Saturday, May 31, 2008

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

Bob Ryan states the obvious for all Celtics fans:
I remember someone telling me near the end of the regular season it would be a good idea to bring Sam Cassell back next year. I'm sure that person has reconsidered.
I too hope Cassell gets a ring in Boston but that he's showing it off elsewhere next season... Todd Helton hit another home run today. That's 6 for the season and his 2nd in as many days. For his career he has 309 which is much more than Don Mattingly but still fewer than Mo Vaughn. Todd Helton will be an interesting case for the Hall of Fame (interesting in the sense that it should be interesting to see how the writers react)... Good for you Bob Dole! The former Senator from Kansas goes off on Scott McClellan:
"In my nearly 36 years of public service I've known of a few like you," Dole writes, recounting his years representing Kansas in the House and Senate. "No doubt you will 'clean up' as the liberal anti-Bush press will promote your belated concerns with wild enthusiasm. When the money starts rolling in you should donate it to a worthy cause, something like, 'Biting The Hand That Fed Me.' Another thought is to weasel your way back into the White House if a Democrat is elected. That would provide a good set up for a second book deal in a few years"
Dole is spot on. I am amazed though that Democrats are still focused on Bush and not the upcoming election. That's a sure path to defeat in November. Guys like McClellan don't hurt McCain or help Obama but they do energize the Republican base as exhibited by Bob Dole's need to speak out on the subject... The Reds Jay Bruce is giving off a Freddy Lynn as a rookie vibe to me.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Free Agent Signings

OK - its far enough into the baseball season to figure out in most cases whether money was well spent on a free agent player or whether the money would have been better spent on ivory back scratchers. I'm only looking at players who changed teams - so don't be looking for A-Rod on either list. Also don't look for every player or any middle-relievers for that matter.

Money Well Spent
- Aaron Boone - $1 mil / 1 YR Washington (5 HR and .529 SLG% in limited role)
- Milton Bradley - $5 mil / 1 YR Texas (.327 BA / 8 HR / 31 RBI / 0 tantrums)
- Sean Casey - $800,000 / 1 YR Boston (the mayor has been a good fit)
- Bartolo Colon - Minor League Deal Boston (no matter what else happens - his performance in his first 2 starts makes his signing perhaps the biggest bargain of the offseason)
- Mark Hendrickson - $1.5 mil / 1 YR Florida (off to a 7-2 start)
- Livan Hernandez - $5 mil / 1 YR (off to 6-2 start)
- Eric Hinske - Minor League Deal Tampa Bay (10 HR already - another huge bargain)
- Troy Percival - $8 mil / 2 YR Tampa Bay (great story - I hope his recent injury isn't anything serious)
- Aaron Rowand - $60 mil / 5 YR San Francisco (he's been great so far)

Wasted Bucks
- Eric Gagne - $10 mil / 1 YR (suckity, suck, sucks)
- Jose Guillen - $36 mil / 3 YR (way overpaid - bad move and clubhouse distraction)
- LaTroy Hawkins - $3.75 mil / 1 YR Yankees (as a Red Sox fan all I can say is Ha Ha)
- Jason Jennings - $5 mil / 1 YR Houston (I could go 0-5 with an ERA of 8.56)
- Andruw Jones - $36 mil / 2 YR Dodgers (completely fallen off a cliff)
- Carlos Silva - $48 mil / 4 YR Seattle (for $12 mil a year your ERA should be under 5.00)
- Brad Wilkerson - $3 mil / 1 YR Seattle (already been cut from the team)

Jury Still Out
- Mike Cameron - $7 mil / 1 YR Milwaukee
- Luis Castillo - $25 mil / 4 YR Mets (I didn't like the signing at the time and I don't like it now but I'm willing to give it a benefit of a doubt)
- Francisco Cordero - $46 mil / 4 YR Cincinatti
- David Eckstein - $4.5 mil / 1 YR Toronto
- Keith Foulke - $7 mil / 1 YR Oakland
- Pedro Feliz - $8.5 mil / 2 YR Philadelphia
- Torii Hunter - $90 mil / 5 YR Angels
- Kaz Matsui - $16.5 mil / 3 YR Houston

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Online Poker Cheating

If you player online poker at UltimateBet or Absolute Poker - I'd suggest you stop and cash out your account. Read this post and you'll understand why.
I believe that it is important for online poker players to know about the unethical business practices of UltimateBet and Absolute Poker. It is also imperative to understand that these unscrupulous activities are not an indictment on the entire online poker industry. As you read this thread please keep in mind that UltimateBet and Absolute Poker are owned by the same company. They are also regulated by the same puppet regulatory commission. Most poker sites are run with the utmost integrity and security. UltimateBet and Absolute Poker are the exception and not the rule.

I urge the concerned reader to pass word of this summary on to other interested parties. The spread of this information will ultimately protect poker players from unknowingly exposing themselves to the corruption detailed below.
I've stopped playing online (mostly because I don't have the time) and stuff like this make it less likely that I'll be going back for a while.

HT Tao of Pauly

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Obama vs. McCain and Santos vs. Vinick

Interesting post comparing the potential McCain vs. Obama match-up to the fictional election in the last season of The West Wing.
How’s this for a political plot: Good-looking congressman in his mid-40s, married with two young children, known for his inspirational speeches, comes from far behind to clinch the Democratic nomination and face an older, more experienced centrist Republican. If he wins, he’s America’s first non-Caucasian president.
That's the basic plotline that had Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) as the fictional Republican nominee and Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) as the fictional Democratic nominee. It's also a pretty spot on description of the current state of affairs (except Obama is a Senator not a Congressman). The juxtaposition is very interesting to consider and I love anything that involves The West Wing but I see two problems with the comparison.

1. On the show it is Santos who is the fighter pilot with the military background. It was as if they wanted to model him as a young John McCain.

2. It literally took a nuclear meltdown for Vinick to lose on the show. I took issue with this at the time and I'm guessing that given Obama's propensity for verbal missteps - it will be the Democrat who has a figurative meltdown in real life.

I could see myself voting for Matthew Santos.

Barack Obama? Not so much.
New York Mets

Recently I took a look at what contracts will be coming off the books and what the needs will be for the 2009 New York Yankees. It is interesting to note that the New York Mets will also have a lot of money coming off the books and even more interesting - their needs for the 2009 season will be almost exactly the same as the Yankees.

Here's the contracts coming off the books after this season for the Mets:

- Carlos Delgado has a $16 million option or a $4 million buy-out. Hmmm - I wonder which they will choose? Because the Marlins are paying $4 million of Delgado's contract this year - the Mets will only be saving $8 million toward the 2009 payroll.
- Pedro Martinez is in the last year of his contract which will pay him $11 million this year. The Mets may get a deal done to bring him back but I'd guess that's 50/50 so I'm counting this money.
- Moises Alou his $8.5 million will be coming off the books.
- Orlando Hernandez his $6 million will be coming off the books.

That's $33.5 million trimmed off the payroll. That also leaves the Mets with a big hole at 1st base and a need for another top starter.

To fill their 1st base need - look for the Mets to make a major push for Mark Teixeira. I'm guessing that Teixeira will ignite a bidding war between the Yankees and Mets with the Braves acting as the hometown discount darkhorse.

The Mets will also probably make a play for CC Sabathia but unlike the Yankees the Mets already have an Ace in Johan Santana. So I don't expect CC Sabathia to be the top priority for the Mets. Especially since they could bring back Pedro Martinez and still have a rotation of Santana, Oliver Perez, John Maine, and Pedro plus a couple of youngsters.

The need for a starter is secondary. This emphasizes the need at 1st and points to the Mets getting involved in the bidding for Mark Teixeira in a big way. It should be interesting to see what New York team will over pay for Teixeira because overpay they will.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Heh Heh
In 1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University . On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Mbembe approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Mbembe stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Mbembe was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son Tapu were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe's legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

HT Sports Frog
Mariners All-timers vs. Red Sox All-timers

I get a kick out of comparing the all-time list of different franchises. Here's a quick look at how the Seattle Mariners compare to the Boston Red Sox.

In terms of hitting - Edgar Martinez is the all-time leader for the Mariners in AB, R, H, 2B, RBI, TB, and BB.

If Martinez played for the Sox instead - he'd be 5th in AB, 5th in R, 5th in H, 3rd in 2B, 5th in RBI, 5th in TB and 4th in BB.

Junior Griffey is the all-time leader in HR with 398. That would be good for 3rd on the Red Sox all-time list behind Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.

In terms of pitching - Jamie Moyer is the all-time leader for Seattle in wins with 145. That would be good for fourth for the Red Sox behind Cy Young (192), Roger Clemens (192) and Tim Wakefield (157 and counting). Randy Johnson has the club record for K's for the M's with 2162 - that would be behind only Roger Clemens' 2590 for Boston. Surprisingly - Mike Moore is the all-time leader for the Mariners in complete games with 56. That would be good for only a tie for 32nd place with the Red Sox. Cy Young had 275 complete games for the Red Sox.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I won't ruin it but I will say that this movie will go down as having one of the all-time worst endings of any major film in history. At least the endings of Blazing Saddles and Monty Python and the Holy Grail were trying to be funny.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Baseball Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous baseball thoughts and observations.

Brad Wilkerson had me fooled. I thought he'd be productive this year. Now he's hitting just .185 in 15 games for Toronto and now I'm thinking that there is probably at least one pitcher on the Blue Jays who could do better than that... There are 15 1st basemen in baseball who had a better OPS than Mark Teixeira going into the night's action, 18 who had more HR, and 8 who had more RBI but it will still be Teixeira who will cash in big at the end of the season... Ex-Red Sox outfielder David Murphy leads the AL in doubles with 19. Thanks Eric Gagne! (Then again - Murphy probably wouldn't have gotten a chance in Boston.)... Dan Uggla may be the most under-rated player in baseball... Only 3 of the top 21 HR hitters in baseball are from the American League so far this season. I wonder why that is?... Johan Santana had only 7 wild pitches all of last season. This year with the Mets he's already matched that number. I'm guessing that's just part of the problem he's running into in New York...
Dan Shaughnessy Can Stick It

Dan Shaughnessy had a maddening column yesterday that I am compelled to comment on. The column lamented that today's basketball stars are not as accessible as the players of days gone by.

Shaughnessy specifically was speaking about the Celtics teams of the 80's and how he and Bob Ryan were so close with the team. Shaughnessy then tells lots of interesting tales including one about Cedric Maxwell:
We knew that Cedric Maxwell would always have Dolph Schayes paged over the terminal intercom when the Celtics were waiting for baggage. Anywhere in America. Every trip. For years.

"Would Mr. Dolph Schayes please meet his party at carousel seven?"

One day in Salt Lake City, Dolph Schayes just happened to be at the airport and appeared at the carousel asking who was looking for him. Max loved that one.
That's a great story but here's the problem - I read the Boston Globe sports section religiously in the 1980's and I never saw Shaughnessy (or Ryan for that matter) bring up the Maxwell story or any of the other stories Chinless mentions. It would be one thing if the writers used to fill the readers in on anecdotes like the one above but if they were keeping them to themselves - for the reader what's the difference? Boo hoo - Shaughnessy and the other writers don't get access and don't get to be chummy with the players. My heart bleeds for him. But what is the difference to the readers if those stories never made the paper anyway?
World War I - the Forgotten War?

Betsy has an interesting post on World War I.

I was not aware that there is no World War I memorial in Washington, DC.
Mommy from Family Circus - RIP

The inspiration for the Mommy character in the Family Circus comic strip has passed away.

I would never have guessed that she was Australian.

HT Sports Frog
Memorial Day Reading

Here's an article from last year that's worth another read on this Memorial Day 2008.
Memorial Day Tribute - Wish You Were Here

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail? A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change? And did you exchange
a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl,
year after year,
running over the same old ground. What have we found?
The same old fears,
wish you were here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bush's Second Term Diplomacy

Very interesting article by Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard. The focus of the article is Condoleeza Rice and backroom diplomacy with the North Koreans but to me this was the crux of the story:
But that speech [Bush's second inaugural] is better understood in retrospect as a coda to his first term than a bridge to the current one. In the second term, those who have chosen to test America's resolve--the Iranians, the Syrians, the North Koreans--have often found it less than firm.
I understand that until Iraq is sorted out that the military's hands are basically tied but that doesn't mean I'm not uncomfortable with the kid gloves we are treating the Syrians, Iranians and North Koreans. Read the whole piece.
Golf Joke for a Sunday
The young man says, "An 8-iron, father. How about you?"

The priest says, "I'm going to hit a soft seven and pray."

The young man hits his 8-iron and puts the ball on the green.

The priest tops his 7-iron and dribbles the ball out a few yards.

The young man says, "I don't know about you father, but in my church when we pray, we keep our head down."
Athletes Who Served

Very interesting post by Josh Q. Public on athletes who served our country in the military. Of course Ted Williams is the centerpiece.

I was aware of most of the names on the list but I had no idea that Al Bumbry was a platoon leader in Vietnam.

HT The Big Lead
Golden Richards

Joel Reese's tale of his meeting with Golden Richards - a childhood idol of Reese's - is a very moving bit of writing. Well worth the time.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Presidential Geekiness

I was somewhat bothered by this post over at Good Morning Silicon Valley.

It seems like some people seek out reasons to take swipes at George Bush. Were people writing about Bill Clinton alienating the geek community? I mean the guy sent only 2 emails out the whole time he was President.

By the same token - will the folks over at the New York Times be praising Karl Rove as some sort of closet master geek?
Sheffield: Last time I saw you, you'd just gotten an iPhone. How's that working out for you?
Rove: I love it. My life has changed. I have a shred of coolness. I've got my 3,500 people in my addressbook on the phone, I can sync my calendar. I keep track of my modest little stock investments. I can check the weather of my house in Washington, my house in Florida, my boy at school, my hunt-lease in south Texas. I can surf the web, I'm just--I get part of my email there. I mean it is just shocking how much better, how much more productive I am. I no longer carry around a giant address book, if I don't have my calendar close at hand, I can quickly check it out of my-- I don't have to carry, I used to carry several notecards, now it's just as easy to scribble on my little notepad, I can take photographs and forward them on immediately, it's just remarkable.

Sheffield: All right. Well it sounds like Steve Jobs should call you up as a spokesman.
Rove: There we go, there we go. And not only that, I also have the Mac Book Air which is really cool. Even my wife is jealous of my MacBook Air.
Bill Simmons Podcast

Very engrossing conversation - it's too much a dialog to call it an interview - between Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman.

Good stuff.
The New York Yankees

The Yankees are poised to have a significant turnover in their roster from this year to next. They have 7 big contracts that could be coming off the books after this October. The players include:

Jason Giambi - $5 million buy-out or $22 million club option. So if they do the buy-out they still save $16 million over 2008 costs. Buh-bye.
Bobby Abreu - $16 million. I don't think he'll be back but I could be wrong.
Andy Pettitte - $16 million. Very well could be back as insurance against the youngsters continuing to stumble. If the Yankees fail to land a top free agent starter - then he'll definitely be back if he wants to pitch.
Mike Mussina - $11 million. Buh-bye.
Carl Pavano - $1.95 million buy-out or $13 million option. So if they do the buy-out they save roughly $9 million over 2008 costs. Buh-bye.
Kyle Farnsworth - $5.5 million. Baseball's answer to the hockey goon.
LaTroy Hawkins - $3.75 million. God awful. Buh-bye.

Combined those 7 players equate to $71.75 million (after buy-outs) that could be coming off the books after this season. If those players were let go then that would open holes in RF, 1st, a couple of starter positions and a couple of bullpen positions. What free agents would be available to fill those slots?

The big target would be Mark Teixeira and I'm guessing Scott Boras will squeeze Hank Steinbrenner for a Jason Giambi type deal. If they fail to land Teixeira then they may have to go with a young player or convert Matsui or Posada to a 1st baseman.

The other big target (pun intended) will be starter CC Sabathia. Look for Steinbrenner to throw Johan Santana money at CC (and if Sabathia's appetite for money is anything like his appetite for food then Cleveland can probably waive bye-bye to CC). Best case scenario for the Yankees is a rotation of Sabathia, Wang, Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy.

So the Yankees could possibly spend $44 million or so on Teixeira and Sabathia and still have about $27 million available to fill in the rest of the holes with marginal free agents and young players from the farm system. If the Yankees fail to land at least one of these two targets then they could be in a world of hurt next year.

Two things to note and neither item should be overlooked:

First - with that many aging veterans in their "walk" years the Yankees will probably be faced both with injuries and with an elevated level of selfishness in the clubhouse for the rest of the season. The selfishness is only natural when you think of how pampered and self-centered most millionaire athletes are in the first place. There could be lots of sniping in the clubhouse and the problem could spiral out of control with no Joe Torre father-figure around to keep it in check. Don't discount this factor in what looks to be a 3rd place finish for the Yankees in the AL East this year.

Second - the Yankees biggest rivals - the Red Sox - have no such issues. The Sox will just have to deal with a new contract for Jason Varitek and Varitek has made it clear he wants to stay in Boston.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blazing Democrats

My mind works in strange ways.

I saw this post by Tigerhawk about Bill Clinton pushing for Hillary to be VP.

Earlier in the day I saw this post at Betsy's Page about Barack Obama and his willingness to meet with tyrants.

My mind combined the two with a quote from Blazing Saddles into:
OK - as President I'll meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Hugo Chávez, Kim Jong Il or the Castro brothers but no Clintons!
Sadly enough that seems to sum up the current state of the Democratic Party.

Oh and this is a riot.
The Not-So Killer G's
We are the killer bees. Give us all your honey! - John Belushi from a 1976 SNL skit
My buddy Bill pointed out to me that 7 of the 15 players that Kansas City used yesterday had last names that began with the letter G. When he mentioned that to me I made a crack about the "not-so killer G's".

As I reflect I think a better crack would have been a Sesame Street slant of "this loss brought to you by the letter G."
Dice-K and Walks

Daisuke Matsuzaka leads the AL in wins with 8 and only 4 starters with at least 5 starts under their belts have a lower ERA than Dice-K's 2.40. You would think everyone would be happy with that performance but you would be wrong.

Dice-K also happens to lead the league in walks with 38 and many people are harping on that figure. I say that the people complaining about Dice-K's walks are the same people who would look a gift horse in the mouth and complain about its bad breath. The fact is 55% of those walks have come with the bases empty. Dice-K sometimes nibbles and that can be frustrating to watch but as Dice-K's record and ERA attest - walks may be frustrating but they are not fatal.

Last year Dice-K's big problem was giving up home runs. He gave up 25 HR in 32 starts (1 HR every 8.2 innings). This year Dice-K has only given up 4 HR in 60 IP (1 HR every 15 innings). Effectively he has cut his HR allowed in half and by doing so he has dropped his ERA by 2 whole runs. Most likely he has accomplished this by not giving players a pitch to hit - especially with the bases empty. Last year 15 of his 25 HR allowed came with nobody on base. This year Dice-K has allowed just 2 HR with the bases empty.

I have yet to hear any of the people complaining about Dice-K's high walk total mention these facts.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Baseball Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous baseball thoughts and observations.

Interesting analysis of Bartolo Colon's start for the Red Sox last night. Bottom line? It looks like he still has his fastball and that's the pitch he needs to be successful... Everyone is making a fuss out of the Tampa Bay Rays and their turnaround but the bigger story may actually be the rebuilding job done by the Oakland A's. The poster boy for the A's resurgence is probably Dana Eveland who was acquired in the Dan Haren trade and who is currently 4-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 10 starts for the A's (compare to Haren who is 5-2 with a 3.14 ERA in 9 starts for the Diamondbacks).... Speaking of the A's - Frank Thomas seems to be doing a decent job since his signing (3HR / .282 BA / .855 OBP). I guess I may have been incorrect with predictions of his demise. Frank Thomas also needs just 2 more HR for 521 to tie Ted Williams and Willie McCovey for 16th place on the all-time HR list... Mike Piazza may have been pretty one-dimensional but he's a first ballot Hall of Famer nonetheless... Happy 35th birthday Julian Tavarez - for your birthday the Red Sox are sending you to Pawtucket... Today also would have been Hall of Famer Al Simmons (real name Aloys Szymanski) 106th birthday. Simmons had a run of over 100 RBI in 11 of his first 12 seasons in the major leagues. His career total of 1827 RBI is good for 16th place all-time (just ahead of Frank Robinson but just behind Dave Winfield)... If Willie Randolph thinks of himself in the same vein as Herm Edwards and Isiah Thomas - then he should be fired. Edwards and Thomas are perhaps the worst coaches in their respective sports. I don't care about skin color. I do care about what expectations a professional sets for himself. If Randolph is thinking "I want to do as well in this city as Herm Edwards did" then he should be fired... Omar Minaya is the real problem with the Mets. However, if a manager change is inevitable - I think Tony Pena would do a great job for the Mets...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

82" 2160p HDTV

Instapundit linked to this 82" 2160p HDTV display from Samsung. I agree that I'd want one of those too. There's a problem however - even though the display may be 2160p there are no broadcasters sending out a signal in that format. For that matter there aren't even any major broadcasters sending out a signal in 1080p. Right now the HD channels you see are all in 1080i. Even if you bought that 82" 2160 HDTV the reception when watching "TV" would be no better than a 100" 1080i display at a much lower price.

So it would be great to own one of those monster screens but I'm guessing that by the time the broadcasters have caught up to the technology - the screen you purchase today will be sadly out of date.
The New SI Cover

This is pretty cool. I'm a fan of comic books but I have to wonder if the Red Sox keep screwing up people's story lines. How can it really be bizarro baseball with the Red Sox still in first place?

HT Baseball Musings

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jon Lester

Last night Jon Lester was just awesome in every meaning of the word. I've been skeptical of his talent ceiling in the past but I'm not afraid to say when I have been wrong. Jon Lester is a stud. Consider the following:

Lester 3-2 / 3.41 ERA / 66 IP / 42 SO
Santana 5-2 / 3.30 ERA / 60 IP / 57 SO

Can there be any argument that the Red Sox did the right thing in not trading Jon Lester in a package for Johan Santana? Also consider that Lester is just 24 and will make just $421,500 this year while Santana is 29 and will cost the Mets $19 million this season.

Awesome. Just awesome.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Am I Asking Too Much?

When I read sports articles - I like to read about sports. It bugs me to no end when sportswriters insert their political views into articles that have absolutely nothing to do with politics. Take the recent offering from Jon Heyman - emphasis added:
The idea he [Bobby Valentine] can't get along with bosses, though, is debunked by the reality that his GM in Texas, Tom Grieve, loves Valentine. And apparently so do the ownership groups from Texas (Valentine was still friendly with George W. Bush even after Bush fired him) and obviously Chiba Lotte. It's less clear how the Mets' bosses feel, though at least one member of the Wilpon family that owns the team regularly attends Bobby Valentine's Sports Academy in Stamford, Conn. Valentine even supported his old boss Bush for president, which only goes to show that nobody's perfect.
OK - we get it. Heyman's not a fan of the President but who cares what his politics are? Is it ego that makes writers slide these things into their pieces? And speaking of nobody being perfect - Heyman was the guy who wrote that A-Rod was going to sign with the Giants.Only goes to show that nobody's perfect.
Barack Obama - Smarter than a 5th Grader?

Barack Obama's comments about why he'll lose Kentucky made me smile:
"What it says is that I'm not very well known in that part of the country," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it's not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle."
Imagine the ridicule that would have resulted if say Mitt Romney had said something similar to explain his poor showing in Connecticut? Obama is not exactly making people confident in his geography skills. Kentucky borders Illinois.

And the US only has 50 states.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Stone Cold Fail

Some people are expecting the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to break all sorts of records. Some even suggest it may become the highest grossing movie of all time. I completely disagree. I see the new Indiana Jones movie being possibly only the 5th highest grossing movie - this year!

Consider the history of the franchise. The first movie Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981 and was a huge success (by far the highest grossing movie that year). The second installment - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a box office success but the critics were no fans of the movie. This movie made much less than the original ($230 million vs $175 million) and was only the 3rd highest grossing movie for 1984. The third installment introduced Sean Connery as Indy's dad in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. This movie was better received than Temple of Doom - both critically and at the box office (it was the second highest grossing movie of 1989 behind Batman). Of the three movies only the original was able to claim the top spot for the year.

The "hooks" for this new movie are; A - it's been 19-years since the last installment and the studio is counting on pent up demand to see an Indiana Jones movie and B - Shia LaBeouf as his sidekick. The problem is A- that the folks who grew up on Raiders of the Lost Ark are old now and they don't go to movies anymore. They wait for things to come out on DVD or on-demand. And B - Shia LeBeouf is no Sean Connery - people aren't going to buy a ticket to the movie just because he's in it. Of all the teenagers I've spoken to - none are excited to see this movie. They are excited about Prince Caspian and The Dark Knight.

I can easily see the top 5 grossing movies for 2008 being the following:

1. The Dark Knight
2. Prince Caspian
3. Iron Man
4. TBD
5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

In 4th place I can easily see a sleeper movie like You Don't Mess with the Zohan or something else capturing this spot. I really do see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull falling way below both the commercial and critical expectations that have been set for it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dennis Hopper
Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains. - Quote wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill
Today is Dennis Hopper's 74th birthday (born May 17, 1936). I thought about the above quote when thinking of Hopper. When Hopper was young he was known as an ultra-liberal but today he's a regular contributor to the Republican Party. People used to think of Hopper's friendship with John Wayne as rather odd. Now in retrospect - not so much.

Happy birthday to an American icon - Dennis Hopper.
The NBA - Is the Fix In?

At the beginning of the season the NBA was under a cloud of suspicion of "fixed" games and it looks like the NBA is determined to end the season the same way.

At the beginning of the season NBA referee Tim Donaghy was found to have been in league with gamblers. In 100 NBA games Donaghy told the bookies who he thought was going to win or games he thought he could influence the outcome. He was given $5,000 for each correct pick. He was also investigated and arrested by the FBI for breaking various laws.

In 23 second round NBA playoff games - the home teams are 21-2. Think of that for a moment. That's better than a 91% winning percentage. That's a statistical anomaly. If something akin to this happened inside a casino - the management would be reviewing the tapes looking for signs of cheating.

If this was a crime then the police would fist ask "quo bono" - who benefits? In this case the answer is clear - David Stern and the NBA along with the broadcasters carrying the playoff games. The broadcasters, however, are not in a position to influence the outcome of games. David Stern is.

David Stern was so concerned with appearances early in the year when the Donaghy story broke. Now though - when a statistical anomaly like a 91% winning percentage for home teams in the rounds of the playoffs when viewership really starts to jump and ad revenues can be huge for series extended to the limit - Stern seems rather silent.

Of course this all could be a statistical anomaly and no wrongdoing or influencing of outcomes could be present. I'm a cynic however and if this was a blackjack dealer winning 91% of hands-played when his real house advantage should be in the single digits - then I think I would be justifiably worried about a fixed game.

Tim Donaghy is accused of many crimes but the one most fitting is one he hasn't been charged with - insider trading. David Stern and the NBA profits by referees giving the home team "breaks" in the playoffs whereas Tim Donaghy is going to jail because he was trying to influence the outcomes of games on his own. Donaghy would have been better off just telling his bookie friends to wait for the playoffs to bet the home team money line.

Maybe the new catchphrase for David Stern should be "The NBA - its Fixed-tastic!" That's the way it seems.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Moving the Final Table of the WSOP to November

Oliver Chubb makes some good points. Mainly about an unexpected decrease in the real first place payout due to losing 4 months worth on interest on millions of dollars:
So the eventual winner effectively has to share four months of interest with the rest of the final table. The sum paid to the winner in November will be roughly $100,000 less than what the prize would have been worth if paid out to him/her in July and invested.
If the eventual winner is a non-US amateur - he may get a double whammy:
Non-US amateur players have previously been allowed to claim 100% of their prize and handle their own tax authorities as they saw fit. Come November, when their face has been on ESPN for four months and in the poker literature, their claim that they are not entering the country to seek financial gain may be a little harder to substantiate. Although Caesars’ lawyers have promised to assist in the arrangement of entertainment visas, if even one of the players is refused entry to the US, or the IRS decides to withhold part of even one player’s payout, the new format will have been a disaster.
Michael Craig also makes some good points here:
Withholding the outcome as Caesars is doing accomplishes two things: (1) It builds the suspense, drawing people who watch individual episodes to return because that’s (just about) the only way to find out how it ends; and (2) Helps in story telling. Everybody - Caesars, ESPN, the rest of the media, the public - will get to know the final nine much better. It’s a lot easier to tell their stories over the period of four months than in a continuous-running event. The goal (and it may take a few years before this works out, and works out regularly) is for a lot of people to be intensely interested in the players, to be familiar with them, to have favorites, and to look forward to watching the finale to find out how it ends.
Craig makes some more points here.

What an awesome video! Rub some dirt in it!

HT Paul DePodesta

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yogi Berra

Happy birthday to Hall of Fame catcher and Yankees legend Yogi Berra who turns 83 today.

Berra made 14 consecutive All-Star teams and finished in the top 4 for MVP voting seven straight seasons (winning the award three times). Berra is arguably the greatest catcher to play the game (although I would understand if your choice was Johnny Bench instead). Yogi had incredible bat control and never struck out more than 38 times in a season. Johnny Bench had at least double Yogi's career high in strikeouts in every season Bench finished in the top 20 in MVP voting. To stress how incredible Berra's bat control and plate discipline were - consider that this season there are already 10 players with at least 38 strikeouts.

What puts Berra ahead of Bench in my mind is the two year head start Bench had over Berra. Bench joined the big leagues at age 19. Berra didn't make it to the big leagues until age 21. It wasn't that Berra wasn't good enough to play earlier than that. It was just that Berra was busy fighting WWII - serving in the Navy until 1946.

Not sure about you but I'd like to pretend that Berra never donned a New York Mets jersey on the playing field in 1965. It also boggles the mind that baseball writers did not consider Yogi Berra a first ballot Hall of Fame player. Berra received just 67% of the votes in his first year of eligibility before being elected in 1972 with 85.6% of the vote (the same year that 13% of the baseball writers didn't think Sandy Koufax was good enough for induction).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Democrats Plan to Destroy the Republicans

Barack Obama recently let slip an insight into the master plan to destroy the Republican Party and to insure a Democrat in the White House for generations to come. You may have heard Obama refer to the 57 states. Many thought it was a slip by a tired candidate. But could a Harvard man make such a slip? Surely he's too smart not to know how many states this country has! Right?

My sources tell me that the Democratic Party's master plan if they win in November is to annex the 7 western Provinces of Canada - making 57 states. This would not only help solve to oil price issue (Canada is rich with oil and American environmentalists don't care about drilling anywhere in current Canada). This policy would (in the mind of the Democratic planners) also add all those liberal-minded Canadians to voter rolls with a big D next to all their names.

There isn't much Canada can do to stop annexation if that is the plan.
Hillary Clinton's best Shot at the Presidency

Interesting hypothesis. The crux of the idea is that Hillary Clinton's best chance now of winning the White House is to damage Barack Obama enough to ensure a John McCain victory in November. This would thus free up Hillary to run again in 2012 against the incumbent McCain.

While reading it - I couldn't help but think of Ronald Reagan running against Gerald Ford in 1976. Ford believed that Reagan damaged his campaign so much that it allowed Jimmy Carter to win the Presidency. Reagan was then able to beat Carter four years later. Of course Reagan had the advantage of being considered a "true believer" by the core of the Republican Party while Hillary may be viewed as more of a true megalomaniac by the Democratic leadership.
Baseball Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous baseball thoughts and observations.

Jacoby Ellsbury has 22 straight steals without being caught so far to start his career. The record is 27 set by Tim Raines... When I was a kid there was a popular question - "would you rather be hit in the nuts by a Bobby Orr slap shot or a Nolan Ryan fastball?" The question never made much sense to me because who wants to be hit in the nuts in the first place. The only reason I bring it up is because Tim Wakefield needs to hit (well he doesn't NEED to hit anyone but you know what I mean) just 2 more batters and he'll tie Nolan Ryan for 10th place all-time with 158 hit batsmen apiece. I do know the answer to the question of - who would you rather be hit by a pitch from Nolan Ryan or Tim Wakefield?... Jim Edmonds was released by the Padres. I said it was a bad trade when Edmonds was acquired but I'm not here to toot my own horn. I do wonder what the baseball landscape would be like if the rumored trade (back in November of 2005) involving the Yankees and Cardinals took place. The Cardinals were supposedly going to send Edmonds to the Bronx in exchange for Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang. A very interesting "what if?" scenario if there ever was one... Edmonds will not make it to the Hall of Fame (the Hall of Very Good maybe). Is that fair when a player like Ozzie Smith is in there as a Cardinals representative? I do have to ask if Edmonds' defense (8 Gold Gloves to Ozzie's 13) and offense (Ozzie wasn't close to being the offensive force Edmonds was) tip the scales in Edmonds favor as the more valuable player? Both players were instrumental in leading Saint Louis to a World Championship...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Excellent Point

David Pinto makes an excellent point:
Something I've talked about before is the more often a manager changes pitchers, the more likely he's going to find one having a bad day. If a reliever is brought in and pitches well, and hasn't reached a credible pitch limit, why not let him continue?
Sadly - I can see two reasons why the status quo is not broached. First - the manager would be accused of messing with the confidence of the closer in the media and on talk radio. Second - the manager would be accused of attempting a "closer by committee" set-up which has become three most misunderstood dirty words in baseball today.

It will take a manager secure enough in his position with a closer secure enough in his confidence and who puts team wins above personal numbers to make this happen.

The current situation in Atlanta may prove to be the perfect setting to break the now traditional role of a 3-out closer. When John Smoltz and Rafael Soriano are both healthy - the younger Soriano will defer to the Hall of Famer Smoltz who is not a fragile ego guy in the least. Smoltz for his part will not mind if Soriano is cruising along and stays in for the 9th inning for the save. Smoltz wants to "conserve the bullets left in the gun" and he and Bobby Cox have seen too many blown saves in Atlanta to care about orthodoxy.
Tom Wolfe vs Charlie Pierce

I was struck by this exchange between Peter Robinson and Tom Wolfe.
ME: Henry Luce famously called the twentieth century "the American century." Will the twenty-first century represent a second American century?

TOM WOLFE: I believe we’re on the edge of about 800 more years of American centuries. The biggest problem is all the people who see a problem. It’s very fashionable to think that the end is near.
I think the Wolfe quote hit me hard because I had just read this piece in Esquire by Charlie Pierce. When you read the word "cynic" in the Pierce piece - it may be helpful for true comprehension to replace that word with "aging hippy who still thinks he knows best and why won't these damn whippersnappers just listen to me."

I guess I was bothered by the Pierce piece because of the underlying current of "Blame America First" and "the Republicans have led us to hell in a handbasket" sentiment that runs throughout every line of every page. The "cynic" in the "story" (I use scare quotes around "story" because I'm not sure what to call the piece - it certainly isn't a profile of Obama and it certainly isn't reporting - it may not even be non-fiction) - anyway the cynic thinks, "Maybe the world wants America to sit down and shut up for a while." I think this last line is the one that gets me the most. It's as if the "cynic" doesn't want America to be great. He wants America to be both equal to our European partners and well liked. He wants us to pass an John Kerry-type Global Test.

I was bothered by Pierce's piece and his mindset until I read the quote from the great Tom Wolfe. It was then that it hit me that Esquire is just a gussied up fashion magazine for men and that Charlie Pierce was just being fashionable. I was then able to let go of my - for lack of a better word - anger towards the Pierce piece. I mean as far as fashion goes - the Pierce piece is like Capri pants on men. Sure it's fashionable in some circles but you have to laugh at such wrongheadedness - not get angry.
Obama Plans to Kevorkian Hillary on May 20th

Barack Obama plans to declare victory on May 20th just after the polls close in the Kentucky and Oregon primaries. I'm amused by this story (if it happens to be true).

Obama is trying to kill Hillary's candidacy via political euthanasia well before the Democratic Convention in Denver. And he plans to do it on Dr. Jack Kevorkian's birthday! Am I the only one to see the irony in this?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Larry Bird

The Big Lead had a post on Larry Bird which made me check out YouTube looking for the Robert Parrish take-down of Bill Laimbeer. I found the above instead.
Angel Berroa and Ben Grieve

Angel Berroa was the 2003 American League Rookie of the Year. Now he's 29-years old, four seasons removed from his ROY performance and apparently washed up. It's interesting that Berroa was part of a trade involving another former ROY who turned busto. From the page for Berroa:
January 8, 2001: Traded as part of a 3-team trade by the Oakland Athletics with A.J. Hinch to the Kansas City Royals. The Oakland Athletics sent Ben Grieve to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays sent Cory Lidle to the Oakland Athletics. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays sent Roberto Hernandez to the Kansas City Royals. The Kansas City Royals sent Johnny Damon and Mark Ellis to the Oakland Athletics.
Looking at the trade:

- The Royals got Berroa who had one breakout season and then zilch, AJ Hinch who was a poor-man's Doug Mirabelli for two seasons in KC, and a 36-year old Roberto Hernandez who had two decent seasons closing for the Royals (but how important is a decent closer to a 5th and 4th place team?).
- The Devil Rays got 1998 AL ROY Ben Grieve who hit 55 HR in his last two seasons in Oakland but just 31 for the rest of his career after being traded.
- The A's came out the clear winner in this deal. They got Johnny Damon, Cory Lidle and Mark Ellis. Damon was only there for one season but he helped the A's win the AL West and hit over .400 in the playoffs (a 5 game loss to the Yankees). Ellis has been the starting 2nd baseman for the A's the past 5 seasons. Lidle arguable had the two best seasons of his career in Oakland going 21-16 with a combined 3.74 ERA in 40 starts over 2 seasons.

