November 01, 2013

Nolan Ryan wasn't always Nolan Ryan

Before the world's greatest batter-walker was eased out of his position with the Texas Rangers, alltime strikeout, and walks, leader Nolan Ryan repeatedly bitched, in various ways, about how "coddled" today's pitchers' arms are.

Well, I have a word or two in response.

First, Nolan, you were kind of a freak in being lucky to avoid major injury, like the need for
Tommy John surgery.

Second, you didn't always dodge some degree of injury, and you weren't always the horse you claimed to be.

The facts?

Only once, after the age of 30, did Ryan throw 250 innings, and that was right on the button.

He had no other post-30 year that even broke 240 innings, unlike Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals this year, and more on that in a moment.

Ryan only had 28 starts in 1975, at age 28; 21 starts in 1981, at age 34; and 29 starts in 1983, at age 36; and 30 starts in 1984 and 1986, at ages 37 and 39. Yes, that's getting later into his career, but, it's still worth of comment. In all those years, he was under 200 innings.

(Sidebar: All those walks give Nolan a career ERA+ of just 112 and WHIP of 1.247, just barely inside my baselines of 110 or better and 1.25 or lower. Nolan's career durability and total strikeouts help his cause, but ... he's not the greatest pitcher of the last 30 years, contra his Hall of Fame vote numbers.)

Plus, back to Adam Wainwright, and other modern pitchers, here.

Ryan, beyond his 1969 Mets year, was never on a team that played more than one round of postseason, World Series included.

Waino? Exactly 300 innings this year. Curt Schilling? 297 for Arizona in 2001. Randy Johnson? 291 that same year.

Because of the expanded postseason, beyond the contract and other value of young pitchers, managers simply have to be more careful these days. A manager pitching his ace more than 250 innings in the regular season is undercutting his team. Even 240 is pushing it.

October 31, 2013

Texas whackadoodle's bid for Detroit Packard site rejected

I had heard recently that an old, long-abandoned Packard manufacturing plant in Detroit had been put up for sale by Wayne County, Mich.

I hadn't heard about the winning bid, which has now been rejected by the city for its principal, Dr. Jill Van Horn, and her associates missing a payment.

But, let's take further look at that bid, and the person making it, via her professional website.

I'm venturing, given this from her statement on winning the bid:
Prior to placing her bid on the Packard Plant, Dr. Van Horn's prophecy was to resurrect Detroit by providing education, jobs and vocational training to the city's residence, simultaneously unplugging the financial arteries of the city.
Plus this, based on Peruvian hypercapitalist economist Hernando DeSoto:
Although the process to convert the potential energy in the water into electricity is well known. The one that gives Detroit's assets the form required to put in motion. More production is not known, in other words while we know that it is the pin stop, turbaned, generators, transformers, and wires of the hydro-electric energy system, that convert the potential energy of the lake until it is fixed in a  accessible form. We do not know where to find the key process that connects the economic potential of that Detroiters can benefit from.
As combined with her medical ideas and her first-person plural talk on her website, that Dr. Van Horn is either a New Ager or a prosperity-gospel Christian of an envelope-pushing form. 

That said, given how wacky her press release was, plus a simple use of teh Google pulling up her website, why was her bid even officially accepted in the first place?

#Sabermetrics says: do NOT vote Jack Morris in the Hall

Update, Nov. 4, 2013: I've Tweeted, off of 2012's BBWAA list of voters who opened their ballots to the public, and voted for Morris, a link to this column. We'll see how much good it will do. 

Murray Chass, in responding, cites Game 7, 1991 World Series, and adds an anti-sabermetric sneer that no "number" pitched that game.

To which, to Murray and other voters who ultimately rely on that? Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series. Bill Wambsganss converted an unassisted triple play. Neither one is in the HOF or ever will be.

Or, if you want a closer parallel, let's take a one-time Morris teammate. Kirk Gibson hobbled out of a dugout for his 1988 World Series Game 1 miracle, and he'll never be in the Hall, either.

