January 05, 2013

Could Obamacare be worse in some ways for the now uninsured?

Many of those who are now uninsured may well have little experience dealing with the for-profit health insurance industry, something that can be daunting even for an educated major newspaper columnist.

You think a person with little experience with health  insurance, and perhaps none as an adult outside Medicaid, if they're now making just enough money not to qualify for Medicaid, is going to understand how to contest claim denials?

Yeah, right.

The health insurance world lives on the intimidation of a blizzard of paperwork written in a bastard offspring language of medical legalese. Obamacare has no provisions for a "Medical Paperwork Simplification Act" or anything else. Nor does it provide any money for training people how to better read medical paperwork.

It was enough of a tussle in Congress to get credit card statement paperwork simplified a few years ago.

Imagine being, say, working poor, misreading statements, and having medical creditors hassling you day and night while you remain ignorant of your rights.

#Cooperstown candidacies: My summation of baseball Hall of Fame 2013 odds, merits

My general questions about potential baseball Hall of Fame candidates are along these lines:

1. Should he get in this year? 2. Should he get in at all? 3. Will he get in this year? 4. Will he get in at all? Following are players, linked to Baseball-Reference pages, then linked to my blog observations. 

Jack Morris: He's not close to deserving. No, No, probably not and maybe next year or via veterans vote.

Dale Murphy. Nice guy, but just no. No to all four questions.

Jeff Bagwell: Why, why is he still waiting? He shouldn't be. Yes, yes, maybe, and yes.

Lee Smith: Closers are generally overrated, including Lee. No, no, no, probably not.

Alan Trammell: Let's get him out from Ripken's shadow and get him in. Yes, yes, no, possibly.

Craig Biggio: Non-roiding "message man" has good shot this year. Yes, yes, probably, yes.

Tim Raines: Can he step out from Rickey Henderson's shadow? Yes, yes, probably no, and very  probably yes.

Kenny Lofton: Should a "junior Tim Raines" be in? No, lean no for now, no, probably not.

Edgar Martinez: Sorry, but he didn't do enough for me as a DH. No, no, no, probably.

Larry Walker: Sorry, fellow Cards fans, but injuries and what I see as a real Coors Field effect say no. No, no, no, probably not.

Fred McGriff: The Crime Dog falls short, and a fair degree, in my book. No, he shouldn't get in this year, or future years. And, he won't, on either.

Curt Schilling: He had an impressive peak, but, injuries aside, why was that peak so late? And are his counting stats too low? His sabermetric stats parallel Bagwell, but ... Kind of lean no on No. 1, I am pretty sure yes on No. 2, no, yes.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, et al. Here's my thoughts on likely roiders. Especially re the first two, no, no until individuals, union and Selig (and a few older writers) all apologize, no, and yes. 

And, yes, I know the Hall has morals problems already. I know that players used greenies back in the golden days of baseball. Etc., etc. I have written about that here; shorter thoughts are that this is about playing skills boosts and that I don't believe 1960s amphetamines delivered like that.

Mike Piazza: Besides "bacne," is catcher durability the biggest PEDs allegation shadow for him? See above on Clemens/Bonds.

If I had an actual vote this year, then, it would be Bagwell, Biggio, Raines, Trammell and maybe Schilling.

Your thoughts? Please vote in the poll!  

And, how will my predictions, and desires, square with BBWAA writers? Those who have released their votes to the public, as of last week, may be giving hope to Biggio and Bagwell, and also to me on wanting to keep Morris out.

And, why can't writers get one anti-vote, to vote one person OUT of the Hall? 

I am a "small Hall" guy. Contra Morris and Murphy fans who point to, say, Early Wynn or Jim Rice, respectively, there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

And, until the BBWAA, the Hall of Fame itself, and, per my comments above, individual players facing allegations, the players union, and Bud Selig and owners all jointly get honest about roiding, voters are going to face a growing backlog of talented players in years ahead.

Oh, and the Veterans Committee will consider, among others, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre as managers.

Soon, I'll have an initial preview post about that 2014 ballot ... including those two managers.

Let's just say that, although I'm a St. Louis Cardinals fan, TLR managed, pre-St. Louis, the two most notorious early roiders in baseball. And, yes, Tony the Pony, you've got a law degree, but both of them have fessed up. No "alleged" needed.

Stay tuned.

Mike Piazza battles #bacne for shot at #Cooperstown and HOF

The header pretty much sums it up.

