). At least the '73 Mess had the '72 Rookie of the Year, an all-Star and a future Hall-of-Famer (Matlack, Koosman, Seaver) fronting their staff.

Second, the Mess will need to win games 6 and 7 behind an older-than-usual rookie and a late-season take-him-off-our-hands deal inclusion, and they're halfway there! The Mess had two starters go down before the playoffs and one go into mental hibernation in this series (Trachsel).

Third, if the Cards win, this will be a colossal upset. Since the advent of divisional play, only the '74 A's, '85 Royals, '87 Twins (twice), '88 Dodgers, '90 Reds, '95 Braves, '97 Indians, '01 Yankees, '03 Marlins and '05 Astros have won a seven-game series against an opponent that won at least 10 more games than it in the regular season. The win differential between the Mess (97) and Cards (83) would be larger than any of the other upsets except the '01 Yanks (95 wins v. Seattle's 116).

Fourth, the last time a team won game 6 at home to tie a seven-game series and lost game 7 was 1975 -- the Red Sox against the Reds. That Reds team was excellent, the Cards aren't.

Finally, a last thought on this series -- with all the mediocrities trotting out to the mound (Weaver, Suppan, Trachsel, Maine, insert reliever here __________), the best pitcher on the Mets has been one of the worst in this series. Billy Wagner, who used to be mentioned with Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman among the best closers in baseball, got ripped up in game 2 and nearly choked away game 6. In those two games alone, Wagner gave up 5 runs (all earned) in two innings. Rivera has allowed 10 ER in 111+ postseason innings and has never allowed more than two runs in ANY playoff series. The Mess have to wonder if Wags can be trusted if they take a 1-2 run lead into the ninth tonight.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Justifiable firings?

Here's the question: when an enormous melee breaks out in your home stadium after a football game that results in yet ANOTHER black eye on an increasingly bad reputation, what is the proper response:

(1) one game suspensions for all fighters, except the one worst offender;

(2) multi-game suspensions for all fighters, dismissal of the lead thug;

(3) firing the head coach

For University of Miami President Donna Shalala, the answer is (1). For normal people, the answer is (2), (3) or both.

Last Saturday's Miami-Florida International post-game brawl is to the Miami-Notre Dame tunnel fights in the 1980s as a daisy cutter is to a pipe bomb.

Worse yet, the Miami players escalated the initial fighting. Nonetheless, Miami's players suffered mere one-game suspensions, imposition of a "no tolerance" policy (shouldn't that have been in place from the coach from day one?), and . . . that's about it. That one game the players will miss -- against the overage highschoolers from Duke.

Florida International suspended 16 players indefinitely and tossed two off the team. That's better, although probably not perfect. The worst offenders should be tossed or sat for the year.

And somehow Coker kept his job. This team has had enormous discipline problems throughout last year, the offseason, and beyond. Head football coaches don't run every last detail of the program, but they do set the tone for what is and is not acceptable. Coker failed that test. There should no question of what his future will be -- terminated from his position. That termination should have already occurred.

Amazing how Shalala gets this completely wrong:
"This university will be firm and punish people who do bad things," Shalala said. "But we will not throw any student under the bus for instant restoration of our image or our reputation. I will not hang them in a public square. I will not eliminate their participation at the university. I will not take away their scholarships."

This is not about restoring Miami's image or reputation -- that only can occur over time through a well-run and controversy-free program. There is no quick fix for that. But the purpose of punishment is two-fold: retribution and deterrence. The Miami decision gets too little retribution for the damage the players did and minimal deterrence against future bad actions.

Meanwhile Lamar Thomas, a former Miami player, suffered a justifiable firing for cheering the Miami brawlers during a telecast in which he was the color commentator.

In other news, FOX fired Steve Lyons for insensitive comments about Latinos while joking around with Lou Piniella on the game 3 ALCS broadcast. Lyons is a stooge and the comments are purely straw-breaking-camel's back stuff because he's popped off in similarly stupid ways in the past. Why FOX kept Lyons this long is a better question -- he had few useful or interesting insights, he masters the obvious in his commentary, and he openly cheers for and against certain teams. Jose Mota, Lyons' last-second replacement who normally does Spanish-language broadcasts for the Angels, provided more cogent and incisive commentary in the 30 minutes of game 4 I watched Saturday (e.g., noting short stride by A's pitcher Danny Haren helps prevent wildness on his offspeed pitches) than Lyons did in all the time I've watched him.

Bring in Al Leiter to be the permanent #2 color commentator -- or rehire Mota. Too bad Mota's brief career lacks the resume FOX is looking for. But his bloodlines are decent -- his father (Manny), brother and cousin all played professional ball.

Publishing false "facts" -- Lancet's attempt to rewrite reality

When the use of a reputable methodology is horrid, the results of a survey will be preposterous. That's the obvious point to learn from Steven E. Moore's analytical deconstruction of the recent Johns Hopkins University study that claims 600,000-655,000 Iraqis have died due to the Iraq War -- a number so far beyond any relationship to reality that it is pure propaganda. British medical journal, The Lancet, published the survey results, which follow up on a 2004 study that itself was criticized for overcalculating the death count.

Defenders of the study say that the methodology is sound -- cluster interviewing is a necessity in Third World countries because phone coverage is sparse. But what happens if you employ a proper methodology improperly? Answer: garbage in = garbage out. Here's Moore's view of HOW the surveyors performed the survey:

. . . the key to the validity of cluster sampling is to use enough cluster points. In their 2006 report, "Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional sample survey," the Johns Hopkins team says it used 47 cluster points for their sample of 1,849 interviews. This is astonishing: I wouldn't survey a junior high school, no less an entire country, using only 47 cluster points.

Neither would anyone else. For its 2004 survey of Iraq, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) used 2,200 cluster points of 10 interviews each for a total sample of 21,688. True, interviews are expensive and not everyone has the U.N.'s bank account. However, even for a similarly sized sample, that is an extraordinarily small number of cluster points. A 2005 survey conducted by ABC News, Time magazine, the BBC, NHK and Der Spiegel used 135 cluster points with a sample size of 1,711--almost three times that of the Johns Hopkins team for 93% of the sample size.

Get it? The key is not just the sample size (the ABC/Time/BBC/NHK/Der Spiegel sample is smaller than the HHU sample), it's the number of different sampling areas that is the key. If a US presidential election poll used only 30 sample areas, we'd immediately know the poll was worthless because we have 50 states and each one affects the election through the Electoral College. If you use fewer sampling areas in a Third World nation, you get additional uniformity of response due to familial, tribal and/or religious ties in the smaller area.

This is an embarrassment for The Lancet. Even the NY Times and WaPo buried the story deep inside their papers.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Deserving a WOW: the 2006 Tigers

I've not checked how much money I lost by failing to play my March hunch that the Tigers would win the ALCS.

OK, no such hunch. But give major credit to Jim Leyland and this group. Leyland suffered team meltdowns (1990 NLCS), disappointments (1991 NLCS) and heartbreak (1992 NLCS). He guided a group of overpaid and thencetofore underperforming free agents to one of the uglier World Series wins in history in 1997, and took a narcissistic victory lap around (then) Joe Robbie Stadium to celebrate. He went into mental hibernation as the Marlins sold off all their talent for notsomagic beans, went through the motions in Colorado before realizing he had to get his stuff together, and has now authored one of the best managerial stories in baseball history.