First of all, just as a growing group of sabermetrically minded baseball fans beat the drums — ultimately successfully — to  get Bert Blyleven  in the Hall of Fame, we need a similar, growing group of sabermetrically minded baseball fans to keep Jack Morris out of there for two more years.

It may be a losing cause, but, it's a least a worth cause as it was to get Bert in, from where I stand.

The big sabermetric stats just don't add up. In fact, they scream "NO" at the top of their mathematical lungs.

For pitchers, my two baseline go-to stats are ERA+ and WHIP. You should have at least 110 in the former and no  more than 1.25 in the latter.

Morris is not only a near miss,  he roundly flunks with a 105 and 1.296.

Next, his value? His Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, of 39.8 would be OK if it were Wins Above Average, or WAA. But it's tnot, it's WAR. Speaking of WAA, as I'm learning to gauge that more, I think 30 is a minimum cutoff.

There?

Hell, Morris can't even break single digits, at 9.7.

Bottom line? If it weren't for Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

But, it happened and so we are. I need to keep slapping down Jack Morris (personally, too, because he really things he belongs in the Hall).

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 Æ80s." 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.

Beyond that, if Black Jack really was "The Pitcher of the ’80s," why did he never win a Cy Young in the 80s? (Or in the ’70s or the ’90s, for that matter?)

That's as in he never won one! Zip, zilch, nada. He never even finished second in the voting.

Don't you think that's a bit of a concern, Morris touters, unless you're totally blind?

Another way to look at this? Ryan, in 1999, was the last "pure starter" (as opposed to the half-and-half Dennis Eckersley ) to be elected to the Hall until Blyleven got in.

The 1980s just weren't a big pitchers' decade. So, even if Morris were "The Pitcher of the ’80s," even without a Cy to prove it, that would be roughly equivalent to being elected president of Botswana or something.

Now, I'm going to raise the smackdown bar even more.

Among his contemporaries or semi-contemporaries, Brett Saberhagen, David Cone and David Wells are all more fitting candidates than Morris.

All three have much better WAR and much, much better WAA than Morris. All three beat Morris on my two baseline stats. Wells just misses the HOF hurdles on both, but is still ahead of Morris. Cone easily qualifies on ERA+ and is borderline on WHIP. Saberhagen easily qualifies on both.

Saberhagen unfortunately had a big case of the injury bug. Cone had some of that. And Wells was a fat, (sometimes) stupid, drunk somewhat better than Jack Morris guy.

But none of them is in the Hall of Fame, or likely to get there.

So, don't taint the Hall even further, in today's statistically enlightened age by voting Morris in.

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. Please don't make me add Morris to that first list.

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.

October 30, 2013

Once again, #Cardinals - where's Waldo, I mean Miller?


Now that the World Series is over and the St. Louis Cardinals have fallen two wins short of their 12th championship, let me ask once more: Where was Shelby Miller?

The man pitched one waste inning in the Division Series, not at all in the LCS and not at all in the World Series. To me, it's clear that he was more "gassed" than general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny were pretending. Even more gassed than Edward Mujica.

(Update, Nov. 2: According to this blog, linking to comments or Tweets by both Joe Strauss and Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Miller was held out of the WS, and perhaps the LCS, because of being trade bait, and possibly part of a likely trade already being fleshed out.

Interesting speculation. But, if that's the case, and top brass really was that worried about an injury scuttling a trade, then, again, why have him on the roster at all?)
Let's be blunt. In essence, Mo (I'll blame him more than Matheny) has been lying about Miller. And, while he's done a good job of building this team, it's not the first time he's lied about a player's status with this team.

Basically, he lied about his plans for Albert Pujols a full year before Prince Albert officially became a free agent. Yes, yes, Pujols is gone and we got Michael Wacha in return. That's not the point. That doesn't hide the fat that Mo was lying about plans for him, and pretty blatantly.

Worse, this affected Matheny's tactical freedom, especially in the World Series, where, with the DH in play at least part of the time, and you needing more arms to be ready to throw. (That said, Matheny's repeated slow hook, demonstrated with new levels of mismanagement in Game 6, didn't need any further hinderance.)

What I'm getting at is this.

