Monday, June 29, 2009

The Great Rivera: 3000, 500 and 1

Congratulations to Mariano Rivera, The Great Rivera, for recording his 500th career regular season save last night. He also has 34 post-season saves (next best = Dennis Eckersley with 15).

The three numbers in the title have this significance:

3000 is the number of dollars in Rivera's signing bonus in 1990. He was a 20-year old beanpole from a fishing village in Panama who was expected to do very little as a starting pitcher, but the Yanks took a chance on him. Credit to scout Herb Raybourn, who signed the future Hall-of-Famer. What a bargain.

500 is obvious -- the save total he reached yesterday. Fittingly, in this age of three-out closers (*cough*Frankie Rodriguez and Eckersley*cough*), Mo came into last night's game in the eighth inning to secure the Yanks' win.

1 is his RBI total. Last night, in one of the worst pitching sequences possible, K-Rod (the aforementioned Rodriguez) walked Mo (career 0-for-5 including postseason) with the bases loaded to give the Yanks an insurance run in a 4-2 win.

In 1995, the Yanks called up Rivera to pitch in the major leagues as a starter. Other than an 8-inning, no-run, 11 K performance against the Chisax, he was an awful starter (3-3, 7.07 ERA). He fared better as a reliever -- after a rough first outing, he held down a 3.00 ERA over his final eight appearances. In the 1995 ALDS, he was a revelation: whiffing 8 Mariners in 5.1 IP and not giving up a run. As closer John Wetteland flopped, and the Yankees' staff as a whole bombed (5.94 ERA), Mo was brilliant.

In 1996, Rivera was THE bridge to the closer -- 107 IP, 130 K, 2.09 ERA and 1 HR allowed as the set-up man for Wetteland. Rivera finished third in the Cy Young Award voting as a set-up reliever, and 12th in the MVP ballot. That 2.09 ERA is great . . . but he has eight sub-2.00 ERA seasons.

The list of Mo's accomplishments as a player is long and The Monk would miss too many spots just trying to hit the highlights. The career statistical record says it all.

Congrats to Mo.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Buyer's remorse

The Monk would hope that PaMonk would be feeling some, at least at the same level that Marty Peretz does.

Peretz is the publisher of The New Republic, a political mentor of Al Gore, Jr., and strongly pro-Israel. Even as his magazine has become intellectually more akin to extreme left-wing periodicals like Mother Jones and The Nation, thanks to John Judis, Jonathan Chait, and Michelle Cottle (to its credit, TNR has also continued to print moderate liberals like Anne Applebaum, Leon Wieseltier and even moderate conservatives like Alvaro Vargas Llosa), Peretz is at minimum a voice of reason on Israel issues.

Or so it seemed until he famously wrote that friends of Israel and Jews could trust Obama. Peretz came to that conclusion in early 2008, and campaigned for Obama. Now, after Obama's speech in Cairo last week, Peretz seems to realize he screwed up. Some of Peretz's analysis of Obama's mythmaking:

When Obama attributes the establishment of Israel, and also Israel's fear that the Iranian government and many Arabs would quite happily visit another devastation on it, to the Holocaust, he is in fact accepting [Iranian Pres.] Ahmadinejad's analysis of the Zionist triumph and also one of the tenets of Palestinian rejectionism, which is that the Palestinians are correct in their phobia that they have paid the price for what the Nazis did to the Jews.

If the president does not grasp Israel's history, he should be more modest in his judgments. Here's just one huge fact that does not fit into the president's sweeping explanation for the success of the Jewish state: Why did more than 800,000 Jews return to Zion from their thousands of years of exile in the Muslim world beginning with the very morn of independence? Surely this rupturing of communal life dating back, in some cases, three millennia was not Holocaust-related.

* * *

I, too, am for a two-state solution. I always have been. As the president said, "many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state"; he should have said "most" rather than "many." . . . Alas, Obama cannot and does not say that most or even many Palestinians recognize the need for a Jewish state or even, for that matter, the Israeli state. Here there is no symmetry, alas, that will serve. The most he can say is that, "privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away." Why does he not say "many Palestinians"? Perhaps because it would be stark deception. So which Muslims? The democratic but, alas, irrelevant and tolerant Muslims of Indonesia? Or Cairenes, especially the intellectuals, who have lived under a peace treaty with Jerusalem for all of three decades, but have not quite accommodated themselves to the existence of Israel?