Since the three-tier playoffs started in 1995, only four other teams have won at least seven consecutive postseason games in the same season: '95 Braves, '98 Yankees, '04 RedSawx (won eight), '05 WhiteSax (won eight). Only one team had done so before the three-tier system: the 1976 Reds. In other words, winning seven-straight postseason games against the best competition in baseball is a rare and noteworthy achievement.

More importantly, look how the Tigers dominated the A's -- a 22-9 scoreline for the series. That's a beating -- in '76 and '90 the Reds whupped the Yanks and A's respectively by 22-8; in '99 the Yanks bonked the Braves by 21-9; in '89 the A's drilled the Giants by 32-14. It's not quite in the all-time beatdowns of A's 20-4 over the '90 RedSax or the Orioles' 1966 humiliation of the Dodgers with three shutouts in an upset sweep. But it is highly impressive. Did The Monk mention that of the previous seven ALDS teams that enjoyed a first-round sweep, six had won the ALCS? Make that 6-2.

So kudos to the Tigers, ALCS champs and now awaiting the survivor of a surprisingly close NLCS. Remember: the kitties were 16-2 against the NL this year. And remember, since the three-tiered system started in 1995, the only team that won its LCS later than its World Series foe and also won the World Series was the 2000 Yanks. So the smart money is now on the Tigers. In March, that would have been the prescient money.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Last Replacement, RIP

There are numerous legacies of the 1994 baseball strike, all of them bad in some way. First, there was the lost World Series as baseball gained a permanent black mark for being the first major sport to lose a postseason to a strike. Second, the economic disparity worsened. Players later obtained excellent leverage because they could seek free agency if traded during the middle of a multiyear contract (this provision was later rescinded). Third, the popularity of the sport hit bottom from 1995-97 as both the NFL and NBA surpassed baseball in popularity (the NBA's later strike helped bump baseball back to #2). Fourth, the owners became collectively stupider and greedier -- first to break the $10M/year barrier was the fiercely anti-union Jerry Reinsdorf who wanted to use the '94 strike to bust the MLBPA; instead, he became the owner to break the ceiling on salaries by signing the always pleasant and light-hearted Albert Belle to $55M/5 in the '95 off-season. Later, the Dodgers would cough up $105M/7 to Kevin Brown, the Rockies would give $120M/8 to Mike Hampton and $51M/5 to Denny Neagle in the same offseason, and Tom Hicks would pony up $252M/10 to ARod. While that happened, rich owners of revenue-sharing recipients would pocket the cash and ignore the team (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Florida for all but two years).

And a fifth notable legacy is the replacement players. These are the men who suited up, never in an actual game that counted, as non-union replacements for striking players during the 1995 Spring Training season. None are Hall-of-Famers: Rick Reed, Shane Spencer, Damien Miller, Benny Agbayani. All of those played in the World Series, but could not be members of the MLBPA.

But few were ever treated well -- the taciturn Reed was a pariah in the fiercely pro-union Mets clubhouse, Miller was left off the roster T-shirts of the '99 and '01 D'Backs teams that won the NL West and World Series, respectively. None receive licensing money, and they usually weren't included in the ubiquitous sports video games that are licensed by the MLBPA.

The last significant contributor of that group was Cory Lidle, the 34-year old pitcher who bopped around with the D-Rays, A's, Phillies, and others before landing in pinstripes in July. A Californian, Lidle played on the same high school team as future teammate Jason Giambi. Lidle grew up with his own personal catcher -- his wombmate and ever-so-slightly younger brother, Kevin, the fraternal twin who gravitated toward the mitt and padding as a small kid as Cory gravitated toward the mound.

Lidle's story is in one way, an American dream. A low-end prospect, he worked during the strike to get a chance to play in the major leagues. And he did. He married in 1997, had a son three years later, and achieved the young boy's fantasy of being the starting pitcher. He never achieved stardom -- that possibility was essentially foreclosed in his 2001 playoff meltdown against the Yanks -- but became a serviceable pitcher (82-72, 4.57 career). But like any decent veteran, he made a lot of money. Unlike some, he wanted to win -- he criticized his Phillies teammates for their lack of consistent effort after he was traded to the Yankees in the Abreu deal. The scab label was almost a thing of the past . . . until Arthur Rhodes offered Lidle a few verbal reminders of how Lidle never really became "one of us" after the pitcher left the city of brotherly detesting.

He also wanted to become a pilot.

Last October, Lidle began working toward obtaining his pilot's license. This year, he purchased a plane. Like Thurman Munson 27 years ago, Lidle died in it. Flying east from Teeterboro Airport, Lidle's plane plowed into an apartment building on the Upper East Side, killing him and (reports have varied) at least one person in the building.

Cory Lidle: 1972-2006, RIP

Verducci: Target Matsuzaka

The Monk thought about this today -- is Barry Zito worth 60M/5 years? Answer, no. Is Ted Lilly worth 24M over 3? Answer, possibly. Reason: strikeouts.

The reason the Yanks have stunk up the past three Octobers is that they cannot hitters out in key situations. In other words, no shutdown pitchers. Ask the RedSawx, Angels and Tigers if they feared any of the Yanks' starters. Answer: no. Reason: no young power arms, other than Wang.

Tom Verducci points out how the Yanks' starters have been woeful in the recent postseasons and, more importantly, why. During the course of a 162-game season, with tomorrow's game as another chance to get on-track, individual at-bats are less important and so are individual games. Thus, hitters concentrate less and can be shut down because they'll make more mistakes. In the playoffs, every pitch is a small battle, therefore each pitcher needs a good "out pitch" and that's usually a hard fastball. The 1996-2000 Yanks typified this approach and Verducci notes how Clemens, Wells, Cone, Moooooooooose and Pettitte approached opposing batters with aggressive hard fastballs during the Yanks' ALCS dominance. Indeed, it takes a very good performance to strike out 11 whilst complaining that "these guys don't swing at anything!" as John Smoltz did with the '99 Yanks who battled him tooth-and-claw to win game 4 of the '99 Series.

Today, Mooooooooose doesn't blow past 91 on the gun very often, Johnson is nowhere near his 95-98 heat of even two years ago.

The prescription for the future: hard-throwers who can locate blow-by fastballs. Yesterday, Zito had 0 K against the free-swinging Tigers who listened to batting coach Don Slaught's admonition that "[Zito] throws a lot of balls" and topped out at 88 throwing four-seam fastballs (the straighter ones). Compare to Pettitte, who topped out at 93-94 and relied on two-seamers (they dip down) and cutters.

Verducci's solution: go for Matsuzaka, the Japanese dominator from the World Baseball Classic who throws 93-94, is perfecting a two-seamer, is only 26 and has fewer innings on his arm than a comparable major league pitcher. Combine him with Wang (who doesn't strikeout hitters but has that nasty hard sinker), Philip Hughes and either Moooooooooose or Johnson (whoever is less zombified) and the Yanks have a top 4 for the 2007 ALDS.