By no later than Game 4, Boston manager John Farrell clearly knew that Miller would not be pitching, and that it was highly unlikely Mujica would. So, he had a two-player, and more specifically, two-pitcher advantage over Matheny and could plan his in-game tactics in middle and late innings accordingly.

(Yes, Miller was, allegedly, warming up in the pen during Game 6. But, was that anything other than a courtesy from Matheny: "Hey, Shelby, warm up, so you can at least be on TV during the World Series."?)

Jake Westbrook had a poor second half of the season, but he wasn't gassed. He could have had one of the slots. Another bat ... anybody eligible from the 40-man roster could have been the other.

The dynamic duo has now spoken a bit on the issue. A bit. Matheny likened him to a fire extinguisher behind that sheet labeled "break glass as needed," while admitting before "Game 6 that he wasn't likely to pitch at all. Mozeliak called him "insurance," then got defensive, with this:
“Second-guessing the roster doesn’t have traction.”
Wrong. Per what I laid out above, and will below, it's got plenty of traction. Not just the roster, but the way this was handled.

Looking ahead to 2014 and beyond, this creates concerns.

Matheny still has a growth curve as a manager. He may be better than Don Mattingly, but that doesn't say a lot. The World Series merely gave more exposure to pitcher handling issues that were hinted at against the Dodgers. And, the Matheny-Mozeliak combo has larger player management issues to deal with.

This is all made yet more goofy by Mo's own admission that, between majors and minors, Wacha threw more total innings this year than Miller.

That said, in a few days, I'll have a hot stove league kickoff post about the Cardinals.  As the World Series showed, the team has batting order issues to address. Multiple ones and not just at shortstop. Informed Cardinal fans shouldn't kid themselves. While the pitching staff looks like it could and should be great for years to come, the lineup has a fair amount of work that needs to be done, to be honest. As I blogged earlier this week, this team needs some definite growth on base running. That's pretty much a mix of coaching and player mental discipline, both ultimately managerial issues. It has little to do with speed; smart baserunning includes knowing your skills and limits as a player, knowing that your manager, and your base coaches during in-game situations, know this too, and that you therefore should not regularly run through stop signs. It does mean that, if you don't have speed, you can learn hit-and-run batting/running as well as bunting. Etc., etc.

And, related to pitchers running out of gas at the end of regular season, or postseason, I've got a post on that coming up tomorrow.

Back to the header, though.

Some regular readers of my sports postings on this blog may think I'm harping on this issue too much. I don't. Ask yourself how smart it is to enter the World Series deliberately short-sheeting your own roster. Ask yourself also if it isn't a bit of arrogance to hope Boston wouldn't catch on sooner, or a bit of hopelessness to act as if you didn't have any options? (Since rosters are ultimately Matheny's call, that part of this issue, not the lying, is ultimately on him, not Mozeliak.)

So, no, it's not harping too much at all.

Let's hope that both Matheny and Mozeliak have learned from this for 2014.

===

That said, hats off, and beards on, to the Red Sox. They might have won had the Cards had Allen Craig at full health, at least given the way the bottom of the order was batting and Matheny handicapped himself. They might even have won without Matheny's self-handicapping. Another name for poor batting, after all, is good pitching.

At the same time, Boston fans owe the L.A. Dodgers a sloppy wet kiss for taking all those huge contacts off their hands last year. Without that, they likely don't pursue Napoli (remember, before the hips issue, they were offering three years with serious money) or Victorino.

Craig's injury aside, though, I would have liked to see the WS played without the self-handicapping.

David Ortiz: Poor man's McGwire and not a HOFer

With the hot bat of David Ortiz driving the Boston Red Sox toward a possible third World Series ring in 10 years, ESPN and other magazines are ramping up the talk, again, about David Ortiz being a Hall of Famer.

Let me save you all the trouble, while possibly pissing off a few Red Sox fans, but showing I'm not a Cardinal homer.

He's not. He's a poor man's Mark McGwire, about whom I've said more than once before, that he's not a HOFer himself.

First, a stipulation or background note. Ortiz has two bits of baggage.

