Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Politically Incorrect Theory of Growth

Noted economist Robert Samuelson reviews a new book, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, by Gregory Clark who suggests that culture predisposes some societies to rapid growth and others to poverty or meager growth.

Clark suggests that much of the world's remaining poverty is semi-permanent. Modern technology and management are widely available, but many societies can't take advantage because their values and social organization are antagonistic. Prescribing economically sensible policies (open markets, secure property rights, sound money) can't overcome this bedrock resistance.

Before 1800, says Clark, most societies were stagnant. With some exceptions, people lived no better than their ancestors in the Stone Age. Economic growth was virtually nonexistent. Then England broke the pattern, as textile, iron and food production increased dramatically.
What distinguished England, he says, was the widespread emergence of middle-class values of "patience, hard work, ingenuity, innovativeness, education" that favored economic growth. After examining birth and death records, he concludes that in England -- unlike many other societies -- the most successful men had more surviving children than the less fortunate. Slowly, the attributes of success that children learned from parents became part of the common culture.
Societies dominated by tribal, religious, ideological or political values that disparage the qualities needed for broad-based growth will not get growth.

Interesting thesis - I would suggest that the gradual (and sometimes sudden) lowering of informational barriers will blur the culture "wall". One thing IS for sure - President Faust won't be discussing this at Harvard.

The Yanks' offseason

Tomorrow started yesterday for the Yanks as they announced the next manager -- Joe Girardi. The Monk's been out of town for the past couple of days in trial, but I'd heard the Girardi rumors all weekend and I'm more than fine with that. Girardi should bring a combination of Showalter's attention to detail with some of Torre's personality -- a good merger of the contrasting styles. In addition, Girardi will add some intensity to a relatively laissez-faire clubhouse.

The questions plaguing the Yanks this offseason are: (1) who will be the thirdbaseman; (2) who will be in the rotation; (3) who will catch; (4) who will close; (5) will Girardi protect the young arms on the pitching staff? One good thing about Girardi, he was Andy Pettitte's personal catcher in the last two years Girardi was with the Yanks, after Posada had essentially taken over the position.

Girardi gets a lot of blame for burning out Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson during his year managing the Marlins in 2006. The Johnson allegation is flat wrong: Johnson threw about the same number of innings in 2006 as he had in 2005 (including minors). Sanchez legitimately wore out -- from 136 IP in 2005 to 200 in 2006 was too large of a jump and he had season-ending surgery in 2007. How much of this is attributable to Girardi remains somewhat doubtful because other young pitchers have had big workload increases without problems (Chien-Ming Wang); but many do have trouble if the increase is 35 IP or more.

The Yanks' conundrum is their forthcoming reliance on the kiddie corps. Most notably, Joba the Hutt. He threw 112 IP total this year; a starter's load is 175-190 and he looked a bit worn out in the ALDS. Hughes threw 146 in 2005, and a gradual progression would have been 165 this year and 185 next year. Another bit of coddling that may be necessary. Ian Kennedy is not as problematic -- he pitched 165 innings total this year.

Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver has various ideas for what the Yanks should do. Many are simply stupid. The Yanks should have nothing to do with Barry Bonds -- why get a selfish me-first, money-is-everything player who does not get along with his teammates right after his successor to the bestplayerinbaseball opted out of an extremely lucrative contract? The Yanks have an option on Bobby Abreu and they'll either exercise it or extend him, and they should.

Similarly asinine is Silver's suggestion to cut ties with Mariano and have Farnsworth or Edwar Ramirez (who, Silver noted, "struck out 15.4 batters per nine innings (!) between three professional levels this year") close. This is pure stat-head nonsense. Farnsworth is a billion-dollar arm in a 10-cent head. Ramirez has two pitches -- his circle change, which has solid movement and is a decent pitch; and a straight 90 mph fastball without plus control. There's a reason the kid got pounded for 24 H and 6 HR in 21 IP in the majors -- he lacks major league ability. If the Yanks wanted to replace Mo, they'd do it with Joba. They don't -- that's why Mo and his agent were invited to Tampa to discuss what parameters Mo wants in a new contract. Mo wants to stay, that's why he and his agent WENT to Tampa for the meeting.

The Monk's recommendations are simpler:

(1) Work with Pettitte to ensure he returns.
(2) Work with Mooooooose to ensure his level of sucking diminishes.
(3) Work on Shelley Duncan's infield defense so he can either take the 1B job or play the position frequently. The kid has 30 HR righty power. Andy Phillips can be the backup.
(4) Sign Mike Lowell, who's no sure thing to stay with the Redhos. If not, trade for a thirdbaseman. Eric Chavez should be available and the Yanks have minor league pitching to trade (not Kennedy, Hughes, Joba -- they're untouchable).
(5) Re-up Abreu -- he's a positive influence on Melky, who is the CF of the future.
(6) Re-sign Posada and Molina. This is obvious.
(7) Get another set-up man for the 'pen. Coco Cordero could be available and may be willing to apprentice under the master for awhile.

The Yanks have no need to replace A-Rod. The team scored 968 runs in 2007, the most in the Torre era. Result? First-round playoff loss. The team scored 807 runs in 2001, the fewest of the Torre era. Result? Lost game 7 of the World Series with one bad inning. In other words, the offense cannot carry the team to a title.

The Yanks need to concentrate on pitching and ensuring that the team has enough offense to win. With Posada, Jeter, Abreu, Cano, Damon, Duncan, Cabrera and Matsui, the team has decent firepower. With a healthy Giambi, the Yanks still have a top-end offense. Get the pitching right and mold the newbies and the Yanks can contend next year and definitely when they open up the new Yankee Stadium in '09.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An interesting winter

is the only solace for suffering Yankee fans who need to endure the talk of dynasty in Boston.

Alex Rodriguez' well-timed (we ARE Yankee fans here) announcement leaves a large crater at third base and without a doubt creates a significant power deficit in the Yankee lineup. His 0-lifetime record in the postseason with RISP notwithstanding there isn't another third baseman in the game capable of 50 HR and 150 RBI. Losing A-Rod means the luxury of a Doug Mientkiewicz (assuming he comes back) is suddenly more expensive.

Girardi is the right choice and while a shame to lose Mattingly - to quote Tessio, it's not personal it's business.

The 20+ million saved by not signing Alex Rodriguez needs to be deployed wisely.

1. A very aggressive effort should be made to sign Mike Lowell. He's capable defensively, has pop, has performed in a tough town and at 33 should still have a few good years left. It would also take a piece away from a very successful Boston team. There are not a lot of good 3Bs in free agency this year so this has to be the priority. If he gets away a choice may be to try Robby Cano at 3B - used to be a third baseman. Easier to get a utility 2B. [Great free agent site:]

2. Trade for a #1 or near #1 starter from the AL. Such as Johan Santana or AJ Burnett. If a legitimate #1 cannot be had, wait. With Wang, Pettitte, Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy+ can afford to be patient. No more Pavanos please or over the hill marquees like Maddux. One would consider Roger or Schilling (though Schilling has ruled out the Yanks)

3. Try to improve team speed where possible. Any team with Giambi, Posada and Matsui could use help.

This assumes that Posada, Mo and Pettitte return.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Honoring John McCain

Forty years ago today, Navy pilot John McCain was shot down over Hanoi. He spent five and half years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton refusing to offer the North Vietnamese a propaganda triumph by accepting early release because his father was Commander-in-Chief of US forces in the Pacific (CINCPAC).

Few pilots volunteered for assignments to the Tonkin Gulf as carrier pilots. Most flew their missions with grim determination — counting the days until they could ro
tate back to their homes and families. They accepted the risks as their duty, and suffered in silence. John McCain had been to Vietnam before on the USS Forrestal, barely surviving the disastrous fire that nearly caused the loss of the ship. He then volunteered to be assigned to another squadron, a squadron on its way to Vietnam.

While I am not sure that John McCain would be my notice for President, as a free American we should remember his sacrifice.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Irony and the NY Times

Do the editors read what their columnists write at the NY Times?

Seriously. Here's an excerpt of a NYT profile of John Podhoretz reprinted on's Best of the Web Today feature (Best of the Web comment in bold):

To some within the neoconservative movement, [the appointment of Podhoretz fils] is the best of all possible choices. It is a model of what Adam Bellow (son of the Nobel-winning novelist Saul) called the "new nepotism," combining the "privileges of birth with the iron rule of merit."

But to others the decision reeks of the "old nepotism," in which the only credential that matters is the identity of your father--in Mr. Bellow's cosmology, less like the Roosevelts than like Tori Spelling getting an acting job because her father was Aaron Spelling. . . .

Ultimately, what may be the biggest challenge facing Commentary has nothing to do with the genealogy or scholarship of its editor, but the threat of a dwindling readership, now about 34,000. Once a source of ideas and personnel for the Reagan and current Bush administrations, Commentary, said [writer Jacob] Heilbrunn and a number of conservatives, has become less of a must-read in recent years.

Some have argued that the New York Times has become less of a must-read in recent years, since Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger Jr. succeeded Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger Sr. as publisher in 1992. Did Pinch comply with the iron rule of merit, or is he the Tori Spelling of newspapers?

Laid out after the lay off

The Sawx crushed the Rawx last night, therefore Colorado has no chance to win the World Series, this thing is over, and the Sawx are going to cruise to another title.

Or not.

The Monk researched it and discovered the answer before Fox and ESPN publicized it: yesterday's 13-1 rout was the largest margin of victory in Game 1 of a World Series and the most runs scored by a victor in Game 1. And the Roxintheirheads took a beating just like the '96 Yanks and '06 Tigers, each of whom had rested with long layoffs while their World Series opponent fought its way through a seven-game League Championship Series. Not much shock there -- John Kruk noted that the Rox timing was so bad their foot-taps as part of their batting motion to time pitches was too slow for what Beckett was firing at them.

