April 07, 2017

#STLCards: My season preview for the #Cardinals

OK, we're a couple of games into the season already, but nothing big.

I've already blogged about the new contract for Yadier Molina and the transition as No. 1 pitcher (though the team still won't say "ace") from Adam Wainwright to Carlos Martinez. (Red Satan has a new piece on that here.) Martinez got a contract extension in the off-season, too, of course.

So, with two major contract distractions eliminated, and the addition of Dexter Fowler to shore up outfield defense and add speed on the bases, what else do the Cards have locked up and locked down, and what could be problematic?

Corner infield slots should be good. I think Jhonny Peralta can make the defensive adjustment at third, and has the incentive of being in a contract year. Matt Carpenter will rake, wherever he's at. The D? Well that opening day error is a bit of cause for concern. (And error it was; Carp did field correctly, but bobbled the ball when thinking of second; one can't assume double plays, of course, but he never tried to go to second, so IMO, it's still an error, not a Jason Heyward hit.)

That, in turn, had other issues. On that same play, both Seung-hwan Oh and Kolten Wong committed mental/hustle errors by being slow to the bag at first.

And that leads us to the middle infield. Wong seems to be one of those "you gotta play to hit" guys. That said, even without manager Mike Matheny breathing down his throat (plus Matheny's dumb-ass idea of moving him to the OF last year) Wong needs a page from football, to pull an Aaron Rodgers and R-E-L-A-X more. His high intensity, mainly when guilt-tripping himself, is an issue. Between that and an inconsistent spring training, Jedd Gyorko has earned the semi-starting spot. Let's see exactly how Matheny, not known as a managerial genius, handles the details of the platooning.

Aledmys Diaz should be at least as good fielding shortstop this year as he was from May on last year, if not better. He may slip from last year's plate performance, but not that much. Gyorko and Greg Garcia offer solid backup here, as Garcia does at short and third.

The outfield? Dexter Fowler's personality and chemistry should help the Birds as a team do that Rodgers-type relaxing that Wong needs. He'll also bring speed to a lineup that had none outside of Wong last year.

I think Randal Grichuk will feel more comfortable this year, and a .270 or better, with .330 OBP or better, with 25 or more HRs, is certainly possible. I also expect fewer Ks. Those are both needed. It' called plate discipline; Grichuk is 25, and not quite yet too late to learn more of it.

Stephen Piscotty? Let's see how well he bounces out of whatever batting funk he's in.

The rotation? I "expect" 5 WAR out of Martinez. I'll gladly take 2.5 WAR from Waino, and 2 WAR each from Lance Lynn, Mike Leake and Michael Wacha et al.

The pen? I'm still not totally sold on Oh as closer. His splitter was a bit off in the opener and it looked like the Cubs were deliberately laying off it. If he was a bit of a 2016 phenom, I guess the first option is moving back to Trevor Rosenthal.

And, of course Matheny's managerial yips have often been worst in his bullpen use.


Where will the Cards finish? I've already voted in the polls at right — second in the division with a wild-card. I don't see them catching the Cubs, but I see definite improvement from last year, to the tune of 88-89 wins, perhaps a touch more. I expect them to win the wild-card game, then the division series, before losing the LCS. Hit me up with your votes.

April 06, 2017

#100YearsAgo — US enters #WorldWarI — with no need to be in #WWI

World War I was not the greediest or most imperialist war in American history. The Mexican War — or our post-treaty breaking wars with American Indians — are at the top, followed by the Spanish-American War.

But, as for the stupidest war in American history, I'll take it ahead of even Vietnam. And you should too, if you know the big picture. That includes knowing that the U.S. had even less national interest, in Realpolitik terms, in World War I than any other imperialist or non-imperialist war in history.

In case you're wondering, beyond the Luisitania or "unrestricted submarine warfare," what the final tipping point was, especially away from the British-tilting East Coast and especially in the Southwest, read this piece.