One is that he's a DH, meaning he has to rely on his bat alone to get in the Hall.

Two is that he was named in 2003 before the Mitchell Report (corrected) due to allegedly failing a roiding test. Although he denies ever being a roider or PEDer, let's look at his career. Now, it's possible that he just happened to have a breakout season at the age of 27, after the trade to Boston. It was only his fourth full-time season. Or, other things are possible.

Back to the issues at hand, though.

First, the most direct comparison to McGwire? On counting stats, he has only 2,023 hits. And, given his average per  year, it's pretty clear that, even with three more seasons, he won't hit 2,500. (Errors on reporting Boston stats as career ones corrected.)

Will David Ortiz be playing at 40? Possible, but he may be platooning by then.

With all that, he's below 450 HRs and will probably never get 500, which would still leave him more than 100 behind Big Mac.

He does have a good OPS+, but he hasn't played a lot of games. So, his career oWAR is only 45.2. Worse, his career WAA is only 15.5. I don't see that crossing 20, and 35 is a lodestone for me. Likewise, his oWAR is likely to fall short of 55, and certainly of 60.

On career or near-career DH's, I've also blogged that Edgar Martinez is not a sure-shot HOFer and is borderline in my book, and Ortiz doesn't meet Martinez's standards, and on counting sabermetric and traditional stats, won't do so before he's retired, so that's that.

With Papi, as with Gar, beyond the issue of not getting more on the bat side out of playing DH, a career DH who still struggles with injury problems draws further skeptical eye from me. Whatever the cause of the injuries, if you have health problems as a DH, it's an orange flag at least, if not a red one.

On Big Mac, I tackled his HOF likelihood in this blog post about trying to factor out steroids' degree of stat-enhancing from possible HOFers. I suggest that if we remove the roiding from McGwire, what we're left with is a different-bodied version of Dave Kingman. In reality, I know that's a bit harsh, but I say that as a deliberate wake-up call.

And, that's probably the best final word on David Ortiz, too. Let's stop this nonsense about him being a Hall of Famer. If we're going by World Series batting heroics, Joe Carter should be in. And, he's even worse, sabermetrically than Ortiz. If we go by pitching, Jack Morris should be in; fortunately, we have just one year left to worry about keeping him out.

Let's also stipulate, as I did with Fox Sports this summer when it proposed several players in a row with cases at least as iffy as that of Ortiz, that sports websites are doing it for pageviews as much as for legitimate beliefs. That's why, in today's sports websites + social media world, I'm going to be even harsher on claims that "Player X" is a HOFer. (Also, to avoid enabling pageview counts, I either don't link to such sites, or add the "no follow" element to the HTML when I do create the HREF to link, so any hits off here don't count as pageviews.)

And, let's further stipulate what I've said more than once about ESPN and its baseball writing staff. It's a bunch of big-Hall fluffers. When Jim Caple says 10 ballot spaces aren't enough, we've passed the land of the one-eyed and entered the land of the truly blind.

#Alamo: Jerry Patterson has to calm down the #Agenda21 nutbars

Not satisfied with Agenda 21 conspiracy theory mongering, the latest from Texas Tea Partiers is apparently to claim that if the Shrine to Texas Mythology gets on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the UN flag will fly over the site.

No, really.

Tea party favorite, Land  Commissioner Jerry Patterson, running for lite guv, is having to call out people nuttier than himself. From a General Land Office PR email:
Despite spectacular and erroneous reports to the contrary, the Alamo is not being turned over to the United Nations — or anyone else for that matter.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson today attempted once again to let Texans know that if the Alamo and the other Spanish missions in San Antonio are added to the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Alamo will remain entirely under the control of the state of Texas and the Texas General Land Office.

Responding to a media report that the UN flag will fly over the Alamo, Patterson responded bluntly: “Horse hockey.”

Patterson reiterated that a World Heritage Nomination will not change authority, jurisdiction or ownership of the Alamo or any of the other Spanish missions.

“Some folks might think that getting on this list means the UN has some sort of influence at the Alamo. Those folks must not be from around here,” Patterson said. “The people of Texas own the Alamo now and in the future.  Nothing is going to change that.”

