January 08, 2011

Steroids versus other cheating in baseball

In two previous blog posts, I've speculated on how and how much to possibly factor steroid performance enhancement out of some Baseball Hall of Fame candidates' numbers, and looked at just how long of a history steroids have in baseball. In that second post, especially, I noted that steroid of the past weren't personalized, or "designed," and that they weren't part of a whole regimen that enhanced the effectiveness of steroids.

In light of that, what about past cheating, which sometimes involved "engineering" and not "medicating"?

While players have always tried to get an edge, it's never been that "scientific" before.

Take Gaylord Perry and his spitter. Or Don Sutton and his scuff ball.

People like Jim Caple at ESPN, who gets holier than thou about allegations that some HOF voters are holier than thou on steroids, like to cite this pair.

But, really? If a spitter or a scuff/scratch ball gave THAT much advantage, we'd hear allegations about it all the time today. And, per the percentages above, with today's strike zones, especially, they wouldn't give that much advantage.

And, back then, even, in the pitchers' era of the 1960s and early 1970s, I think for both of them, it was more a psychological advantage than any real advantage. Looking further back in history, "grandfathered" legal spitballer Burleigh Grimes, even though he eventually made the HOF, didn't seem to benefit THAT much. Per modern sabermetrics, his ERA+ and WHIP are both HOF-unacceptable. Although he isn't cited as much, Stan Covaleski may have benefited more. (Running on late-night fumes, I originally had Jesse Haines here.)

More confirmation comes from that era: the entire "grandfathered list" had just 17 players, or, an average of one pitcher per team. Of course, with baseballs rotated in and out more less, one really didn't need to throw a spitter, or a scuff ball, emery ball or whatever you'll call it — a pitcher just needed to learn what types of old baseballs with what types of disfigurations would "perform" the best.

Beyond that, that's the old "two wrongs make a right" argument.

And, as for amphetamines? Sure, they relieved tiredness. Not much else, though, I'll bet. As I've commented before at Baseball-Reference blog posts, too many greenies would make a batter jittery and probably less coordinated. That said, an amped-up Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale would be scary as hell, even if so wild to lose effectiveness in some ways.

And, amphetamines, like steroids of 30-40 years ago, weren't individually designed, etc. So, if they did help with anything besides tiredness, it was random and scattershot.

In any case, Caple, before talking about other people's high horses, I'd look at your own steed a bit.

Now, back to steroids and their influence in the post-1994 era.

I'd say they're worth 30-40 percent of the power explosion. The Costa Rican baseballs after Rawlings moved its factor from Haiti? Maybe about the same. So, let's say 70 percent there. Maple bats 10-15 percent?

Continued squeezing of the strike zone? 10 percent. Miscellaneous factors, 5-10 percent.

So, 80 percent or more of this issue is readily correctible. Have a serious steroid policy (we do seem to be better than Bowie Kuhn's lies and Bud Selig's earlier ostrich posture); get some final verdict on today's baseballs and, if they are indeed part of the issue, de-juice them a bit; and continue to push the umps to call the high strike, which would also speed the game up, as a fringe benefit.

Baseball's long, long steroid history

Hardball Talk cites a page from the Mitchell Report (PDF):
In 1973, a Congressional subcommittee announced that its staff had completed an “in depth study into the use of illegal and dangerous drugs in sports” including professional baseball. The subcommittee concluded that “the degree of improper drug use – primarily amphetamines and anabolic steroids – can only be described as alarming.”

Hardball Talk also references former major-league pitcher Tom House, who hurled in that era. He said steroid use was pretty common 35-40 years ago.
He and his teammates laughed and rationalized losses by saying, "We didn't get beat, we got out-milligrammed. And when you found out what they were taking, you started taking them." ...
"I pretty much popped everything cold turkey," House said in a phone interview. "We were doing steroids they wouldn't give to horses. That was the '60s, when nobody knew. The good thing is, we know now. There's a lot more research and understanding. ...