* * *
So, in the end, the grand conciliator violated his own principle and spoke asymmetrically: He was very tough on Israel, but he was vague to the Palestinians and to the Arabs. The president was not at all specific about what he wished from people who are still enemies of the Jewish state. Every Israeli concession requires a reciprocal concession, and not just words. But even words are difficult to extract from the Palestinian Authority, the so-called moderates. Mahmoud Abbas said only a fortnight ago that he had only to wait on what Israel surrenders. . .

Marty, and you too Dad:

I told you so.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Snakebit? More like suck

The Yanks aren't snakebit against the Red Sawx, they just suck. The problem is the Yanks like their shiny baubles -- the high-ceiling emotional flakes; the Red Sawx are tough. This has been the tale of the two teams since 2004, when the Yanks procured A-Rod, Kevin Brown, and Sheffield and let Pettitte go, while the Red Sawx obtained Schilling and dumped Nomah in mid-season. Since the 2004 ALCS, the Yanks have lost all three playoff series they've played; Bahstin has won the 2004 and 2007 World Series.

The Yanks have lost to the Sawx in nearly every way imaginable: they've blown 8th and 9th inning leads (game 1, game 8), they blew a 6-0 lead to lose a slugfest (game 2), they've been outpitched (game 3), they've been dominated (games 4, 5, 6) and from the fourth inning of game 2 until the 7th inning last night, they NEVER EVEN LED after the completion of an inning for five straight games against their biggest rival.

The Redsax toughness is now the stuff of legend: they scraped by the Yanks in games 4 and 5 of the '04 ALCS (one of which Mo blew, one of which Joe Torre blew) and never trailed in games 6 and 7; they fell behind Cleveland 3-1 in the '07 ALCS, then pounded the Indians 7-1, 12-2 and 11-2; they fell behind Tampa 3-1 in the '08 ALCS and 7-0 in the 7th inning of game 5 and extended that series to seven games. This is the toughness that the Yankees had from 1996-2001 -- the teams that were on the brink of defeat against Texas (1996, down 1-0 and trailing in the 9th in game 2 of a best-of-five series), Atlanta (1996, the '96 Yanks were the first team to win the World Series in 6 games after losing the first two at home), Oakland twice (2000 ALDS game 5 in Oakland, trailed 2-0 in ALDS in 2001), and even Arizona (ninth-inning miracles in games 4 and 5).

This is why signing AJ Burnett was a mistake (high-ceiling, Yankee-killer, injury-prone, complete flake) and the Yanks should have signed Derek Lowe (7-3, 3.44 with the Braves), who has started 32-35 games in each of his seven seasons as a full-time starter, cracked 200 IP five times, has five seasons of 14+ wins (Burnett has one) and who pitched six innings of one-hit ball in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS on TWO DAYS' REST. That's the kind of toughness the Yanks used to display.

The Yanks made two good moves this offseason by signing Teixiera (1.081 OPS, 3 HR, 7 R against the Sawx this year) and Sabathia. Tex is tough and has singlehandedly improved the Yankee defense by an order of magnitude. Sabathia pitches long, well and hard. He stayed in a batter too long last night. Burnett is going to be a 16.5M/yr bust, even if he averages 13-11, 4.60 each season. Joba has the requisite toughness to win (see his 1-0 win at Fenway last year), but the team as a whole is in a morass thanks to too many flakes (Cano, Cabrera, A-Rod) and bouts of plain stupidity (Swisher).

The Monk worried less when the Yanks fell behind Bastin in their season series 1-5 (2007), 1-4 (2006), and 1-5 (2004) because those teams tended to start slow, always played well against the Sawx the third time around (the Yanks won 9 of 10 v. Bastin at one point in 2006), had Torre at the helm (who managed every regular season game [tho' in 2004-07 not every playoff game] as if the Yanks needed the win; Girardi doesn't do that as well), and had taken their pound of flesh from the Sawx before the All-Star break. This year, the Yanks stink against Bahstin and won't get another change at redemption (the past three days were supposed to be the redemption) until August. At least in '97, when the Orioles were good and beat the Yanks like a drum, it was only 4-0 O's before the break and, even after the Orioles ran that series to 7-0, the Yanks immediately thrashed the O's four times in the final five games in the following 10 days (the one other loss was the two-game difference in the final standings).

There's no way to spin this -- the 0-8 start is a complete disaster.