“My legal team at the Land Office has reviewed this.  I have personally met with the National Park Service staff working on this nomination and I am absolutely satisfied that a World Heritage Nomination will have no affect on the Alamo other than a possible increase in foreign tourists.”

Patterson said the World Heritage Nomination is akin to the National Historic Landmark program operated by the National Parks System.

“Just because the Alamo is a National Historic Landmark does not mean the federal government owns the Alamo,” Patterson said.  “It’s a tourism designation indicating it’s a place of historic significance.  That is all.  Same goes for the World Heritage List.”
Note to Jerry: If the dogs you run with have ticks and fleas, don't blame anybody else when you start itching and scratching.

I'm sure Patterson's looking for the right photo op to defend the Texas flag at the Alamo while whipping his boot-holstered pistol out.

October 29, 2013

NSA in Dutch with Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Dianne Feinstein/Guardian photo
Sen. Betty Crocker has been probably the most ardent blank-check defender of any and every National Security Agency spying program since 9/11. So, it's a surprising twist indeed when Feinstein says she strongly opposes spying on foreign leaders.

And, as I blogged yesterday, the White House's original non-denial denials eventually morphed into semi-explicit admissions of guilt about spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others.

Meanwhile, the super-snoopers have come up with a new denial, which may actually be true, yet a non-denial denial at the same time.

In France and Spain, the agency says those countries' intelligence agencies were the spies of record.

This may well be true. In Britain, we know that General Communications Headquarters has a formal agreement with the NSA; something at least halfway similar also exists with Canada, Australia and New Zealand. That said, without going into details, Anglo-American sharing of intelligence gathering has long been known, and has been suspected of being pretty deep.

So, a few takeaways.

First, if true, this is like some European countries, in other instances, hiding behind the skirts of NATO, or in France's case, hiding behind the US's Security Council vetos at the UN.

Second, if this is, per the claims of NSA head Keith Alexander, based on misinterpretation of one of those magic slides of Edward Snowden, I'm sure we'll hear more from Snowden soon enough.

Third, this is still only France and Spain. Alexander's latest claim doesn't govern Germany. And therefore, doesn't fully address Sen. Betty Crocker's pique.

Fourth, we still have no indication that in France or Spain, even, national intelligence agencies would have spied on their own heads of state.

Fifth, there's no indication, even if Alexander has some truth, as to how much of this spying would have been done anyway, and how much was on some sort of contract to the NSA.

Sixth, everybody's linking to the Wall Street Journal, whose news page has become more and more politicized under the Reign of Murdoch. Let's hold off on assigning too high of truth value to the story, eh?

Seventh, to the degree this is true, per my first takeaway, this is as ugly as European countries bitching about extraordinary renditions by the CIA a decade ago, until it became clear that some of them (et tu, Sweden of Julian Assange charges) were willing participants in enabling this.

Eighth, and last for now: This is going to get uglier yet, if there's an ounce of truth in the WSJ story.

===

Per a friend on Facebook, though, don't expect Dianne Feinstein's touching concern for Angela Merkel being in the NSA's gunsights to extend to We the People, though.

Gnu Atheist latest BS: minorities' prejudice not racism because #privilege

Yes, minorities can be prejudiced, but never racist, because, to be that, you have to be in a position of having ... wait for it ... the favorite word of the Atheism Plus kiddie pool of Gnu Atheism ...

Privilege!

Of course, a blog that has, among its icon pictures, one that claims no person is born with intolerance or hate is going to be a bit resistant to "harder" sciences as well as social science. Tribalism of some sort is a clear part of human evolution, as it is for a lot of animals.

Now, is is not ought, of course, and we can overcome that. But, as tribalism is a form of intolerance, no, we're born with it.

That initial thought must then be put through this filter:
BTW, it is OK if you disagree with me, I can’t force you to be right.
Actually, no, it's NOT OK. I'm venturing that if I tried to post this link on your blog, speaking of icon pictures, per the one at left, I'd get blocked. (If there's not a cross-the-board blocking of my blog's URL at Freethought Blogs already anyway.)