House was listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, and he ballooned to 215 or 220 while on steroids. He blamed the increased weight for putting additional wear and tear on his knees; he had five surgeries on his right knee and two on his left.

House estimated that six or seven pitchers on every staff were "fiddling" with steroids or growth hormone. He said the drugs and devoted conditioning improved his recovery, but his velocity didn't budge.

That said, there ARE differences between the 1970s and the late 1990s.

With laboratory sites and researchers like BALCO and Victor Conte, we do indeed know. Not just about the potential harm, but how to maximize the benefits and how to avoid scruitiny (that is, short or letting your head grow two cap sizes).

Steroids in the 1970s didn't get "designed," either.

Now, HGH? If administered within carefully prescribed limits, AND if legitimate medical research and not just anecdotes tell us that it does promote healing time from injury, and does so safely, I would lean toward allowing it.

But that's a big if.

Anyway, this didn't start back in the 1970s, even. Not even close.

Pud Galvin shot himself with monkey-testicle derived testosterone in 1889. And, he surely wasn't alone, whether in baseball, boxing or something else.

Anyway, it didn't appear to help Pud. 1889 was his last good year! And, that gets back to what I said above. Today's steroids are "designed." They're personalized. They're combined with weight training and other stuff that Pud Galvin didn't know existed, and that contemporaries of Tom House, and team trainers, scoffed at and worried about.

Now, back to steroids and their influence in the post-1994 era.

I'd say they're worth 30-40 percent of the power explosion. The Costa Rican baseballs after Rawlings moved its factor from Haiti? Maybe about the same. So, let's say 70 percent there. Maple bats 10-15 percent?

Continued squeezing of the strike zone? 10 percent? Miscellaneous factors, 5-10 percent.

More in my next post.

De-factoring steroids from possible HOF candidates

I'm not holier than thou on the issue of steroids in baseball. My take is, how much did roiding, in my estimation, boost a particular suspect player's career. If I think I can reasonably factor that out, AND get some contrition, I will at least be open to voting a player into the Hall of Fame.

For example? Rafael Palmeiro is a "high borderline," still, with 350 HR, 450 2B, and a WAR around 55 or so. Raffy probably goes .360/.500/.860 on OBP/SLG/OPS. 1,500 runs and 1,700 RBIs. Of course, his oWAR might fall below 60. That's the hesitation point. Is Raffy a higher-grade Harold Baines without steroids? I wouldn't argue against that. But, he at least gets consideration.

Mark McGwire? I estimate that he'd be down to 450 HRs, and would lose a ton of walks, and so lose OBP and lose massively on OPS and OPS+, reinforcing his one-dimensional nature, so a no. Knock his OBP down to .380, his slugging to .550 and then his OPS to .930. His runs fall to 1,100 and his RBIs to 1,300. About 450 HRs. NOT a HOF career. That's a high-grade Dave Kingman or not a lot better.

Other players? As far as prime suspects, and doing some "redacting"?

Sammy Sosa
is not a steroid-subtracted HOFer. Barry Bonds is. Roger Clemens is.

But, let's have confessions. Not just by the individuals. Bud Selig and Gene Orza need to step to the plate, pun intended, and hit a clean one out of the park.

That said, how much of an influence were steroids, on the batting side?

I'd say they're worth 30-40 percent of the power explosion. The Costa Rican baseballs after Rawlings moved its factor from Haiti? Maybe about the same. So, let's say 70 percent there. Maple bats 10-15 percent?

Continued squeezing of the strike zone? 10 percent? Miscellaneous factors, 5-10 percent.

Anyway, I'd love to hear more thoughts.

Cubs get Garza? Hmmm — OK, but no more

According to Yahoo and all other sports sites, the Chicago Cubs have acquired Matt Garza from Tampa Bay. Garza would give the Cubs a top-of-the-rotation starter and join a rotation that also includes Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster.

It's still not great, but Garza's young enough he's still got potential for improvement.

That said, the Cubs aren't going much of anywhere in 2011 with their current batting lineup anyway. But, with a bunch of salary coming off the books in 2012, in out years, this could have more significance.