Wongdoer is right about one thing, that ball two call on Pedroia last night changed the game a bit, but borderline calls are 50-50 propositions. Bad managing, bad execution, and bad character are not.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The Yankees are snakebit against Boston in 2009.

I'll leave the hard analysis to Monk who is good at this sort of thing. A few thoughts:

1. The Yanks need to IGNORE that they've been swept in Boston. NY, with the exception of the that five game Boston massacre, has completely lost its mojo/confidence/edge against Boston since the 2004 disaster. Take 2 out of 3 or sweep the Mutts and get on with life. Unless in the unlikely event that there is a tie for a playoff spot getting to and winning in the playoffs trumps even being 0-19 v. Boston

2. If CC had gotten that inside fastball call against Dustin Pedroia, it would have been one down and man on first. That should have been a strike. Compare that with the high strike on Teixeira in the 9th. That was very, very high.

3. A gripe that I've long had about the Yanks is how they went down in the 9th: 1-2-3. No fight. Can't blame Tex for that really because that should have been a double if it was hit four feet on either side of Youkilis. The Yanks are terrible at extending at-bats...except...

4. in the top of 8th in that bloody squall when the Yanks half took FOREVER and my continuing thought was get out of there and let CC come in before he gets cold. Can't blame the guys for fighting in the 8th but it was just bad timing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Go Hoos II!

The Monk is a bit remiss (workload) and a bit late with this:


Virginia not only swept through the Irvine regional, as I discussed last Monday, it won its Super Regional and will now participate in the College World Series for the first time in school history!

Last weekend, Virginia had to travel to Oxford, Mississippi for a best of three series against the University of Mississippi. Ole Miss had received a #1 seed from the NCAA, which was appropriate (#9 or #11 ranking, top 16 RPI); Virginia had been screwed and given a #2 seed (#11 or #7 ranking, top 10 RPI). So Ole Miss hosted as the higher remaining seed.

Virginia bonked game 1, squandering a 3-2 lead entering the 9th with an error by the secondbaseman and a questionable pitching decision (not bringing in the team's lock-down quality closer to start the inning). Ole Miss won 4-3 on a leadoff homer in the bottom of the 12th.

In game 2, Ole Miss returned the favor, bonking a 3-2 lead entering the 8th with a terrible error by its secondbaseman (Chuck Knoblauch-ish throw) and the Cavs rallied for a 4-3 win.

In game 3, Ole Miss scored one in the first inning and nothing else. The Cavs' top-notch pitching carried the team; its hitters scraped together a three-run, error-aided rally in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead and Virginia coasted to the 5-1 win and a celebratory pile up in Oxford. Virginia is the only CWS team this year to lose its first game of the Super Regional.

On to Omaha, site of the College World Series and even tougher teams. The eight-team field is separated into two sub-brackets (basically teams seeded 1, 4, 5, 8 in one bracket; 2, 3, 6, 7 in the other). Virginia is essentially the #6 seed in the CWS, it faces national #3 seed LSU in its first game. The other teams in the sub-bracket are national #2 seed Cal-State Fullerton (the runner-up to UC-Irvine in the Big West Conference, but CSFU actually had a better resume because it fared better against non-Big West teams) and upstart Arkansas, which dropped Florida State in the Super Regionals.

This is the bracket of death: LSU is excellent again and is coached by Virginia coach Brian O'Connor's mentor, CSFU is a powerhouse, and Arkansas has feasted on good teams (5-0 against Florida, swept FSU, drubbed Oklahoma twice in Norman). Unlike Irvine or Ole Miss, Virginia's next opponents can BASH, which will be a big test for the Cavs' pitchers (who held UNC to 13 runs total in their four games this year -- a great total in high-scoring college baseball). Sub-bracket winner plays the survivor of Texas, North Carolina, Arizona State and darkest of dark horses Southern Miss (a #3 seed in its regional).

So this will be interesting. The semi-unknown Cavs on the biggest stage in College Baseball against two perennial powers (LSU has five titles, CSFU has four) and the "other" team from the nation's strongest conference, the SEC.

Go 'Hoos!

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Gipper

The Monk hoped that Mark Steyn would post his excellent eulogy to Pres. Reagan last week, but in the absence of Steyn doing so on his own website, The Monk found the eulogy on Free Republic.