Yes, white folks experience a lot less racism because of being the majority, and having better economic positions by and large.

But, ask Korean grocers burned and firebombed out of their Los Angeles stores as part of the Rodney King riots if they accept this distinction between racism and prejudice?

Many would probably say no.

Many others might say yes, and say that, in this situation, L.A. blacks had a position of privilege over them.

I'm no libertarian. I'm no social Darwinist. But, this is why I say that buried inside accusing others of playing the privilege card lurks at least the danger, if not the actuality, of playing the victimization card.

Also, I'm going to do some intellectual judo here.

Claiming that your "in-group A" can never engage in "Behavior X" because you're not in a position of power?

By that very act of self-insulation, you've put your "in-group A" into a position of power. In other words, you're playing the #reverseprivilege card, which is still the privilege card.

That's kind of exemplified here:
When People of Colour talk about Racism, it would do well for the privileged Skin colour to listen and learn. You can’t be an ally when all you are eager to do is redefine the word to put you in the picture as a victim.
First, there are many of us who reject the idea of privileging certain words by capitalizing them.

So, you lost me right there.

Second, per the whole discussion above, redefining words cuts both ways, too.

Third, getting back to the selective capitalization, and heading into full-blown snark territory?

It's kind of fun, kind of interesting to see a mash-up of Gnu Atheism and New Ageism.

And, headed more into full-blown snark territory.

How does someone who op poses all forms of "general hatefulness" have a blog post with a title like this?
SLAP SOME SENSE INTO BISHOP DAVID OYEDEPO!
Oops! 

A couple of final thoughts below the fold

Is it time for micropayment news paywalls?

Ken Doctor's piece on "superstar" journalists, stimulated by David Pogue leaving the New York Times for Yahoo (and coming off as a bit of a douche, per what Doctor assembled), following on the heels of Nate Silver also moving on, has restimulated my thinking here.

Per this old blog post, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has been bullish on the use of micropayments. And also per that post, at that time, PayPal made micropayments easier, so I know newspapers can do that, too.

Of course, this leads to "superstar" journalists, newspapers wanting more for them, but ... the worries of both newspapers and said journalists finding out they're not so well-read as thought.

I mean, that's part of what killed the New York Times' original paywall idea, Times Select. It was intended to primarily charge for columnists, who might soon find out they weren't worth what they thought they were.

But, why not do micropayments?

People set up RSS feeds for a particular person's blog; why not a particular person's news writing?

Per the Times Select debacle, the key issue, then, is setting the proper price point.

Of course, Pogue is headed to paywall-free Yahoo. And, being overpaid by Yahoo. Even if he's the core of a larger new tech section, it's an overpay. Per this story, Salon and Slate continue to lose money, and Huff Post pulled a reverse AOL by getting AOL to buy it. (Bezos took a pass on buying Slate as part of the WaPost takeover.)

Notice a commonlity? None of those folks listed after Yahoo have paywalls, either.

And, as much of a name as Glenn Greenwald is, Pierre Omidyar will likely be pounding monetary sand down a rat hole with him, too.

I mean, if you're investing in star-centered journalism, as we see online ad rates sink — call it clipping the coinage of the digital dimes, and the mobile nickels staying just that — why wouldn't you look at a micropayment system? You could set the bar low, and you could also mix it with a meter.

Yahoo could let you read David Pogue free three times a month, then charge 10 cents a pop for the next five, then 15 cents for the next five after that.

October 28, 2013

No, the Cardinals are NOT a good baserunning team

Unfortunately, it's not just Tim McCarver yapping about this, for all the jokes we've had at Tim's broadcasting work over the years; Joe Buck's also made the claim. (Speaking of, Timmy's actually been pretty decent in the box this year, overall. Did good work on explaining the obstruction call. And, Ken Rosenthal has a good tribute column. Meanwhile, I'm wondering, who joins Joe in the box next year? Has an announcement been made that I missed, or is this still open? If he wanted to leave ESPN, I'd love to see Doug Glanville, myself.)