January 07, 2011

Army: Be all your Higher Power can be

Happiness guru Martin Seligman, who first allowed ideas from his learned helplessness discovery to be psychologically reversed engineered as the basis for the CIA's torture program, has now gone one step further.

Calling soldiers his 1.1 million guinea pigs, he now wants the Army to "be all its Higher Power can be," in essence, claiming that "spirituality" will help troops overcome PTSD.

Hogwash:
Bryant Welch, who also served as APA president, said, "personally, I have not been able to find a meaningful distinction between [positive psychology] and Norman Vincent Peale's Power of Positive Thinking. Both emphasize substituting positive thoughts for unhappy or negative ones."

"And yet the US military has bought into this untested notion to the tune of [$125] million," Welch said.

PTSD "is is not a mental state that can be treated by suggesting to the patient that he or she simply re-frame how they think about the situation, as Dr. Seligman suggests," Welch added.

And, it's just part of a trend. Seligman has previously sold out to corporations. Now, it's our increasingly corporatized military.

What would really help PTSD in the military? Adequate head protection and armaments would be a start. Not fighting unnecessary wars would be better yet.

Update, Jan. 7: Here is a sample of specific questions; by asking about things like religious service attendance, it's clear this goes beyond "spirituality" and ventures into the realm of unconstitutionality.

More here noting how these questions, AND other issues behind them, are clearly a religious test, and therefore unconstitutional. It looks like the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers is eventually going to have to sue.

No tunneling for scat ...

Or for SCAT, either! A roundup of scat news begins with Seattle Citizens against the Tunnel opposing the use of any city of Seattle land in creating a new highway tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Due to geological and other issues, SCAT and others fear cost overruns could be massive, among other things.

Meanwhile, suburban Phoenix senior citizens, and those who would help them, are trying to clean up problems after SCAT closed due to budget issues, leaving them without rides they had enjoyed before. More crap from Arizona's general budgetary wores.

Meanwhile, scat offers good news, in the short term at least, for the future of English pine martens. And, maybe picking up scat like that is a good way for parents to bond with their children, a columnist says.

Atheists are religious? Who'd have thunk?

A flawed poll indeed, from Gallup.

How can atheists be very religious, moderately religious or nonreligious? But, that's what Gallup claims. Gallup says:
Americans' degree of religiousness, as defined in this analysis, is based on responses to two questions asking about the importance of religion and church attendance, yielding the "very religious," "moderately religious," and "nonreligious" groups. (See page 2 for details of this classification procedure.)

Gallup does say that the effect is probably based on contact with others in a group.

Beyond that, this poll has other "issues."

The main one is, what is "wellbeing"? In the story about the poll, that's not really explained. Even if it is, that's a subjective issue. For some, it might be more a good partner relationship. For others, it might be a Maslow-type actualization. For others, it might be a $100,000-a-year job.

But, beyond that, what's with the nearly 3 percent of atheists/agnostics supposedly strongly religious?

In this case, it's bad linguistics. I guarantee.

After I wrote a newspaper column, years ago, about my non-metaphysical stances, I was asked to speak at a philosopher's club in Dallas. And, a philosophy professor at a community college told me he prayed regularly. (I had the good grace not to ask him directly, "To whom?")

Another, also illustrative anecdote. I started making a connection with a woman on Match.com several years ago who said she was an atheist. But, as she learned from me what that really meant, well, she "ran like hell." As vest I could figure from hindsight, to her, "atheist" meant something like "spiritual but not religious."

And, that's the problem with polls of his nature by somebody like Gallup — terms aren't clearly identified and nailed down.

Four months and counting on Tory-Lib Dem coalition?

I'd been wondering when the "deal" on electoral reform, that was Liberal Democratic Party leader Nick Clegg's price for joining in coalition with David Cameron's Conservatives in Britain, would happen.

Guess I'd not been reading the Guardian often enough to see that a referendum on alternative voting, i.e., an instant runoff system, to replace the first past the post system, has cleared the House of Lords and is set for May 5.