First, President Woodrow Wilson was NOT neutral between Aug. 4, 1914 and April 6, 1917. His first secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, knew this. That's why he resigned over post-Lusitania events. (Well, Wilson was pushing him, actually.)

Related? The Lusitania was "technically" a passenger ship. It was also carrying small arms, ammunition and other munitions and that was known to people in a position to know in the U.S., British, and German governments. It was also armed with guns big enough to sink a submarine that tried to follow the letter of international law and surface and halt it.

Second, and speaking of? The British "blockade by extension," blockading the Netherlands, Denmark, etc., to keep them from importing goods above peacetime levels and reselling them into Germany, was as illegal under international law as was Germany's declaration of submarine warfare and sink-on-sight submarine blockade zones. In fact, matters similar to this are why we had gone to war with Britain 100 years earlier. But for Wilson, freedom of the seas was selectively enforced.

Here's how it worked, in the rough, from this Aug. 4, 2014 blog post of mine. If Denmark imported, say, a total of 100,000 pounds of wheat a year, on average, from, say 1900-1913, then in 1915, that's all Britain allowed. It couldn't import an additional 500,000 pounds, with the presumable intent of then exporting the surplus to Germany.

Third, there was no "bad guy" like Hitler in World War II. (That said, we had a "bad guy" on our side in Stalin then!) The most repressive governments? As in WWII, one was on each side — Tsarist Russia before the March Revolution, for the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire for the Central Powers. Pre-war, Hohenzollern Kaiser Wilhelm II was moderately authoritarian, but no more than moderately, and certainly not totalitarian.

Now, the Germans did burn the library at Louvain, Belgium. They did shoot franc-tireurs. Both illegal under international law. Bayoneting babies? Allied-American propaganda. They did also, tis true, shoot Edith Cavell. And? She had been duly convicted of being a spy. And she WAS a spy. Bad PR for the Germans? Of course. Unlawful? Not at all.

As for the "German war guilt" the Allies pinned on it afterward? Bullshit. Basically, Austria-Hungary and Serbia roughly tie for first on causing the war, with Germany running a somewhat distant third on what was a highly overdetermined conflict, as I note at the bottom of a roundup of some of the best — and some of the worst — books about World War I.

National interests? We had none. Germany never could have gained the type of mastery that Hitler aspired to, or that Napoleon briefly had. And, realistically, they weren't aiming at that level of control. Sure, they had greedy eyes that got bigger as the war lasted longer, especially in the East. But, already going back to Venezuela in the 1890s, Wilhelm had basically tried not to tangle too much with the Americans. And, without tanks, with artillery all still horse-drawn, they couldn't have done a Blitzkrieg to get to that point of domination.

Yes, it's true that Germany had various agents in Mexico during that country's revolution, per the story at the top link. But, until the time approaching the Zimmerman Telegram, they weren't planning to foment an invasion of the U.S.

Finally, this was the first, but far from the last, fateful plunge into "entangling alliances" that George Washington had warned about in his Farewell Address.

Related to that is some Realpolitik. We had one vital national interest in World War I. And that was letting the Entente and the Central Powers beat each other fucking senseless as long as they were determined to so do.

What would have happened had we stayed out — specifically, if Wilson (or a better President; he ranks below average in my book for many reasons, and Scott Berg's bio of him is atrocious) had warned Britain early on to stay away from the blockade by extension?

Probably, Britain would have gone ahead, gambling it could starve out Germany before Germany could do the same to it.

A truly neutral president would have then forbade American-flagged vessels from traveling into any war zone, and let the Allies and Central Powers beat each other senseless.

Assuming the Germans still smuggle Lenin into Russia, on a sensical view, the British double down on the blockade in 1918 while sending out peace feelers at the same time. France gets dropped a British hint and reluctantly falls in line. Germany decides to play defense rather than fight the Kaiserschlacht that Ludendorff and Hindenburg call up in 1918, with no Americans to face. That, then means more German farm horses still in place, and the British blockade doesn't bite as much. But Austria, war-weary, pushes it, and Germany sees Lenin trying to export the revolution, as he actually did. Italy and the Turks are both exhausted.