More unfortunately, the double steal by Pete Kozma and Jon Jay in Game 2 reinforced that idea. (Of course, Kolten Wong getting picked off to end Game 3 reinforced the idea they're NOT.)

There's this to add, too:
Jay said the steal call was not something issued from the dugout; Kozma read the situation on his own, and Jay alertly followed.
Really? Yes, it worked, but, that type of freelancing by young players is exactly part of why the Cardinals are NOT a good baserunning team.

Reality? The Cardinals, not just counting stolen bases but the total of baserunning, such as running through coaches' signs or not (and wrongly so), good or bad attempts to go from first to third or second to home on singles, etc.? The Cardinals were a horrible baserunning team in the first half of the year, and improved to mediocre but no better by season's end.

And, it continues in the World Series. At the end of Game 3, if Allen Craig breaks immediately for third when it's clear Yadier Molina is going home, he's in third easily, without any errant throw by Jerrod Saltalamacchia. Who knows what happens next.

Or Matt Holliday, in Game 2, not running out his can of corn to center, and so only being on first when Jacoby Ellsbury drops it, rather than at second.

The Cardinals have been like this all year long.

But, let's go back to those actual stolen bases. Just 45 on the year is horrible. And, 22 caught stealings? That's horrible.

Even throwing out Ellsbury's wonder year on the bases, the Sox had 71 successful steals, and only 19 caught stealings. That's better than 78 percent, while the Cards couldn't hit the 70 percent minimum that's considered necessary for base-stealing to be net benefit. (Total Baseball says 67 percent, but I think that's a touch low; in "Moneyball," Billy Beane also says 70 percent.)

Win or lose this year's World Series, Mike Matheny, along with Jose Oquendo, Mike Aldrete, and the rest of the Cardinal coaching staff, have their work cut out for them next year on teaching better base-running skills. If one "runs within one's self," it's not ultimately an issue of speed. It's an issue of smarts and paying attention.

Or, heck, make Carlos Beltran a coach as part of a new contract. He has the highest career percentage for people with 300 or more attempts and is sixth all-time among those with just 200 or more attempts.

I mean, the Cards have enough speed, plus sneaky-speed (Matt Carpenter, say) that the team should steal at about the same amount, and success rate, as the non-Ellsbury Sox did this year. (And, this is without assuming Wong as a starter at the start of next year.)

Texas abortion law goes down

Federal Judge Lee Yeakel has just ruled, and he said the admitting privileges issue won't fly.
(He) ruled the admitting privileges requirement is unconstitutional and poses an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.
The statute "does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the State in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman's health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her," Yeakel wrote. 

"The court concludes that admitting privileges have no rational relationship to improved patient outcomes and hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of a facility in which a physician provides abortion services."
He let stand a part of the law on pregnancy-terminating drugs, but, overall, this seems a pretty clear rebuke for Greg Abbott, and also for Dudley Dewless, aka David Dewhurst.

As the American-Statesman makes clear, there were several specific issues that didn't fly with Yeakel, including board certification for doctors and hospital admitting privileges.

And, even on the drugs issue, Yeakel's statement made clear this isn't open and shut.

And, so, we move on to the conservative Fifth Court of Appeals, where at least part of Yeakel's ruling could well be overturned again.

Dewless, in a special statement said:
"I'm saddened to see two time-and-money consuming special sessions of the Texas Legislature wasted, and my chances for re-election becoming closer to being shot all to hell.
Challengers Todd Staples, Jerry Patterson and Dan Patrick simply re-tweeted Dewless.

The NSA DID spy on Merkel, and others

The National Security Agency's claim that President Obama didn't know about any spying on West German Chancellor Angela Merkel means, in essence, that despite last week's non-denial denials, it's officially letting the cat out of the bag now.

A decade-plus worth of cats, that is. The spying reportedly goes all the way back to 2002.

Meanwhile, Republican Congresscritter Mike Rogers blathers:
Leaked information about surveillance by the NSA is being "misinterpreted,'' Rogers said on CNN's State of the Union. "This was about a counterterrorism program that had nothing to do with French citizens,'' he said. "If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks.''