Hence the four months and ticking.

British voters will go to the polls May 5 for a vote on electoral reform, the promised payout by the Conservative Party to Liberal Democrats for joining it in coalition.

Britain's biggest union has officially come out in opposition, though. That despite the fact that the Labour Party could benefit.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband says he will campaign hard for a yes vote. But, will the party as a whole follow him? So far, 114 Labour MPs have pledged opposition. Even more, on the other side, will the Conservative rank-and-file follow Prime Minister David Cameron? For that matter, how enthusiastic and active will Cameron be in working for the measure?

Witin Labour, it appears, per the opposition of Unite and another large union, to be an Old Labour vs. New Labour split. As Miliband was elected to leadership with union support, it's surprising to see him so ardently push a yes. Could a failure in the referendum not only dissolve the governing coalition, but lead to a putsch against Miliband at the next Labour conference?

As the Guardian notes, Labour proposed IRV, also known as alternative voting, before the most recent national elections. The same editorial notes that Miliband's in his and Labour's interest to push yes, with either a win or a loss drawing Labour and LibDems closer, especially since Cameron's past record is of opposition. (That said, he seems to be honoring his pledge to LibDe's Clegg very narrowly - just putting the referendum on the ballot and not campaigning for a yes.)

Also, by Cameron insisting the referendum be put on the same day as local/regional elections, it looks like Cameron has wrong-footed Clegg pretty well. That is, unless the push for electoral reform really doesn't matter as much to Clegg as it does to the party faithful, as seems the case with other LibDem issues.

The Guardian has a webpage dedicated to the contest and its various issues.

Juan Williams, pots, kettles and Faux

Faux News commentator Juan Williams, commenting on the resignation of Ellen Weiss, the NPR exec who fired him after his anti-Muslim comments:
Williams told Fox News that the executive who fired him last year "represented a very ingrown, incestuous culture" at NPR that was not open to different perspectives.

Pots and kettles, Juan. In general, and especially given your new boss.

That also said, it shows cross-media incestuousness by NPR in search of some elusive balance. Hell, stop it. Get Mara Liasson off Faux, too, NPR.

The NPR internal review of Weiss's actions is here.

There's actually some good things in there about reporters' participation and interaction with today's political world, and reframing NPR standards.

As for Faux, it has no standards in the first place.

January 06, 2011

How long for Preznit Kumbaya to be disillusioned of bipartianship?

Already the House GOP is fudging on deficit issues by wanting to extend tax cuts for the rich and kill medical savings in Obamacare. And, how can you be bipartisan with folks who break their own rules in their first 24 hours in power?

But, Obama will still find away to be illusioned.

Why we need a federal department of insurance

That, when the public option was junked by Team Obama, was probably about the biggest single thing missing from Obamacare.

Blue Shield's request for a 59 percent rate hike in California is a good example.

If sister Blue Cross made such a request in Texas, it would probably be granted without scrutiny, just to try to show how bad Obamacare is, for example.

That said, California's laws on health insurance regulations are about as toothless as Texas, beyond the federal mandate of spending costs on actual coverage-related issues. And, in reality, the federal guidelines on that are kind of loose.

Jenny McCarthy, autism quack

Nice to see that a mainstream media outlet like Time is totally taking her to task.

Why does she remain so beloved though, despite the likelihood her kid didn't even have autism?

1. The miracle cure, even though it wasn't even a cure.
2. The religious angle.
3. The American penchant for conspiracy theories.
4. The American anti-intellectual strain, as Richard Hofstadter noted 50 years ago.

Karl Greenfield notes all those, in the first page:
But she can't be ignored. If the debate about vaccine safety is settled — vaccines don't cause autism; they don't injure children; they are the pillar of modern public health — then why are so many parents reconsidering vaccinating their children? The answer has to do with our era's strained relationship with scientific truth, our tendency to place more faith in psychological truths than scientific ones. McCarthy's emergence — the Playmate turned pseudoscientist, the fart-joke teller cum mother warrior — can make one feel nostalgic for the time when celebs turned up on talk shows only to hawk their flicks or books, not to promote explosive public-health ideas. But McCarthy says she is speaking the truth — her truth.