Problem is, Torre might pitch Moooooose in game 1. Other than that, The Monk does not dislike Verducci's thought process.

Plane crash in NYC! -- Cory Lidle dead.

A small prop plane flew into the 20th story of an East Side apartment building earlier today. This seems entirely too strange to be random -- the building is about 50 stories tall and the plane was only about 200 feet above ground. Two people died, according to the story linked above.

UPDATE: ESPN reports that the plane was registered to NY Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle, that he was the only occupant of the plane at the time of the crash, and that he and three people who were in the building at the time of the crash have died.

Who's in charge now? MLB edition

It's really simple: if you want to win the NLCS, win game 1. If you want to win the World Series, finish the LCS first.

Since the beginnning of the three-tier playoffs in 1995, the team that won game 1 of the NLCS is 9-2 in the series. What does that mean? Maybe not much considering that both the '03 Marlins and '96 Braves won game 1, lost 2-4 and won the NLCS. The ALCS game 1 winner is as often the loser of the series (5-6).

As for World Series winners -- every World Series champion since 1995, except the 2000 Yankees, is the team that first finished off its opponent in the LCS. I wouldn't suggest this is anything more than a trend, after all the '96 Yanks polished off the Orioles, had to wait to learn their opponent, and promptly got waxed in games 1 and 2 of the World Series. Then again, in each of the five years that the NL and AL champs took the same number of games to win the LCS, the team that clinched first won the Series ('97 = Marlins, '01 = D'Backs, '02 = Angels, '03 = Marlins, '04 = Blosax).

Tehran-Pyongyang Pact?

Michael Yon at the National Review brings up an interesting point. Was the Sunday/Monday 'nuclear' test in North Korea done for or by the Iranians?

In any case since it appears unlikely that any military option with either Korea or Iran is not currently on the table we need an important addendum to the Bush Doctrine. I understand that studies of the radioactive fallout from a nuclear discharge can clearly identify the manufacturer, i.e., who produced it. Thus I recommend something like the following to North Korea and Iran: (If I am wrong on the science, someone please correct me)

"The United States will retaliate with extreme prejudice against the manufacturer of a weapon of mass destruction if such a weapon were to be used against the United States."

What this means is if a North Korean or Iranian bomb were to be used against the United States then Pyongyang or Tehran, respectively, for example would pay a ghastly price. It means we would hold these rogue regimes responsible for any weapons they produce.

Ned Lamont is a swine

Strong words. But well deserved. Lamont has run a deeply and solely negative campaign for Senate financed by his own ample resources. Sadly, his "Run from Iraq" platform managed to convince enough Democratic primary voters for him to narrowly gain the nomination. Doesn't say much for the Democrats in Connecticut.

Since Lamont is ambitious or duplicitous enough to champion a truly despicable platform and make it the only plank in his campaign it hardly surprises that we find he is also a liar.

Chris Matthews, hardly a Republican hack, caught Lamont in a flip-flop on using "the military option" with Iran. Lamont castigated Lieberman on the issue last year but now behind and desperate is trying to appeal to moderates by saying "the military option should always be on the table."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Complaceny as the ship sinks? Torre stays.

Joe Torre will remain the Yankees manager.

I've noted how I think this is a mistake at this point. Here is what could be good:

(1) Free agents. Torre is a draw for potential free agents. In the late '80s and early '90s, top free agents avoided the Yanks like plague (two words: Greg Maddux). During the Torre Era, the Yanks have obtained (and retained) top free agents and had players with no-trade clauses approve trades to the Yanks (Clemens, Johnson, Moooooooooose, Damon, Giambi, Sheff) in no small part because they wanted to play for Joe. That's both a blessing and a curse because as Torre's aura grew in the late 90s, players wanted to come to the Yanks, and the Yanks became less self-reliant and instead used low payroll teams as a virtual farm system. Hopefully that latter aspect will change.

(2) Bench coach. Torre will almost certainly NOT be the manager in 2008. Retaining him through next season, however, allows the Yankees to essentially designate their manager in training. They can try to lure Joe Girardi or groom Don Mattingly. Keeping Torre means the Piniella option is off the table because Looooooooooooo will be managing somewhere next year. Best case scenario for the Yanks would be if Loooooooooo takes over the Cubs and the Yanks can lure Girardi to the dugout for another stint as bench coach before he takes a step up the ladder.

(3) Consistency. The Yanks will again be the favorites in the AL East and will have extra incentive to play their collective arses off because they all know it will be Joe's last go.

That said, there are the unexpressed negatives:

(a) Overreliance on veterans -- this means Matsui will stay and ARod likely will too. It also means that Cabrera may lose opportunities when the Yanks should be making him a cornerstone of the future.

(b) Pitching issues -- how badly will Joe abuse the 'pen next year? Sky's the limit on this one. More importantly, however, what will the effect be on Philip Hughes, the top pitching prospect in ALL of baseball, according to Scouts, Inc.? I've noted before how the Yanks have squandered and failed to develop pitching talent (Contreras, Weaver, Lilly, Vazquez). The only young pitcher who has "progressed" under Torre's watch after initially playing with the big team under Joe is Wang (remember -- Pettitte was an in-season call-up in 1995 or year 1 B.T.). And the primary reason for that is that last year Cashman basically ordered Torre to roll the kid out there every five days. Hughes may be ready to join the Yanks after about a month at AAA next year, and Cashman may need to spell out the need to use the kid regardless of any coach or manager's feelings otherwise.

Random idiocy -- will it infect the Yanks?

Yes, this is the Yank Monk blog this week because The Monk is tired of the Foley follies (see here for a great takedown of the Democrats' hypocrisy -- remember Gerry Studds [D-Mass.] actually buggered the underage male page and served out 6 more terms in the House), tired of the idiocy of the Republican House and basically tired of the moronathon in national politics.

Let's deal with some baseball.

First, The Monk says here and now that the A's will win the ALCS. Reason = the Tigers' domination of the Yanks will not continue. Call it gut feeling, but the A's have better starting pitchers, have a reliable set-up reliever in Duchsherer, have solid hitting and have the energy that the Yanks lacked. And the Tigers went overboard in their win -- it wasn't the World Series. Nonetheless, at this point a Tigers' win won't surprise.

Second, the Mess will win the NL. The Cards cannot compete with them, no matter how farked up the Mess' rotation is. If King George sits on his Torre decision a little longer, an NL title for the Mess will be the final straw for Big Stein.

Now, for a team that needs something resembling a swift kick in its collective rear -- the Yanks. The Monk is on record saying that Joe should go. He bollocksed up the bullpen as he's done for the past three years, he failed to motivate ARod, he failed to get the TEAM to arise from its enervated state. This isn't European soccer -- there are no trophies for winning over the long season.