With luck, everybody heads to the table, and on the western and southern fronts, accepts a treaty like the Treaty of Hubertusburg that ended the Seven Years War. In the southeast, they agree to toss the Karađorđević dynasty in Serbia for the old, pre-1903, Austria-friendly Obrenović house.

And, in Russia, now the USSR? They do something about as dumb as actually happened.

Option two is much more pessimistic. Nobody lays down their arms. Lenin uses diplomatic immunity — or other means — to start the revolution in France and Britain, just like in Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Still, that revolution, even if successful all across Europe (doubtful) wouldn't have toppled the American government.

In either scenario, the U.S. isn't further glorifying citizen war in general and World War I participation in particular with Armistice Day, later Veterans Day. Americans wouldn't have absorbed the British romanticizing of the not-so-Great War, either. That romanticizing tends to overlook things like shell-shock, PTSD of a century ago before we knew what PTSD was.

That said, per all the above, World War I is fertile ground for alternative history buffs. Here's a sample of mine related to the Caribbean. Here's a much longer one, related to Sarajevo and Gavrilo Princip.


At the same time, per the old song, "How ya gonna keep em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?" it was indeed true.

See how military service transformed veterans from a small county in north Texas.

April 05, 2017

My 2017 preview for The Masters

OK, we're at the start of real golf season.

1. Fans called "patrons"?
2. CBS pumping in fake bird sounds on the broadcast?
3. Augusta National Country Club with blue-dyed fake water?
4. Overrated, overhyped (but not overpriced) pimiento cheese sammiches?

Check, check, check and check.

We're at the home of The Masters Toyynement. Golf Digest ranks 10 traditions, including partially riffing on 2 and 4.

So, who wins? The hot Dustin Johnson? Rory McElroy completing his Grand Slam? Jon Rahm or some other hot up-and-comer? Jordan Speith with his second in three years, overcoming last year's final-round demons? Someone else?

My heart hopes that Rory gets some green clothing — and in the process, before, during and after, relaxes. Think Aaron Rodgers, Rory!

My mind puts him at second on the odds, behind DJ, but ahead of Jordan, Jon and the field.

Meanwhile, the snakebitten (definitely with his putter last year) Ernie Els will bid a likely farewell here.

I assume Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus will do the honorary starting by themselves, with some tribute to Arnold Palmer.

(I'd like to see Tom Watson and/or Nick Faldo worked in there next, and maybe they'll take over from Jack and Gary in a few years. I'm sure both of them still want to regularly play, and have hopes for the weekend, for a few more years, though.)

Per ESPN, plus Golf Digest, here's a few opening-rounds pairings to watch:
  • No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson is in the final starting time at 2:03 p.m. along with PGA champion Jimmy Walker and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson.
  • Jordan Spieth, runner-up to Willett a year ago after winning the Masters in 2015, begins play at 10:34 a.m. along with Martin Kaymer and Matthew Fitzpatrick.
  • Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson follows at 10:45, with Rafael Cabrera Bello and Si Woo Kim.
  • Second-ranked Rory McIlroy tees off at 1:41 p.m. along with Jon Rahm and Hideto Tanihara.
  • Third-ranked Jason Day plays with Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose at 10:56 a.m.
  • Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry and Lee Westwood at 1:19 p.m.
Now, it’s a mug’s game (which is why Vegas makes big money on golf bets) to bet one player against the field, but, given DJ’s hotness, Spieth’s Master’s history to date, Rory’s lust to complete the Grand Slam, and Bubba’s own history, I’ll bet those pairings against the field. And contra Jason Sobel, I will NOT bet Rickie Fowler.

Full list of tee times is here. To caveat my bet of the above groups vs. the field, Hideki Matsuyama at 10:12 on Thursday and Branden Grace at 10:23. Just for fun, the 12:46, with Pato and Stenson together, would be a good watch, maybe?

Finally, about halfway down this longform from Golf Digest about advantages and disadvantages at Augusta, the majority of anonymous commenters agree with Hank Haney that in Tiger-proofing Augusta National, the Masters folks also largely righty-proofed it. Going back to 2003, when the Tiger-proofing arguably had started, past champions of the lefty bent include short-hitting Mike Weir, all three of Philly Mick's, and both of Bubba Watson's. That's seven lefty wins in 14 tries.

That said, it's a very interesting assessment of who could win or not, and who's more likely to win or not; top individual golfers are discussed in detail halfway down. A fair amount don't like Rory's chances, and several of them think, in no uncertain terms, that he needs to ditch his caddie.


That said, would Tiger have won all of his 13 non-Fluff Cowan majors without Steve Williams on his bag? I bet not.

And, that's another bit of testimony to Jack Nicklaus, who had several different bagmen for his 18 majors — and that's not taking into account that most of his Masters wins were when players still had to use club caddies.

Weather update, noon Wednesday: Rain today and Thursday, with cool and windy conditions Thursday and somewhat on Friday make for a long track before the cut.

April 04, 2017

For the good of Texans, Joaquin needs to challenge Beto

As of this time, neither El Paso Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke, for all his reported progressivism — the only announced challenger so far to Sen. Ted Cruz — nor possible challenger, Austin Democratic Congresscritter Joaquin Castro, have yet to endorse Rep. John Conyers' HB 676, his so-called "Medicare for all" single-payer national health care bill.

I can understand where friend Brains is coming from — primary fights can be expensive, and in states where you're a permanent minority at this time, and by several percentage points, that's money wasted that could be used in a general election.

On the other hand, "glide path" primaries, or attempted ones, often produce crappy candidates. Wendy Davis for gov in 2014. Tony Sanchez for gov in 2002 as part of John Sharp's "dream team." Hillary Clinton for prez after the DNC tried to force a glide path by cheating.

I don't know where Castro stands on legalizing, or even decriminalizing pot, or the larger War on Drugs. If he's at least halfway to O'Rourke's neighborhood, that means that single-payer would be the only possible dividing line of significance, if one of them came out in favor.

In other words, contested primaries between viable candidates force them to stand for something. All Hillary Clinton would stand for is her gender and her turn — and she lost the general.

That said, due to state court of criminal appeals race shenanigans by the Texas Democratic Party, I can't vote for either O'Rourke or Castro. I have to sign a Green Party ballot access petition, so I can't vote in the 2018 Dem primary.

So, if Castro won't challenge, or even if he does, if neither will shit or get off the pot on single-payer, fuck em.

Hell, Charles Krauthammer, wingnut deluxe, now thinks single-payer is inevitable and that Congressional Republicans should accept that, and maybe even try to steal a march.

April 03, 2017

TX Progressives tackle Beto, problem Dems in the #txlege, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance has a story it wants to tell you in this week's roundup, and it doesn't require a guarantee of immunity for that.

Off the Kuff looks at the Beto O'Rourke for Senate campaign and how it might be successful. Jobsanger also thinks he's great; yours truly, with Brains linked, thinks he's decent but not great, noting among dings his refusal so far to back single-payer.

SocraticGadfly looks at Texas Senate Democrats all voting FOR Dan Patrick's budget, and the ugh "fear the police" bill from Whitmire-West, and for those who want to #resist, suggests another voting option.

A couple of somewhat dubious sources reported that Michael Flynn's offer to flip had Trump thinking about resigning the presidency.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has lots of corn ready to pop just in case.

Neil at All People Have Value continues to attend weekly protests outside the Houston office of wrongdoing U.S. Senator from Texas John Cornyn. Never let up against Bannon/trump and all the wicked servants of Bannon/trump. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Could Be True of South Texas Chisme points out a McAllen Monitor op-ed calling out the Texas Legislature for religious bigotry.

Lewisville Texan calls out Lewisville ISD for its poor handling of a student sexual assault case.

Texas Vox salutes Rafael Anchia's work on a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.


 And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Therese Odell has a Monday morning wrapup of the Trumpcare debacle.

Texas Freedom Network notes SB 5522, which would allow county clerks to practice religious discrimination. Let's just call it the Kim Davis bill.

Better Texas Blog reviews where we are in the budget process.

Paradise in Hell takes a guess at how low Dear Leader Trump's approval rating can go.

Scott Braddock reminds us that where there's bigotry and hatred in Texas politics, there's Steve Hotze.

The Texas Election Law Blog answers your questions about the redistricting ruling.

Michael Li examines how CD35 could be changed by that redistricting ruling.

Raise Your Hand Texas tells the truth about vouchers and school district costs.

Maggie Gordon documents the efforts of Ted Cruz's constituents to find him doing his job.

Zachary Taylor has your complete rundown of Walmart crime.

April 02, 2017

#STLCards Yadier Molina IS a #Cardinal for (most of) his baseball life

Yadier Molina
Getting it done on his self-imposed deadline day, long-term catcher Yadier Molina, known baseball-wide for his defense, pitch framing and pitcher handling, has signed a new three-year contract with the team, per Great Red Satan. More details from the hometown paper of record.

(While you're here, Cards fans, feel free to hit me up on the two polls at right for your guess on regular season and postseason finish.)

Per initial guesses, it's $60 million for three years, which then leads to the question of: "Overpay?"

This would be more than the much younger Buster Posey gets and would also seem to partially undercut Mo's stance toward Albert Pujols several years ago, an even more iconic Cardinal than Molina.

And, 37 would be old for a catcher. ESPN noted in an earlier piece, on the age issue, that Johnny Bench was retired by that age, which would be what Molina would be at the end of a 2018-2020 contract. At the same time, it does note that Molina might age relatively slowly for a catcher, citing Ivan Rodriguez as an example. But even with Pudge, age 35 was the last year he had more than 500 PAs. Maybe the original Pudge, Carlton Fisk, is an even better comp for aging catchers. That said, Pudge 1.0 was more known for his bat than Yadi, as one reason for him to hang longer, and he played in the AL, which meant he could DH as well as playing non-catcher field spots. (Fisk broke the 4-WAR mark in a post-40 season.)

I think it's a likely overpay, and will be the team's second this season after Dexter Fowler. (Among other things, I would have given him EITHER five years OR the guaranteed no-trade but not both. And, I strongly believe last year was a career year for him, and given that he was signed in part for his D, 30-plus CFs are naturally on the downslope.)

On the other hand, per that ESPN link at top, Molina arguably was as much the team's leader as Phat Albert, before Pujols left, and is even more so now. How much do you pay for leadership? Ken Rosenthal agrees on that angle. Plus, there's a good possibility that Yadi delivers 2.5 WAR/ year, which on statistical value alone would make the contract a wash.

At the same time, this means Carson Kelly takes a back seat for three more years in addition to this one, unless Mike Matheny starts giving Molina a few more days off, period, and a few days at either first or third base. That's actually not a bad idea, and might come more into play, at third, with the presumed disappearance of Jhonny Peralta after this year. I think Molina has the first-step reflex speed to play a few games a year at third.

I had thought maybe Mo could front-end it, like Peralta's, and make the third year a player option, and tack on a fourth team-option year to sweeten it more? Yes, the team starts a new TV contract next year, but ... maybe they want to move Molina at some point?

Mike Leake may turn out to be another example of an overpay (I think it likely) even as the Cardinals have to decide whether to keep Lance Lynn from leaving in free agency after this year.

So, what's Jonathan Lucroy's ask a year from now? 5/$125?

I do agree with this blogger that Molina is not a likely Hall of Famer.