And, her "truth," as Greenfield notes, is all emotional tugging. No actual truth.

That said, it's a very good story.

The Salon story on McCarthy, though, has some serious scientific holes and weaknesses, namely, by being wishy-washy pablum. Contra the story, McCarthy IS a "full-range loon."

And, note my original, in-depth blog post for why, in very scientific terms, there's been an "explosion" in autism.

Update, March 2, 2010: Meanwhile, due to fear tactics of people like Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy, one in four parents are afraid to vaccinate their children.

One good thing? Some doctors are refusing to treat anti-vax parents or their children any more.

Update, March 13, 2010: Three more federal vaccine court rulings have all rejected a vaccines-autism link; specifically, all cases ruled out the thimerosal-autism link.

As I've said before, I sympathize with the pain of parents, mothers especially, who suffer with the struggles of raising autistic children.

BUT, but — many, many other parents in general and mothers in particular go through such struggles without grasping at conspiracy theories in general or blaming vaccines in particular.

And, in doing so, endangering their children and other children, on the vaccines issue, and dumbing down America, and paranoiafying it up, at the same time.

Update, March 30, 2010: Salon does a great job of showing how she can't even keep her nuttery straight.

Update, Jan. 6, 2011: Well, we know now that the lies of Andrew Wakefield involved deliberate fraud.

And, Anderson Cooper calls Wakefield the liar that he is:



Too bad Anderson didn't also call him a mass murderer.

Some post-HOF-vote final thoughts on Jack Morris

Now that Bert Blyleven is in the Hall of Fame, let's look once more at Jack Morris and why he shouldn't be, since we have two years left to block him, to put it bluntly.

On Morris, and why he should get in the Baseball Hall of Fame, one "tout" for him has been that he was "The Pitcher of the 80s." But, a number of other people have noted, the 80s really kind of sucked in terms of starters, other than Nolan Ryan, who you'd really call more of a 70s pitcher.

Well, Roger Clemens actually won his first Cy in 1986. But, before that? Among starters?

Steve Stone, Pete Vuckovich, LaMarr Hoyt, Frank Viola and Brett Saberhagen (2) were the other AL starters to win the Cy in the 1980s besides Clemens. In the NL? During the 80s, you had Steve Carlton, a 70s pitcher, win twice, along with Orel Hershiser, Mike Scott, Dwight Gooden, Rick Sutcliffe, John Denny, Mark Davis, and Fernando Valenzuela. (Bruce Sutter, Steve Bedrosian, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Willie Hernandez won Cys in the 2 leagues as relievers.)

See, there's a LOT of UHHH? as far as long-term success of primarily 80s pitchers.

Hershiser was solid but a bit short of top level, and had too short a career. Mike Scott was a short-peak flash. Gooden? Sniff, sniff, and even more, chug, chug, we know what happened there. The others? Even lower. So, *somebody* had to be "top pitcher of the 80s" and it was Morris.

Another way to look at this? Ryan, in 1999, was the last "pure starter" (as opposed to the half-and-half Eckersley) to be elected to the Hall. Until yesterday, that is.

The 1980s just weren't a big pitchers' decade.

January 05, 2011

Bert made it! - and steroids "made it" too

Bert Blyleven had finally made the Hall of Fame, as has Robbie Alomar. (That said, even with all the years of enlightening more people, it's still sad he got "only" 79 percent, while Alomar zoomed past him, in his second year of eligibility to 90 percent. The biggest "issue" with Alomar is his career negative dWAR. Not sure whether it's more him being overrated by us all these years or more an issue with dWAR.

That said, per complete ballot information at Baseball-Reference.com's home page, it's clear the steroid era's fallout is looming large.

Jeff Bagwell failed to break 50 percent.
Rafael Palmeiro barely broke 10 percent.
Mark McGwire fell back below 20 percent.

Other interestings?