I brought up Berroa in the first place because it occurred to me that even though it was Grieve who received more media attention as a former ROY gone bust - it was Berroa who was the bigger bust overall. Looking back at this trade, however, through the jaded eye of steroids speculation you are also given much cause to pause and think.

Ben Grieve was in Oakland at a time when Jason Giambi went from a 20-HR guy to a 43-HR MVP. Grieve won the 1998 ROY Award largely due to his power numbers and Grieve was valuable as trade bait largely due to his HR hitting potential. Grieve leaves Oakland and sees his power shrivel like the testicles of a juicing first baseman. Lack of motivation or too much pressure are given as the reasons for Grieve's sudden decline.

Berroa was expendable in the first place because Oakland had Miguel Tejada blocking his path to the bigs. This is the same Miguel Tejada who went from 11 HR in 105 games in 1998 to 34 HR and an MVP award just 4 seasons later. This is the same Miguel Tejada named in both Jose canseco's first book and the Mitchell Report. Berroa won his ROY Award also largely due to his power numbers. Berroa hit 17 HR in 2003 to beat out Hideki Matsui and Rocco Baldelli.

You have to wonder if maybe, just maybe the 1998 and 2003 AL ROY Awards are tainted. It also makes you wonder if the phrase "cheaters never prosper" applies here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Did you know?

Did you know that the Stanley Cup was the result of Arthur and Algy Stanley asking their father, Lord Stanley, for a trophy to award to the champions of the Amateur Hockey Association in Montreal? The silver cup only cost $48.67 and was first awarded in 1893.

The first “Stanley Cup” tournament was held in 1894. Lord Stanley never actually attended any of the Stanley Cup hockey games. Sounds very much like the owner of the Boston Bruins (not that the Bruins will ever make it to the Stanley Cup finals.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Race for the Democratic Nomination

Jay Cost has a very interesting analysis of where things stand in the race for the Democratic Presidential Nomination.
I am very interested in next week's election in West Virginia. Everybody expects Hillary Clinton to win, but I can't help but wonder if they'll be surprised by the size of the margin.

We can reasonably expect it to be enormous. From a socioeconomic standpoint, West Virginia is almost entirely comprised of the sort of counties that Obama has done poorly in. The median white income in West Virginia is about $30,000 per year. African Americans comprise roughly 3% of the state's population. This puts it somewhere between Belmont County, Ohio and Greene County, Pennsylvania. Clinton won 72% of the vote in Belmont and 75% in Greene.
He also points out that only one Democrat has won the White House while losing West Virginia - Woodrow Wilson in 1916. I doubt that Obama can count on a Teddy Roosevelt splitting the Republicans this time around though.
The $58,000 Five

On Saturday my friends and I had a syndicate for the Kentucky Derby. And that syndicate almost won $58,000. Let me explain.

Six of us each kicked in $50 towards a superfecta bet. We picked the six horses we thought most likely to win and we played them again plus three more horses who we then played again plus three more horses. So we had six picks over nine picks over 12 picks over the same 12 picks. It's actually a good system that if we hit would have paid $58,737.80 on Saturday.

The fly in our ointment was that we neglected to take the five horse - the filly Eight Bells who came in second. The five horse cost us $58,737.80. We had Dennis of Cork at 27-1 but not Eight Bells.

What happened to our syndicate was a miscalculation that was briefly bemoaned. What happened to Eight Bells was a tragedy. But honestly it was a tragedy that went largely unnoticed at the bar where I watched the race. We were awed by Big Brown's performance, we were concerned with who won the $50 pool and the $20 pool, we were concerned with ordering the rounds that come with the pool and we were concerned with flipping the channel over to the Red Sox pre-game. Most of us were aware that a horse was injured but maybe two people in the bar were aware of the details.

In the days since the Derby it is the story of Eight Bells that has dominated racing news. It is a compelling story. A horse goes from finishing second in the Kentucky Derby to being put down within minutes. Horse racing just as quickly went from being the sport of kings to a blood sport. The story is a tragedy but one aspect that has not gotten enough attention is the fact that this was jockey Gabriel Saez's first Kentucky Derby and now he'll have to carry the question of what role he played in Eight Bells death with him for the rest of his life.

Next year I'm guessing that our syndicate will carry the five horse in our picks for the Kentucky Derby no matter who it happens to be. Gabriel Saez will have to carry more weighty memories.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Separated at Birth?

Roger and Debbie and Harry and Lloyd.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Baseball Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous baseball thoughts and observations.

Sidney Ponson with 8 strong innings? Just 6 hits and one earned run? This has to be a tease... I was wrong about Josh Hamilton setting a record for RBI in April. He doesn't even have the team record. Hamilton ended up with 32 RBI in April but Juan Gonzalez owns the big-league and Rangers record with 35 RBI in April... On this day in 1939 Lou Gehrig takes himself out of the line-up for the good of the team. His record of 2,130 consecutive games played is considered unbreakable until Cal Ripken comes along... With all the news about Roger Clemens having "relationships" with all sorts of women - I have to wonder if Wade Boggs was talking about Roger when he had threatened to release his Delta Force secret videos of married players cheating on their wives on the road way back in the day...