Before last night there had been only three teams that had won game 1 of the World Series by 10 or more runs: the '59 Chisox (11-0), '82 Brewers (10-0) and '96 Braves (12-1). The Braves and Chisox held the old margin of victory record of 11. The Brewers and Braves won those games on the road. But each team has something else in common: THEY ALL LOST THE WORLD SERIES: Dodgers 4-2 over Chisox, Cards 4-3 over Brewers, Yankees 4-2 over Braves. The Braves had the added ignominy of becoming the first (and to date only) team to win games 1 and 2 on the road and lose in 6.

So the RedSawx fans and Boston media should not jump to happy conclusions just yet. After all, as daunting as the RedSawx's 43-6 demolition of the Indians and Rox in the past four games, the '96 Braves ran off five wins against the Cards and Yanks by a combined 48-2! Yipes. Instead, RedSux fans can take heed from the folly of Atlanta Journal Constitution writer Mark Bradley who dared compare the Braves with the Big Red Machine and the '27 Yankees after the soon-to-be losers took a 2-0 lead on the Yanks in '96. Five days later, he had to stock up on barbecue sauce for the heaping plate of crow he had for dinner, and the next day's lunch, and dinner, and lunch, and dinner . . .

Then again, my warning comes with a but . . . don't rejoice, but I know good and well that the Rox season will end on Sunday or Monday with the RedSax dancing on the mound at Coors Field.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Go Rox

As much as you, me, the media or anyone else wants to view Rox-Sox as a potential reenactment of the 2003 Marlins-Yanks series, it just doesn't wash. The Sportfish had big-time power pitchers who could carry a 7+ inning load (Penny, Beckett) without problems; the Rox starters rarely go beyond 6, and with the RedSax preternatural patience at the plate, that may be a challenge. The Rox have better relief pitching than the Sportfishies did and a better overall lineup. But the Series will come down to executing good pitches against patient hitters and getting the small things done. The Monk sees the RedSax clinching in Colorado and more of this kind of stomach-turning talk for the next few months.

I hope I'm wrong.

Meanwhile, there's a lot to like about the Rox, from their youthful energy to their great defense to their top-end pitching ability to their honest manager. The link in the title of this post is to a column discussing why baseball is a pleasant distraction for Clint Hurdle because one of his favorite people in the world has a lot of difficult days.

Tired of the Torre saga

It's official: The Monk is tired of the Torre saga.

I'm tired of hearing Torre whinge about how he wasn't wanted.

I'm tired of hearing the national and local media dump on the Yankees for not re-signing him.

I'm tired of hearing the eulogies (bordering on hagiographies) for Torre's performance as manager.

I'm tired of hearing the moronic parallels (the White Sox re-signed Guillen for three years, the Cards re-signed LaRussa for two, the D-Rays re-signed Maddon) -- these are the Yankees, the premier franchise in North American sports and they have different and higher standards than stiffs like the ChiSax and Drays.

The whole situation is ridiculous. Torre should have been sacked the day after the RedSawx 10-3 win over the Yanks in game 7 of the 2004 ALCS. He managed the team to the worst choke in sports playoff history. He made strategic (in)decisions that cost the team games 5 and 6. He led the team that suffered the worst humiliation in baseball history -- and the Yanks for all their success have had a large number of playoff humiliations (1926 WS [Ruth caught stealing to lose game 7], 1960 WS [lose series, outscored Pirates 55-27], 1963 WS [swept by Koufax-led Dodgers, scored 4 runs], 1976 WS [swept by Big Red Machine], 1980 ALCS [best team to lose in LCS until 1993 Braves], 1981 WS [choking 2-0 lead with three-straight one-run losses], 1995 ALDS [up 2-0, lose series], 2002 ALDS [whupped by upstart Angels]).

Torre should have been sacked after he lost the team last year and the Yanks were demolished by the Tigers. That didn't happen either, primarily because Cashman stuck up for Joe.

The Monk likes British notions of accountability -- the head of the department that screws up gets canned or, more frequently, resigns and takes the responsibility for the failure. The RedSax were actually the better team in '04 (seriously: Schilling, Pedro, Lowe v. Mussina, Leiber, Brown = no contest), but the Yanks had whacked them three times, had them down twice more and failed. It was not like the '07 ALCS -- the Sawx didn't just turn it on and wax the Yanks like they crushed the Indians this year. Instead, Moooooose pitched well in game 5, Leiber pitched well in game 6 (he was burned on a bizarre homer by Bellhorn), game 5 came down to a couple of bounces here and there.

The fallout for Torre = a three-year 19.2M contract that paid him like a prima donna NBA coach.

As Torre makes the rounds discussing his alleged mistreatment (Costas Now on HBO, which will re-air all week; Letterman next Monday), remember this from Jon Heyman's column:

. . . for the record, it should be known now that [the Yanks'] recent offer was actually better than the one discussed in spring, months before the team bowed out in the first round for a third straight postseason.

Back then, has learned, the Yankees and Torre were talking about a one-year $4.5 million extension with Steve Swindal the son-in-law who signed Torre to his lucrative $6.4 million-a-year deal, and Torre was receptive to the offer. But that extension fell apart after Swindal was arrested for a DWI on Valentine's Day and Swindal's marriage to George Steinbrenner's daughter, Jennifer, subsequently disintegrated.

In other words, Torre's engaging in a bunch of spin and the media is buying it because its storyline is pre-ordained -- the big bad Steinbrenner crew wanted Torre out and insulted him to reach its goal.

A key issue in the '08 election

The biggest boost the GOP could give its Presidential candidate is to make the 2008 election largely about the Supreme Court. Justice Stevens is in his late 80s, Ginsburg is in her 70s and ill, and the country needs more Scalia/Roberts/Alito/Thomas quality jurists, not Breyer or Kennedy. The phrase "all politics are local" is an all-too-accurate truism, but the GOP can employ that concept by having its candidate talk about how reasonable local laws that comply with the Constitution should not be tossed aside by some liberal judge in Washington who looks to the proclamations of the EU, random African potentates and the UN, or whose view of the Constitution is an evolving one based upon changing conditions in society.

Yesterday marked two anniversaries: First, the 20th anniversary of the vote in the Senate denying consent to the appointment of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court. A defeat for prudent juridical values that ultimately resulted in Anthony Kennedy's appointment -- a terrible outcome because the nation's largest legal issues are now hostage to one man's whims since Kennedy became the swing vote on the Court.

Second, the 16th anniversary of Clarence Thomas' swearing-in as the 106th Justice of the Supreme Court. After completely bonking on his first appointment (Souter), George Bush the elder made a great appointment with Justice Thomas. Yesterday, the Justice was in Dallas for a Heritage Foundation/National Center for Policy Analysis/Federalist Society lunch to discuss his memoir and his approach to the Court and to life. A fine event that displayed Justice Thomas' humor, insight, erudition, and overall good nature.

In the WSJ yesterday, Gary McDowell discussed the fallout from the Bork defeat and what it portends for the future.

The Oslo follies

Phillip Terzian traces the fall of the Nobel Peace Prize from a prize for benevolent people of influence to a political statement boosting the transnational progressive mindset. Here's a sample:

For many years, it functioned as a kind of gold watch for elder statesmen: the American Elihu Root (1912), Aristide Briand (1926) of France, Britain's stalwart League of Nations advocate Lord Robert Cecil (1937), the Canadian Lester Pearson (1957) . . . the prize customarily went to benevolent politicians--Woodrow Wilson (1919), Gustav Stresemann (1926), Cordell Hull (1945)--to well-intentioned people--Jane Addams (1931), Ralph Bunche (1950), Albert Schweitzer (1952)--and to humanitarian organizations--International Committee of the Red Cross (1944 and 1963), U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (1954 and 1981), Doctors Without Borders (1999).

* * *
In the past few decades, however, the Nobel Peace Prize has developed a certain political edge . . . In some instances the committee has aimed its arrow at a proper target--Andrei Sakharov (1975), Lech Walesa (1983), the Dalai Lama (1989), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991)--but such lucky shots have grown increasingly rare.

In 1985, for example, the prize was awarded to International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a coalition of American and Soviet "peace activists" highly critical of the Reagan administration but notably silent on the use, in the Soviet Union, of psychiatric hospitals to silence political dissidents. The 1987 award to Costa Rica's president Oscar Arias Sánchez was an evident endorsement of the now-forgotten Arias Plan to thwart U.S. efforts against Communist insurgencies in Central America. The 1992 prize to Guatemala's Rigoberta Menchú was not only recognition for "ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples"--in the delightful language of the committee--but reward for a reliable critic of the United States and author of a (as was later discovered) fictitious autobiography.

* * *

Undoubtedly, the most egregious example was the award of the prize, in 1990, to Mikhail Gorbachev "for his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community." It may be difficult to comprehend what, exactly, the committee was saying here, but the fact that 1990 was the first year in which it felt obliged to furnish a citation suggests that, even in Oslo, the exclusion of Ronald Reagan required an explanation.

. . . [W]hat is the promotion of peace, anyway? Is it the pronouncement of words and the striking of attitudes, or the action that guarantees freedom against tyranny? Secretary of State Marshall was awarded the prize for his eponymous plan which assisted the postwar European recovery. But a stronger case could be made for another Nobel Peace Prize for General Marshall as the "organizer of victory" against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

from the weekend:

The Good:

Representative Bobby Jindal won the race to be Governor of Louisiana replacing the terrible Kathleen Blanco. Jindal is one of the brightest stars in the GOP and an effective governorship may just see him head the GOP ticket sometime in the next decade.

Alabama whupped Tennessee 41-17 to set up a huge game for the Tide against #3 ranked LSU this week.

The Bad:

Poland's Law & Justice Party headed by the Kaczynski brothers who are Eurosceptics, conservative and staunch allies of Washington lost to a centre-right party which has already promised to cozy back up to Brussels and pull troops from Iraq by the end of the year. The only good news there is President Kaczynski is in office until 2010 and has some veto power.

