SocraticGadfly: 12/13/20 - 12/20/20

December 18, 2020

Did Tony La Russa magically revitalize the 1996 Cardinals by shoving aside Ozzie Smith?

Every older St. Louis Cardinals fan is surely familiar with the first year of history after Tony La Russa was named manager of the Birdos. Walt Jocketty was looking for replacements at shortstop and after failure to land the likes of Walt Weiss and Greg Gagne as free agents, settled on Royce Clayton as a long-term, and possibly immediate, replacement for the Wizard, Ozzie Smith. The rest of the story is how Red Tony rudely shoved aside Smith, after claiming he would have every chance to remain the starter if he could win the position, and of getting to go out a winner as a deserving full-time player with the Cardinals. (Smith had already indicated 1996 was likely his final year.)

Unfortunately, there's a lot of less than full information out there about the issue, as told by the likes of Ben Gosar of Viva El Birdos. (Ben has responded that he didn't mean to relitigate 1996.)

Royce 1996 did NOT have a better year than Ozzie, or even an equal year. Same WAR? Yes. But it took Royce 2x as many at bats. Ozzie had a 0.8 WAA, while Royce was in the hole at -0.1. This is one of several reasons I take a close look at WAA as well as WAR. Over a career, especially when considering a player's possible Hall-worthiness, the WAA/WAR ratio is a big tell if a player is, or is not, a "compiler." If a player's career WAA is more than 50 percent of their WAR, and they're otherwise on the borderline of consideration? Vote ’em in!

Back to the main narrative.

Per one of the stories Ben linked:

"I'd play Ozzie until he proves he can't play," said Chuck Tanner, currently a scout with the Milwaukee Brewers who managed four major league clubs, including the White Sox. "He's a Hall of Fame shortstop. There is no indication he can't play--not yet. An if he needs a rest, and he sure isn't going to be able to play every day, then I'd play Clayton."

As for who's telling the truth about Ozzie being promised a shot at still being a starter? I know whose word I'll trust first. (The Trib piece actually has Red Tony using "sincere" and "sincerity.")

As for Tony always doing what was best for the team? Beyond running off Scott Rolen, uhh, being drunk as a manager, which likely led to enabling of bad behavior by some players? NOT best for the team.

As for 1996 and the "end result"? Correlation doesn't mean causation. IF you compare that team to 1995, a lot stands out.

One? Tom Pagnozzi had a MUCH better year and was healthy a full season. Gary Gaetti was a HUGE improvement over Scott Cooper at 3B. Andy Benes and Todd Stottlemyre were major pitching upgrades.

I don't get some Cards blogs for their homerism over Yadi, or stuff like that. I really don't get blogs that are one-sided toward Red Tony on this issue.

Is it possible that telling Ozzie he'd have to compete for the job would shake things up? Yes, there Ben is right. But, per the umpiring rule of "tie goes to the runner," Ozzie was at least equal to Royce in spring training, to riff on Chuck Tanner, and ... La Russa lies.

What it really was, IMO, was a lawyer's mindset. Tony the Pony had a pre-established conclusion he was headed toward, and he was carefully framing his "facts in evidence." All of us can engage in a certain degree of motivated reasoning, but lawyers are trained in it and hired for their skill at it.

So, what we REALLY should be saying is that Walt Jocketty magically revitalized the 1996 Cardinals by his offseason acquisitions.

Were you judge managers? As I've mentioned before, there's one tool, via B-Ref. That's going to team pages, and seeing how a team's W-L record tracked against its Pythagorean estimates. A manager who is at or above the bar year after year is a good manager. I even blogged about that. (And, Baseball Reference has promised to take under advisement posting Pythags on manager pages.)

As for Tony the Pony lighting a fire under the team for 1996? Well, Pags was one of just two position player starters over the age of 30.

One final thought re Ben and Tony doing whatever it takes to win, or whatever it takes for the team? Yeah, that included ignoring roiding both in Oakland and St. Louis. He talks about Red Tony benching Mark McGwire in the playoffs near the end of his career. Well, Big Mac would have been out of baseball by this time if not for Red Tony's blind eyes. And, of course, there's Jose Canseco, the Typhoid Mary of roiding.

December 17, 2020

Coronavirus week 37: A new 9/11 every day

That is, of course, the official prediction from the CDC's Robert Redfield.

That's as we in Merika have crossed the 300K mark on deaths, and before the end of the year, faster than I expected.

Right now, by death rate, Ground Zero for that new 9/11 is rural, red, and still mask-conflicted Gove County, Kansas. Like many such places, antimasking is part of Trumpland. Like many such places, it has limited hospital services. UNlike some such rural places, like my slice of north Texas, the Catholic hierarchy there is acting like most their wingnut Protestant brethren in not requiring masking at churches. Sadly, some in the hospital and nursing homes who know the need for masks say they're not here to tell other people how to live their lives. Folks, that's what the PUBLIC in public health means. If you're not wearing a mask in a place to affect me, I'll tell you.

Texas is running ever-lower on ICU space.

And, per the two paragraphs above? Bud Kennedy reports small-town Texans are "angry at COVID." From where I live, they're not angry enough to mask up like they should. He notes it's the same in places like Granbury. What this really is? Another form of American exceptionalism. "We're Merika, we shouldn't be getting bossed around by this little bitty V'uh-EYE-russ." 

Part of the problem is that most the red states, esp. the rural areas within them, don't want to read about it.

Your State Board of Education — now you know why they're anti-science in Tex-ass public school textbooks; they're anti-science on the public health of masks and social distancing.

Texas GOP chairman Allen West hosted a "Night of the Mask" event with Cooke County Republican Women to install officers. The event name apparently is facetious, as pictures indicate nobody wore them.

Last Friday, Trump's WH chief of staff, Mark Meadows, supposedly threatened FDA head Stephen Hahn with firing if Pfizer's vaccine wasn't approved by the end of day. Hahn claims the original story got it wrong, but doesn't really say how. Given that the vaccine was likely to be approved any day now, and that Trump isn't going to be president after Jan. 20, 2021, anyway, this is Bizarro World indeed.

How the vaccine distribution plan depends on a state-by-state definition of "essential worker" shows why Merika needs more than "just" single payer national health care, it needs federalized, or rather, nationalized, standards of care, treatment, credentialism and much more on health care provision.

Brendan Nyhan talks about how to get more people to trust in the vaccine and get shot. He offers the commonsense idea that getting family doctors to be the primary "salespeople" is a key point.

The EPA has (shock me) fast-tracked review of actual or alleged coronavirus disinfectants. A Texas company is a leading profiteer. Beyond spray disinfectants, and largely beyond the EPA's purview, the piece notes that the jury is still out about claims of the general efficaciousness, let alone coronavirus-specific efficaciousness, of UV light.

December 16, 2020

Scientism, philosophy, and the Big Bang

Regular readers of this blog and my main one both know that I like to comment at times on the issue of "scientism," which is, in a nutshell, certain scientists overblown claims for science, that it has explanatory power, or will at some day, and explanatory frameworks for many things that are rightly regarded as philosophical.

Aesthetics would be a great example.

"De gustibus non disputandum" Romans said 2,000 years ago, and it's just as true today.

Science has basically nothing to tell — certainly, hard sciences have basically nothing to tell — about why I think Mozart is overrated by many people. He IS and you shut up!

In some instances, the social sciences may indeed have some explanatory value, but even there, it's overblown. The hard sciences, though, are where scientism really hits the road.

And, last week, with Roger Penrose getting the Physics Nobel for his work on black holes, his naysayers on his anti-Big Bang ideas popped up.

I have little doubt Ethan Siegal knows cosmology well. Philosophy, including philosophy of science or more narrowly, philosophy of physics, )per the likes of Massimo Pigluicci postulating "philosophies of ..." for separate hard sciences at least) not so much, it would seem, per this anti-Penrose diatribe.

He says, near the end:
This presents a tremendous challenge for cosmology, and for science in general. In science, when we see some phenomena that our theories cannot explain, we have two options. 
1. We can attempt to devise a theoretical mechanism to explain those phenomena, while simultaneously maintaining all the successes of the prior theory and making novel predictions that are distinct from the prior theory’s predictions. 
2. Or we can simply assume that there is no explanation, and the Universe was simply born with the properties necessary to give us the Universe we observe. 
Only the first approach has scientific value, and therefore that’s the one that must be tried, even if it fails to yield fruit.
Uhh, wrong!

Accepting there is no explanation is itself of scientific value. It cuts down on possible pseudoscience; it allows scientific inquiry to be directed more productively, and other things.

And, in terms of philosophy of science, it leads to some epistemic humility. (That itself is something lacking in spades among many scientism practitioners.)

Siegal needs to read himself some early Wittgenstein and learn when to be silent.

Now, at times, explanations manifest themselves years or decades later. Planck's solving of the blackbox radiation problem, directly tied to Siegel's post, is one such answer.


Even that is not guaranteed. Siegel acting like scientific answers are guaranteed is textbook scientism.

December 15, 2020

Texas Progressives approach the holidays

Even as news slows with the approach to Christmas, we've got the post-Brexit "walkaway" between the UK and EU about to collapse, actual bits of common sense from Republican politicos in Texas, lies by alleged environmentalists and more.

Let's dig in.


Who kidnapped the SBOE and replaced half of its members brains with working models? The State Board of Education is now calling for abstinence-plus rather that abstinence-only sex ed at the middle school level.

Solar energy is growing in the state. So is disinformation about it. The real issue is that, without a state income tax to allow state deductions, and without a clear feed-in tariff to allow surplus solar to be sold back to utilities, there's little incentive for homeowner rooftop solar. That said, it's "interesting" that this bullshit is spread by the likes of alleged environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, per links within the story. (I told the Observer that it was good, but needed to cover things like the feed-in tariff.)

Off the Kuff analyzed the Presidential vote in Congressional and State Rep districts in Harris County.

The 19th interviews Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo about COVID, racial justice, and more.  

Steve Vladeck gave a simple explanation of the Ken Paxton overturn-the-election lawsuit, then explained the SCOTUS order.  

Grits for Breakfast lists the top ten Texas criminal justice stories of the year.  

Christopher Hooks attempts to explain Ken Paxton to a new audience.  

Paradise in Hell sides with HEB against anti-maskers.  

Elise Hu listened to 252 TED talks so you don't have to.


I gave a spanking to The Resistance over its knickers-knotting over Joe Epstein's "drop the Dr" column to Jill Biden.

Matt Taibbi almost made it to half right in his most recent Substack. I have receipts

Wild Earth Guardians et al are again suing US Fish and Wildlife for failure to do its job on wolverine protection.


Is Boris Johnson's Britain doomed to decline? That's assuming the EU continues to call his bluffs, even though some EU negotiators say there's still time for some sort of deal. As for people who said last week, "but Boris didn't walk away," that's small potatoes. He's still trying to bluff his way through because he's known all along that "walk away" isn't a good option. Scotland's devolved government doesn't like the Dec. 31 deadline for a post-Brexit deal falling in the middle of a pandemic, among Dec. 12 updates from the Beeb.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi has reportedly resigned from the PLO Executive Committee, allegedly because the Palestinian Authority is resuming security patrol cooperation with Bibi's Israel. She also called for reforms within the PLO.

"Wrestling with Zionism," as reviewed at Mondoweiss, might fit on an informed world citizen's holiday reading list. It looks good.

Move over (PLEASE), Elon Musk. A former top assistant of his, after a failed previous try at an electric car, is back, and Henrik Fisker looks poised for success. The fact that Musk (unsuccessfully, natch) sued Fisker for breach of contract would make this success all the more sweet.

December 14, 2020

Matt Taibbi: Maybe up to half right this time

Sometimes, Matt Taibbi is still half right. This is in a piece of his talking about YouTube banning #StartTheSteal videos and similiar.

The half right?

Hey Democrats, how many of you remember protestors storming the official Wisconsin electoral college vote and protesting after the 10 electors officially voted for Trump?

That said, he is no more than half right, this is the most right he's been since going to Substack and he, like the other alleged outside the box stenos, continues to throw babies out with bathwater and apparently believes no Russian meddling at all happened and that Guccifer 2.0 doesn't exist. Beyond that, no electoral voters needed a police escort to cast their votes, unlike in Michigan this year.
NOR did Democrats have "alternative electors" cast their own pseudo-electoral votes in Wisconsin.

Plus, Taibbi is also half nutbar.

So, I asked him on Twitter, as I've asked Aaron Maté more than once, if he's a Seth Rich conspiracy theorist. Per this piece, he's at least a fellow traveler. 

So, Matt, I slapped the "no follow" on your piece. No clicks from me. 

Now, shut up and work on getting to be more than half right. And, like Aaron, if you are a Seth Rich conspiracy theorist, at least be honest about it.

December 13, 2020

I'll take some #TheResistance twatwaffles over Joseph Epstein

The Resistance is all bent out of shape to the point of calling Joseph Epstein a "twatwaffle" and worse on Twitter for stating reality about Jill Biden and "Dr."

First, AP Style says only use it with MD and DO, etc. NO PhDs.

Second, Epstein's right about comparative ease of many non-PhD doctorates, including Jill Biden's EdD. Public school superintendents here in Tex-ass have them like candy, and in many cases they're obtainable without a single in-person class at the granting institution.

The twatwaffles of #TheResistance, meanwhile, talk of Jill Biden as though she has a PhD, and she doesn't even do that.

Third, the actual twatwaffles of #TheResistance are likely the same people who supported Dem-leaning media in 2016 when it told actual medical doctor Jill Stein to drop the "Dr."

And, the blind rage of The Resistance is blind indeed! I've seen people on Twitter claim that Epstein, 14 years older than Biden, is engaging in ageism. I've seen others claiming he's comparing his honorary doctorates to Biden's academic degree, when A. He isn't and B. He only claims one honorary degree, not multiples.

And, it's not just individuals. Daily Beast has a bit of rage-blindness ...

And, it may have been one of those media outlets attacking Jill Stein 4 years ago. I know Charles Davis was there at the time and attacking Stein for other things.

The fact that Northwestern said he hadn't taught a course there since 2002 means nothing, as he would have been 65 then. 

Yes, he has a controversial past, and his 1970 article on homosexuality is beyond controversial, just wrong. He deals with that in a 2015 Washington Examiner piece which is very interesting, at least partially apologetic, and readable.

As for the claim that academic titles were first and MDs just followed? Err, wrong! Originally, you went to university for one of three things, as any actual historian knows: Law, medicine and theology.

In short, agree with Epstein or not, but do it honestly on the ground, and without being a 2016-based hypocrite.
That said, he went too far with the "almost fraudulent." It is an earned degree, first of all, and second, given how much of a winger Epstein is, could be interpreted as a larger dig. (You fill in the blanks.)