Five years and three days ago, Ronald Reagan died. His public life came to an end 11 years before that. But his legacy still endures, despite the current president's efforts to defenestrate it. Here is the importance of Reagan:

[The 1970s] was the era of “détente”, a word barely remembered now, which is just as well, as it reflects poorly on us: the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the free world had decided that the unfree world was not a prison ruled by a murderous ideology that had to be defeated but merely an alternative lifestyle that had to be accommodated. Under cover of “détente”, the Soviets gobbled up more and more real estate across the planet, from Ethiopia to Grenada. Nonetheless, it wasn’t just the usual suspects who subscribed to this grubby evasion – Helmut Schmidt, Pierre Trudeau, Francois Mitterand – but most of the so-called “conservatives”, too – Ted Heath, Giscard d’Estaing, Gerald Ford.

And Reagan confounded those, like his misbegotten "biographer" Edmund Morris, who could not understand that certain evils had to be confronted, not cozened.

“The Great Communicator” was effective because what he was communicating was self-evident to all but our dessicated elites: “We are a nation that has a government - not the other way around.” And at the end of a grim, grey decade - Vietnam, Watergate, energy crises, Iranian hostages – Americans decided they wanted a President who looked like the nation, not like its failed government. Thanks to his clarity, around the world, governments that had nations have been replaced by nations that have governments. Most of the Warsaw Pact countries are now members of Nato, with free markets and freely elected parliaments.

The paramount success for the sportscaster, actor, governor of California and President is that he succeeded in ultimately making unfree people free.

Unlike [Heath, Ford, d'Estaing, et al.], unlike most other senior Republicans, Ronald Reagan saw Soviet Communism for what it was: a great evil. Millions of Europeans across half a continent from Poland to Bulgaria, Slovenia to Latvia live in freedom today because he acknowledged that simple truth when the rest of the political class was tying itself in knots trying to pretend otherwise. That’s what counts. He brought down the “evil empire”, and all the rest is fine print.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

65 Years

Omaha Beach today.

65 years ago, on June 6, 1944, an estimated 4,500 Americans spent died here establishing the first beachhead against Hitler's 'Atlantic Wall'.   A first hand account of the assault is available here.

Note the width of the beach, its about 200 yards.   The fastest runner in the world trained and unencumbered can sprint that distance in about 20 seconds.   American GI's had to land on a sandbar 50 to 100 yards in the surf, wade to the edge of the water and make those 200 yards again a wall of enemy fire.  

20 Years

20 years ago this past Thursday a student-linked insurrection against the totalitarian government in the People's Republic of China was crushed by tanks. The photo above of a student with a shopping bag standing in the way of column of tanks is perhaps the most indelible memory of June 4, 1989.

China economic progress in the past twenty years has been nothing short of stunning. In fact fears of Chinese economic power today rightfully overshadows concerns about Japan's 20 years ago. The last ten years has made China rich and a creditor to many nations most notably somewhere near a trillion dollars of the United States. Folks treat China like fine china these days and many are selectively choosing to overlook the hideous warts of the government of this country who consider liberty as anathema as it ever has.

While we admire their single minded dedication to economic superpower status and their superb management of the economy (even this author will grudgingly admit) let's not forget this government rules from the memory and stands on the shoulders of the bloodiest murderers in human history.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A highly negative comparison

Losing out in a comparison of (political) courage* to former Pres. Jimmy Carter is a mark of Cain. And to Holman Jenkins, Pres. Obama is so marked.

In his column, Jenkins notes the perilous political path Carter navigated to push Congress to pass the Staggers Act, which deregulated the freight railroad industry and effectively saved it from mass bankruptcies. Compare that to Obama's sop to the UAW that constitutes his GM rescue plan:

Rail executives and economists had been arguing since the 1920s, when competition from trucks and planes began to emerge, that comprehensive federal regulation had only distorted the industry's pricing, driven away investment, and made competitive adaptation impossible. But the argument had a new ring now that Washington would have to bear the political risk of operating and subsidizing the nation's rail services.

It still took some doing on Mr. Carter's part. When the bill stalled, a hundred phone calls went from the White House to congressmen, including 10 by Mr. Carter in a single evening. The bill essentially no longer required railroads to provide services at a loss to please certain constituencies. It meant going up against farmers, labor, utilities, mining interests, and even some railroads -- whereas Mr. Obama's auto bailout tries to appease key lobbies like labor and greens, which is why it can't work.

In his message to Congress, Mr. Carter warned of a "catastrophic series of bankruptcies" and "massive federal expenditure" unless deregulation was allowed to "overhaul our nation's rail system, leading to higher labor productivity and more efficient use of plant and equipment."

* * *

In 1980, Congress passed the Staggers Act, ending a century of federal regulation and leading to the railroad industry's renaissance. Leo Mullin, then a young Conrail veep, would later look back and praise all involved for having the fortitude to recognize that salvaging the taxpayer's investment in Conrail meant more than fixing a single broken company -- it meant fixing a defective regulatory environment.

Carter also deregulated the airline industry. This is a far cry from Obama's plans to regulate the pharmaceutical (through health care reform) and automotive industries nearly to death.

* -- Despite innumerable political disagreements with the man, The Monk will not question Carter's personal courage. Carter served on submarine duty in the US Navy during World War II, and served under Adm. Hyman Rickover in the Navy's pilot nuclear submarine program.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Go Hoos!

For the first time in its previously far-from-illustrious history, the Virginia baseball team has moved past the regional round. Congratulations to the Cavs.

When The Monk and his friend Luskerdu were at Virginia, the team struggled to maintain a .500 overall record and never even sniffed the NCAA Tournament, which at that time had 48 teams split into eight 6-team regionals with the regional winners advancing to the College World Series. After we graduated (and I think there's documentary proof that Luskerdu did graduate), the Cavaliers caught lightning in a bottle for a year in 1996 led by the quite mortal Seth Greisinger, who played in the majors for the Tigers, Twins, and Braves (he was a first-round pick, he flopped) before going to Japan.

In 2003, the 23-year coaching term of Dennis Womack ended and Virginia hired Brian O'Connor, a Creighton grad who played in the College World Series, coached for his alma mater, then gained national recognition as an assistant at Notre Dame. Since hiring O'Connor, Virginia has been a top-flight baseball program: five 40+ win seasons in his six years, six straight NCAA Tournament appearances (compared to three in Virginia history before O'Connor arrived), an ACC championship and constant success in the ACC -- one of the better baseball conferences in the country considering its plethora of national powers (UNC, Clemson, Ga. Tech, Florida State, Miami).

O'Connor was a pitcher and his knowledge of pitching has been the key to Virginia's baseball success. The Cavs play at the cavernous Davenport Field and consistently have one of the better pitching staffs in college baseball. And it's not just at home -- the Cavs rarely play those 17-15 aluminum bat-aided slugfests (or 37-6 slugfests -- see the beating FSU put on Ohio State) on the road either, even in Atlanta or Chapel Hill or Miami.

The NCAA Tournament now has 64 teams split into 16 regionals with teams seeded 1-4 and eight teams seeded as overall Nos. 1-8 (like seeded players in tennis). The winner of the double-elimination regional goes to a Super-Regional to play a best of three series against another regional winner. The Super-Regional winner goes to the College World Series.

Two years ago, Virginia was up 3-1 and six outs away from its first-ever trip beyond the regional round against defending champion Oregon State. The Cavs threw away that game (four errors) and lost the rematch; Oregon State didn't lose again on its way to another national title.

This year, the Cavs got a complete screw-job from the NCAA Tournament committee. After winning the ACC Tournament (beating UNC, Clemson and Florida State in the process, all of whom received #1 seeds), Virginia's RPI was #6 and its national ranking was #7 or #11 (depending upon the poll). Instead of hosting a regional as a #1 seed, the Committee sent the Cavs across the country to Irvine to the regional with the No. 6 overall seed (UC-Irvine), the best pitcher in college baseball (San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg -- the upcoming No. 1 pick in the baseball draft who throws 98-102 mph with a fantastic curve and slider), and the defending NCAA champ, Fresno State. If the NCAA does the snake-seeding method of the basketball committee, UVa was rated as the No. 27 team in the country. A ridiculous notion.

And yet . . . the team turned that chickens**t seeding into chicken salad. The Cavs took batting practice from 40 feet against pitching machines at top speed to prepare for Strasburg, flew out to Irvine without much talk of their bad draw, and performed. They touched Strasburg (ERA 1.24) for two runs and outpitched SDSU in their first game, 5-1. They shut down Irvine on Saturday 5-0. Last night, the Cavs again stifled Irvine on its home field -- a 4-1 win that sends Virginia to its first-ever Super Regional to play the winner of tonight's Mississippi-Western Kentucky game.

Congratulations to the Cavs. You're moving near the big stage now.