Barry Larkin moved up more than 10 percentage points. He may be there next year.

Jack Morris may have plateaued. (I hope.)

Edgar Martinez may have plateaued, but it's too early to tell.

We won't miss Robert Gibbs' sneer

But, on the purely political side, President Obama may well miss the advice of David Axelrod, unless Ax's leaving is to become part of starting the Obama 2012 team. Both are leaving the White House as Obama continues to shake up staff.

With a new chief of staff rumored to be coming in too, and one with which, if it is William Daley, to the best of my knowledge, Obama doesn't have extreme closeness, there's going to be some management, power structure, and other voids that open up.

Plus, if Gene Sperling is the man to replace Larry Summers as economic adviser, there's "message" issues too ... especially messages, or the lack thereof, to the purer progressives at whom both Gibbs and Rahm Emanuel liked to sneer. Progressives, don't hold your breath.

January 04, 2011

ESPN's HOF fluffers don't like Blyleven

With all the "fluffers" among ESPN's baseball writers, as far as Hall of Fame voting, Bert Blyleven STILL barely makes the cut there.

The fluffery includes Jayson Stark actually wanting to vote for 12 people on this year's ballot.

Of course, on Blyleven, ESPN readers are even worse; apparently, all the sabermetrics still hasn't enlightened a magic 75 percent.

What RED state has a potential $100B deficit?

Nooohhh, that's not a blue state, it's not a deficit-loving liberal haven.

It's Tejas, controlled in governorship AND both houses of the same, part-time, Third World legislature for the whole last decade.

That's right — over the next two years of the two-year budget cycle of the unrepresentative Third World-type legislature that meets only ever other year, the current shortfall projection is $95 billion with a B. Round it up to $100 billion for convenience.

And, of course Texas Republicans never raise taxes, noooooo.

But, as documented in the story, which actually only tells the half of it, Texas Rethugs have had no problem increasing fee after fee, and even inventing new ones, over the last decade.

That said, Rethugs, now that you have a supermajority in the House and are likely to impose one in the Senate, like in 2009, you can drain away on the rainy day fun. Texas Democrats, you can't do a damned thing to influence the budget otherwise, anyway. So, you can either be ball-less Obamiacs, or force the GOP to round up unanimity to drain the rainy day fund itself.

Now, if the GOP in the Texas Senate pledges NOT to do what it DID do in 2009 - that is, lowering the supermajority bar from 2/3 to 3/5 - House AND Senate Dems may work more with their GOP counterparts. But, since the GOP now has a House supermajority, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Note: This corrects the original version, where I said the GOP had a supermajority in both House and Senate.

January 03, 2011

Josh Marshall: Neolib, Obamiac

Nice to see that some things don't change just because a new year hits the calendars.

The neoliberal proprietor of Talking Points Memo claims "I haven't seen any convincing evidence" Obama wants to cut Social Security.

Dude, who appointed the Catfood Commission? The same guy who hasn't said he saw anything wrong with the advance leaking by its co-chairs. The same guy who hasn't rejected the report of its majority. The same guy who had no problem letting the GOP de-electrify the "third rail," and even helped.

If Shakespeare were a GOP governor

Especially a new blue-state one, he'd be says, "First, we kill all the unions."

Right-to-work laws have NOTHING to do with state budgets and deficits. It's clear that this is a wet-dream opening for an anti-employee party that it hasn't seen since the likes of St. Ronald of Reagan 30 years ago.

As for unfunded pension liabilities? Those fall on nonunionized as well as unionized retirees, and the lack of funding won't be addressed one thin dime by a state passing a right-to-work law.

That said, the AFL-CIO has its work cut out for it on dealing with this crap. You can help. Don't let wingnuts lie to you when they raise issues like this.

Beyond that, since it's clear the GOP at the Washington level simply doesn't care about deficits, why would the statehouse GOP be different on other mattes of fiscal trutihness?

Who would you vote back OUT of the MLB HOF - batters?

Among post-1900 players now in the Hall of Fame, whom would you remove? I’ll also simplify by ruling out all players who were Negro League inductees.

(Here’s my similar blog on pitchers.)

And, the list of all hitters.

That said, I have a bone to pick, a small one, with Baseball-Reference’s HOF lists. The comparative sabermetric tools we value, like WAR, OPS+ and ERA+? Why aren’t they included on these lists? It would make the comparisons much easier.

And, why are HOF pitchers who ever, even just once, swung a bat in their lives, listed again under the “batters” category? Ditto for managers who had a cup of coffee in the major leagues.

I start with one basic stat; that’s OPS+.

Unless you’re in a fielding-primary position like shortstop, you should be at 110 or higher, and ideally, 115 or better. Kind of like how Baseball-Reference tweaks its fielding sabermetrics per positional difficulty, I tweak the OPS+ bottom line per position. Shortstop? A 100 is OK, or even less than 100 if you bring a LOT to table as a fielder. (Think Ozzie Smith, while noting Omar Vizquel is NOT in the same category.) As for pre-“modern” players in the sense of pre-1960, I’ll cut infielders as fielders yet m ore slack based on infield quality of the old says.

Catcher? If you have a reputation as a pitcher’s catcher, I’ll lower it below 110. Second and third base, 110 is really the minimum. 115 for outfield positions and 120 or better at 1B.

Overall WAR gets looked at next, and dWAR gets an extra look for “fielding” positions especially. Overall WAR should be 50 or higher except for a career shortened by acute injury.

Beyond that, I look for a mix of longevity and a peak set of years. It's subjective, but a good candidate should have some of both. And, of course, every such discussion has an element of subjectivity, no matter the number of sabermetric stats at hand.

OK, so whom should we consider tossing out? Here's my list, with brief notes on each.

  1. Jim Bottomley? Probably the worst 1B in the HOF. Crappy numbers, given the era in which he played.
  2. Roger Bresnahan. He passes the OPS muster, but didn’t play long enough.
  3. Max Carey. OPS too low; WAR on borderline; don’t think he was outstanding, though he was above average, as fielder.
  4. Earle Combs. Didn’t play that long a career, not a defensive outfielder.
  5. Frank Chance. Borderline, but really, shortness of his career is part of the problem.
  6. Kiki Cuyler? Borderline, but I’d lean “no.”
  7. Bobby Doerr? Should have racked up better numbers playing all through WWII in a diminished MLB. And didn’t. If those numbers came 10 years later, I might cut more slack.
  8. Elmer Flick? Didn’t play that long. But, impressive stats from the dead-ball era. Borderline.
  9. Rick Ferrell? Not that good of a defensive catcher to make up for offensive limitations. In fact, he was below average defensively as well as at the plate.
  10. Nellie Fox? Borderline. Near-great defensively, but perhaps a touch overrated. Not that good offensively.
  11. George Kell? Out. Especially given that he played 1B as well as 3B.
  12. High Pockets Kelly? Also out. Not that long of a career, and other things. If he were a full-career 1B, I’d rank him below Bottomley.
  13. Chuck Klein? Out. Five-year flash in the pan.
  14. Freddie Lindstrom? Out! Not that good of a fielder, not a great hitter, too short a career.
  15. Ernie Lombardi? Borderline. Not sure his above-average, for a catcher, bat, makes up for below-average defense.
  16. Heinie Manush? Just not quite good enough for quite long enough.
  17. Rabbit Maranville? Nice nickname, but even for being primarily a SS, not sure his fielding makes up for a weak bat.
  18. Phil Rizzuto? Iffy. I’ll give him the missed wartime years benefit of the doubt. Edd Roush? Out, I think. It’s like looking at Harold Baines.
  19. Bill Terry? Great stats, but, in the very life ball era of the 1930s, and too short of a career. Borderline.
  20. Pie Traynor? Negative career dWAR. Time to get this icon out, I think! He’s overrated in the field.
  21. Lloyd Waner? “Little Poison” probably shouldn’t be there. Contra another blogger, to whom I saw WTF?, Paul Waner aka Big Poison, is a perfectly legit HOFer.
  22. Hack Wilson? Too short a career, fielding liabilities, very live ball era inflation.