The Yanks have failed miserably in three consecutive postseason series. Any other manager would have been run out of town on a rail after the '04 ALCS. Casey Stengel, the best manager in baseball, got pink-slipped after the Yanks' 1960 honk to the Pirates despite winning his 10th pennant in 12 years and 7 previous World Series titles because his managerial failures (pitching Whitey Ford, who completely dominated the Buccos, for games 3 and 6, not 1, 4, and 7) led directly to the Yanks' loss. The notion that players pitch and hit is all true, but managers motivate, strategize and inspire. Torre failed miserably on that count in three consecutive Octobers.

The Monk disagrees with SI's Jacob Luft who says the 2007 Yanks will look nearly identical to the '06 Yanks because they cannot move the big contracts. That's wrong. ARod's a bargain for anyone because the Rangers are paying every nickel over $16M/year. Carlos Lee will command 15M per in the market -- who'd you rather have? Mooooooooooooooose's 17M option won't be picked up. Sheff's 13M option should not be either (despite Luft's projections). The Yanks can also move Matsui if they throw in some dough -- who wouldn't want a 25 HR/110 RBI guy for $10M per? The Yanks need to upgrade the defense (Cabrera), get younger and prioritize pitching (call up Hughes, get Clippard ready [definitely do not trade Clippard -- he's turning into a righty version of Pettitte!]). Move some players around for near-ready prospects. The Yanks played their best this season WITHOUT Sheff or Matsui in the lineup. This can be done, but the Yanks need to commit to trying.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Yup, it's time to go for Joe and a lot of schmoes

After thinking about it for two days, and attempting to withhold making a rash decision after Saturday's debacle, The Monk is now convinced that the Yankees need a new manager. I'm even approaching the harshness level about this that Jon Heyman hit in his scathing column on Sports Illustrated's website. Heyman is a rarity in the New York media (he was at Newsday until this year when he joined SI), he is an A-Rod booster. And he makes good points: (1) A-Rod rocked September with a .358 average; (2) not coddling A-Rod is likely worse than coddling him given the superstar's psyche; (3) dumping A-Rod to 6th in the order before the playoffs started, but not doing so before then, was a message of lack of respect. Torre didn't win the '96, '98, '99 and '00 Series by showing outright distrust to a prime contributor (no, Denny Neagle doesn't count). Heyman has a point, as do the other commentators who note that A-Rod will cost the Yanks just $64M/4 for the remainder of his contract. The Yanks can trade him, but would need to get big value for him, and pay NO money to the receiving team.

And given other factors, Torre's ouster is a necessity at this point: overpaid players in their walk year in '07 (Johnson, Giambi, possibly Wright), veterans who show they need motivation not sonambulation, and the tore-up and washed out bullpen. Heyman's right: Torre misused Ron Villone criminally this season, and really did the same to Proctor -- a fireballer who had all too many arm troubles before hitting the big leagues but resiliently maintained a sub-4.00 ERA despite the frequent use.

Specific fixes for the Yanks exist: dump Sheff as I said before. I disagree with the NY Post's Joel Sherman -- losing him (with a $0 buyout) doesn't mean we lose him for nothing. Sheffield will be a class A free agent and that means comp picks. Cutting him loose primarily means that the Yanks will have $13M to play with to chase Zito (who's only 28 and pitches best when not pitching against the Yanks) or Japanese star Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will likely post as a free agent in Japan. Picking up Sheff's option then trading him means dealing with his efforts to sabotage the trade, moaning about playing time or his destination, etc.

The Yanks should also decline Mooooooooooose's option and seek a two-year deal, make a play for Jason Schmidt, trade Matsui for power pitching and use the few fruits of their farm system to seed the next generation of Yankee greatness (Hughes, Cabrera, Clippard, J.B. Cox, Tabata) instead of turning them into stars on other teams. By 2008, barring arm troubles, the Yanks should have both Philip Hughes and the less renowned (though excellent in A ball in '05 and in AA ball this year) Tyler Clippard ready to contribute -- Hughes with a half-season under his belt a la Wang going into this year, Clippard as a rookie getting his chance. Anyone could develop the young pitchers better than Torre.

No matter what, it is time for a change in the Bronx. Younger, faster, hungrier, better. That's what the Yanks need.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Blow up the Yankees -- if you can

After the butt-whipping the Yanks took in Detroit, the Yanks need to make changes and make them big. But they also need, for once, to be smart. No more Randy Johnsons, Carl Pavanos or Jaret Wrights. No more Sheffields, ARods or even Matsuis. Instead, they must look to deal from strength (where they can) and get whatever help they will obtain by trade or free agency with a strong consideration of the player's character.

Here are some do's and don'ts for the Yanks in the offseason:

(1) Reassign Torre. The Monk loves Joe, but he's gone from magic touch to no clue in the playoffs since the '03 ALCS. As I noted before here and elsewhere. This team was mentally off-kilter when the Tigers took the lead in game 2 and never recovered. It lacked mental fortitude in the '04 ALCS and the team showed a complete inability to overcome mistakes in the '05 and '06 playoffs too. The team has lost emotional spark. Torre has always been reserved, but the team retained a tough-guy mentality even through the '03 playoffs. Thereafter, bench coach Don Zimmer resigned due to health reasons -- dealing with Steinbrenner wasn't good for his mental health, and his knees were killing him. The Monk guesses that there is at least some causal nexus there.

(2) Dump Wright. The Yanks have a $7M team option. He's not worth half that.

(3) Dump Sheffield. His me-first nature came to the fore this year as he started griping about his contract. And to think the Yanks could have had the speak-softly-and-wield-a-big-stick Vlady Guerrero in the same offseason.

(4) Move A-Rod. The Dodgers, Angels, Marlins and others would love to have him. The Angels still have a stacked minor league system, and have an attractive young pitcher for the Yanks to try to obtain in John Lackey (the Angels wouldn't part with Jered Weaver). Whomever the Yanks deal him to, and they MUST deal him, they need to obtain a major league ready hard-throwing pitcher, a major league ready infielder (the Dodgers seem to have a good 3B prospect) and a third prospect (preferably a catcher).

(5) Move Matsui. Yeah, you read that right. There's no need for a poor defensive outfielder patrolling left field in the Stadium. Melky can play everyday and he'll only get better. Seattle or another west coast team would be thrilled to have him and he's semi-affordable considering the offensive production. Better yet, the Yanks and Ms can swap bad contracts -- Matsui for Beltre whilst the Yanks move Arod for young pitchers.

(6) Keep Abreu. His defense won't win a Gold Glove, but it's better than Sheffield. And his 120+ walk, 100+ RBI, 20+ steal approach is what the Yanks need.

(7) Don't go for any righty starters -- there aren't any worth the trouble on the free agent market. But there are intriguing lefties: Zito, Pettitte, Mulder, Lilly.

(8) Re-sign the Mooooooooose. Two years and an option. Nothing more, but the fact is he still had better numbers than Verlander or Wang this year.

That's the start point. But the Yanks need to get younger, better on defense, and better arms. If Philip Hughes and Tyler Clippard, their AA stars, are both 1-2 years away, that means the Yanks need to work the phones to fill the gaps before Hughes steps in for Johnson in 2008.

Yankees' collapse = Must Joe go? Possibly so.

All of a sudden, the Yankees have become the Braves: old, tired, listless, beaten.

From 1991-1999, the Braves ruled the National League. They won five pennants ('91, '92, '95, '96 and '99) and romped through 5 NLDS (1995-99), winning 15 of their 17 first-round games (3-1, 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, 3-1). The warning signs began in 1998, when the should-have-been outmanned Padres whacked the 106-win Braves three times before Atlanta scratched out two wins then fell in the NLCS. Their end began in the 1999 NLCS against the Mess, when the 103-win Bravos honked games 4 and 5, and came within a Kenny Rogers appearance of becoming the first team in baseball history to be stretched to a game 7 after winning games 1-3 of a best-of-seven series. After the war with the Mess, the Yankees cleaned up -- sweeping the Braves in the World Series battle that was to decide the "Team of the '90s" while the Yanks' three righty starters embarrassed the best lineup in the NL (3-0, 21.2 IP, 2 ER).

From 2000-05, the Braves continued to obtain regular season titles but honked in the postseason. They won only one postseason series, in 2001 against their former punching bag Astros, and were drilled in the only NLCS they reached. From October force to seasonal punching bag.

The Yanks became the team of the '90s when the Torre Era started in 1996: an improbable win over the Braves in the '96 World Series, the incredible 125-win (including postseason) 1998 team, the '99 squad that swept out the Braves and the '00 Subway Series win against the Mess made the Yankees' juggernaut. From game 3 of the '96 Series to game 3 of the '00 Series, the Yanks won a record 14-straight World Series games. From game 6 of the '96 Series until game 1 of the '03 Series, the Yanks won a record 10-straight home games in the World Series. And they became the only team in the free agency era to ever win three-consecutive World Series and four-straight pennants.

The Yanks' demise started on one of four days. According to Buster Olney, game 7 of the 2001 World Series, aka The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty. That was the last game that the Yanks' threepeat core (Tino, O'Neill, Williams, Jeter, Brosius, Posada, Rivera, Pettitte) played together. The key losses were Tino and Paul O'Neill -- they set the tone for the clubhouse, exuded the professionalism and determination that was the trademark of the last Yankees' dynasty, and typified the character of the team: good players, good teammates, good men, but not Hall of Fame caliber superstars.

According to others, the Yanks failures began either (a) when they signed Jason Giambi to replace Tino -- eschewing the cog-in-the-wheel solid player for the superstar with the massive contrat; (b) when they made the moronic Jeff Weaver deal, dumping a solid young pitcher (Ted Lilly) for a guy with good ability but questionable make-up who cost much more; (c) in game 4 of the 2003 World Series, when Torre pitched the combustible Weaver instead of the unhittable Rivera and the Yanks suffered a playoff loss on a walk-off homer for the first time in the Torre Era (compared to six walk-off homers at the Stadium).

For The Monk, it's none of the above. The Yanks' comeback in game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Bawstin disproves the Olney theory. The Weaver deal could be overcome -- and the Yanks' progressed to the '03 Series whilst shelving Weaver for the first two rounds of playoffs.

Instead, the Yankees' franchise took the dive off the deep end in the 2003-04 off-season. That's when the Yanks replaced Clemens with Brown, RF-by-committee with Sheffield, and obtained A-Rod. That made the Yanks merely a moneybag, with no concept of how to put a team together. From the narcissist (A-Rod) to the selfish (Sheff) to the grumpy (Brown). With The Monk HOWLING that the Yanks needed to trade Alfonso Soriano for young power arms, the Yanks swung the A-Rod trade.

The Monk is not an A-Rod hater, and never has been. I didn't blame him for taking the stupid contract that Tom Hicks offered in the 2000-01 offseason. I understood how he honored Cal Ripken at the All-Star Game and how he deferred to Jeter. His talent is remarkable and undeniable. But there's just something missing -- desire, focus, intensity. If Jeter had A-Rod's ability, he'd be 2000-2004 Barry Bonds at the plate (but without the juice) and Ozzie Smith in the field.

The Yanks went from talented and intense pluggers to a team of all-stars. And that hurt. It's no coincidence that the Yanks salvaged their 2005 season when Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang were called up from AAA ball, or that the Yanks took off toward their 9th-straight AL East crown when Cabrera had settled down as a full-time player and Wang had established himself as the ace. Once Sheff and Matsui returned, the Yanks' defense suffered, the team approach at the plate faltered and the team stumbled as it tried to work itself out for the postseason.

Worst of all, it had no fun. Tired, listless, frustrated, inept. The same characteristics that came to the fore in the mindnumbing failure in the '04 ALCS; the same characteristics that cropped up when the Yanks honked in the '05 ALDS. That was the Yanks these last three days.

Now the Yanks have lost three-straight postseason series for the first time ever. They need changes.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Adjustments, please?

The Monk thinks the Yanks need to adjust their thought processes. Soon.

Here are the problems: (1) defense still stinks. I noted Posada's failure to prevent a wild pitch in the 5th, which led directly to a run. Posada has been one of the weakest defensive catchers in the league, especially at blocking balls in the dirt, throughout his career. Joel Sherman notes that Matsui couldn't get to a bloop single in the 7th, which led to the winning run. In other words, the defense may have been the difference between a 3-2 win and a 4-3 loss. That's unacceptable, especially considering that the Yanks' stinko defense was the key series difference in BOTH their 2002 and 2005 losses to the Angels (Game 4 2002 - failing to catch popup led to 6-run inning; Game 2 2005 -- bad defense led to three runs in 4-1 loss).

(2) Pitching too finely. The Tigers are entirely too comfortable because the Yanks' pitchers are throwing too many strikes. Curtis Granderson led the league in striking out (174 -- for a leadoff hitter!), but he's pretty comfy at the dish so far (4-for-9, two big RBI in situations where the Yanks needed a K). Craig Monroe (126 K) and Marcus Thames (4-for-8, but 92 K in 110 games this season), are also not flailing away. In other words: THROW SOME JUNK. The Tigers are free swingers and the Yanks should be using that to their advantage. Sherman notes how the Tigers have shackled Cano by enticing him to hack away at crud; the Yanks need to respond in kind to Monroe, Thames and Granderson (Inge, their other K-able starter, has taken the bait: 1-7, 3 K).

It's better to make the changes early, rather than later. Just look back at how the defensive switch to an uncomfortable Bubba Crosby hurt the Yanks last year in game 5 against the Angels.

"Shoot Me First"

Oct. 5, 2006 — The oldest of the five Amish girls shot dead in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse is said to have stepped forward and asked her killer to "Shoot me first," in an apparent effort to buy time for her schoolmates.

Rita Rhoads, a midwife who delivered two of the victims, told ABC News' Law and Justice Unit that she learned of 13-year-old Marian Fisher's plea from Fisher's family.

What's more, Fisher's 11-year-old sister, Barbie, who survived the shooting, allegedly asked the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, to "Shoot me second," Rhoads said.

I am awed by the simple yet spectacular courage of Marian Fisher who was thirteen.

May God give comfort to your family and grant your spirit everlasting joy.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

It's not all about the lineup

From the good (or effective) pitching beats good hitting department: the Tigers nipped the Yanks today, 4-3. So much for the "advantage" the Yanks would get with the rainout last night. I didn't like it because the whole situation seemed screwy and I heard this morning that Verlander had a sub-3.00 ERA in day games. The Yanks may have maneuvered themselves into a real series.

From the defense wins championships department: Jorge Posada and the inability to prevent wild pitches. He basically cost the Yanks a run in the 5th. Yanks lost by one. Do the math (and unlike football, the but-for math in baseball can work out).

Note that in the three previous ALDS where the Yanks won game 1 and lost game 2, the Yanks lost the series ('97 to Cleveland, '02 and '05 to Anaheim/LAAofA). Of course, they had their chances to win all three (games 4 and 5 in Cleveland; 6-1 lead in game 3 in Anaheim before collapsing in '02; led in game 3 and 5 against the Halos last year). Then again, when the Yanks lost game 1 and won game 2, they're 4-0. In addition, the Yanks have won games 3 and 4 of the ALDS on the road four times ('96, '01, '03, '04) in the Torre era. This season, home teams are an underwhelming 2-4 thus far in the playoffs.

Final notions: (1) Robinson Cano has earned his 9-hole position in the batting order -- he's done zip in this series; (2) Moooooooooose pitched ok, but the Tigers got him the third time through the order (innings 1-4 = 3 hits, 1 run; innings 5-7 = 5 hits, 3 runs); (3) Joel Zumaya does not stink; (4) I'd consider batting A-Rod 8th, seriously -- he showed signs of life on Tuesday (a hit and two hard outs) but not today; (5) yes, it is anyone's series now.

Foleygate: a prank gone awry?

This is getting ridiculous.

Not gettin' it

Why, if you went 5-for-5 on Tuesday, would you want to sacrifice bunt in the first inning today? Jeter does this on his own, usually, but if Torre ordered it he's nuts. Jeter should have just hit in the first inning and the Yanks might have had something going . . . so much for that.

Foley fatigue

Jonah Goldberg already has Foley fatigue. And he's got a point.

Death knell for the blockbuster?

George Lucas is taking Lucasfilm out of the moviemaking business because he doesn't believe the "tentpole" or blockbuster film is a viable business anymore. Ironic that the man who did the most to create the blockbuster concept, albeit not consciously so (Lucas wanted to make a good movie with Star Wars, not necessarily redefine the nature of the business model), is now against banking on the homerun in favor of smaller movies that, in the aggregate, will make more cash.

Then again, Lucas may just be ahead of his contemporaries. After all, as much as he did to create the blockbuster, he also did to destroy it as The Monk indicated in his reviews of the Star Wars prequels.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Right and truly done -- the 2006 Twins?

Considering that about half the ESPN "experts" picked the Twins to go to the World Series before the games started yesterday (and The Monk noted the questionable nature of that concept considering that the Twins were supposedly better built to beat the Yanks in a 3-of-5 than a best-of-7 series), it'd be somewhat shocking (and ironic) if the Twinkies went out like suckers in Oakland on Friday.

The Monk is a bit surprised that the Twins suddenly can't hit, especially because Esteban Loaiza doesn't exactly inspire fear. After all, the A's could only get away with starting their #4 (seriously, now, would you pick Loaiza over Harden or Haren?) in game 2 after winning game 1. But the Twins are now a game away from a big-time flop after their 5-2 loss today.

Remember: only four teams have rallied to win from 0-2 down in the ALDS ('95 M's, '99 RedSux, '01 Yanks, '03 RedSux) and only one (2001 Yanks) did it after honking games 1 and 2 at home. Thus, the Twins aren't no-hopers, but they're not dancing in the aisles in Minneapolis. If I'm Ken Macha, and I can get my rotation ready for the Yanks (working assumption -- if the Yanks flop, someone's getting canned no matter how big their managerial contract is . . .), I get Danny Haren as many starts as possible -- he makes the Yanks look like littleleaguers.

Why we like John Howard

I told the Monkette last night that if he would remain PM for the next 40 or so years, we'd move to Australia tomorrow.

I'd like to figure out how to draft him to run for President in 2008 but we'd never get the Constitution amended in time.

Click the link; read the full article.

Baseball Playoffs, day 1

There is not much to say about the Yanks' win last night that otherwise has not been said in most media outlets: Jeter was fantastic (5-5, 3R, HR), Abreu looked sharp and had a nice playoff debut in pinstripes (4 RBI), the bullpen is shakier than a strawhouse in a hurricane.

How about these notions: (1) Torre played fast and loose with the bullpen and the game last night -- there was no need to remove Wang in the 7th, by then he had overcome a shaky first 5 innings and had actually begun to roll for the first time all night, he had thrown only 93 pitches, and the top of the Tigers lineup is not that much more fearsome than the bottom (they're pretty well-balanced). Wang had 12-15 pitches left in the tank, that's another 2-3 outs and no need to use Myers and either Proctor or Farnsworth. Bad move, Joe. This is the postseason, stretch the starters and stop treating the 'pen like it's the regular season when a loss means less. I griped about this two years ago and Torre hasn't reformed.

(2) Gary Sheffield is a better firstbaseman than Giambi. That stretch that Sheff made in the top of the third to catch Cano's relay throw on the double play that shut down Detroit's first scoring chance was top-notch.

(3) Kyle Farnsworth is a head case. How else could a guy who throws 100 with a nasty slider not trust his stuff enough to go after hitters?

(4) What's up with FOX's coverage? First, the wrong/misleading graphic -- Farnsworth was not 4/4 in saves, he was 4/4 in saves in September when Mo was on the shelf. But Farnsworth honked game four of the four-game set in Detroit in June because Torre refused to use Mo after pitching him for three innings two nights before. Second, Tim McCarver was asleep at the wheel -- no comments about Matsui's poor timing at the plate, no comment about Matsui's lunchboxhead defensive play that turned a single into a double, no comment about how Torre pulled Wang when the kid had started pitching consistently well (despite prompting from Joe Buck), no comment on the AL MVP contest (despite prompting from Joe Buck who said he thought Jeter should win), no comment on Detroit's ability to whack extra base hits against Wang. McCarver needs to drink his Red Bull before he and Buck call the Mess-Dudgers game tomorrow night.

(5) Why do talking heads keep saying that Justin Verlander with his 95-100 mph heater is better than Mooooooooooooosina?

Here's Verlander's numbers: 186.0 IP, 187 H, 21 HR, 60 BB, 124 K, 3.63 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .266 OBA
Here's Moooooooooooose's: 197.1 IP, 184 H, 22 HR, 35 BB, 172 K, 3.51 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .241 OBA.

Moooooooooose wins EVERY category (do the math on the IP/HR ratio). Most shockingly, Verlander only averages 6K/game despite that rocket arm. That said, the numbers mean nothing if Verlander pitches a shutout and the Moooooooooose gets thumped. But the talking heads need to stop thinking that a rocket arm is the be-all and end-all. Two words: Brett Tomko. Two more words: Jamie Moyer. Smarten up.

(6) Jim Leyland's right, the Tigers do not need to apologize for being in the playoffs. That team simply does not stink. Winning 95 after a roaring start or winning 95 after stinking up the first 6 weeks of the year (Yankees, 2005) ends up with the same result, a 95-win team.

(7) Torre needs to play Cabrera as a defensive replacement late in games in leftfield. Forget the respect factor for Matsui (who does deserve it), Cabrera's just superior in the field.

As for the rest of the lot:

(a) Here's the situation for the Twins: you won't win if Rondell White is your best hitter. Thanks for playing. I'm thinking that if Thomas is kept quiet, the A's will fold. Don't put too much stock in the fact that Minnesota is pitching Boof Bonser tonight instead of someone with a real name -- Gardenhire is great at getting the young Twins to play as if the playoffs are any regular game (i.e., no extra pressure). Remember also that the Twins went 40-25 without #2 starter Francisco Liriano down the stretch to win their division. Twinkie fans rejoice: game 1 losers are 13-9 in ALDS since 1995.

(b) The Pads need to consider if they're willing to live and die with Jake Peavy's arm against the Cards. The redbirds seem to have his number. Pads fans may worry: game 1 losers are 3-19 in NLDS since 1995.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Priorities: the MLB Playofffs

Yes, the Major League Baseball Commissioner's Office has its priorities straight -- after all, the Yanks and Mets get all four pre-determined prime time slots for the League Divisional Series so that the networks (FOX, ESPN) can draw in maximum possible ratings. Thus, the Yanks play Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday night; the Mess get the primo slot on Thursday and the late afternoon slot Wednesday. It's a business, no matter what seamheads at ESPN would like to see (ooh, that intriguing Twins-A's matchup).

The Monk claims to know his baseball, so here's what to look for in the next week for the LDS.

Tigers-Yankees: The Yanks won the season series 5-2 and likely would have swept all seven if Torre hadn't rested Rivera in the two games the Yanks lost (Farnsworth and Proctor blew saves). In each of the seven, Detroit was in first place in the AL Central. Last weekend, the Tigers pulled a reverse 1987 -- needing to win only one game at home against the AL Central bottom-dwelling Royals to win the division, the Tigers honked all three, allowed 28 runs, blew five- (Friday) and six-run (Sunday) leads, and washed out of a divisional title. In 1987, Toronto went to Detroit needing only one win in three games to win the AL East, and lost them all. This season, the Tigers had a fall-back position -- the wild card.

The Monk is a Yankees fan and preferred facing the Tigers to a third tussle in four years with the Twins. But I know to be careful what I ask for. There are certain parallels to 2002, when the Yanks honked to the Angels: (1) young balanced team with solid pitching and nothing to lose as the opponent (and a better Pythagorean W-L than the Yanks); (2) Rivera coming off an arm problem and Torre limiting him to one inning per appearance; (3) Yanks with the fourth-best pitching staff in the AL playoffs; (4) Yanks with iffy defense -- especially if Torre declines to DH Matsui and play Cabrera in left. That said, the Yanks have tremendous hitting that far surpasses any other team in the playoffs not based in NYC, have Rivera, have Johnson basically ready and have the ability they lacked last year. They SHOULD sweep; should win; and should start the ALCS next Tuesday night in the Bronx (and it's really surprising how many pundits on ESPN think the Twins can beat the Yanks in a seven-game series -- I thought the Twinkies were better-equipped for a five-game set?). Whether they do is up to the defense, Chien-Ming Wang, and how Torre uses the bullpen.

Added note: Check how often the broadcasters tout the importance of game 1 in a best-of-five series tonight. The mantra will likely become ridiculous quickly. Remember that in the Torre Era, the Yanks are 5-5 in the first game of the ALDS. When they lost game 1, they're 5-0 in the series (1996, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004) and in three of those series, they've won games 2 through 4 ('96, '03, '04); when they've won game one, they're 2-3 -- winning only the 1998 and 1999 ALDS sweeps over Texas. Add in the 1995 loss to the Mariners, and the Yanks are 2-4 in the ALDS when winning game one. [UPDATE] But, as The Monk just figured out this afternoon, only 9 of 22 teams that won game 1 of the ALDS since that playoff level began in 1995 have won the series -- and six of those won in a 3-0 sweep. Thus, in 13 of 16 series that went more than three games, the game 1 winner lost the ALDS (exceptions: 1996 and 1997 Orioles; 2002 Twins); four teams came back from 0-2 to win; five teams went 0-1 down and won 3-1. In the NL, 10 of the 22 series have been sweeps; 9 of 12 game 1 winners have won the non-sweep NLDS. Thus, in the NL, the game 1 result has been a MUCH better predictor of the series winner.

The Twins-A's series should go five. If the Twins lead 2-1, Gardenhire should reserve Santana for game 5. But trust two things: (1) weird stuff to happen, as it usually does with the A's (2000 - Terence Long loses the Tino flyball; 2001 - the Jeter Flip, Tejada failing to run the bases properly; 2002 - the failure to contain the Twins in game 5, ninth inning; 2003 - choking to the RSawx); (2) mismanaging the pitching: (a) in 2002, Ken Macha had two ace lefties and Tim Hudson to pitch against the Twins, the Twins pounded righties and stank against lefties, Macha pitched Hudson in games 1 and 4 and got clobbered, the A's pitched Mulder and Zito in 2, 3 and 5 and received very good performances -- because they had all three top arms available and Macha ignored the Twins' strengths, he failed to pitch the lefty starters four times in five games and the A's lost; (b) Gardenhire honked the 2004 series against the Yanks by pulling Santana after 7 innings in game 4 with a 5-1 lead and Santana cruising -- the Yanks tied it in the 8th on Ruben Sierra's grand slam and won the game 7-5. The pick here is the Twins, who won 96 in the toughest division in baseball despite no #2 starter for the last two months. The fact is, however, that an A's win would not surprise.

Cards-Padres: The least important of the four LDS on paper because the Cards stink and the Pads do not seem capable of beating the Mets. This is a rematch of last season's yawner, which the Cards won in 3 easy pieces. Expect a reversal if Jake Peavy is healthy because the Cards are awful -- St. Louis would have had only the NINTH-best record if it played in the AL. Albert Pujols barely carried that team to the division crown, and only did so because the Astros dug themselves too big of a hole through the season's first 23 weeks. This season marks the second-straight that the NL has a division winner that is not among the top four teams in the league by record (i.e., worse than the wild card runner-up). Last year, that dishonor went to the Pads and they were properly swept out; this year, it's the Cards. Expect the Pads to play in the NLCS next Wednesday and to close this series out in no more than 4.

Dodgers-Mets: Ho hum, another tough matchup for the Mets. This has been a repetitive (if not redundant) theme over the past two months as the Mess ran away with the NL East and seamheads continually analyzed who could give them trouble in the LDS. Answer: Dodgers, Padres, Astros . . . basically anyone other than the Cards. So? The Mets romped over the NL all season (the league's only 90+ win team, compare that to the five in the AL) and only slowed down after they had run away with the NL East. The Dodgers were in a dogfight for the playoffs until the last weekend of the season. I don't buy the logic that the fight makes the Dodgers sharper. The Mets have AL-quality hitting (Reyes, Beltran, Delgado, Wright, Floyd), enough pitching even without Pedro, and the nutters at Shea. They'll host the NLCS starting next Wednesday.

Baseball Awards

Baseball writers had to vote for the major awards by yesterday and send in their ballots. None of the regular season awards can be influenced by postseason results. So who should win? The Monk knows:

AL MVP: This one should be easy -- Derek Jeter. He finished 2nd in batting, hitting with runners in scoring position and runs scored, 4th in OBP, nearly had a second 100-RBI season, ranked 7th in steals and again played top-notch defense. Jeter improved on his recent seasons despite lack of cover in the batting order after the Yanks lost Sheffield and Matsui in May. Number-dorks will point to Justin Morneau's power and RBI numbers for the Twins, Joe Mauer's batting title, David Ortiz's 50-odd HR, etc. But with the Yankees injured and struggling, it was Jeter all season long who produced as the Yanks turned a deficit into a rout and won the AL East in a walk. The Monk pumped Ichiro for this award in 2001 despite Giambi's ridiculous numbers, and Jeter should win for the same reason: best player, best team, excellent season, led by example. Anti-Yankee bias (see: 1996 Cy Young, 2003 Rookie of the Year, 2005 Cy Young) will play a role in this vote as morons from the Midwest look only to HR or RBI numbers, just as two dingdongs kept Rivera off their Cy Young ballots last year, and just as the other voters primarily looked to the underwhelming numbers of Bartolo Colon to pick a starter over a reliever like MVP voters will look to pick a bopper over a hitter.

AL Cy Young Award: Johan Santana. This is no contest because he has no competition. Santana led the league in IP, wins, K, ERA.

AL Rookie of the Year: Justin Verlander, Tigers. This is no contest -- the main competitors dropped out (Liriano, Papelbon).

AL Manager of the Year: Jim Leyland, Tigers. In 2003, the team won 43; in 2006, it won 95. The end-of-season honk to the Royals is irrelevant for this.

AL Reliever of the Year: Frankie K-Rod Rodriguez. He's the second-best closer in the league and had the best season.

For the NL, some votes are more complex.

NL MVP: This is tricky. Ryan Howard was nearly Ruthian; Pujols had better numbers in key categories (RISP, close and late situations), Carlos Beltran had 41 HR, 116 RBI, 127 runs for the best team in the league. The guess here is Pujols, the pick would be too.

NL Cy Young Award: UGH. With no dominant starter, and a "dominant" reliever who famously gave up homers on consecutive pitches to honk a save in the most famous game of the season, this should be up for grabs. The Monk would consider Roy Oswalt because he pitched well down the stretch as the Astros made their run and won the ERA crown. The winner will be Chris Carpenter or Trevor Hoffman.

NL Rookie of the Year: This is a REAL contest -- Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez and Ryan Zimmerman. Uggla tailed off in September, Zimmerman's power numbers are nice (20 HR, 110 RBI) but Ramirez beat him in OPS, batting average and is the next power/speed superstar of baseball.

NL Manager: Joe Girardi. No contest.

NL Reliever: Hoffman over Wagner.

Sauce for the goose?

So now that Rep. Mark Foley is a disgraced pervert, what will the Democrats do? According to Investors Business Daily, they better not over play their trump:

If anything, the episode reveals the Democrats' hypocrisy about their own behavior. The fact that Foley resigned virtually within minutes of being told that ABC News had copies of his salacious e-mails and text messages indicates he at least felt shame for his actions. Can the same be said for Democrats?

Answer: no. Three examples -- Mel Reynolds, Barney Frank, Gerry Stubbs. As IBD notes:

In 1983, then-Democratic Rep. Gerry Studds . . . had sex with a male teenage page -- something Foley hasn't been charged with.

Did Studds express contrition? Resign? Quite the contrary. He rejected Congress' censure of him and continued to represent his district until his retirement in 1996.

In 1989, Rep. Barney Frank, also of Massachusetts, admitted he'd lived with Steve Gobie, a male prostitute who ran a gay sex-for-hire ring out of Frank's apartment. Frank, it was later discovered, used his position to fix 33 parking tickets for Gobie . . . Today [Frank is] an honored Democratic member of Congress, much in demand as a speaker and "conscience of the party."

In 2001, President Clinton, who had his own intern problem, commuted the prison sentence of Illinois Rep. Mel Reynolds, who had sex with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer and pressured her to lie about it. (Reynolds also was convicted of campaign spending violations.).

No heads rolled in those cases. Foley resigned in shame and ignominy. He should have; but so should have Frank and Stubbs.

The Foley Disgrace

The Washington Times calls on Dennis Hastert to resign as Speaker of the House. It won't happen.

Unfortunately, in the US the English tradition of the honorable resignation has never become customary. In the UK, if a Cabinet department became embattled in a disgraceful affair or if its failure to take appropriate action cast disgrace upon the Government, the Minister in charge would resign; similarly, the opposition leader often resigned after losing a general election because it reflected poorly upon his (not her -- Thatcher never lost a general) effectiveness as leader.

By contrast, Jane Garvey continued as the FAA Administrator after 9-11-01, George Tenet remained the head of the CIA, Norman Mineta continued as the Secretary of Transportation. The US political class therefore more closely resembles the international political class (i.e., IOC Premier Juan Antonio Samaranch's laughable claim that he would be the best person to preside over cleaning up the ethics of the International Olympic Committee; Kofi Annan's "efforts" to clean up the UN). And Dennis Hastert will continue as Speaker of the House until and unless there is some evidence that he had direct knowledge of Mark Foley's particular perversities and Hastert actively helped bury that for the past year.

Nonetheless, the WaTimes is persuasive:

Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, the Republican chairman of the House Page Board, said he learned about the Foley e-mail messages "in late 2005." Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the leader of the Republican majority, said he was informed of the e-mail messages earlier this year. On Friday, Mr. Hastert dissembled, to put it charitably, before conceding that he, too, learned about the e-mail messages sometime earlier this year. Late yesterday afternoon, Mr. Hastert insisted that he learned of the most flagrant instant-message exchange from 2003 only last Friday, when it was reported by ABC News. This is irrelevant. The original e-mail messages were warning enough that a predator -- and, incredibly, the co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children -- could be prowling the halls of Congress. The matter wasn't pursued aggressively. It was barely pursued at all. Moreover, all available evidence suggests that the Republican leadership did not share anything related to this matter with any Democrat.

Now the scandal must unfold on the front pages of the newspapers and on the television screens, as transcripts of lewd messages emerge and doubts are rightly raised about the forthrightness of the Republican stewards of the 109th Congress. Some Democrats are attempting to make this "a Republican scandal," and they shouldn't; Democrats have contributed more than their share of characters in the tawdry history of congressional sexual scandals. Sexual predators come in all shapes, sizes and partisan hues, in institutions within and without government. When predators are found they must be dealt with, forcefully and swiftly. This time the offender is a Republican, and Republicans can't simply "get ahead" of the scandal by competing to make the most noise in calls for a full investigation. The time for that is long past.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations -- or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away. He gave phony answers Friday to the old and ever-relevant questions of what did he know and when did he know it? Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.