Mohammed El-Baradei proclaims that Iran is 3-8 years away from a nuclear weapon and therefore the West has plenty of opportunity to negotiate.

The Ugly:

Boston comes back from a 3-1 deficit vanquishing the Cleveland Indians to advance to the World Series showing the resilience and fight that is now a fading memory in the Bronx.

Monday, October 22, 2007

World Series first thought

Let's remember two things as we await the World Series:

(1) Since the advent of the three-tier playoff system in 1995, the team with more time off has won nine of 11 World Series (once the two teams had the same number of days off). The two exceptions: the Mess in 2000 lost to the Yanks; the Tigers in '06 lost to the Cards.

(2) The Rockies whupped the RedSawx at Fenway in June, including smacking Beckett around for six runs.

Now for the reality check -- a cautionary tale.

In 1999, the Yanks had a three-game series after the All-Star break with the Braves at the Stadium. The Braves whacked Clemens in game one behind a solid start from Glavine; knocked around El Duque in game two after the Yanks got to Maddux, and then came back to win with four in the 9th off Rivera; and the Yanks only beat random stiff Odalis Perez in the finale. A small measure of revenge for what the Yanks did to the Braves in '98.

The homer by Andruw Jones off Rivera was the last one Mo allowed that year; and the loss was Mo's last blown save of the season.

In the World Series, Duque mesmerized the Braves (7 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 10 K); Clemens handcuffed them in game 4; the Yanks popped three bombs off Glavine in game 3 and swept the Braves (103 wins) in four games by a 21-9 aggregate. Rivera (1-0, 2 SV and continuing his postseason scoreless streak) was the World Series MVP. Andruw Jones went 1-13. The Braves were 74-44 against righties that season (best in the majors), the Yanks' right-handed starters combined for this line: 3-0, 21.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 18 K. And one of the two runs came thanks to a bad call (the one Clemens allowed).

In other words, past performance is no indication of future results.

Sorry Rox fans.

The new Red Sawx dynasty?

Here's a Yankee fan's nightmare -- the possible dawning of a Red Sawx dynasty.

Look, there's no such thing as a dynasty if a team cannot win consecutive titles, or even consecutive pennants. So right now, there is no RedSux dynasty. But in 2008, after the Beanheads' second WS title in four years as they begin to set up for a third, you'll hear plenty about it. And possibly again in 2009 . . . And if that happens, the birthdate of that dynasty will be October 17, 2004 -- the night the Yanks blew a chance to go to another World Series in a span of six pitches; the RedSax forced the Yanks into TheGreatestChokeJobEver and the balance of power in baseball began to swing. Do you doubt it?

Neither the Yanks nor Sax were great in '05; the Redstiffs were crushed by injuries last year. But the Sawx made key moves that paid off big (Beckett, Matsuzaka, Lowell) despite the ding-dong pickups like Drew and Crisp. And the Sawx have more MLB-ready young positional talent (RoY to be Pedroia, 2008 RoY candidate Ellsbury) than the Yanks (who have some outfielders and lots of pitchers, but notsomuch on the infield), with nearly as much pitching (Lester, Buchholz).

Do you wonder why Steinbrenner(s) didn't push too hard for Torre's return? The Tampa faction of the Yankees' front office knows full well that the Redsacs are 14-3 in elimination games since 1999 (6-0 v. Cleveland, 5-2 v. Yanks, 3-0 v. A's, 0-1 v. Chisux) and also know that the Yanks have folded like origami paper since 2002 -- getting eliminated from the playoffs at their first opportunity in '02, '03, '04 and '06, and barely putting up a fight in '07. Whatever else Francona is, he's definitely in charge of his club's psyche.

And it's no coincidence that the Yanks' leadership vacuum has opened at the same time the RedSax post has been overfilled -- in 2001, the Yanks parted ways with Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill retired and they replaced those presences with Giambi; in 2003, David Ortiz became a Redsawk and changed the clubhouse for good.

So remember, if you hear about the Redsax' second WS in four years and a potential dynasty in the making -- it started on October 17, 2004; it flourished the next day when Torre had his worst managerial game ever; it re-emerged when the Sawx did what the Yanks failed to do -- show fortitude and skill against the Indians; and it could culminate in WS titles both next week, and next year.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

End of an era

Joe Torre's decision to turn down a one-year $5M contract with big incentives ends the Torre Era, but the Yankee dynasty he helped temper and guide has been dead for at least four years. Indeed, here's the list I wrote before the 2004 ALCS of the best and worst of the Torre years:

Top Playoff Wins by Series:

1. The 1999 WS Sweep over Atlanta -- one NY Times prognosticator got this right by picking the Yanks in four (either Jack Curry or Buster Olney) when everyone thought this would be a close series between the two best teams in baseball. This series was outstanding. Whacking the Braves for the second time in four years and this one was not close. This series determined who was the team of the decade on the field, not on the side of a 1995-vintage ring. Plus The Monk and Wongdoer went to game 4 and saw Clemens shut down the little Braves from the bleachers.

2. The 1998 WS Sweep over San Diego -- culmination of the season for the Best Team Ever. Tom Verducci had a great article in SI after the series discussing why the '98 Yankees were right up there with the '39 and '27 Yanks among the best teams assembled; better yet, Verducci dismissed the '75/'76 Reds completely out of hand and with good reason -- no pitching. (Like you'd pick Rawley Eastwick over Rivera? Get real).

3. The 1996 WS win over the Braves -- the one that started the 1996-2000 dynasty. I was so shocked and happy I didn't know what to do with myself. I also loved this because some git from the Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote after Games 1 and 2 that the Yanks didn't belong on the same playing field as the Braves and the Braves were a dynasty in the making along the lines of the '27 and '36-'39 Yanks. HAH.

4. The 2003 ALCS win over the RedSawx -- what a series and what a game 7. Games 3-7 are all classics. And the result meant that the earth continues to revolve around the sun.

5. The 2001 ALCS win over the Mariners -- spanking the 116-win Mariners who had pretensions of being better than the '98 Yanks was great, especially because the Ms looked so feeble throughout that series and the Stadium was electric. Baseball was the ultimate escape that season for New Yorkers and NYC ex-pats like me after the 9-11-01 attacks.


Top moments:

1. Aaron Boone's dinger.
2. Jim Leyritz's homer to tie game 4 of the '96 WS after the Yanks trailed 6-0; they won and won the next two games.
3. Tino Martinez's grand slam in the '98 WS -- I love it when the Stadium explodes for those upper deck jobs.
4. Tino's homer in game 4, 2001 WS to tie the Dbacks.
5. Brosius' homer in game 5, 2001 WS to tie the Dbacks.
6. Derek Jeter, THE FLIP.
7. Curtis' homer in game 3, '99 WS to put the Yanks up 3-0.
8. Charlie Hayes catching Mark Lemke's series-ending pop-up, game 6, 1996 WS.
9. Brosius' three-run bomb to beat Trevor Hoffman in game 3, 1998 WS.
10. Justice's homer in game 6, '00 ALCS to put the Ms away.

And for the Yankee-haters, the worst moments:

1. Luis Gonzalez's ducksnort single.
2. Aaron Boone whiffs against Braden Looper with bases loaded, one out, game 4 WS. That's why he's Aaron "f---ing" Boone to us, too.
3. Sandy Alomar's bomb in game 4, 1997 ALDS.
4. David Wells' helplessness as the Yankee defense fails on a popup in game 4, 2002 ALDS -- Soriano can't field and he honked that whole series.
5. Fred McGriff's gong-of-doom homer off the foul pole in game 1, 1996 WS. I still get ill when I see and hear the replay

Since that time there are multiple additions to the WORST moments, none to the best: (1) the WorstChokeJobEver in the '04 ALCS -- this occupies the top four spots; (2) the butterfingers Yanks bonking game 2 of the '05 ALDS with horrid fielding; (3) the complete beatdowns from the Tigers in games 3 and 4 of the '06 ALDS; (4) the Jeter DP parade in the '07 ALDS.

The Monk was shocked that Torre retained his job after WorstChokeJobEver, and I pointed out his failures time and again, including this correct analysis after the '04 World Series:

Fourth, compare the relative success of the managers in the playoffs who managed every game like the last game of the season and those who didn't: Francona led his team back from 0-3 down to the AL title and won the WS; Garner led a shoddy and depleted Houston team to within a game of the WS exceeding all expectations; Torre's Stanks fell short; LaRussa's mountain men were clobbered and he never could stop the bleeding. Why do Torre and LaRussa manage during the season like every game is a must-win and then baby their players even a slight bit in the postseason? Baffling.

Torre's continued failures in the playoffs (everyone, including me, got so caught up in the midge issue after the ALDS this year, we failed to note that Torre should have yanked Chamberlain after he gave up the four-pitch walk to Sizemore in the bottom of the 8th; the old Torre would have done just that [see 1998 WS game 1; 1999 ALCS, game 4, 5; 2000 WS, game 4; 1996 ALDS game 4, ALCS game 4, WS game 4]). Mike Lupica (see link) calls this a team with a glass jaw -- and it has been since 2002. Thus, Torre may be a constant, but the variables from 2001 to 2002 were losing O'Neill and Tino, replacing them with Giambi and (essentially) Matsui, losing Pettitte after 2003, and draining the character out of the locker room.

So here's to Joe: he presided over the most recent Yankee dynasty, but he's not the man for the next one. The Yanks made the right decision -- offer a reunion with restrictions or divorce with dignity. Joe took the latter.

Torre Done

The Joe Torre era appears to be over. Torre turned down a one-year $5 million contract with incentives that could have upped its value to $8 million paying Torre a $1 million bonus for each playoff series won with an option for 2009 that would have vested if Torre won the World Series. The base salary was a pay cut from the 3 year / $19.2 million contract that just expired.