Rogers called criticism of the U.S. intelligence operations from European leaders "disingenuous.''
"It's a good thing. It keeps the French safe, it keeps the U.S. safe. It keeps our European allies safe. This whole notion that we're going to go after each other on what is really legitimate protection of nation-state interests I think is disingenuous.''
Moron.

The American people, a fair amount of them, probably still are that dumb. The French, no.

That said, other nations that are our allies have spied on each other, and us, even, for nation-state reasons before. The French are renowned for trade espionage.
(And, if you think any NSA head would sign off on spying on a foreign leader without telling the Prez, I got some washed-clean shiny-new beachfront property in Atlantic City to sell you.)
Meanwhile, EU member nations are talking about firing back. Not with their own Internet servers, at least not yet, but something practical, simple, and a lesser escalation, but enough of a shot across the bow. They want to suspend a post-9/11 agreement on tracking banking records. Given that this, too, can be used against folks besides al-Qaeda (and with legit uses, like tracking Mafia money) the US should take this seriously.
That is, if the EU follows through. 
And, isn't this part and parcel with US complaints that Europe is still, in general, a "free rider" on a lot of defense issues? So, let the EU suspend SWIFT. Let's see what happens next, part of me says.

October 27, 2013

Sorry, Red Sox fans: Obstruction was the right call

First, yes, I'm a huge Cardinals fan. But, I'm not so much a blind "homer" as to say I don't think the umps did right in getting Pete Kozma's error straightened out in Game 1.

In fact, I am so much NOT a blind homer that I say Mark McGwire, even when you take away steroids issues, is not a Hall of Famer.

But, the call was right. And, no, it was not "debatable," and contra a person on Facebook, baseball "pundits" didn't think it was debatable either.

If you don't like how we got to that point, blame your own manager. Or Saltalamacchia.

And, while we're at it, a bunch of you need to actually read not just the rule on obstruction, but the rule book in general. I saw all sorts of dumb things online last night, like claims that Allen Craig has to run outside the foul line going home, or that he didn't take a natural path from third to home.

I have no problems with you being upset. Or venting online about it. But, know the rule book in advance next time, eh?

I don't enjoy winning the game this way, but, without Will Middlebrooks' obstruction, Craig scores.

And, no, baseball is NOT football or basketball. We don't, and shouldn't, ask umps to do the equivalent of "swallowing their whistles." This piece gets it right, hence this long quote:
In baseball the rules are the rules from start to finish and are not dispensed with simply because time is running out. Oh, wait, in baseball time never runs out. As Earl Weaver reminded us, there is no clock in baseball. ...

So many people with Boston IP addresses are telling me this morning that, though the call on the Middlebrooks/Craig obstruction play was technically correct, it perhaps should not have been made. The play — with its collision and tripping and stumbling and dashing home — should have been “allowed to proceed” rather than having a rarely-thought-of rule invoked to determine the outcome. It was the ninth inning of a close World Series game, they’re basically arguing. It was too important to allow the imposition of a rule trump the running and throwing of men.

Baloney. That call went to the heart of what baseball truly is. A sport in which there is or at least should be no relaxation of the rules due to the exigency of a critical moment. Baseball does not and should not allow for times in which aesthetics or raw physicality excuse the relaxation of the rules. ...

Refrain from calling obstruction on that play? To do so would be a betrayal of baseball’s very essence.
Well put.

So, obstruction was the right call. It was not debatable. And, it was not a call that should have been avoided due to the situation. In fact, the situation required it. Period. End of story.

Besides, the game had plenty of interesting tipping points, or whatever you want to call them.

And now, Joe Torre from MLB offices says the obstruction rule will be reviewed in the offseason.

I don't see what's to review, especially since Torre mentioned looking at the no-intent current language vs. intent. If you want umpires to make judgments of intent, then this WILL produce debatable calls.

Finally, contra a friend of mine who says that Joyce was looking at the ball, to make sure no fan interference happened, at the moment Craig tripped over Middlebrooks?

Simply not true.

As we clearly see at both 15 seconds and right at 2 minutes, Joyce is looking right at Craig at the moment he trips over Middlebrooks: