SocraticGadfly: 12/19/21 - 12/26/21

December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas and into next week

As you see this, I'm out in the semi-wilds of Southern California. I should be out and about hiking and birding at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, which I stumbled upon last year.

This year, I'm back there intentionally. I wrote this in advance, and I am hoping there is a Christmas Day Bird Count there. It actually started last week, as far as the actual Audubon-organized national event, and runs through the start of the new year.

From there, Joshua Tree and more in Sand to Snow than I did last year. Hoping to meet up with friends in the Southland, too.

I'm hoping to both see new birds and get better pictures of some of the noes I saw last year, as well as shooting a bit of video.

This is obviously posted ahead. Posting for the next week will be light, and posted-ahead stuff. See you in the new year.


Update from kyped wifi, Dec. 27; bird spottings thin but desert bighorn good with La Niña rain.

December 23, 2021

Texas Progressives get ready for the holidays

Shades of a couple of years ago, the Secretary of State + DPS are still flagging citizens as non-citizens.

SocraticGadfly offers a few thoughts from up on the Red about 2022 primary filings (and Green and Libertarian convention filings). 

Stace gives us his thoughts on some of the 2022 Dem Primary races.

Off the Kuff (with Kuffner a week behind the curve on my version of the roundup from a week ago) lets you know about the absolutely bonkers primary election that Republican voters in Potter County are fixing to have.

A now-former rookie teacher talks about how her first year, self-truncated, played out in the middle of COVID. Beyond the COVID issues, what she learned about the education system in general is half the story. As with the Great Resignation, COVID basically just accelerated trends.

Meet the jaguarundi, which probably isn't in Texas, but, people are looking.

The Monthly talks about the bois d'arc tree and its "Osage orange" fruit without noting their alternative names of "bois d'arc balls" or "horse apples."

As discussed elsewhere, the Monthly talks about Cal Gov Gavin Newsom's plan to greenlight citizen lawsuits for gun control, since the Supremes OKed SB 8. It adds that gun nutz warned about this in arguments before the court.

Speaking of holidays, the Chronic has a four part investigative story, starting here, about how many millions of dollars churches around the state get on property tax exemptions for church-owned parsonages. The sky's the limit on appraisal; just has to be on 1 acre or less of land.

Texas Monthly presents the 2022 Bum Steer Award winners.  

The Bloggess tells you how to participate in the 12th annual James Garfield Miracle.  

Mark Sumner earns "honorary Texan" status for reminding us of the time that Louie Gohmert sued Mike Pence for the crime of obeying the law this past January.  

Juanita is not impressed by Ken Paxton's "vote fraud" efforts.  

Will Wilder and Elizabeth Hira show how the Freedom to Vote Act would de-fang Texas' voter suppression law.

I personally will be off birding in the Southwest. Posts will be light through the new year.

December 22, 2021

Gil Hodges: A 2nd microcosm of Cooperstown veterans committee screw-ups

I simply do not get the fandom for Gil Hodges. It's like a fricking cult, mainly of Brooklynites, but also of others. (See, I didn't even say "fucking," per the tone trolls commenting on my original piece about Veterans Committee screw-ups.)

And, TOTALLY unwarranted as I see it.

His case? Far worse than that of Minnie Miñoso, discussed in more detail here. Pretty worse than that of Tony Oliva, now discussed in detail here.

On my original piece about the VC's screw-ups, I said he wasn't even a AAA HOFer. In the longer body, I pulled my halfway-in-cheek tongue out, and per WAR, amended that to say he wasn't a AAAA replacement HOFer. I stand by that.

OK, the numbers.

43.9 WAR is the biggie.

And right now, I hear the "but WWII" chorus.

He was 19 in 1943 and got a cup of coffee call-up because of the war. No WWII, he's still in the minors in 1944 and 1945. So, you're already wrong. Or, Not.Even.Wrong. 

Now, to details.

First, on the sabermetric side? NO, NONE, ZERO 7-WAR seasons. Only one 6-WAR year. 

No, sabermetrics in general, and WAR in specific, aren't perfect, but it seems like the biggest bashers of them are people who know they can't make a good sabermetrics-based claim for a player's skill level.

Second, let's go non-sabermetrics; per the HOF numbers at bottom left of a player's profile? His only black ink is strikeouts once, sac flies twice. Total black ink points? TWO! Average HOFer? 27.

The rest of those categories? "Gray ink," "Hall of Fame Monitor," and "Hall of Fame standards," on ALL of them, he's somewhat to well below the benchmarks. 

I've never seen a THAT BAD on a player who has yammerers (you are) saying "let him in." Shit, even Jack Morris was above benchmarks on "Gray ink" and "Hall of Fame Monitor." When you're worse than Jack Morris, you're bad.

Third, back to sabermetrics. Never busted 150 on OPS+, which is "not good" for a first baseman. It, like WAR, is park-adjusted. Ebbets Field was not a total bandbox down the lines for a right-handed batter, unlike a lefty, but it was almost as bad a bandbox in left-center as in right-center, and, of course, a sub-400 foot center field covers both batters. And, that's why WAR and OPS+ are park adjusted. 

Yet, even though both black and gray ink are NOT park-adjusted, Hodges was out of the running on both. 

Career OPS+ of 120. Horrible for a first baseman who's an alleged Hall of Famer. Even Keith Hernandez, a lowish-power glove-first first baseman, is at 128.

Now, to Jay Jaffe's JAWS7, a good tool for putting a player heads-up with others at their position on a mix of longevity and peak. Hodges is 40th. He's worse than Frank Chance, someone else who doesn't belong in Cooperstown. (Unfortunately, Jaffe, like Bill James, is a Big Hall guy, and probably an emotion-driven one, too, who doesn't actually look at what sabermetrics says in many cases like this.)

If we click the top of the row for OPS+ on the JAWS7 for 1B, it's worse yet. The only name modern readers would recognize at 120 is Justin Morneau. Mark Grace is at 119. So is Andres Galarraga. (Grace is also ahead of him on WAR.) Part of the argument about Tony Perez not being Hall-worthy? He's only at 122. And, while I'm here, a sidebar to Dodgers bluebloods perhaps thinking this enhances Mr. Playboy's HOF chances? Steve Garvey at 117 OPS+. AND under 40 WAR.

Yep, that's Gil Hodges' company.

As for his managerial skills? IMO, he caught lightning in a bottle once. Having ditched the second, expansion Senators for the Mets, they continued to play as well after he left as before. As for claims that a short managerial career truncated his surely inevitable greatness? Danny Murtaugh won two World Series and two additional NL East titles after 1969 expansion, probably would have been the 1979 WS manager had he lived, but had his career interrupted multiple times by illness before his untimely death, yet can't get the time of day from various Vets Committees ...

Or from alleged sabermetric genyuses like Jay Jaffe, who both hates on Murtaugh as a manger and slobbers over (yes) Hodges as a player. If Jim Kaat's picture is in the MLB Encyclopedia next to "compiler," then Jaffe's is next to "hypocrite." It's next to Bill James, another Hodges slobberer.

Now, some Hodges fellators are probably doing a "player plus manager" bank shot, a la Red Schoendienst. Ixnay on that. Red was approximately the same on player WAR, but, went to two WS, back to back. In addition, he was on the coaching staff for the 1982/85/87 WS appearances and continued to serve as a team executive after that Besides, he lost not only a possible 1944 call-up as a player due to WW2, he also suffered eye damage from the war, per Wiki. Better yet, read Red's obit.

Minnie Miñoso: Not a screw-up by the Vets Comm, but still wrong

Yes, I had originally planned only one of these. But? As the fellations continue, per the new Tony Oliva piece, which is now up? I'm firing back, now on Minnie Miñoso.

The Undefeated, going back to its roots of Black advocacy rather than half its current stuff —which is often "Hey, this is your ESPN assignment editor. To make sure you don't run out of news "content," here's a piece that has Black athletes in it. Sorry it doesn't have civil rights stuff, but ... we do what we can." — says that Miñoso may have been hurt by the color of his skin, but even more by the non-English of his original mother tongue.

Possibly, but?

He still had only 50 WAR.

He was a below-average fielder (he was). He got thrown out on the bases a lot. One 8-WAR, one 6-WAR year. He's not a horrible inductee, but not great.

Back to that asterisk? For anybody talking "but include the Negro Leagues"? Fine. Per B-Ref, he's still under 55 WAR. Given that those were young years, he probably wouldn't have been in MLB's majors most that time were this 20-30 years later and discrimination in playing weren't such a problem, so I still don't see him as much more than 55 WAR. Remember, that when he DID get his initial shot, with the 1949 Indians, he was sent ... to the minors, not back to Negro League ball ... because he wasn't good enough. The Undefeated, in its fellation of Miñoso, admits that Cleveland was [ahead of the Dodgers!] baseball's most integrated team in 1949. It then raises the "Gold Gloves" argument; well, in two of his three winning seasons, he had a negative dWAR. They didn't exist back then, but that's why cognoscenti look at Fielding Bible awards today.

(A Red Satan piece on Oscar Charleson spells it out for me. B-Ref has scanty enough info on Negro League parks that it cannot park-neutralize OPS+, per the story — and on the flip side, presumably can't park-neutralize ERA+, or calculate FIP, let alone to do a FIP+ like Fangraphs. Because of not having the same minor league structure and individual teams not having minor league systems, B-Ref also can't calculate WAR for Negro Leagues players.)

It then shows further wrongness, with this:

Miñoso put together a résumé that was underappreciated. He produced numbers better or equal to those of Yogi Berra, Bill Mazeroski and Nellie Fox, his contemporaries. Miñoso didn’t join them in Cooperstown until Sunday.

Well, those are all defense-first positions, more than right field. Second base somewhat, catcher definitely so, and in addition, we've established that, legend aside, Miñoso was below-average defensively. 

That said, Fox's oWAR was way too low. He shouldn't be in the Hall either. Two wrongs don't make a right. Ditto on Maz.

Berra of course is a different case.About 5 more o-WAR while going through the rigors of catching and nearly 10 more overall WAR. And, so, that's just wrong.

As for  early Black entrants? Larry Doby was ia different league, so to speak. He had as much MLB WAR in a career a bit more truncated by discrimination, and had more batting black ink. And, vs an 8 and a 6 on WAR seasons, it was a 7 and two 6's. Ten points higher on OPS+. And, refuting claims that Miñoso was feared as a batter, Doby had more IBBs in a shorter career. (Doby gets in anyway, of course, as a "pioneer.")

Finally, lest some someone point to Oliva and Miñoso and chatter? It's off to Gil Hodges.

Tony Oliva: A microcosm of Cooperstown veterans committee screw-ups

A week ago, I blogged about how the Early Baseball Committee, and even more, the Golden Days Committee, was wrong, or worse, at times Not.Even.Wrong, on the veteran players it voted into the Hall of Fame.

I'm now going to look at one case in microcosm: Tony Oliva

First, he had under 50 WAR. Almost EXACTLY another Harold Baines.

I venture many voters said "but he had three batting titles."

I don't care if he won three batting titles. Bill Madlock won four and he's not in the HOF either, and he shouldn't be in the HOF either. (Madlock might be an even better comp than Baines.)

But, that started me to wondering.

And, here we go. Other players with three batting titles who probably aren't Hall-worthy.

Dead-ball days? Ross Barnes, Pete Browning. Barnes had a way-short career; dunno why. Most of it was short seasons with the pre-NL National Association. So, he's so far in the past that, even had he played longer, it might be hard to discuss him at all. Browning played longer, with somewhat longer seasons, but still is enough in the past to be hard to say much about. 

Modern era? Joe Mauer. And, no, his 55 WAR, with half his career at 1B/DH, not Hall-worthy. True, the injuries not his fault. But, ditto for Buster Posey. Or, in the past, Ray Fosse.

Close? Willie McGee; two titles and a fourth place. Not a HOFer. Dave Parker, two titles and a fifth with five total top-10s. Not a HOFer. (Self-inflicted.)

True that it's not Oliva's fault he was stuck behind Bob Allison his first two years. (Allison had a 7-WAR season himself in 1963. He's actually not THAT distant of a comp to Oliva, for that matter. )

A 1972 season where his bad knees caught up to him spelled the end to his career. (And, the Twins maybe should have flopped their outfielding halves if playing Oliva in left instead of right would have helped his knees at all, with Allison then staying in right.)  He led the league in slugging the year before that, and took his third batting title, but missed a quarter of the year. But, even before that, just one 7-WAR year, along with two 6-WAR ones.

Some pitchers allegedly claim to have feared to pitch to Oliva. They apparently didn't tell writers that; the BBWAA never gave him more than 50 percent. Everybody on that original blog post is the same. Neither writers nor previous Veterans Committee incarnations could see themselves to saying they were "all that."