Mike Piazza, a perennial All-Star catcher, and one who's been underrated defensively (I don't know about Fangraphs, but Baseball-Reference gives him a career positive dWAR) is on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

His opponent? The black cloud of steroids allegations, fueled in his case by reports that he had outbreaks of acne on his back, or "bacne." Given that it was sportswriting curmudgeon Murray Chass who saw fit to play it up, per Deadspin, we really should "bracket" that.

That said, Piazza's counting stats look good, by position, fueled by a catchers record for home runs. On the other hand, that fuels the roiding-suspicious, too.

Other stuff? WAA of 35.9 and WAR of 56.1 are both good for catchers, as is runs by positional scarcity. OPS+ of 143 and OPS of .922, too.

He's a HOFer, for sure, if not for the allegations.

Where do I stand?

Other than the bacne issue, the allegations against Piazza have not flown fast and furious, but more under the carpet.

On the other hand, those are big, record-like sabermetric numbers for a catcher, which again fuels the suspicions.

So, my rhetorical questions test?

Will he get in this year? No.

Will he get in eventually? Yes.

Should he, IMO, get in eventually? I think so.

Should he get in this year, IMO? No. The suspicions are vague, but I can't totally dismiss them. And, when his turn comes, I'll say the same about Pudge Rodriguez.

For both of them, as catchers, the health and longevity issues also raise questions and eyebrows. Let's not forget about HGH as well as steroids.

January 04, 2013

Is the "fiscal cliff" bill unconstitutional?

In a pondering thought that should make everybody to the left of tea partiers shit bricks (and why did none of them think about it?) I wonder if the fiscal cliff legislation doesn't violate the Constitution because it was started in the U.S. Senate and it's a money bill.

Per Article 1, Section 7:
All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.
It seems pretty clear.

And, as not only a tax bill, in part, but a bill that increased certain taxes and tax rates, it's a revenue bill, per and simple.

I think it is unconstitutional. I'm still surprised that no House tea partier has filed for an injunction in court.

That said, per a friend of mine on Facebook, the Senate apparently had an attack of "oops, Houston, we have a problem."

So, the House passed HR 8 as a "dummy bill" and the Senate amended it to stick in all the original bill language.

But, somebody might argue an "ex post facto" fix doesn't count, or at least that it didn't count until after this "fix." Still, it shows how dysfunctional Congress has become. And, this WILL be remembered in six weeks by tea partiers in the House, you can count on that.

Biographical BS from my new GOP Congresscritter, Bill Flores

Bill Flores
I loove the BS of the new post-redistricting Congresscritter for my area, Bill Flores. Here's a tidbit of it, from his Congressional biography page. A descendent of a ranching family and Texas A&M grad, he says "the Flores family never asked for or sought government assistance." Really? No ag price supports? No Pell grants or other help to go to A&M?

He claims to have paid his own way through A&M, but says nothing about his MBA from Houston Baptist. Nor does he mention government-guaranteed student loans.

Besides, he got plenty of gummint handouts in his "private sector" employment:
Before retiring to pursue public service, Flores worked in the energy industry for nearly three decades.
Hey, Bill? If you worked for Big Oil (which is what "energy industry" means in Texas, right?) you and your company had your faces in the gummint hog trough. And, if you were an accountant, you know in detail about just what help you got.

In fact, per your Wikipedia bio, you were a fricking drain on the gummint:
During his time with Marine Drilling he personally oversaw Bankruptcy filings which resulted in a 7.5 million loss to the federal government.
Yeah, a whole shitload of gummint assistance.

AND!

You lied about that when you first ran for Congress. Per the Dallas Morning News:
The Republican challenger who has assailed Rep. Chet Edwards for supporting taxpayer bailouts once led his company through a bankruptcy that let it avoid a $7.5 million debt to the U.S. government.

Although Bill Flores, a retired Bryan energy executive, has said all creditors were fully repaid with interest, court records show otherwise. The 1992 bankruptcy allowed Marine Rig 200 Inc. to repay just $3 million of $10.5 million owed to the U.S. Maritime Administration, which held the mortgage on a drilling rig the company owned.

"The value of hindsight tells me the deal worked fine for everyone but the federal government," Flores said Thursday, describing his earlier contention about creditor compensation as largely accurate.
Gimme a break. Gimme a "fuck you John Boehner" break.

Beyond that, you were born on an Air Force base. If your dad went to college, he got GI Bill help.

And, per your bankruptcy, you're another Texas MBA grad in the oil bidness who didn't know a damn thing about it. And, no, we don't miss "him" yet, eitehr.

Will 3rd time be #Cooperstown charm for Jeff #Bagwell?

Long-time Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, having hit the 56 percent mark last year, is surely hoping BBWAA writers show him some love and vote him into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Sabermetrically, he's got some good numbers — 149 OPS+, WAR of 76.7 and a strong WAA of 52.0.

On the flip side, he has a couple of things working against him.

First is the grayish-black cloud of steroids. I personally don't think he ever used anything. That's reinforced by his career clearly heading on the downward slope after age 32.

There's also the counting stats issue. Less than 2,500 hits and "only" 449 HRs from the first base position.

Some might even argue he's just a National League version of Edgar Martinez.

Rather, I'd say just the opposite. With more than 1,500 runs and RBIs, he's got good counting stats there. And yes, Enron Field/Minute Maid Park is a hitters' park, but still, his surrounding lineup at best was no better than what Gar had at the Mariners' peak.

So, no roiding. Most years, a decent but not fantastic supporting cast.

Now, what will the BBWAA think of him this year, with Barry Bonds and other more clearly alleged roiders on the ballot? Will more voters think Bags was clean, or will the clouds darken further? That's a toughie.

My threefold test is, in some way, shape or form — should a player be in the Hall, should he be in now, and will he get in, and this year?

Bags should be in, and should already be in, I think. He will eventually get in, but I'm not sure about this year.

It would be nice if it were this year; it would be cool to see him and Craig Biggio enter together; I know Astros fans would like that. (And, as a Cards' fan, I'm sorry to see you change leagues!)

As I near wrapping up my most comprehensive set of posts ever on Hall of Fame candidates, a few notes.

First, please vote in the poll!

Second, I am a "small Hall" guy. That means working to block undeserving pitchers like Jack Morris or also keeping out great people but just-short batters like Dale Murphy.

Third, contra Morris and Murphy fans who point to, say, Early Wynn or Jim Rice, respectively, there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

If Bags doesn't get in this year, it could be a wait. Not only the logjam of roiders, but the Big Hurt, Frank Thomas, becomes eligible next year, and Bags will have to take a seat behind him.

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

Bradley Manning — Adrian Lamo unapologetic about ratting him out

One of the saddest things about Bradley Manning's case in military court is how he was ratted out after online conversations with hacker Adrian Lamo. (The next saddest thing, after that, outside Team Obama's actions, would be how Wired magazine has repeatedly refused to release all the info it has about this story and its connections to Lamo, even after persistent badgering by the likes of Glenn Greenwald.)

Well, Lamo recently sat for an interview with the Guardian, and he's defiantly unapologetic about the ratting, or about allegedly misrepresenting himself as either a journalist or a minister and thereby allegedly promising Manning either source or confessional confidentiality.

Here's the nut grafs between interviewer Ed Pilkington and Adrian Lamo, identified by initials:
EP: Early on in your chat with Manning you reassured him about your trustworthiness, telling him you were a journalist and a church minister and that either way he'd have legal protection against his identity being revealed. That was clearly misleading, as things transpired, and your critics have accused you of lying to Manning by promising him protection. Do you regret having done that?

AL: Professionally and personally speaking, it's not my function to have people arrested. That's something that would ideally fall to law enforcement. In this matter, the harm from the subject's continued freedom appeared to objectively be greater than the harm of interdicting him. The offer was never meant to be construed as a suicide pact, and no one had ever mistaken it for one.
In the specific context of the logs, it's also relevant to note that the offer was never affirmatively accepted – it proposed two possible conditions, and one was never chosen.

EP: I want to press you on this point. If a priest, or a journalist, promises to protect someone's identity or confession, they can't then turn round and say: 'Oh, you've told me something bad, therefore I'm going to turn you in.' By telling Manning you would protect him (whether or not he accepted your offer) didn't you make pact, a vow, that couldn't be broken? If I tell a source of mine that I will protect his or her identity, I mean it.

AL: The two choices aren't fungible. They're distinct things, each with their own set of boundaries. In each case the law relating to privilege has exemption for exigent situations as the conscience sees them. Assuming the offer had been taken up and we'd gone forward – if I'd been a doctor or a counselor, the same would have been true – the law recognizes that privilege is not, as I said, a suicide pact. Meaning that once you enter into it, you're not bound to it no matter how much harm will arise. I'd have a much harder time saying with a straight face: "Well, he told me about the largest classified material breach in the history of western intelligence, but I wasn't supposed to tell anyone."
That last paragraph is bullshit. The idea that what Manning was confessing was a "suicide pact" is a pure lie. And, that in turn leads to other misrepresentation.

It also leads me to wonder if Lamo wasn't some sort of "double agent" all along, and not just in the Manning case. From what I've read of the world of hacking, a dedicated hacker would never spout such bullshit.

That's reinforced by the end of the interview:
EP: One final question based on hindsight. With everything we now know – including the way Manning was subjected to treatment that the UN likened to torture, and the fact that though he won't face the death penalty as you initially feared he does face possible life in military custody – would you make the same decision again?
AL: People are always asking me whether I'd have done the same if I'd known [x] or had foresight of [y]. Questions like that sound good in theory, but ultimately what they're asking is: "If linear time collapsed into itself and you were suddenly aware of every possible outcome, what would you do?" The thing is, it's not a question that can be answered. One of the great things about life, I think, is that we don't get do-overs. I don't think idealism could survive if we did.
The idea that Lamo can insinuate HE, not Manning, is the idealist, is risible.

It's made more risible yet by his own column in the Comment is Free portion of the Guardian, where he claims that what he was doing in 2003 wasn't hacking.

Let's not forget that Lamo pled guilty to federal charges in 2003. It's not implausible to wonder if he's not an "on retainer" double agent of some sort indeed. As for his claim that he "chose to surrender," it's technically true, but a warrant had been out for his arrest for some time, and the feds were probably narrowing down his hiding place.

As for his attacks on WikiLeaks? The redaction issue is overblown, and Greenwald and others have documented that. As for other issues with WikiLeaks, Lamo could have addressed them without ratting out Manning.

As for offender No. 2? Wired has always been a bit overrated in my book, with a lot of "gee-whiz" angles to it. But, the actions of Kevin Poulson and others in stonewalling Greenwald led me to question anything it does in terms of the intersection of technology with politics or other hard news.

Wired eventually published a redacted version of the Manning-Lamo chats in 2011, which, per Wikipedia, confirmed Greenwald's worst suspicions about both Wired and Lamo.

Curt Schilling — will injuries, etc. derail HOF pitch?

Curt Schilling is a puzzler indeed.

Good ERA+ and WHIP; his 127 and 1.137 are well above, and below, respectively, my HOF cutoffs of 110 and 1.25. WAR of 76.9 is very good. WAA of 54.0 is great. Bloody sock aside, a great postseason pitcher.

Problem is counting stats — "just" 216 wins in a 20-year career. 

And, another problem — after two semi-good early-career seasons with the Phillies, he then has a three-year valley. 

But, that's not the worst. He then has a couple of bleah years until, all of a sudden, he looks like a flash in the pan, until he hits the ripe old age of 34, and has his peak in three of the next four years.

Should we make allowance for his injuries and consider him a late-blooming junior Pedro Martinez?

Schilling's protested long and loud about roiding in baseball. What if his late peak got some enhancement? Maybe he doth protest too much, and maybe he's legalistic in it by just having used HGH?

Schilling's got the numbers, but, as far as I can tell, there's been little written about that late-career peak of his.

My three rhetorical questions on HOF candidates are:
1. Should he be in?

2. Will and/or should he get in this year?
3. Will he eventually get in?

With Schilling, let's go in semi-reverse order.

First, he will eventually get in. No doubt.

Will he get in this year? Probably not.

Should he get in this year? Probably not, and that's even without my "wondering."

The "should he be in," in general? I can't say yes or no until some investigative sports writers with far more connections than me do some digging. Schilling being technical by using HGH only, but enthusiastically and quite scientifically would not surprise me at all.

Oh, and please vote in my poll! (I'll consider Schilling under other non-roiders for this poll.) 

A little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

January 03, 2013

Baseball Hall of Fame — what about Alan Trammell?

The long-time Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell is certainly hoping to be luckier than Dale Murphy on getting some love from the BBWAA voters. And, let's be honest, per a previous blog post, he certainly deserves it more than one-time teammate Jack Morris.

And, he probably needs it more sooner rather than later. In his 12th year on the ballot, and still at a bit under 40 percent support last year, and with a steroids-related backlog of good players growing and growing, his clock is definitely ticking.

That said, he's arguably UNDER-rated.

First, defense. A career dWAR of 22.8, but only four Gold Gloves, when he should have six or seven? Of course, he had one tough competitor at that position — see below.

Second, overall value. Career WAR of 67.1 and WAA of 40.4. That latter stands out. A 40-plus on WAA, as I am learning to evaluate it, is a strong credential.

That said, Tram's been hurt in a couple of ways.

First is having little "black ink" in his career.

Second is a relatively short career, with a relatively young drop-off. Other than an Indian summer at 35, his last good year was at 32, and already then, due to being banged up at SS and other things, he was missing games year after year.

Third, related to No. 2, is relatively low counting stats, including fewer than 2,500 hits.

Fourth, related to the "banged up," is being overshadowed so much by Cal Ripken.

Fifth, contra the high WAA, his career OPS+ is just 110, right on the HOF border for me, but I make allowance for positions of high defensive need, especially if the player meets the demand.

And, per the glove work, if we'd emphasize his defense more, and call him a "junior Ozzie Smith" on that side, and a "junior Cal Ripken" on the bat side, maybe we would appreciate him more. I know I've grown to look more favorably on his case.

So, Tiger homers? Focus on Tram, not Black Jack!

Per my three rhetorical questions, he should be in there, he probably won't get there this year, and he may get there before he hits his 15-year expiration. Stay tuned.

A little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in the admittedly unscientific poll. 

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

Eric Cantor, chickenshit

It's no surprise that John Boehner got re-elected Speaker of the House, and with only nine GOP defections (and three "presents" and one not voting).

Per the 1998 push against Gingrich, which had its roots in a summer 1997 coup attempt, I think Cantor could have had the position, had he wanted to fight for it.

That said, Boehner's inability to manage his party in general aside, he probably could have kept a majority of Republicans for two or three ballots. The question ultimately would have been what Democrats chose to do.

And, I'm sure Nancy Pelosi would have told her troops to keep voting for her until Boehner came calling with a deal.

Boehner would have conceded to Cantor before doing that, though.

But, Cantor doesn't want the hassles of being in the tea party gunsights or taking its arrows in his backside.

So, no coup was ever going to happen.

Now, could he try one after debt ceiling negotiations? Push Boehner to then step aside, if he thinks that's "needed"? I'd still offer 3-1 odds against that, unless Boehner publicly kisses Obama on the House floor.

RIP Kyoto Treaty

The tower of a church is seen between the smoke-billowing
chimneys of the brown coal power plan Frimmersdorf
in Grevenbroich near Duesseldorf, Germany.
(Frank Augstein/Associated Press)/via CBC
Per a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report, the Kyoto Treaty officially died with the end of 2012. And, as the recent Doha round of climate talks shows, we have little to replace it with.

It's arguable that if Bill Clinton (pre-Monica Lewinsky, too, but post-re-election) never had plans to submit the bill for Senate ratification even at the time the meetings in Kyoto started, he never should have inked his name, or made pledges he wasn't even going to try to deliver.

Second, it's too bad that, already then, Kyoto did lump all developing nations into one basket. Conservatives around the world are right to complain on this one — China is not the same as Botswana.

Third, it's also too bad that the old G-7, at that time, didn't already start talking about what mechanisms, in terns of tax, economic and other government policies, were most likely to work the best to obtain results.

Today, we know a simple, straightforward carbon tax is the answer. But, one moderate recession and one whopper semi-depression recession later, that's a much harder sell than 15 years ago.

And, with more economic muscle on its part, putting China in a separate basket from Botswana, per Point No. 2, is an almost impossible sell today.

That said, there is an answer for both, which I have mentioned more than once —

Carbon tariffs on imports.

As far as I understand the World Trade Organization, it allows such carbon tariffs as long as they're not steeper than carbon taxes.

There you go.

Of fiscal cliffs, ATMs, debt ceilings and leverage

Various progressive types have been saying, to various degrees, that our Compromiser-in-Chief (a couple of Facebook friends think "Dear Leader" has gotten too snarky or too creepy, so sad) did less than he could have done on the fiscal slope compromise.

I certainly do.

Let's riff on my headline.

Obama gave away leverage in two big ways and areas — the Alternative Minimum Tax and the debt ceiling.

On the AMT, it was good tax policy, true, but it was horrible political policy. The AMT needed to be indexed to inflation, that's the good tax policy. It didn't need to be indexed unless part of a bigger deal; that's the bad political policy.

The leverage lost there is small potatoes, though, to not making a debt ceiling fix part of that "bigger deal."

Given that 2/3 of House Republicans voted against a bill that was a slam dunk in the Senate and where Obama had had leverage, up to that moment, he's likely to get his head handed to him on a platter in mid-February, or his ass kicked.

No, I take that back.

The Compromiser-in-Chief will hand his own head to the House GOP in advance and therefore We the People will get our asses kicked.

More proof? The first act of the new GOP House? A move to ... wait for it ... repeal Obamacare.

Texas is No. 1 — in mercury

Per the Environmental Integrity Project, Texas power plants are collectively No. 1 in the nation in mercury emissions.

And, worse, they're individually No. 1 — and Nos. 3-5, too:
1. Luminant Generation, Martin Lake Steam Electric Station & Lignite Mine in Rusk County, TX (1,501 lbs. of mercury emissions);
2. Southern Co., Gaston Steam Plant in Shelby, AL (1,244 lbs. of mercury emissions);
3. Luminant Generation, Big Brown Steam Electric Station & Lignite Mine in Freestone County, TX (1,240 lbs. of mercury emissions);
4. Luminant Generation, Monticello Steam Electric Station & Lignite Mine in Titus County, TX (911 lbs. of mercury emissions);
5. Luminant Generation, Sandow Steam Electric Station in Milam County, TX (841 lbs. of mercury emissions).


You'll also note another common factor — Luminant, the former generating arm of TXU.

Full report (PDF) is here.

January 02, 2013

Al Jazeera + Al Gore = Al Air America?

No, jokes and multilingual puns aside, it's serious. Al Jazeera TV wants to buy Current, Al Gore's cable network.


And why not?

Per the story, it gets Al Jazeera plus current highly limited US broadcasting of its own network. And, Current is currently making some dinero. And, present editorial staff at Current might benefit from piggybacking in the Middle East on Al Jazeera there.


And, that said, contra the Yahoo story, or updating what shouldn't need updating, in 2011, Dave Marash, former DC anchor for Al Jazeera, said it was NOT anti-American, according to his Wikipedia page.

Al Jazeera plus Current could provide something better than originally hoped for on Air America, too.

Plus, the Pam Gellar type Islamophobe wingnuts would shit bricks royally, too. That's reason enough for this merger.

And, beyond this, why shouldn't we have more opportunities to see Al Jazeera? Screw Comcast et al.

Or screw Time Warner, which dropped Current just after the takeover.

Craig Biggio — anti #roiding 'message' man in Hall of Fame 1st shot?

First, you may ask why I call Houston Astros great Craig Biggio a "message" man?

Simple.

The Astros' long-term second baseman (and sometime outfielder and career-starting catcher) is as squeaky clean as Dale Murphy, including on the steroid-using issue, and with better stats on the sabermetric side and much better on the counting side.

First, the counting stats.

Any regular baseball fan knows about his 3,060 hits. Add in his career 668 doubles, fifth-best all time. Toss in a career 291 HRs, arguably pretty decent production from largely a second baseman.

Add in a few Gold Gloves in his career.

Now, top it with the fact that he's never been rumored to be a roider.

Result?

On the predictions side, I say he gets in this year.

Older baseball writers still like those counting stats, and the ones that want to send a message to Bonds, Clemens and others have their perfect "vehicle."

So, I've answered "yes" to two of my three rhetorical questions about Hall candidates — 1. He will get in and 2. Not just "eventually" but this year.

But, I have three such questions, and the third is — should he be in there?

And, counting stats aside, sabermetrics has a bit more caution.

Let's look at my basic go-to stat on position players, first: OPS+.

Biggio has a surprisingly low 112. My cutoff for HOFers is 110. Of course, he was compiling his OPS+ in the height of the steroid era, so maybe he deserves a bit of slack. 

Behind this? His OPS was only .796. And, while he walked a decent amount, he struck out a lot for a guy with medium to medium-high power, but not huge power.

Second is Wins Above Average, where he's only at 29.1.

I'm still developing a bit of "feel" for WAA and what a HOF cutoff should be. But my tentative answer is 30, and Biggio falls just short. Related to that, his WAR of 62.1, while good, is not outstanding.

Again, maybe we cut him a bit of slack over roiding competition, but how much?

He does rank a solid +50 on runs by positional scarcity.

So, I would say he should be in there. As for "this year" vs. "eventually," I will say that he probably, pretty solidly, should be in there this year. And, I'm in general a "small Hall" guy, not like the "fluffers" named Jim Caple, David Schoenfield, etc. at ESPN, and a few others. (ESPN is far and away the most egregious, though.)