Buster Olney has an excellent write-up describing Torre's magic in the clubhouse but also talks about his weaknesses which have plagued him since 2002:

Joe Torre never spent hours poring over statistics or videotape like a lot of young managers do these days. He wasn't a workaholic type who obsessed about getting to work earlier than his peers. ...In an era when managers seem to put in more hours than first-year lawyers or hospital residents, Torre might've put in the fewest office hours of any manager in the game.
But Torre could delve deeper into the heart of his clubhouse in a 30-second conversation with a player than some managers can in a whole season. He could make the intense Paul O'Neill laugh dolefully at himself, or ask David Cone or Mike Mussina for a suggestion, or stop a slumping youngster at his door with a shout: Hey, kid, how you doing? When Scott Brosius went to him, late in the season in 1999, and told him that he needed to go see his dying father, Torre did not hem or haw or hesitate or fret about violating a century of old-school baseball protocol. Rather, he told Brosius to go home, to be with his dad.

It was a great run but from 2002-2007 Torre's teams have underachieved and more times than not Torre's decisions have been unimaginative or poor.

The Yankees did the right thing by offering Torre a respectable contract which he turned down.

It's time to turn the page.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Still Rocked by reality

The Monk is frankly completely shocked by the Rox. Colorado not only has won 21 of 22 since standing 4.5 games behind the Padres at 76-72, and not only came back against the NL's lone Hall of Fame closer to be in a one-game playoff, and not only became the first team in the three-tier playoff era to sweep through both the LDS and LCS (since 1995, only the '95 Braves, '99 Yanks, '05 Chisawx, and '06 Tigers had even made the World Series by losing just one game), but the Rawx have won 20 of those 21 against teams with winning records!


Most impressive.

And before you think "yeah, but those are all NL teams" remember that the Rawx lost a one-run game to the Redsux at Fenway this year, then won their remaining games against the Redhos and Yanks -- whupping the Blosax in Beanville and allowing 5 runs to the Yanks in three games in Colorado. The Rawx did that in June, when a run to the World Series was little more than a fantasy even for diehard Coloradans. The radical Rawx had the best ERA in the NL over the last three months of the season, and allowed 16 runs in seven games in the playoffs -- and those games were all played at three of the four best hitters' parks in the NL. Manny Corpas is evidently Panamanian for "possible next Rivera." (Both Corpas and Rivera are from Panama).

Matt Holliday's star is getting brighter by the day.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sporting chances

ESPN has a newsmagazine, dubbed E:60, that is more 60 Minutes than Outside the Lines (ESPN's pseudo-Nightline show). The show tomorrow will have a segment on Cecil and Prince Fielder.

Prince is the slugger for the Brewers who led the NL with 50 homers. He's stout (to be kind), strong, and plays first base. Ditto his dad, Cecil. But Prince grew up largely without his father because "Big Daddy" was a big gambler: Cecil squandered his baseball millions betting. Big Daddy abandoned his wife, son and daughter and went on the lam from creditors, leaving them to pick up the pieces. Those pictures that all Tigers and Yankees fans have of a husky Prince Fielder bouncing around the baseball field and clubhouse in pregames with his dad are a distant memory -- Prince does not speak to his father, and won't speak about him.

Today's USA Today has this description of the segment:

E:60, ESPN's newsmagazine premiering Tuesday, looks at ex-MLB star Cecil Fielder's estrangement from his son, Prince of the Milwaukee Brewers. Cecil claims he went to a game to watch his son and meet his grandchildren but was forced to leave at his son's request. He says he'll "never" go to a game until Prince "grows up enough to talk to me like a man." …

Sounds like Prince has grown up more than enough to get his priorities straight.

Touch, feel, emote, repeat; but no free speech

Evidently, there is no such thing as a conservative social worker. At least no such thing seems to be allowed in schools that teach social work.

MaMonk was a social worker (MSW, Columbia) and she's remarkably level-headed . . . then again, she started in that line of work back in the 1800s and her clients wore periwigs.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good Nobel candidates, who won't win

Once again, the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Oslo has made a political award designed to support the committee's own political predilections, but not any actual notion of real peace. For an example of their idiocy, consider that the committee rewarded the man who lost the Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev, but not the man who won it and did the most to end it, Ronald Reagan. This is merely one instance. Here are some others in the postmodern internationalist world of the Nobel Committee:

1992 = Guatemalan fraud Rigoberta Menchu, who had been exposed no less than two years earlier as a fake
1994 = Yassir Arafat, a career terrorist
2000 = Kim Dae Jung, for his Neville Chamberlain approach to North Korea
2001 = Kofi Annan, the man who single-handedly prevented international intervention in Rwanda in 1994, and the United Nations, which has failed in Lebanon, Darfur, Rwanda, and the Congo in the past 15 years alone
2002 = James Earl Carter, Jr., coddler of dictators, hater of Israel, who did more to harm the West in four years than the KGB managed in 45 and who aided Islamofascism more than any other Westerner by failing to aid Reza Pahlavi in 1977-79.
2005 = The IAEA and Mohamed El Baradei, whose failures in the face of North Korean, Libyan and Iranian nuclear weapons programs will destabilize the world for decades

and now 2007, Al Gore, Jr. and the IPCC whose laughably wrong climate change analysis has been repeatedly debunked by professional climatologists, geologists, physicists; and whose prescriptions for alleviating the non-problem would cripple the world economy.

The WSJ's list of potential candidates for next year is far better than the committee's recent choices.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Not always about the money

Ian O'Connor, the reporter who had the telephone call with George Steinbrenner on Saturday where Big Stein said he didn't envision bringing Torre back if the Yanks lost to the Indians, rips into Scott Boras.

Boras is easy to bash because he is the living embodiment of greed in pro sports. He requires top dollar for all his clients, and usually gets it. But Boras does not think in one manner that should matter to his clients: championships. O'Connor rips Boras for trying to position A-Rod for a $400M deal upon opting out of his Yankees contract because it shows Boras is more concerned about the money than A-Rod's place in the history of the premier franchise in sports or the superstar's stated desire to win a championship as a Yankee. After all, the top dollar mindset landed A-Rod in Texas, and dead last place, for three years . . . staring up in the standings at his former team. See also Barry Zito -- a flop in a pitchers park in the NL after Boras secured a $126M/8 deal for the overrated pitcher.

Worse yet, and something O'Connor only mentions in passing, is Boras' lack of class:

Before the body of Joe Torre's work was cold in the Bronx, Boras was already trying to beat the manager out of town. The superagent did a series of interviews promoting A-Rod as an asset more valuable to baseball than green grass and blue skies . . .

Not really. But O'Connor's other point is well worth noting: ARod is thisclose to owning New York more than Jeter or any other superstar ever has because he does the big things (HR, RBI) and may be the Yankee leader who carries the team to the next World Series. With nine figures guaranteed already, doesn't the legacy of this great player mean more than just how his bank account looks?

Indoctrination 101

A British court held that Al Gore's climate change diatribe disguised as a movie ("An Inconvenient Truth") should be accompanied by DVD guidance notes. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit challenging the government's action to distribute 3500 copies of the movie to schools in England and Wales because, as the article linked above notes, "to distribute it without the [guidance notes] would breach education laws prohibiting the promotion of unbalanced political viewpoints."

Yep: unbalanced viewpoint indeed.

How should Joe go?

The question now is less "will the Yanks bring back Torre?" than "how will the Yanks handle Torre's departure?"

The answer should be: with class and dignity.

After all, those two words defined Torre's approach and demeanor throughout his tenure as Yankee manager. The Steinbrenner mistreatment of prior managers at the time of their dismissals (Berra, Howser, Martin, Martin, Martin) not only cemented Steinbrenner's reputation as an incorrigible hardcase and horrible boss, but dissuaded numerous top-line free agents from joining the Yanks from the late 80s through the '90s -- most famously, Greg Maddux who took 20% less to sign with the Braves in the 1992-93 offseason than the Yanks offered.

The Yanks are baseball's premier franchise. They may be cutting ties with their best manager in four decades. When and if they do, it should happen with the same level of class and dignity that Torre brought to the job. No proclamations in the press, no dumping the man through subordinates -- have Big Stein graciously deliver the news The Yanks should let Torre walk away, turn over the team immediately to (preferably) Mattingly (or Valentine or Girardi; LaRussa, Pena, Hillman and Bowa are all non-candidates) and let him serve as the man to take the team into its next cycle of success while tying the team back to its previous era of achievement. Make it all as seamless as possible to keep Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte and possibly Arod within the fold, provide stability to the kiddie corps (Joba, Kennedy, Hughes, Cabrera, Cano, possibly Clippard) and work as a unit in making the change.

That's the Yanks' task. We'll soon find out if they're up to it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fixing what's Wang

Can the Yanks fix Chien-Ming Wang? The notion that he's broken is patently ridiculous considering that he's only 27, has a career 46-18 record (.719 win rate -- which would be second best ALL-TIME if he had 100 career decisions) and has been the staff ace for the past two years. The question is, how can he adjust if his sinker is off? This year he experimented with an effective slider and against the Mess, he actually whiffed 10 men and his strikeout rate increased nearly 50% this year -- from 3.14 per 9 to 4.70. His walk rate also climbed, but it is still low (2.15 in '06, 2.66 in '07). He occasionally throws a four-seam fastball, but the signature pitch is the two-seam sinker.

Ultimately, as Verducci implied (see the link in the post below), the key to top postseason pitching is whether the man on the mound can whip a four-seam fastball past you. It may be straight, and it may not be as cool-looking as the big-hook curve or whydidIswingatthat slider. But a tight, well-placed four-seam fastball is the best pitch in baseball. Ask El Duque, who almost never topped 92 but dominated the Braves and Pads in the World Series (he also whiffed 12 in 7.1 IP in a 4-2 loss to the Mess). Ask David Wells, who has a 7-2 postseason record with the Yanks because he pounded the strike zone with four-seam fastballs (only 9 BB in 67.2 postseason IP with the Yanks). Ask Curt Schilling who still dominates at age 92 or whatever because he puts the four-seamer where he wants to, even though he no longer hits 98 mph. And that is the pitch that Wang needs to develop -- it's easier to control than the two-seamer that depends upon movement; it's easier to throw than the two-seamer that must be gripped more tightly to get the downward spin.