You'll note 22 players on that list. That's a fair chunk of the HOF. Before worrying if we have too few third basemen in there, maybe we ought to instead address the "too many" at a number of positions.

Scratch another GOP Prez candidate

And watch another hypocrite surface?

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, touted by many media pundits as a possible "mainstream conservative" 2012 Presidential candidate, has suddenly fallen in love with a coal-gasification plant that his own state's natural-gas utility commission rejected.

Wait. We have a conservative GOP governor, from a party with a lot of global warming denialists, that won't support cap-and-trade, let alone carbon taxes, which means coal gasification is hugely unfeasible economically, and he does this?

Oh, and isn't guaranteeing the gas will be bought at a prince of $3 per million BTU over current rates for natural gas ... uhh, isn't that socialism?

January 02, 2011

The 'American decline' is not just the fault of the rich

I've blogged recently about Baby Boomers' retirement woes, and in that post, noted that many of them were drinking the Reagan Kool-Aid 30 years ago.

Well, Der Spiegel has an in-depth article on "the decline thing," and, in a different way, it kind of makes the same point. Much of the middle class willingly believed that the pony Reagan hiomself believed had ot be near the shitpile was there.

No, Social Security isn't a Ponzi scheme, but, as Paul Kennedy could tell us from "Decline and Fall of the Great Powers," even before the housing bubble, other ways in which the U.S. economy became more and more finance-based were.

As was the outsourcing of jobs.

To riff on Martin Niemoller, "First they outsourced the unskilled industrial labor and I didn't complain. Then they outsourced the skilled industrial labor and I didn't complain. Then they oursourced the tech-skilled labor and I didn't complain. Then they outsourced gray-collar work and I didn't complain. Then they outsourced the less-skilled service labor, and I .... "

Well, with more and more call centers overseas, what next? Corporate paralegal work? India is a democracy, based on the Anglo half of Anglo-American legal principles.

At the same time, the middle class believed the Reagan undercurrent story that they should identify with the rich. Combined with the pee-down economics, it WAS class warfare in a country where everybody wants the appearance of middle-class-dom, believes the BS about mobility, lumps the upper of upper-middle class with the lower of lower-middle class, and otherwise sets itself up for sociological exploitation.

Like this, from the Spiegel story:
Sociologist Robert ... Putnam is worried about economic imbalances and new disparities within society. Today an American CEO earns about 300 times as much as an ordinary worker. In 1950, that number was only 30. The consequence is "social segregation," says Putnam, by which he means that people go to different schools and parties and live in different neighborhoods, and that there is no longer any overlap between groups.

But, again, Americans brought this on themselves.

The "ownership fetish," as in home ownership, which Spiegel discusses on its next page, is another example:
I had hoped that the Americans would change their way of thinking, that they would take responsibility and only spend as much as they made," says (Axel) Jakobeit.
Jakobeit, described as German by birth but American by choice, should have known better.

And, per Univ. of Chicago economist Raghuram Rajan, is home ownership for lower income levels a partial equivalent of "bread and circuses"? I wouldn't totally disagree, at least.

Robert Reich is on the right track:
Reich has dissected the causes of the crash in his book "Aftershock," in which he analyzes an American character trait that seems oddly simplistic: If my neighbor has more, than I want more too. And I get what I want, because I'm an American.

Spiegel's on the right track, too. Simplistic.

Germany's to cold for me. And, my German is limited. There's Canada. Or Australia. That said, if the wingnuts in the US want to talk about "ownership society," can I withdraw my Social Security contributions if I emigrate?

Unfortunately, in addition to being simplistic, American exceptionalist means the belief in the magic pony, if it's even gone that far away now, will return soon enough.

And, for Preznit Kumbaya, the magic pony to be peddled is "college education." That's even as college costs have risen, and continue to rise, far faster than inflation and slower only than healthcare costs, and we don't need that many college graduates without creative college-needing jobs.