That said, how Biggio does will probably be a baseline for Jeff Kent and his chances, as the two are fairly similar.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll.

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

Lee Smith for Hall? - closers are overrated; sorry #stlcards fans

As I do my most extensive set of posts yet on potential Major League Baseball Hall of Fame candidates, it's time for a look at Lee Smith.

First, for those who haven't read other baseball-related posts of mine, I'm a definite Cardinals fan.

Second, I saw Big Lee set what was then the National League single-season saves record in 1991. And, with those being among Montreal Expos "home" games moved on the road because of falling Olympic Stadium concrete, I got box seats less than 30 rows from the Cardinal bullpen on the first-base line.

So, I can say Lee Smith is physically imposing.

I can also look at his HOF stats and say that he's not imposing career-wise. As is the case with most closers, ESPN-type overrating aside.

Career WAR of just 27.9 and WAA of 13.8 rule him out right there. So, too does the fact that he can't meet one of my two baseline hurdles. His WHIP of 1.256 is technically above my 1.25 cutoff for pitchers.

Now, he doesn't quite have the momentum of a Jack Morris, but he does have a couple more years of eligibility left. Hopefully, we won't need quite so much an anti-Lee campaign. But, he doesn't belong there.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll. 

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

January 01, 2013

Fred McGriff - will Crime Dog take a bite at the Hall of Fame?

There's plenty of good candidates, steroid users aside, on this year's Hall of Fame ballot.

Fred McGriff will ot jump past Jeff Bagwell or Tim Raines, whether or not they or Craig Biggio get to 75 percent or not.

Now, what about his eventual chances?

On the plus side, a career OPS+ of 136 is good, solid. More than 1,500 RBIs looks good, too.

But, other sabermetrics undercut him. His oWAR is only a touch above 50, low for a 1B. His WAA is even worse, respectively, less than 20. And his dWAR is horrible. So, his runs by positional scarcity is way in the negative.

So, he's not really deserving.

Plus, as one of those players who played in several different cities in his career, he'll not have a single loyal core of BBWAA writers to support his case. That's part of why Blyleven took so long to get in, and McGriff isn't a big-name broadcaster, unlike Bert.

So, here's the trio:
1. He shouldn't be in the HOF;
2. He definitely won't be this year;
3. He probably won't ever be.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll.

December 31, 2012

Jon Chait STOPS fellating Obama, becomes bigger hack

Exactly two months ago, political insider Jonathan Chait wrote a big steaming pile of blather with this headline: "The Case for Obama: Why He Is a Great President. Yes, Great."

It included such dreck as this:
Obama can boast a record of accomplishment that bests any president since Roosevelt, and has fewer demerits on his record than any of them, including Roosevelt. 
And dreck that is indeed.

Says who?


Not just me, but ... Jon Chait!


Exactly two months later, he writes, with this headline: "Why is Obama Caving on Taxes?" and proceeds to excoriate Dear Leader up one side and down the other.


That includes this closing paragraph:

Obama may think his conciliatory approach has helped avoid economic chaos. Instead, he is courting it.
That's a Loooong ways away from "great," isn't it?

Well, the second Chait is right. But, refusing to let even 10 percent of that thought into a political puff piece two months ago (Note: Obama's biggest achievement, allegedly, Obamacare, actually is Nancy Pelosi's doing) shows just how much a hack he is.


But, really, he's a representative of a type. In days ahead (whether the House approves the "fiscal slope" deal or not) you'll see others like Chait, neoliberal but not quite as conservative as Dear Leader, and still clueless as to how bad an executive leader he is, similarly burn rubber and strip clutches at the strenuousness of their change-of-direction rethinking about O'Bummer.

I'll bet we soon smell similar burned-out clutches from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos, Steven Benen at Washington Monthly, and Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, among others.

In order of hackery, Kos is right there with Chait, as is Benen, a consistent Democratic Party fluffer. Marshall at times ranks higher on the snootiness level, though.

And, even IF the House GOP approves this ... a definite if ... this is only a two-month Band-Aid. Why?  The "great" Dear Leader didn't get a debt ceiling long-term fix as part of the deal.

In any case, let's see exactly sort of Ricky Ricardo "splaining" they do.

My 2013 predictions in news, culture, etc.

Note any international readers: These are largely US-based, but still may have a bit of international play.