As Verducci noted, ABs are more important in the postseason because there is no tomorrow for the hitters -- thus they concentrate harder and either hit mistakes better (no, I cannot explain A-Rod, Matsui or Jorge either) or lay off more difficult pitches. Pounding the strike zone with well-placed four-seamers (see, 2003 Marlins) is almost a necessary talent. And every pitcher needs a backup plan if his initial approach fails. Wang had none in this postseason.

End of the Torre Era?

It's likely that yesterday was Joe Torre's last game as manager of the Yankees. Ironically, Torre did not make bad moves in this series that helped kill the Yanks. Instead, THE INDIANS WERE THE BETTER TEAM. It sucks, but it's true. The Indians beat the Yanks in every facet of the game: better relief pitching (which won game 2), better starting pitching (which was the edge in games 1 and 4), VASTLY superior clutch hitting and better fielding. For all the Indians' flaws, the Yanks met them with failures (Sabathia walked SIX hitters last Thursday after just 39 in 34 starts all season, but none scored; the Yanks had 12 hits, but 10 LOB last night; the Yanks had 7 HR in the four-game series, but six were solo shots).

The Yanks pulled out their guns, lined up their feet, and aimed: A-Rod whiffing twice on six total pitches against soft-tossing Paul Byrd, Jeter killing a rally in the 6th with a DP grounder during an awful 3-17 series, Posada's one-fer, 0 RBI series, Matsui's third-straight stinko postseason, Wang's horrific pitching (regular season = 19-7, 3.70, 199 IP, 9 HR; postseason 0-2, 19.06, 5.2 IP, 3 HR) . . . it goes on and on. The only bright spots: Cano, Cabrera, Rivera, Hughes and Damon. Not bright enough when the heart of the order (Jeter, Abreu, Arod, Matsui, Posada) combine for 4 RBI -- three in the finale.

Now what? Steinbrenner doesn't really get to "fire" Torre because Joe is in the last year of his contract. Instead, Big Stein gets to replace him with . . . probably Don Mattingly -- who would be a fine choice. But the real question is, where did the Yanks tank?

The Great Verducci noted that the Yanks starters have been awful in their 4-13 run of putrescence starting in game 4 of the 2004 ALCS: no Yankee starter has completed 7 innings and picked up a win in that stretch. Indeed, only one Yankee starter has even completed 7 innings -- Mike Mussina in the game 2 loss to the Tigers last year; and the Yanks have just 5 quality starts. None has even come close to the performance of Fausto Carmona in game 2 this year or Jeremy Bonderman and Kenny Rogers last year.

In 1996, the Yanks had a paltry five quality starts in 15 playoff games. But two became legendary -- the game 3 and 5 World Series starts by Cone and Pettitte. Twice in the ALCS, the Yanks received 8-inning two-run starts by their starters. From 1998-2001, the Yanks received 9/13, 10/12, 8/16, and 9/17 quality start ratios -- and some of the others just missed the cut. Verducci complains that the Yanks lack power pitchers among the starters, this is basically true (Wang is not a strikeout pitcher but he throws 95-97). Even in the championship runs, the Yanks did not necessarily have overpowering pitchers (Clemens is an exception) but they had pitchers who got a lot of strikeouts (Cone, El Duque, Mussina). More importantly, the pitchers would constantly throw strikes, adjust throughout the game, and never give in (see Pettitte in game 2 this year) -- that's why El Duque (2-1, 27.2 IP, 2.28 ERA, 34 K in World Series starts with the Yanks) was a great postseason pitcher and Cone (1.40 WS ERA, but 4.28 in ALCS) was a dang good one. Wang did not do that, and he failed. The young kids like Hughes, Chamberlain, and Kennedy seem cut from that mold. Perhaps getting the dogged Cone into the fold to help Wang adjust his mental game would help.

The lone fear The Monk currently has is the rumbling that Rivera may not stay. He had an off year, but showed in the playoffs why he is invaluable. Beyond that, losing ARod and Posada would be very bad, but not necessarily fatal. The Yanks have bashed their way to the playoffs for four years, and do not even have a pennant to show for it. The 1997-2003 teams finished no worse than 4th in pitching, netted five pennants and three rings. The Yanks have restocked their farm system, have some decent position players coming through the ranks, have many pitchers (including top prospects shelved this year for Tommy John surgery) in development and can still spend on both foreign imports and domestic draft picks.

The future probably begins in 2008 -- not just the immediate season, but the next cycle of Yankee teams. It will be interesting; hopefully it will also be successful.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What a mess, again

This is not clutch baseball: Wang bonking into a 1 IP, 4 ER performance in an elimination game, ARod and Posada swinging straight through fat pitches. This is not good luck: flair hits that score runs with two outs on pitchers' pitches. Neither of these things are Torre's fault.

Last year the Yanks' suck factor in the ALDS included large helpings of Torre. This year, a 1-11 Posada, 2-13 Jeter and 0-forever-with-RISP ARod are the largest contributors to the Yanks' suck level. I cannot find any issue with Torre with those problems.

Missus Jones gives back the medals

The Monk knows he's a hard-a** but I think I'm one of the few people I know who has any clue about who Marion Jones is and who is NOT surprised she got busted for cheating. Today, she reportedly gave back her medals from the 2000 Olympics. That would be the same Olympics her weightlifter (ex-)husband got thrown out of for doping.

That would also be the same Olympics in which her later boyfriend (and baby daddy of her son Timothy) Tim Montgomery won a gold medal as part of the US 4x100 relay team. Montgomery had his records and medals from March 2001 wiped out after he admitted using steroids in his BALCO investigation testimony.

Jones ruled the track world more thoroughly than any of her predecessors -- she was the first million-dollar female track athlete, had a huge endorsement contract with Nike (including those Mrs. Jones DJ ads) and received 70-80K per race as an appearance fee. Not bad.

Now she's broke thanks to terrible financial decisions, and disgraced. Many thought she was a great champion, now she's just a great fraud. And she's just shy of her 32nd birthday (10-12) -- she'll have to live with the disgrace for decades.

Lost on LOST again

The Monk previously blasted the Bush Administration's inclination to sign the Law of the Sea Treaty nearly four months ago. Today, Pres. Reagan's former NSA and AG have a joint op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that points out why Reagan opposed the Law of the Sea Treaty and even Pres. Clinton refused to present it to the Senate!

. . . LOST's supporters, including some of our colleagues from the Reagan administration, insist that the 1994 Agreement [that allegedly addressed Pres. Reagan's objections] "fixed" the previously unacceptable Part XI provisions. As [Ambassador] James Malone explained to a conference on the Law of the Sea Treaty before his untimely death more than a decade ago:

"All the provisions from the past that make such a [new world order] outcome possible, indeed likely, still stand. It is not true, as argued by some, and frequently mentioned, that the U.S. rejected the Convention in 1982 solely because of technical difficulties with Part XI. The collectivist and redistributionist provisions of the treaty were at the core of the U.S. refusal to sign."

He added, "The regime's structural arrangements place central planning ahead of free market interests in determining influence over world resources; and yet, the collapse of socialist central planning throughout the world makes this a step in the wrong direction."

In a comment that is, if anything, even more true at present, Ambassador Malone observed that: "Today, not only are the seabed mining provisions inadequately corrected, and the collectivist ideologies of a now repudiated system of global central planning still imbedded in the treaty, new and potentially serious concerns have arisen."

Currently, these include: the increasingly brazen hostility of the United Nations and other multilateral institutions to the United States and its interests; the organization's ambition to impose international taxes, which would allow it to become still less transparent and accountable to member nations; the determination of European and other environmentalists to impose the "precautionary principle" (a Luddite, "better safe than sorry" approach that requires proof no harm can come from any initiative before it can be undertaken); the increasing practice of U.S. courts to allow "universal jurisprudence" to trump American constitutional rights and laws; and the use of "lawfare" (multilateral treaties, tribunal rulings and convention declarations) by adversaries of the U.S. military as asymmetric weapons to curtail or impede American power and operations.

Such developments only serve to reinforce the concerns President Reagan rightly had about the central, and abiding, defect of the Law of the Sea Treaty: its effort to promote global government at the expense of sovereign nation states--and most especially the United States. One of the prime movers behind LOST, the late Elisabeth Mann Borgese of the World Federalist Association (which now calls itself Citizens for Global Solutions), captured what is at stake when she cited an ancient aphorism: "He who rules the sea, rules the land." A U.N. publication lauding her work noted that Borgese saw LOST as a "possible test-bed for ideas she had developed concerning a common global constitution."

The US should reject the LOST again.

At least one more . . .

The Yanks stayed alive in the playoffs with their 8-4 win over Cleveland last night. Of all the ALDS and NLDS teams that started the weekend down 0-2, the Yanks are the only team to extend their series. Three sweeps in the LDS round is a first for the expanded playoffs started in 1995.

Thumbs way down to the Angels (9-1 loss, outscored by aggregate 19-4) and Cubs (5-1 loss, 16-6 aggregate bonk), each of whom rolled over at home; thumbs only mildly down to the Phils, who at least engaged in a dogfight with the Rox before bonking on Saturday night.

For the Yanks, say what should be said about Johnny Damon's crucial three-run bomb and the clutch hitting by Cabrera and Cano, the reality is the season is over without the excellent relief work by Phil Franchise (3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 K). As for the rest of the team -- it still largely stinks. The Yanks have 10 RBI in the three games, Damon has 5, Cano and Cabrera have 2 each. The 4-5-6 hitters have two hits (all yesterday, all singles) and 0 RBI. Derek Jeter is a perennial 100+ run scorer, he hasn't scored, has just one hit, and bounced into two DPs yesterday -- he's been a hole in the lineup and made an error (wrongly scored as a hit) that led to the Indians' first run yesterday.

Tonight's game is interesting not only because the Yanks seek to tie the series, but because Indians manager Eric Wedgie is leaving a bullet in the team's collective gun. Which is more daunting for an opponent: trailing 2-1 and having to win against two of the four best pitchers in the AL to win the five-game series, or trailing 2-1 and having to beat one pitcher that your team has routinely hit well, then having to face just one of the opponent's two best pitchers to win the series? The question answers itself, but not to Wedgie - he's starting Paul Byrd tonight and Sabathia Wednesday if necessary instead of Sabathia tonight and potentially Carmona (who manhandled the Yanks) Wednesday.

The issue is irrelevant if the Indians beat the crap out of Wang again; but if not, the Cleveland press will wonder why Wedgie reserved his best weapons in a series where each game is crucial (see 2001 ALDS -- Oakland up 2-1 starts Cory Lidle instead of making the Yanks beat both Mulder and Hudson to win the series; Lidle bonks and the Yanks trip Mulder in game 5). Unlike the 2001 A's, the Indians would only have one ace pitcher hurling on three days' rest because of the off-day between games 4 and 5 (which did not exist in 2001).

A note on the decision to pitch Wang on three days' rest: Torre has either smartened up from last season or smartened up from game 1 of this ALDS. Last year, with the season on the line, Torre started unreliable head-case Jaret Wright in Game 4 of the ALDS; Yanks lost 8-3. At least in 2005, the Yanks had Shawn Chacon who had been ace-caliber since he came to the team to pitch game 4 (and he responded with a fine outing). This year, Torre's not relying upon an unreliable pitcher (Moooooooose) with the season on the line and not setting up Wang to pitch a game 5 on the road (2.75 home ERA, 4.91 road ERA this year). The book on sinkerballers is that they are fine on short rest because the tired arm helps the ball stay down. We shall see.

In other news, The Monk actually got one right on three occasions -- I correctly picked the winner of each of the other divisional series.

In yet more other news, the Giants won again -- this time 35-24 over the semi-moribund J E T S JetsJetsJets. Give the Jints credit -- the defense allowed just 10 points (the Jets scored on a fumble recovery and a KO return), picked off three passes and the offense turned around from a putrid first half to a sharp attack in the second half to reverse a 17-7 halftime deficit. Kudos to Plaxico Burress, nicknamed "Plexiglass" when he was a Steeler for a soft reputation -- Burress doesn't practice because he has a high ankle sprain (which takes weeks to overcome) but plays hard each week. Yesterday he had 120+ yards and a fantastic catch-stiffarm-and-run TD that put the Giants on top for good.

And in the sports world's news of the weird (or "that's why they play the game"): USC ran up nearly twice the yardage (459-235) against outmanned and outgunned 41-point underdog Stanford (now 2-3) . . . and lost thanks to FOUR interceptions, a blocked PAT, and a defensive meltdown in the fourth quarter. This goes into the annals of colossal bonks. Yipes. I don't blame the local LSU fans for being overjoyed (they're still bitter that LSU had a split national title in '03 with USC, although USC was the better team and got shafted out of the "BCS title game" process by idiot computers that listed Oklahoma ahead of the Trojans despite OU's 35-7 loss in the Big 12 title game).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Torre's final game?

In an interview yesterday, George Steinbrenner said Joe Torre probably would not be back to manage the Yankees next year if they lose to the Indians. Do you blame him? Seriously?

I said before that Joe unquestionably deserves praise for how he handled the team after it started 21-29. But the team is 2/3 of the way toward getting creamed in the playoffs for the second straight year by a team the Yanks completely crushed during the regular season. If the Yanks go out in 3, it would be their first 3-0 loss since 1980, the game 3 would be their sixth-straight playoff loss, and it would be their fourth-straight series loss in the playoffs -- more uncharted negatives for the greatest franchise in sports.

Indeed, the first two innings of this game have shown twice a major problem of Torre when the team is down -- complacency. The Yanks failed to run in Game 5 of the '04 ALCS when knuckleballer Tim Wakefield pitched to unable-to-catch-the-knuckler Jason Varitek, and the Yanks couldn't score despite three passed balls. Tonight already the Yanks have bounced into two weak DPs after leadoff singles by players completely capable of stealing a base.

The Yankees of the future (Hughes, Sanchez, Joba, Kennedy, Austin Jackson, Alberto Gonzalez) are the players who will replace the Torre guys. The farm system has been restocked by the excellent work of Damon Oppenheimer and Brian Cashman. Torre is not the manager to take that group into the future. Who is? Mattingly, Girardi, Mike Scioscia (if the Angels are stupid enought to let him go), Bob Melvin. That group will have to revive the franchise.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dramatically cruel

That's the baseball playoffs in a nutshell. A six-month 162-game season can be over in three nights. That's the reality that the Cubs and Phils face, and which the Angels and/or Yanks will face with a loss tonight. History says the Cubs and Phils are sunk: in the NL, only the 1984 Padres and 1981 Dodgers have won a best-of-five series after losing games one and two. And both those teams closed with three at home after games 1 and 2 on the road.

In the AL, the big turnaround is more common, but not a regular occurrence. The Brewhahas first did it in the 1982 ALCS, but had the advantage of games 3-5 at home. Ditto the Mariners in 1995 against the Yanks.

In 1999, the RedSawx became the first team to have to win three straight in two venues -- losing games 1 and 2 in Cleveland, winning twice in the Ratden, and then winning a shootout in Cleveland. Two years later, the Yanks became the only team to go down 2-0 at home and win a five-game series by winning games 3 and 4 on the road (Oakland). In '03 the A's choked another 2-0 lead -- this time to the RedStiffs.

So the Cubs have some hope after falling down 0-2 on the road; the Phils have nearly none as they travel to Denver down 0-2. After their late season runs, the likelihood is that those two will be out before the weekend ends.

A quick end after a long season.

And a ratings nightmare NLCS for TBS -- Arizona v. Colorado. That's worse than the worst possible ALCS ratings matchup of Indians/Angels.

Game 1 post-mortem

Ultimately, for all the grumping I had about Torre, the fact is that the players bonked game 1 last night, and none of the loss is ultimately the manager's fault. Torre put Posada right where Jorge could do serious damage to the Tribe, and the All-Star catcher failed miserably in two crucial situations. Cleveland Manager Eric Wedge's decision to pitch around A-Rod in the fifth worked.

Wang is the staff ace (19-6 in '06, 19-7 in '07) and needs to handle that responsibility, even if his home/road splits are out of whack (2.75 ERA at the Stadium, 4.91 on the road). He's the winningest pitcher in baseball over the past two seasons and it's not a fluke (20 quality starts in 30 games started this year -- the same rate as Josh Beckett).

This year, Wang allowed 9 HR in 199.1 IP during the regular season, and just 3 in 88 IP on the road; last year, he allowed 12 HR in 218 IP -- that's 21 HR over 417.1 IP in the past two years. It's an excellent rate of one HR per nearly 20 IP. But in his two playoff starts in those years, he's allowed 3 HR in 11.1 IP; overall in three playoff starts, Wang has allowed 4 HR in 18 IP -- A Kei Igawa rate of one every 4.5 IP. That's a small sample, but it's atrocious.

By the numbers, the Indians are toast -- the Yanks are 14-10 in playoff series game 1 under Torre and 8-2 in the series after losing game 1. Better yet, they're 5-0 in the ALDS after bonking game 1, and they have Pettitte (3-1, 1.98 in ALDS game 2 after Yankees' loss in game 1) pitching tonight. Then again, past results are not predictive of future occurrences.

Note that size of the victory for the Indians is irrelevant -- ask Kenny Lofton how much it meant that the RedSawx whupped Cleveland 11-3 at the Jake in game 1 of the '98 ALDS (Cleveland won the series in four). Talk to the members of the '96 Braves (16-1 in grabbing a 2-0 lead over the Yanks in the WS) too -- there are plenty still playing (Glavine, Maddux, Smoltz, Chipper, Dye, Andruw, Klesko). Nonetheless, Tom Verducci is entirely correct that the Yanks' playoff starting pitching from game 4 of the ALCS (and it sucked in game 3, but they won) to present has been brutal: 2-8, 6.47 ERA, 90 hits in 70+ IP. Only Wang (game 1, 2006) and Mussina (game 1, 2005) had wins; only Wang (game 2, 2005; game 1, 2006); Chacon (game 4, 2005) and Moooooooooose (game 5, 2004 ALCS) had quality starts over the course of fourteen games, and no one has pitched at least seven and won.

Momentum is only as good as the next game's starting pitcher. If Pettitte honks, the Yanks are in deep voodoo.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Game one notes

I'm writing this after Wang bonked AGAIN and gave up Martinez's homer. Here are the keys to this game through 5 innings:

(1) Wang's been horrible. Joe could have taken him out in the third or fourth. Wang has pitched from underneath the ball and his sinker has floated throughout the game.

(2) Jorge has been atrocious: two crucial whiffs -- one out, first-and-second in the 1st; one out, bases loaded in the 5th. Just awful on two occasions he needed to do something positive.

(3) The only explanation for Joe deciding to play the completely overmatched and clueless Matsui tonight is the possibility that Mientkevitz's leg problem would potentially force him out of the game. That explanation is not the truth, because Torre had Matsui in the lineup yesterday, not Duncan. Matsui has been overmatched -- like a high schooler against Sabathia.

(4) Bruce Froemming's strike zone is ridiculously small. No one should swing at a breaking ball because if it's anywhere near the edge of the zone, it's a ball. This game is 2.5 hours old in the bottom of the 5th.

(5) Chip Caray is p-----g me off. Pure rooting for the Indians. Ass.

The Indians are hitting all the fat high pitches the Yanks are throwing. The Yanks have done nothing once Sabathia's been in trouble.

