Top 10 Holiday-Themed Items Bloggers Should Discuss

Given that it’s the festive holiday season where giving is en vogue, I thought I’d help out my fellow bloggers with some creative, original ideas for a post. I know lots of bloggers have been and still are busy traveling and visiting family, so the time to brainstorm ideas is significantly shortened. You’ll thank me later.

10. Dayn Perry’s attempt to father the Jesus incarnate.

9. Take a popular holiday song and change the words around to make fun of athletes and coaches.

8. Write or even just joke about how awful those family get-togethers are. Bonus points if you have a drunk and/or creepy uncle.

7. Write a blog about what kinds of presents or cards well-known athletes, coaches, and fans would enjoy giving or receiving.

6. Write a faux letter to Santa in which you describe how bad some team needs whatever it is they need.

5. Write a themed recap of 2007.

4. Make a list of New Year’s resolutions for newsworthy athletes, coaches, and teams.

3. Use the fact that they are wearing holiday-themed clothing to post pictures of attractive women.

2. Mention Festivus from Seinfeld.

1. Make a top-ten list.

Gerry Fraley, You Can Not Be Serious

As promised, I am going to delve into the new look of the Phillies’ outfield, and I also want to criticize Gerry Fraley for a ridiculous article he wrote for The Sporting News. Being the lazy person that I am, I’d like to kill two birds with one stone. I’m going to break it down Fire Joe Morgan-style (his words in bold; mine will follow in regular typeface).

In two seasons without center fielder Aaron Rowand, the Chicago White Sox are a .500 team and heading south.

You know this is going to be a pro-Rowand article based on the title, so let me just get this out of the way right off the bat: the White Sox are not bad because Aaron Rowand left. In 2007, they had the league’s worst offense, and the third-worst pitching. Rowand can’t pitch and I’m pretty sure he’s not potent enough to bring his team from a 4.28 runs per game average to around 5 per game, which would put them slightly behind sixth place. Barry Bonds might have been able to do that, but certainly not Aaron Rowand.

The White Sox were bad in ’07 because Paul Konerko had a .091 point decline in OPS from the previous season, Jermaine Dye had a .204 decline in OPS, and Jim Thome was the only potent offensive force in the lineup. Jon Garland has been decidedly mediocre, and the back of their starting rotation was about as unproductive as it could have been. And aside from Bobby Jenks, their bullpen was nearly as bad as the Phillies’.

After saying he wanted to stay with the Phillies, Rowand swerved and signed a five-year, $60-million deal with San Francisco. His change of heart puts the Phillies in a bind.

“Bind” is hyperbole. The Phillies would have preferred to keep Rowand in his age 30-32 years, but he wanted five years at $12 million, which is what he got from the Giants. He simply wasn’t worth it.

Jayson Werth isn’t a terrible Plan B, and Rowand’s departure simply made the Phillies look for a Plan B2 and B3, which was searching for either another regular center fielder (Cameron), or moving Victorino to center and finding a platoon partner for Werth (Geoff Jenkins).

Look at it this way, using simple OPS:

Aaron Rowand: .779 OPS vs. RHP (68% of career PA); .862 vs. LHP (32%); .805 vs. both.

Shane Victorino: .741 OPS vs. both.

Mike Cameron: .767 OPS vs. RHP (75% of career PA); .843 OPS vs. LHP (25%); .786 vs. both.

Geoff Jenkins: .883 OPS vs. RHP (76% of career PA)

Jayson Werth: .864 OPS vs. LHP (29% of career PA)

Here are the expected OPS, based on career averages, out of the possible CF and RF combinations:

Rowand/Victorino: .773 OPS

Cameron/Victorino: .764

Victorino/(Werth+Jenkins): .787*

* Because Jenkins will face RHP, and batters see RHP about 3 times more than LHP, I weighted Jenkins and Werth’s OPS to reflect this. I assumed that the two will combine for 625 at-bats (which is generous considering how potent the Phillies’ lineup is and how adept they are at getting on base).

Jenkins: Averages 1 base every 2.0 at-bats. With 75% of 625 at-bats, that’s 469 at-bats, giving him about 235 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .501.

Werth: Averages 1 base every 2.3 at-bats. With 25% of 625 at-bats, that’s 156 at-bats, giving him about 68 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .436.

(.501 * .75) + (.436 * .25) = (.376 + .109) = .485 SLG

Then we’ll just weigh their career OBP’s.

(.347 * .75) + (.352 * .25) = (.260 + 088) = .348 OBP

Add ‘em together (.485 + .348 ) and you have an expected .833 OPS out of right field. *

Phew.

Even if you have your home by the beachside throughout your life, possibly you never had the time to travel around all the beaches even if there is a chance to get your hands on cheap flights. One of the best cheap vacation ideas is to discover about a remote beach and rent a hut there that is close to car rental. Feel the sand, go bring together seashells and look at the sunset from the hotels windows. This won’t charge you a penny and absolutely these are some fine things that are open out there for everyone who loves cruises!

They previously traded center-fielder-in-waiting Michael Bourn to Houston in the Brad Lidge deal. Plan C for the Phillies calls for moving Shane Victorino, whose durability is in question, to center and going with a platoon of Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins in right.

While the Phillies had some expectations of Bourn when he was considered a top prospect in their farm system (not hard to be, actually), he only showed Juan Pierre-esque ability: great speed, ability to bunt, and above-average range in the outfield. They already have a guy like that (but better) in Shane Victorino. Bourn simply didn’t fit and was thusly expendable.

And Fraley has the plans all messed up! Bourn is Plan B? Any team who has a Plan B as replacing a center fielder with decent defense and some power potential with a slap-hitter is clearly a team general-managed by Ned Colletti.

Shame on this guy also for not tiering the Plan B’s.

The Phillies will also learn what the White Sox now know. Rowand is harder to replace in the clubhouse than on the field.

Whenever sports journalists wax romantic on intangibles, the cholesterol lining my arteries gets a little bit harder. But I should know — intangibles have been tangiblized (hat tip to FJM).

Rowand is an NFL free safety masquerading as a center fielder. He plays relentlessly, a style the Phillies privately feared may shorten his career, and that rubs off on teammates. He is a leader in the true sense of the word.

First, I don’t see how being akin to an NFL free safety makes you a valuable baseball player. Then Gerry contradicts himself by saying the Phillies didn’t like his balls-out style of play because it increases his risk of injury and a “shortened career.”

Gerry, however, rebounds by saying that this career-shortening style of play is rubbing off on teammates! Hopefully not in the way it rubbed off on Chase Utley.

That is why the White Sox and the Phillies both wanted to sign Rowand. They have seen first-hand how valuable he is to the dynamic of a winning team.

Phillies players as or more important to the NL East pennant than Rowand: Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, J.C. Romero (arguably).

I get it: take Rowand away and the Phillies don’t win the East. But that can also be said of Russell Branyan, who was with the Phillies for all of 9 at-bats, one of which won them a game in Washington. And the Phillies won the East by one game.

Seasons of catering to Barry Bonds turned their clubhouse into a nest of apathy. Near the end of the season, manager Bruce Bochy said the last-place club lacked “a warrior spirit.”

The king of the team lacking “a warrior spirit” put up an OPS+ 170 with a knee that gets regular fluid injections at age forty-two. Forty-two. Save his injury-plagued 2005 season, Bonds has led the National League in on-base percentage every season since 2001.

The Giants were bad last year because, aside from Bonds and Randy Winn (barely), no one in the lineup was hitting at or above the league average, which makes it easy to believe that they had the league’s second-worst offense. They had a good, but not great starting rotation, and a decent bullpen. Blaming Bonds for the Giants’ failures last season (or in any season) is beyond reprehensible and downright ignorant.

San Francisco may remain stuck in last in the demanding National League West, but the Giants will not go quietly.

Earlier in the article, Fraley contends that teams that have Aaron Rowand win, and teams that lose him end up losing. Now Fraley says that the Giants get Rowand… but they “may remain stuck in last”?

In explaining the signing, general manager Brian Sabean said Rowand was “far and away a plus” in the areas of concern for the Giants.

“His no-nonsense approach is known throughout the game,” Sabean said. “Including inside the clubhouse.”

So, the areas of concern for the Giants aren’t offense, starting pitching, and the bullpen? It’s a no-nonsense approach? No wonder they haven’t reached 77 wins in three seasons.

At least Rowand can barbecue.

Cost Control

As a result of winning a Mad Lib contest on Dayn Perry’s blog $8 Beers, he’s letting me control the price and distribution of alcohol at his blog for a day. In other words, he’s letting me choose what gets covered on there for 24 hours. Check it out, it should be at least mildly amusing.

Here’s what I suggested that Dayn cover on his blog today:

1.) Cover why the steroid issue in sports is only a U.S. government creation (or at least an issue only made big by an easily-scared U.S. public).

2.) A blog entry complimenting Barry Bonds, noting his place among baseball’s all-time greats (at least 200 words, and proofread it, I’ll be grading it without a curve).

3.) What the heck is Ed Wade doing this offseason?

4.) Mockingly stereotype people who are anti-Sabermetrics.

5.) Explain to everyone why Guitar Hero will become a national sport in the near future.

In other news, the Phillies signed Geoff Jenkins! Oh yeah, and Chad Durbin, too. Do you think Pat Gillick was reading my blog? Yeah, probably not. I’ll break down the signings shortly.

Bustin’ Out Those Brackets

Busted Coverage put the top 64 Ballhype sports blogs in an NCAA-style bracket, and seeded them in four groups, #1-16.

Surprisingly, Crashburn Alley is on there, even if it’s as a #16 seed. It’s up against some extremely fit competition, so I may only shed a few tears following my inevitable first-round exit.

If you’d like to vote for Crashburn Alley and/or any of the other fine blogs, hop on over to Busted Coverage.

Who Is Really to Blame for the Drug Issues in Sports

As the 15 millionth blogger with an opinion on the Mitchell report and drug use in baseball, I believe I get a congratulatory fruit basket, right?

Instead of rehashing what was explained in that report, I’d like to address the philosophical and political side of the drug issue with baseball and sports in general. Former Senator (and pro-tobacco lobbyist) George Mitchell referred to steroid use in baseball as an “epidemic.” Ignoring the obvious hyperbole with that statement (malaria is an epidemic, steroid use is not even close), what makes it an epidemic?

As many anti-steroids people will tell you, Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to the steroid “issue.” It wasn’t a major concern with anyone, including the millions of fans who adored Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa during the 1998 season. The mercurial whispers were there, but nothing at all about how inept Selig has been or how baseball players are cheating not only the clean players, but the fans as well.

Steroids have been against MLB rules since 1991, but it wasn’t taken too seriously, especially since the new drug regulations were enforced via memo. According to Tom Farrey of ESPN:

Steroids had been banned in baseball since 1991, although few players knew about the policy. But there was no drug-testing agreement in place between ownership and the union providing the mechanism to catch cheaters.

So, since at least the early 1990′s, they had the thought of sweeping steroids out of baseball, but it wasn’t until recently that anyone got serious about it. What made them become serious? Was it the ’98 home run chase between Big Mac and Slammin’ Sammy? Was it Barry Bonds’ 73 dingers in 2003? Was it the (misguided) fear of early death, as was the fate of former NFL defensive lineman Lyle Alzado, an admitted steroid user? What was the cause of the sudden distaste for steroids?

The world of sports is where intellectually honest discussion of morality goes to die. Sports are home to the biggest collection of “unwritten rules,” such as not stealing bases when you’re beating your opponent by 8 runs or so in the 7th inning, or not using trick plays in football when you’re beating your opponent by about 4 touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

It’s not surprising that there’s many indirect references to morality when the topic is steroid use. Many feel that regardless of what MLB rules have stated, any use of performance-enhancing substances is cheating. And to these people, I always ask, “Where do you draw the line?”

Is it just anabolic steroids and human growth hormone? If so, why not include Cortisone shots, which are bad for the same reasons as anabolic steroids (in fact, Cortisone is a steroid): they enhance an athlete’s performance and/or allow him to recover from injuries faster, and they are potentially harmful to his health.

Are we concerned with just the performance-enhancing aspect, rather than the health aspect? If so, why are we not concerned about over-the-counter painkillers? Or coffee, Red Bull, or other substances that provide a boost of energy?

Is it the health aspect that scares us? Why, then, are we not concerned about athletes smoking and chewing tobacco (the latter is still practiced by players and coaches, though the sheer number has shrunk significantly as the years have gone by), drinking alcohol (a tradition practiced whenever a team wins a clinching game), eating unhealthy food, or engaging in dangerous hobbies (was anyone concerned with Ben Roethlisberger’s motorcycling hobby until his accident?)?

After hashing out all of these possible reasons to get upset about steroids, it’s actually clear to see that none of these issues are significant enough to warrant the sudden public outrage, without, of course, being hypocritical.

The drug issue as it concerns MLB and the U.S. is a subject I’ve dealt with fervently, as you can see here, but I cannot stress enough how greatly the American public is being duped when it comes to the drug issues. From my previous article on this subject, I cited the following ties between U.S. politicians and those involved with the pharmaceutical industry:

[...]Drugmakers and HMOs hired 952 individual lobbyists in 2003 – nearly half of whom had “revolving door” connections to Congress, the White House or the executive branch. That’s nearly 10 lobbyists for every U.S. senator.

[...]In 2003, the drug industry spent a record $108.6 million on federal lobbying activities and hired 824 individual lobbyists – both all-time highs. In 2002, based on a more narrowly defined survey, the drug industry spent $91.4 million and hired 675 lobbyists.

[...]In all, 431 lobbyists employed by the drug industry or HMOs – or 45 percent of all their lobbyists – previously worked for the federal government. Among them were 30 ex-U.S. senators and representatives – 18 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

[...]At least 11 top staffers who left the Bush administration lobbied for the drug industry and HMOs in 2003. White House and administration insiders working as lobbyists on the Medicare bill included several former top advisers to Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson.

The source for those facts is Public Citizen. You can read their agenda here.

Shortly after Major League Baseball enacted tougher steroid restrictions, the U.S. passed the Steroid Control Act of 2004, which added prohormones to the list of controlled substances. And hey, guess what is a precursor? Androstenedione, the drug that was found in Mark McGwire’s locker in 1998.

It’s undeniable that the politicians’ distaste for steroids has had an effect on steroid use in baseball, especially since Major League Baseball must follow U.S. law, obviously. What is also undeniable is how much of an agenda these politicians have for making anti-steroid laws, since they are paid off by pharmaceutical lobbyists to vote in favor of anti-steroid legislation (as steroids, which cure a wide variety of ailments, are competition for the pharmaceutical industry’s more lucrative “one pill per symptom” scheme).

The biggest culprit in all of this is not our highly corrupt politicians, or Bud Selig, or the MLBPA; it’s the American public for being so easily led into this anti-steroid furor. If American citizens were into holding politicians responsible; if American journalists were into asking the necessary questions, none of this would be an issue. The reality is that steroid use in baseball is not an issue. It has become an issue because you have been told that it is an issue.

Ask yourself why you don’t like steroids. Then apply those reasons to the numerous legal substances that are sold on the shelves and behind counters of every convenience and drug store in this country.

Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) had a problem when he was on two prescription drugs, Ambien and Phenergan, as well as alcohol, all legal drugs.

On May 4, 2006, Kennedy crashed his 1997 Ford Mustang convertible into a barricade on Capitol Hill at 2:45AM. He had been operating his vehicle with the lights off in the early morning darkness. Officers at the scene said that Kennedy appeared intoxicated, smelled of alcohol and was visibly staggering, but Kennedy claimed that he was merely disoriented from prescription medications Ambien and Phenergan.

Right there, you have a U.S. politician putting not only his own life at risk, but potentially the lives of others, as well. But it’s just A-okay because he’s using substances approved by other U.S. politicians and the industries that own them.

Then there was the Vioxx issue. The risks of the drug were known beforehand, but was allowed to be prescribed anyway because it’d make mega-billions for the pharmaceutical industry. After the drug had caused many problems in its users, the chiefest of which were cardiovascular problems, and was estimated to have caused nearly 28,000 deaths, they recalled the drug, but only after it had created a great profit for, well, you know who.

In not-so-hilarious irony, the anti-steroids crowd tried to use the Chris Benoit double-murder and suicide as a blade against steroids, as he was found to have steroids in his home. Putting aside the obvious logic that rules out “‘roid rage” (premeditation, no steroids found in his urine), it was actually prescription drugs that were near the center of the issue: Xanax and hydrocodone. But you don’t hear anyone calling for the criminalization of Xanax or hydrocodone (known most prominently as Vicodin), because the American public hasn’t been told that those two substances are bad, since they make such a profit for the pharmaceutical industry.

Until spring training begins, the hot topic in baseball will continue to be steroids, and the American public will continue to do as they’re told — they will demonize Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, and the numerous other big names listed in the Mitchell Report. For public backlash, you need at least one figurehead. Mitchell has provided many with his report.

This steroid craze very closely mimics the anti-terrorism craze following 9/11. There’s a disaster (in MLB’s case, it’s a perceived disaster), a threat of a large problem (hence Mitchell’s use of the hyperbolic “steroid epidemic”), and the finger-pointing at the people most responsible (never themselves).

Following 9/11, it was Osama bin Laden to whom we were instructed to direct our anger. The Bush administration promised us they’d capture him and his henchmen, and bring justice to them. Five years and just over three months since that tragic day, Osama bin Laden is still uncaptured, and has been literally forgotten about (in fact, Bush disbanded the CIA unit dedicated to finding him).

Six months after 9/11, Bush said the following:

So I don’t know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you.

That was said on March 13, 2002. One year and one week later, the War in Iraq was started, and the American public was given a new figurehead to spew vitriol at: Saddam Hussein. And now that we’re nearing the five-year anniversary of the Iraq War, the Bush administration is preparing to give us another figurehead to dislike: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran.

This is how the steroid issue will go both in sports and in the United States as a whole. The sports world’s Osama bin Laden was Barry Bonds, its Saddam Hussein is Roger Clemens, and we’ll have to wait and see who will fill the role of Ahmadinejad. One thing is for sure: the American public will continue to do its part by being willfully ignorant, excessively suggestive, and unconcerned with anything other than how their favorite teams are doing and which celebrities are sleeping together.

Just listen to President Bush (why is he commenting on the steroid issue as it pertains to baseball, again?):

“The players and the owners must take the Mitchell Report seriously,” Bush said. “I’m confident they will.”

Dumpster Diving

No, I’m not talking about Rosie O’Donnell’s favorite pastime. I am talking about what Phillies GM Pat Gillick should be doing now that there are non-tendered players out there, waiting to be plucked up by another team.

I mean, look at this list! I think these guys might be better than the actual free agent market!

I’d like to highlight a few of the players on that list the Phillies should be interested in picking up.

Dallas McPherson

Formerly a top prospect, third baseman Dallas McPherson battled injuries in 2007 and never caught fire in the Major Leagues in his 360 at-bats between 2004 and 2006.

The Phillies, having just traded “third baseman of the future” Mike Costanzo to the Astros (who just traded him to the Orioles in the Miguel Tejada package), are in need of a third baseman now, next year, the year after that, the year after that…

A Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs platoon at third base likely isn’t going to cut it unless Helms can revert to his second-half of ’06 ways. Let McPherson rehab in the Minor Leagues, hope he gets healthy, and call him up. It’s a win-win situation — a cheap roll of the dice that can result in big winnings. After all, McPherson hit 40 HR, drove in 126 runs, and put up a 1.054 OPS between AA and AAA in 2004.

2007 salary: $382,500

Josh Towers

The Phillies were interested in pitcher Josh Towers at one point. What’s easy to dislike about the guy — his career ERA of almost 5.00 — is offset by what you really like about him, which is his ability to throw ground balls, a must in a hitter-friendly stadium such as Citizens Bank Park. In 2007, 43.9% of Towers’ batted balls were of the ground ball variety, just one whole percent over his career average, so it’s not an aberration.

His BABIP has been a bit higher than the league average throughout his career (.314), and his WHIP isn’t awful (1.38). With exceptional defense in the middle infield with Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, Towers would thrive in Philadelphia.

Go get him, Pat.

2007 salary: $2.9 million

Emil Brown

After getting regular at-bats in Kansas City starting in 2005, outfielder Emil Brown showed that he can put up above-average production. In ’05, he put up an OPS of .804, .051 points above the league average. In ’06, he improved to an .815 OPS, but that was .034 points above the league average.

Brown would be a sturdy addition to the Phillies’ bench, which, as it stands currently, is weak. Said bench includes Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, Chris Snelling, and T.J. Bohn.

2007 salary: $3.45 million

Chad Durbin

Durbin, a pitcher released by the Detroit Tigers, is another ground ball-prone pitcher. He would be an excellent low-cost, high-reward chance to take. 44% of Durbin’s batted balls were ground balls, slightly higher than his career average (40.3%), but good nonetheless.

Besides, wouldn’t you rather have Chad Durbin than J.D. Durbin?

If he can’t make the rotation, he could serve a purpose in the bullpen.

2007 salary: $385,000

Mark Prior

Maybe it was the Cubs system of developing pitchers that has tarnished his arm health, and maybe another organization can halt his D.L. stints. It’s the epitome of the low-risk, high-reward move.

Sign Prior to a multi-million, but incentive-laden contract. If he gets hurt again, meh, the Phillies wasted a few million with a potential right-handed Cole Hamels. I’d certainly prefer an injury-prone ace push an injury-prone Adam Eaton out of the starting rotation, than actually have to watch Adam Eaton attempt to make 33 starts in 2008.

Prior also throws a decent amount of ground balls (40.3% over his career), strikes out a lot of hitters, and doesn’t walk too many.

If there’s one player on this list that I would suggest Pat Gillick to sign, it’s Prior, without question.

2007 salary: $3.575 million

Morgan Ensberg

When I said that Mark Prior should be #1 on this list for Pat Gillick, Ensberg is #2. As mentioned, the Phillies have no legitimate third baseman now or in the future, and Ensberg could fill that void at least for a couple years.

For starters, he plays excellent defense. In 2006, he was second behind Scott Rolen in RZR, and 7th in plays made out of his zone. In 2005, he led all NL third basemen in RZR, and was a short second (80-to-79) to then-Phillie David Bell in plays made out of his zone.

Then you get to his offense, which nowadays is merely referred to as potential. In 2005, he put up a 144 OPS+ with 36 HR and 101 RBI and he was envisioned as one of the top third basemen in baseball for years to come. His power has waned as he’s battled injuries, but when he’s healthy, he gets on base at a great rate (nearly 37% of the time he’s at the plate).

If Phillies fans were ever allowed to have their cake and eat it, too, we’d see both Prior and Ensberg in Phillies pinstripes in 2008.

2007 salary: $4.35 million

While these kind of players come with risks, such as injury histories and downward trends in production, they are risks worth taking when your other option is marching forward with the status quo. The Phillies are oh-so-close to being a powerhouse in Major League Baseball. They already boast the National League’s best offense. Small tweaks to the pitching, and keeping the 6-7-8 part of the lineup afloat offensively will ensure the Phillies are playing October baseball once again.

Free Michael Vick!

Michael Vick should not have been thrown in jail for his involvement in dog-fighting, though he should still be punished. How will imprisonment help Vick improve as a human being? Unless he decides to immerse himself in educational books for his 23 months of incarceration, it’s likely that he’s not going to come out of jail a better person. Rather, he’d simply regret having been caught.

Instead of incarcerating Vick, he should have been forced to do quite a bit of community service, make sizable donations to pro-animal organizations (like PETA), and to do some anti-animal cruelty advertisements. That would probably make Vick a better human being, wouldn’t it?

Let’s throw only the most heinous of criminals in jail — murderers and rapists, for instance — and rehabilitate the others. Peaceful drug offenders don’t belong in jail. Neither do alcohol abusers (don’t put them in AA!) and illegal immigrants.

You’ve heard it before: prisons are overcrowded. Let’s stop throwing people who pose no threat to society in jail, wasting now-precious taxpayer dollars. Instead of locking up people only to have them become increasingly more bitter and angry at the system, allow them their continued freedom as long as they’re making positive steps towards retribution to those they’ve wronged.

What Michael Vick and his cohorts did to those dogs was completely wrong and inhumane, but is it not inhumane to give up on someone for nearly two years, to throw them in an overcrowded prison with low-grade food, tainted water, unsanitary living conditions, and to put them in the presence and influence of many other criminals, some of which have diseases (like Hepatitis C, which 20-40% of the U.S. prison population is estimated to have)?

BBWAA Fails to Gain Credibility

On the Internets, this is being discussed in great detail, but I just had to scribble something about it. Baseball Analysts has the story: 18 nominees for BBWAA membership, 16 make it. Those are:

Scott Miller from CBS Sportsline; Jim Caple, Jerry Crasnick, Peter Gammons, Tim Kurkjian, Amy Nelson, Buster Olney, and Jayson Stark from ESPN; Ken Rosenthal from FoxSports; John Donovan, Jon Heyman, and Tom Verducci from SI; and Tim Brown, Steve Henson, Jeff Passan, and Dan Wetzel from Yahoo.

The two that are left out? Rob Neyer and Keith Law.

I’m going to ask you to join me in doing a little police work, and connect the dots. What do those that got BBWAA membership, and those that didn’t, have in common?

The 16 that got in make little to no use of Sabermetrics.

The two that missed out make heavy use of Sabermetrics. Neyer, a demigod to some of us Saber-heads, worked for the great Bill James (read Neyer’s interview at The Hardball Times). Law used to write for Baseball Prospectus, essentially a one-stop shop for all things Sabermetric.

It’s an injustice that Neyer and Law didn’t get eligibility. I have no connection to anyone involved in this matter, but it seems to me that there is some discrimination afoot. Let’s look at a hypothetical: of the 18 candidates, the 16 that get in are all Caucasian, and the two that are left out are African-American. Think there’d be accusations of discrimination if that had been the case?

Of course, I am merely assuming that their Sabermetric tendencies are the reasons behind their being locked out. There could very well be a legitimate reason that Neyer and Law were denied. I would be very interested in hearing it and await an official response from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Ahem. On official letterhead.

Maybe it’s all for the best. It’s the BBWAA’s loss for not getting two of the sharpest baseball minds in their club, and we can only hope that their “mistake” leaves them begging for credibility in years to come. We’ve seen some of the poor decisions they’ve made when it comes to voting, just in the past few years (see: 2006 AL MVP; 2006 NL MVP; 2007 NL MVP; keeping Bert Blyleven out of the Hall of Fame), and we’ve seen how one of their members acts when urged to open his mind.

In impugning the BBWAA as a whole, I do want to clarify that the writers recently inducted, regardless of their use of Sabermetrics, are blameless. From the list above, I really have no qualms with anyone there except for Jon Heyman, who has been politely close-minded to advanced methods of statistics in baseball. I’ve never read the work of Miller, Caple, Nelson, or Henson, so I can’t say anything either way about them.

To Neyer’s credit, he’s handled his rejection with class. You can read his reaction in the comments at Baseball Think Factory. I’m sure he’s talked about it on his ESPN blog, but I’m not an Insider, so I wouldn’t know. An interesting thing to note from Neyer via a comment on BBTF:

According to BBWAA president Bob Dutton, my membership was rejected because I don’t go to the ballpark often enough (not that anybody really knows how often I’m at ballpark).

It seems like the BBWAA just randomly reached in the barrel of excuses and used the first one they drew. I can only imagine how humorous their excuse for excluding Law is.

Since the BBWAA is blatantly going to continue with the status quo, why don’t all of the Sabermetric sluggers band together, vote, and hand out their own post-season awards (I imagine it’d be nothing more than a token to elect players to the SABR Hall of Fame)? It seems like most of them hand them out individually themselves (via an article or blog), or at least have an opinion on the matter. If they have dunce awards like the “Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Year,” they should have “SABR Most Marginal Lineup Valuable Player of the Year.”

Crashburn Crapshoot

The Tigers/Marlins Trade

There’s no doubt that the acquisition of Miguel Cabrera alone makes the Tigers instant World Series contenders. Then you factor in that they also got Dontrelle Willis, whose 2007 season might have just been a fluke (though it’s not hard to fathom that, given his irregular mechanics, he’s lost his touch).

In return for a top-three third baseman and a #2-esque left-handed starting pitcher, the Tigers had to give up six — count ‘em, six — prospects including Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.

Frankly, I’m surprised that the Tigers got them that cheaply. Think about it — the Tigers get four collective arbitration-eligible years with Cabrera and Willis, and if they walk to free agency afterwards, they get four high draft picks as compensation, basically recouping what they gave up to get them in the first place.

As for the Marlins, well, what reasons do they have left to convince Floridians to show up to their games? For the team’s sake, I hope this trade precedes a move out of Miami to somewhere where they get more than a handful of fans per game and can afford to keep their star players for more than a few years.

They are getting some good prospects in return, though, and could be contenders as soon as 2009. Of course, they could also pull a 2006 and contend in ’08 (am I being confusing here?).

The Inge Effect

Now that Miguel Cabrera is taking over third base for the Tigers, that likely makes Brandon Inge available. He’s owed about $17 million over the next three years, which is affordable when you think about the contracts that have been offered both this off-season and last. With Pat Gillick urging Tadahito Iguchi (a second baseman) to re-sign with the Phillies as their regular third baseman, he should take a look at trying to acquire Inge instead.

Inge is exceptional with the glove and isn’t too shabby with the bat. Rather than have Iguchi play a position he’s unfamiliar with and might not be able to play, just trade a mid-level prospect to the Tigers and third base is a problem solved. The only advantage Iguchi has over Inge is his ability to get on base.

Body Image

With the controversy over some pictures of Jennifer Love Hewitt resulting in her concern about other girls’ body images, I thought it’d be funny to apply it to the one player in baseball that gets a lot of heat about his weight: Miguel Cabrera.

As you may recall, ESPN ran a column in mid-July about Miguel Cabrera’s weight. The author, Jorge Aranguire Jr., said:

Florida fans from Hialeah to Homestead are wondering if he’s eating his way out of an all-time great career.

I’m going to make a much-belated response to that on the behalf of Cabrera.

This is the last time I will address this subject.

I’ve sat by in silence for a long time now about the way baseball players’ bodies are constantly scrutinized. To set the record straight, I’m not upset for me, but for all of the baseball players out there that are struggling with their body image.

250 pounds is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being 222 pounds doesn’t make you beautiful.