1. The so-called "fiscal cliff" will finally get a deal on ... wait for it ... Jan. 7. Stock market will continue to sag, but not totally tank until that date, therefore undercutting the Pete Petersons of the world. Both Republicans and Democrats will do some can-kicking, postponing many details for discussion — until after the 2014 elections. GOP will "bite" on what was originally the offer by President Barack Obama, aka Dear Leader, for "chained CPI" on Social Security, and pressure Senate Democrats to "lump it."

And, yes, I know, there's claims that a "deal" is just around the corner, as of 7 p.m. Eastern time Dec. 31. Read a story like this, though, and you get a Swiss cheese of caveat holes.

2. Speaking of that, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will make only minor changes to filibuster rules.

3. President Obama will offer only relatively minor changes in whatever gun control legislation he sends to Congress, and will make the announcement of such legislation itself relatively mild. (As in sending it to Congress after 5 p.m. on a Friday.)

4. Angela Merkel's coalition, the unwieldy one, will fall apart in Germany sometime this year over a mix of resentment toward the eurozone's south, the Free Democrats' stance on nuclear power, and a general weariness.

5. John Kerry will become US Secretary of State. Rep. Edward Markey will win the special election to replace him in the Senate.

6. Chuck Hagel will ultimately withdraw his name from Secretary of Defense consideration after lack of support from Obama. At this point, I won't even venture a guess over who's next on Obama's list.

7.  India's rape-murder tragedy will be the last straw for its current government ad will force parliamentary elections some time in 2013. The Congress party will suffer disastrous losses. The new BJP government will get more aggressive against both native Maoists and Pakistan. The BJP will not improve the lives of Indian women, though.

8. Climate change legislation will not even get considered by the US.  But, the European Union will hold firm on its airline carbon taxes.

9. The Texas Legislature's new budget will not only be more hardcore antiabortion, it will tighten the belt on health care for the poor and have no major new money for schools. The fact that Texas Parks and Wildlife is still soliciting for we the taxpayer to make direct donations underscores this prediction. (And, no, I won't make a donation myself; it's called "enabling the wingnuts" — as in a spouse/lover enabling an alcoholic/addict.)

10. The state of Texas will lose the school finance lawsuit while the Lege is in session, but even with an expedited appeals route, appeals will not be done in time.

11. The state of Texas will lose all its appeals and, shades of the past, have to have multiple special sessions of the legislature before passing an acceptable school finance bill.

12. The US will sell drones to South Korea, which will escalate tensions with China, both directly and vis-a-vis Japan.

13. Britain's Liberal Democrats, for reasons unknown, will remain in coalition with Conservatives.

14. Bradley Manning will eventually accept a crappy plea-bargain deal, while the British government and Julian Assange will remain at deadlock all year.

===

Culture

1. "Lincoln" will win Oscars for best actor, director, producer, cinemetography and possibly screenplay.

2. Some rock star past the age of the 60 will become a father.

3. The Minnesota Orchestra (management) will refuse to settle its strike/lockout with its musicians and the season will be washed out. 

4. Fox will announce plans for a new late-night talk show.

5. PBS will revamp "News Hour."

7. Whether to Europe or Native Americans, a number of US museums will make major repatriations of art and artifacts.

8. John Adams will start work on a new opera.

My 2013 predictions in sports

For any international readers I have, these predictions are largely, but not entirely, US based.

1. The St. Louis Cardinals will win the World Series. (Hey, I always predict that.)

2. Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell will get in the baseball Hall of Fame. None of the roiders will; even the two kings, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, will fail to pass 50 percent, though at least two other candidates will. (One, I've already reviewed, another, days ahead.) Jack Morris will fall just short  of 75 percent, leaving one more year to fight against his candidacy. (Read through recent blog posts of mine for detailed assessments of several candidates, or visit this blog post for an overview of all.

3. The Denver Broncos will win the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning will NOT retire afterward.

4. Jason Garrett will remain the Dallas Cowboys head coach.

5. The Miami Heat will repeat as NBA champs, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in the finals.

6. The NHL will officially cancel its season, some time around Jan. 15. It will not settle the current impasse until late enough into 2013 to cause an abbreviated 2013-14 season.

7. Tiger Woods will not win a major championship in golf this year. Rory McElroy will win the Masters, post one other top 5, one top 10 and one top 20 in the other three majors. He will win four tournaments overall, maybe more, and repeat as player of the year. Two of the other three majors will have first-time winners. Tiger will win three times overall, but miss at least one cut. He will remain ranked No. 2, but at least as far behind Rory as he is ahead of No. 3.