Piniella's ponk

In game 4 of the 2003 WS, Torre bonked. He used Jeff Weaver, an out-of-favor, last-pitcher-on-the-roster starter who hadn't pitched in the whole postseason. The game was in the balance -- tied in extra innings. Torre wanted to save Rivera for a save situation because the Yanks were on the road. The Yanks squandered good scoring opportunities (Aaron Boone = whiffed with bases loaded, one out) and Weaver gave up a walk-off homer to lose the game. Before that loss, the Yanks had suffered zero losses on walk-off homers in the playoffs under Torre, but had inflicted about six. Walk-off homers are devastating to the team that loses, but the real lesson is that Torre played for tomorrow, not today, by resting Rivera in favor of a lesser pitcher. The Marlins had no clue how to hit Rivera -- they were completely overmatched. The Marlins won the next two games of the series and the 2003 title; Rivera saw only mop up duty in game 6.

Yesterday, Lou Piniella went stupid. He played for later, not for today -- a cardinal sin in the playoffs. Worse yet, he played for a later that may not arrive -- preparing for a possibly unnecessary game 4 at the expense of game 1. Although NLDS have become more competitive (five of six from 1995-97 were sweeps), 11 of the previous 24 have been sweeps and in the NLDS, game 1 matters a lot (21 of 24 winners won the series). So Piniella's decision to sit Carlos Zambrano after just 85 pitches yesterday to keep him fresh for a game 4 start on three days' rest was stupid. Even if the Cubs get to game 4, the odds are now 75% against a Cubs' 2-1 lead (based on equal likelihood for each team to win each of the next two games), therefore keeping Zambrano, playing for game 1 and potentially winning could have set the Cubs up for the 75% possibility of Zambrano pitching to close the series in game 4, not save it.

Piniella also displayed a preposterous ignorance of his own pitcher. Zambrano is a big, strong, power pitcher who would throw 275-300 innings each year if he could. He'd fit perfectly within a 1960s four-man rotation where the starters racked up 315 innings, 20 complete games and 85% of the staff innings (Sabathia is like that too). He's not a guy who needs to be babied or have his pitch count closely monitored (*cough*Pedro*cough*). And no top starter needs a hook after just 85 pitches.

Lou messed up.

Things that make you go hmm and a prediction

Jayson Stark had the best stat of the day yesterday: a comparison of A-Rod's postseason totals with those of Vlady Guerrero:

Guerrero -- 9-for-50, .180, one home run, 7 RBIs, .240 slugging percentage
A-Rod -- 37-for-132, .280, six home runs, 16 RBIs, .485 slugging percentage


Note that Guerrero is now 11-for-52 after a 2-4 night yesterday.

Another tidbit was Stark's revelation that Joe Borowski has 15 "perfect" saves to Rivera's 10 -- a save of at least 1 IP and no baserunners. But Borowski had 45 saves, Rivera 30; thus their perfect save rate is the same: 33%. More impressive are Bobby Jenks (21/40) and Jonathan Papelbon (19/37). Most misleading, Francisco Cordero of the Brewhas who had a 6.55 road ERA but 1.09 at home and 20 perfect saves even though his road travails in the middle of the season helped cost the Brewhahas their division.

Kudos to the prognosticators who were more logical than their ESPN brethren: 7 of 11 picked the Yanks over the Indians in the ALDS and one who picked the Indians admitted he despised the thought of another Redsawx-Yanks ALCS (he also picked the soon-to-be three-and-out Angels; I'll rip on those who hate Yankees-RedSawx ALCS matchups later this month, if appropriate). And SI, long dominated by the Chicago mindset of its headquarters city, is traditionally anti-Yankees (except the admirably neutral Tom Verducci whose elevation to national baseball writer in the past decade led directly to toning down the anti-Yankee tone of the coverage).

As I said yesterday, the logic of picking the Indians relies on faith in their 1-2 starters, discounting the Yanks' ability greatly, and ignoring the absolute beatings the Yanks delivered in the regular season. Of course the Indians can win and very well may, but looking at the matchup from a logical perspective could only lead to a Yankees in ___ prediction.

In this case, Yanks in 4.

Boy I hope I'm at least correct in the winner, if not necessarily the length of the series.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rox outpitch the Phils

In a scintillating offense-laden game (8 hits, combined), the Rox beat the Phils 4-2 in game 1 of the NLDS today. The same Rockies starter against whom the Philly lineup had batted 28-for-58 went six innings and gave up four hits and just two solo HR.

And The Monk's old friend Tom Gordon is back in full form -- he gave up the insurance run (a Matt Holliday HR) that helped the Rox ice the game. Gordon is useless in the playoffs (career ERA 7.32 in the playoffs before this year, now 7.52) and was the unqualified goat of the 2004 ALCS fiasco (6.1 IP, 6 ER, blew game 5, nearly blew game 1). He may be a nice guy, and did solid work during the regular season as a set-up man for Mo in 2004 and 2005, but he is a liability in the postseason, period.

Seriously, there are just some guys who bonk in the playoffs. My favorite example is Ed Figueroa, a major part of the Yankees' rotation in their three pennant-winning seasons of 1976-78. Figgie went 19-10, 16-11 and 20-9. In '76 he led the team in wins; in '77 he tied for the team lead. In '78 he was one of only two reliable and healthy starters the Yanks had all year (Guidry at 25-3, 1.74 and Cy Young all the way was the other). In other words, he was a top-of-the-rotation guy.

But Figgie was a playoff bust: 0-4, 7.47 ERA, 53 baserunners in 31.1 IP over 7 poor-to-putrid starts. The Yanks won despite him in four of the five playoff series in which he pitched -- in the '77 WS, Martin benched him for a rotation that went Gullett-Hunter (shelled)-Torrez-Guidry-Gullett-Torrez. Very strange how the playoffs work -- some solid guys can handle (Tommy John, 6-3, 2.63; Joe Niekro, 0 ER in 20 IP), some middling guys excel (Jack Billingham), some top guys just stink.

Let the Playoffs begin!

With the baseball playoffs here, The Monk has a few items to cover. You may have expected that. Unfortunately for my stomach flutters, but perhaps fortunately for my blood pressure, the Yanks start their series tomorrow. Then again, there's a blood pressure raising occurrence that's ticking me off daily, which I'll discuss below.

First, some facts and predictions. In the NLDS, The Monk likes . . . no one. Each of the teams has some massive flaw. Then again, every observer thought only one NL team capable of winning the World Series last year . . . and it wasn't the Cards.

The real oddity is that perhaps the two best teams are playing each other: the Rox and Phils. Based on their Pythagorean W-L numbers (basically a runs scored/runs allowed equation of RS*RS/(RS*RS)+(RA*RA)), the Rox are the NL's best team, and the Phils are #2. I think the Rox pitching is deeper (yeah, you read that right) and they have an extensive group of solid relievers; the Phils are only strong at closer. Each team has a mammoth banger (Holliday/Howard), a superstar in the middle infield (Tulowitzki/Rollins and Utley) and solid secondary sluggers (Helton and Atkins, Burrell and Rowand). The question becomes whether the Phils get spooked by pitching in Denver. If so, Rox in 4; if not, Rox in a riotous 5.

The Cubs-Snakes series is interesting because the Cubs have potentially the best top three starters of any NL team (Zambrano-Lilly-Hill) but big Z has been an enigma all year (13 starts of 4+ ER for the ace?). The Cubs have some power (Lee, Sori, Ramirez), the Snakes have superior balance (nine players with 10+ HR), and the Snakes have a better bullpen. This should be interesting, but I think the Snakes can win in 5.

The RedSux-Angels series is regrettable in a way -- this time the Yanks could whack the Angels badly and will not play them. LAA is missing its centerfielder (Matthews), starting RF (Guerrero can only DH), has weakness in its vaunted bullpen (Shields has been awful since the All-Star Game) and is really a bit ragged right now. The Angels also cannot handle the RedSux (4-6 this year, Lackey is awful in Bastin), period. This series is the most likely candidate for a sweep. The Redhos will wrap up in 4.

Some notes and a rant:

(1) Since 1995, teams that won game 1 of the NLDS are 21-3 in the series; teams that won game 1 of the ALDS are 11-13 and only 4-13 in series that were not sweeps. The Yanks are 5-0 in the ALDS after losing game 1; only 2-5 after winning game 1 and 0-5 in non-sweeps.

(2) The 2006 LDS round tied with 1998 and 1996 for fewest first-round games between all teams -- 14. None went the full five games.

(3) Arizona's 90 wins are the lowest total for any team with the best-record-in-a-league since the advent of the 162-game schedule in 1961 (courtesy Jon Heyman, and no the 1981 season doesn't count). Even before the 162-game schedule, only 6 pennant winners ever won fewer than 90 during the World Series era (excluding 1918, when WWI shortened the season to <130 games).

(4) Playoff experience means zip. Ask the RedSawx how their playoff experience in 2004 helped them when they were swept out of the playoffs in 2005, or the Yanks from 2002 or 2006 who bonked against callow teams, or even the Yanks from 2000 who barely scraped by a bunch of playoff neophytes from Oakland. What an overstated, misleading concept.

Here's the rant: I'm sick of the ESPN Yankee-hating. Unless the prognosticator picked the Indians to win it all, or at least the AL, in the beginning of the year (Buster Olney, who admits this explains his pick), there is no logic to explain picking the Indians over the Yanks in the ALDS, as seven of the 10 ESPN talking heads did. Not only did the Yanks win the season series 6-0, but four games were complete beatings and in a fifth the Yanks rallied with a six-run ninth off the Indians' closer. I understand fully that the Yanks didn't face Sabathia (Indians at bats v. Wang this year? ZERO) and that Sabathia/Carmona is probably the best one-two starting punch in the league. I also understand that the Indians have the two Raffys in their set-up relief group (who should be offset by the one Joba). But to claim that this means the Indians are the better team or should win after completely failing to do so in the regular season is illogical . . . just like Steve Phillips claiming the Ms would win the wild card when the Yanks had caught them with 45 games to go.