Final thought and another comp: Larry Walker, also of course, a right fielder, and who got in the Hall on his last year of BBWAA eligibility. Different injuries than Oliva, but a variety of nagging injuries that shortened his career. Also three batting titles! Two slugging titles, not one, and two OBP titles.

MUCH better defensive outfielder. MUCH better baserunner.

Three hundred extra games? That would give you 12 WAR; still leaves a 55-WAR Oliva far short of a 73-WAR Walker. (On that games played? Oliva is closer to Posey than Walker, and outside the top 500. He also played one-third fewer games than Parker, who had notoriously bad wheels, and Oliva was playing on natural grass. Just some sidebars on the injuries issue.) I could even throw in part of sitting behind Bob Allison for another 5 WAR. He's still at just 60 WAR.

December 21, 2021

Coronavirus week 89 - Robert Malone and Omicron

Both Atlantic and Orac tackle Robert W. Malone's quackery in detail. The Atlantic piece nails part of his silliness besides being butt-hurt over not being called "the inventor of mRNA vaccines." He got COVID in early 2020 and developed long-haul COVID. He took a Moderna shot hoping it would alleviate his symptoms, Atlantic explains. Uhh, that's not how vaccines work, and that's why MDs without a PhD aren't really scientists. I've tackled him before in another roundup.

The latest Atlantic piece from Ed Yang claims some of the Omicron best-case scenarios are partially off the table. We'll see. Sarah Zhang, also there, largely agrees. Zhang engages in basic exponential reasoning about its greater transmission rate, while ignoring that it will hit a wall of already infected and-or vaccinated people soon enough. Yasmin Tayag, who I've called out on these pages before, for thinking that most people are rational actors, then for attacking vax mandates even though people aren't rational actors, also gets on the alarmist train, but not quite so severely.

Dave Leonhardt, who two months ago said it was time to start transitioning back to normal, now talks about Omicron threatening Red America.

The Trib takes the first look at Omicron in Texas.

Now that the Sixth Circuit has upheld Biden's large-biz vax mandate (which is NOT that, though everybody calls it that; it's a vax-or-test mandate) the plaintiff-losers want emergency SCOTUS help.

December 20, 2021

Lake Show struggles grow; will turmoil, too?

The latest? Anthony Davis has a sprained knee. Out a month minimum, when he'll be "re-examined." Since AD has now said he "heard a pop," I wouldn't expect any really good news in four weeks, Lake Show fans.

Meanwhile, the team has tried to move Russell Westbrook, but nobody wants him. Would you, with his empty stats boxes? This is after having to let Alex Caruso go while watching him hit the next level with the Bulls, just as Kyle Kuzma, part of the trade to the Wiz to get Lil Russ, also has jumped it up.

Daryl Morey doesn't want Lil Russ, from what I hear, among other things, not even to dump Ben Simmons back, in part because even he would have to give a player back. I wondered if dumping Ben plus Danny Green in exchange for Russ, Avery Bradley and a draft pick might work.

Without a draft pick, ESPN says that is +3 for the Lakers/-2 for the Sixers. Add new rookie highlight Austin Reaves? OR Trevor Ariza or Kent Bazemore? Doesn't change it. Nor does Carmelo Anthony, who I don't think Morey would want either.

Meanwhile, the Lake Show has inked the inky Isaiah Thomas on a 10-day From what I see, I venture there was some possibility that was happening even before Lil Russ hit COVID protocols. And, with his 19 on opening night, they're surely thinking about keeping him for the year, aren't they? That adds to team turmoil, or I would think it would, if they do.

As I said last week, I thought the Nuggets should tank, with Michael Porter out and Jamal Murray not likely back before the All-Star Game. Maybe I had the wrong choice?

Now, the Lakers ain't tanking, even less than the Nuggets. But, they probably should consider it. They're just one new LeBron James injury away from deep shit.

Speaking of, LeBron is now in special pleading mode, asking rhetorically, "How can we really fully assess what we have when we haven't been whole?"

But, isn't that the whole issue? AD is a walking injury history. You're third in total season-plus-playoffs career minutes, and becoming ever more liable to injuries lasting longer. And you begged for the team to get Lil Russ even if it decimated team depth. No sympathy, dude.