I am mentally prepared for the Yanks to bonk -- they did so last year against the Tigers after dominating that team in the regular season and the Indians are only slightly more experienced in the playoffs than that Tiger team; and the Yanks have had more than their share of issues in recent playoffs (bad managing and no hitting v. RedSawx; crappy fielding against Angels; getting whupped v. Tigers). I do think that the 2007 team is different from the 2004-06 teams. Reasons are simple: Andy Pettitte's competitive fire and that of Clemens; Joba in the 'pen; the crazy kids who helped revive the team all year; and a more at-ease A-Rod.

Talk and bandwidth are cheap. Tomorrow, Friday, Sunday and perhaps Monday and Wednesday, we'll find out if I'm right.

Iran and Latin America

Worrisome column here: Daniel Erikson discusses the entree into Latin America that Hugo Chavez has provided Ahmadinejad. And the Bush Administration's weakness in dealing with petty dictators in our own hemisphere has only helped Chavez's ambition to unite the Caribbean and Arabian Seas.

An SCHIP off the socialist block

George Will dissects the debate over the SCHIP program that Congress passed, and which Pres. Bush is expected to (and ought to) veto. The program subsidizes state health insurance for children in families who earn up to 200% of the poverty line income. Congress wants to double that to 400% -- that would cover a family of four with a total annual income of more than $80,000. Here's Will's pithy summary of how the plan would be covered by a new tax:

The president proposed a $5 billion increase for SCHIP over five years. In a familiar Washington folk dance, the Senate voted a $35 billion increase, and the House endorsed a $50 billion increase but receded to the Senate sum, which was therefore declared moderate. The increase supposedly would be funded by a 61-cent increase in the cigarette tax.

So, this health legislation depends on a constantly large and renewable supply of smokers—22 million new ones. This "progressive" measure requires a regressive tax (smokers are predominantly and increasingly lower class) levied to expand subsidized health insurance ever upward into the middle class.

Only in Washington does this pass for logic.

The Monk has the same basic opposition to this bill that Will does -- it's another step toward HillaryCare. And the last thing the US needs is socialized medicine.

The Bear fact -- a KGB state in Russia

The WSJ reflects upon the reign of Vladimir Putin, and warns that the US can expect more authoritarian neo-imperialism from Russia after Putin steps down as President because he will be the new Russian Prime Minister.

There's an unquestionable Rasputin quality to this, without the beard.

All interesting stuff -- the Inside Edge

Inside Edge scouting service has scouted all the major league teams. The service grades each primary player (starters, frequent relievers) on a large variety of criteria. The Joba report card is above. Calling Joba an "A-" pitcher is a huge compliment -- Inside Edge grades on a B- curve such that statistics that match the major league average net the player a B-. The two Indians Cy Young candidates each earned a B+ overall rating, the Yanks' top two starters earned B- overall ratings, and the top two NL MVP candidates earned B+ ratings (Rollins and Holliday). A-Rod earned an A-, Posada and Jeter B+ each. Indians catcher Victor Martinez net an A-, Grady Sizemore a B+. Surprisingly, Indians closer Joe Borowski received an average grade of B-.

Pitchers are graded on the quality of their control, ability to finish off hitters and ability to ensure hitters do not hit the ball well (Pettitte excels at this), among other criteria. ERA and normal statistical measures (WHIP ratio, K, etc.) are irrelevant. Hitters are graded on quality of their at bats, tendency to chase bad pitches, ability to avoid whiffing with two strikes (Cabrera and Cano are especially poor here), clutch at bats, and where they hit the ball best (high, middle, low; inside, outside, mid-plate), not on raw numbers like HR or RBI. Very interesting stuff for a baseball geek.

The full reports are available for the playoff teams at[team abbreviation]. The abbreviations are "nyy" "cle" "laa" "ari" "chc" "phi" and "col". For some reason, the RedSux report cards do not come up when using the "bos" team abbreviation.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rox in their heads

That's how the Pads will live out the off-season, with the Rockies in their heads and big questions about Trevor Hoffman. The Rockies made a fantastic run in the end of the season by winning 14 of their final 15, including all four against the Padres and two of three against the Dbacks (not to mention whupping the previously in-the-race Dudgers seven times).

The Padres choked twice in the last three games: first, they lost to Milwaukee the day after they eliminated the Brewhahas from the playoff chase when the Pads were one strike away from a playoff spot (two out, one on, bottom 9th, Hoffman to Tony Gwynn Jr. with two strikes on him . . . bang, triple, game tied); then Hoffman choked a two-run lead in the bottom of the 13th last night by getting just one out and letting in three runs. No comment on Jake Peavy, the probable Cy Young Award winner, bonking in a big game . . . again.

Hoffman and Mariano Rivera will be remembered as the best closers of this era in baseball. Hoffman has more total saves, and more seasons as a closer. But Rivera (8-1, 0.80, 34 SV in 39 opp; 1999 WS MVP, 2003 ALCS MVP) has the postseason resume that Hoffman (1-2, 3.43, 4 SV in 6 opp) can only dream about. And despite his skills, that's yet another big choke for Hoffman who bonked two saves in the 1998 playoffs after converting 53 of 54 in the regular season.

As for the Rox: Troy Tulowitzki is the NL equivalent of Derek Jeter -- he plays hard, great skill, and is a winner. There's my RoY vote, now where's my ballot?

The Rockies and Phils are set to begin a playoff series tomorrow, the DBacks won the NL West, and the Brewhahas competed for their division all year. This shows that small/hitter-friendly ballparks are not deterrents to on-field success. The Rangers and Reds should take note.

Out of control

What is it about being a school administrator that makes a person an incoherent, unthinking, petty dictator?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ignorance and Senators -- like white and rice

They just go together.

First, John McCain's statement that this nation was founded upon Christian values and therefore he would prefer a president with a "solid grounding in my faith" to a Muslim.

The statement is stupid because it is ignorant: there is no such thing as Christian values without reference to Judaism. Indeed, it is when Christians lose sight of the history of their religion and its foundation in Judaism, that Christians lose touch with morality (Inquisition, Crusades) because they deny their own precedents and forget that their own Gospels show that but for a Jew, there is no Christianity.

The statement is also ridiculous. Other than the personal religious test McCain imposes upon presidential candidates, the notion that Muslim or Hindu or Jewish values are at odds with American values and principles is rubbish. Millions of people of those religions live and prosper in America as integral parts of this society. Indeed, America's assimilation rate for Muslims is one of the primary reasons that insane jihadi nutters have so little success turning local mosques into an American equivalent of the Finsbury Park Mosque in London. Those 9-11 hijackers were not born and raised in America, yet so many European terror cell members are Muslims born and bred in their respective countries (Germany, France, UK).

Second, the criticism of Rush Limbaugh by Senate Democrats. The statement Limbaugh allegedly made was calling anti-war troops "phony soldiers." The statement he actually made was to call Jesse MacBeth, a soldier who lied about his status, awards and training, and popped off in antiwar comments to the media, a "phony soldier" because he washed out of boot camp and never went to Iraq and saw the horrors he claimed to have witnessed. The Democrats are being completely disgusting about the whole affair, but that's because the story is too good to pass up, regardless of the facts.

Big Blue Drubs Donovan

The Giants tied an NFL record last night by sacking Donovan McNabb TWELVE times in their 16-3 win over the Eagles. That's incredible enough. Now add in the Osi Umenyiora factoid -- he sacked McNabb SIX times. That's ridiculous! We're talking more Madden '08 video game results for the Giants, only this time they were good ones. Simply stated, the Giants played great defense. That's good, because their offense was poor and the kicking game stank (a bricked 34-yard field goal and missed PAT). This is just the second win for the Giants against a McNabb-led Eagles team since 2001, and last year's win was a fluke as the Giants turned a 24-7 halftime deficit into a 30-24 OT win with some great plays by Eli Manning and a freak fumble-recovery TD.

Here's what else we know: (1) the Giants can adjust to their opponents; (2) the Eagles cannot.

Yesterday was a prime example of Andy Reid's great weakness -- poor in-game adjustments. He NEVER shifted anyone to help LT Winston Justice block Umenyiora and left the tackle, who was a fill-in for Tra Thomas, on his own. Reid also never adjusted the Philly game plan to take advantage of the Giants' weak midfield pass coverage. This is poor coaching, boys and girls.

Good for the Jints: they're 2-2 after a brutal start, have allowed only a field goal in the last six quarters and with respect to previous opponents, suck only in comparison to a pair of teams rolling along at 4-0. Not horrible at all.

An unholy Mess

I mentioned the giant sucking sound from Shea Stadium (not the sewage alligators whose homes were paved over when the edifice went up), and Bob Klapisch today notes what the Mets lacked -- fire. The Marlins came into yesterday's game more intent on sending the Mets home for the offseason than the Mess were intent to win and play on.

That's disgraceful.

Also disgraceful is the performance and attitude of Tom Glavine. The future Hall-of-Famer sucked (0.2 IP, 5H, 7ER) and acted as if everything was ok ("a coupla flares"). Then again, he sucked for the final three starts of his season, all against poor teams (Marlins twice, Nats once), and all in pitcher-friendly parks. The Mess' fans should not only be displeased with how Glavine pitched, but his stoic reaction -- when Andy Pettitte lost two games in the 2001 WS, he descended into deep despair believing that he'd cost the Yanks the Series (he hadn't -- Stottlemyre's failure to catch how Pettitte was tipping his pitches hurt more, after all, that's the pitching coach's JOB; and of course, fielding woes in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 did their part). Roger Clemens was beside himself after stinking up the Stadium in Game 7 of the '03 ALCS.

But the disgust level among the Mess was way too low throughout the team's locker room in the wake of its colossal bonk. A shameful day in Queens.