What I should be doing is celebrating some of the best days of my career and my fresh start in Detroit, instead of having to deal with sports journalists writing invasive articles from bad angles. I know what I look like, and so do my teammates and coaches. And like all baseball players out there should, I love my body.

To all baseball players with butts, beer guts, flab and a waist, put on a uniform — put it on and stay strong.

Try Again, Mutts

The rumors have the New York Mets offering Phil Humber, Aaron Heilman, and Carlos Gomez to the Baltimore Orioles. MLB.com‘s Jim Molony said that offer was “politely declined.”

That may be putting it nicely.

Given that Bedard is in demand, if I’m the Orioles, I’m asking the Mets for Gomez (who compares to Willy Taveras), Pedro Feliciano (same ceiling as Heilman but he’s left-handed), Humber, and Mike Pelfrey (who looks like a #4 pitcher at best). Still, that might not even be worth it.

Regardless, adding Bedard doesn’t really push the Mets too far in the proverbial power rankings. They’ll need not only Bedard, but another pitcher as well, to have a rotation that compares favorably to that of the Phillies.

Those Crazy Zebras

The Baltimore Ravens have only themselves to blame for their last-minute loss to the still-unbeaten New England Patriots. That was a hold on fourth down by Jamaine Winborne. And that was unsportsmanlike conduct by Bart Scott.

But yes, it is questionable whether Jabar Gaffney had control of the ball or not. Even if he didn’t, it still benefited the Ravens to get the ball back with around 45 seconds left. If it’s second and goal, assume another 8 seconds or so gets ticked off. Third and goal, another 8 seconds. Fourth and goal, another 8 seconds.

Now, it’s beneficial to the Ravens assuming the Patriots do get that touchdown. Granted, the Ravens played decent defense on the Patriots all night, but the only reason the Patriots were even behind with one minute to go in the fourth quarter is because of so many dropped passes by Patriots receivers. Given the Pats’ offensive proficiency, they’d get that touchdown more often than not.

So, it was better for the Ravens to get it back with 45 seconds or so instead of, perhaps, 20. It didn’t work out for them anyway, but the ability to throw over the middle and subsequently call a time-out or spike the ball was there, adding to the chance to score.

The referees did not cost the Ravens the game. And no, Tim Dahlberg and other conspiracy theorists, the NFL is not fixing games in the Patriots’ favor.

The Anthem (Warning: Soapbox)

There was some unrest as a result of Pittsburgh’s failure to play the national anthem before their rain- and mud-soaked fultili-fest with the Miami Dolphins on November 26.

Can we please stop being so concerned with symbolism and ritual? The national anthem has been played so much it has lost any meaning it may have had, especially post-9/11. It’s simple economics, the more of something you have, the less valuable it becomes.

I’m willing to compromise. Just play the anthem before the Super Bowl, and cut it out of every other game. In baseball, play it on Opening Day and before the first game of the World Series. Other sports can follow suit. And for all sports, play the anthem on holidays like Memorial Day.

As for the article I linked to concerning this subject, notice the bad logic used:

Bad enough football has taken away all our free time in the fall and early winter. Now, it’s going to take away our patriotism?

Now it’s unpatriotic to not play the national anthem? Sorry, you’re not patriotic because you have an affection for a song, adhere “Rah-rah, America!” bumper stickers to the back of your car, and fly a flag in front of your house. True patriots don’t need quasi-religious jingoism to reassure them of their allegiance to this country. True patriots don’t follow the pack; true patriots question and hold accountable those in charge instead of accepting the status quo in a false hope that this makes them “real Americans.”

And personally, I refuse to honor The Star-Spangled Banner while this current administration is in power (and probably the next, given the dearth of good candidates running for the ’08 presidency). Am I unpatriotic for that — for not supporting the un-American, unconstitutional, and inhumane policies of the Bush administration?

Pardon.

Politics: The Ron Paul Delusion

Pardon the obvious rip of the title of Richard Dawkins’ most recent book The God Delusion, but “delusion” is the best (and easiest) way to describe the outburst of public support for Ron Paul.

Let me start off by saying that I’m not at all a fan of the American democratic process. I think voting has entirely lost its meaning (even before Bush stole the 2000 and ’04 elections) and have yet to find a reason to waste my time and energy by voting (I have written articles on voting, which you can read here and here). So, I don’t have a dog in this 2008 Presidential fight (neither does Michael Vick. Too easy?).

However, this Ron Paul mania has really piqued my interest. I especially enjoy reading how fervently his supporters defend him. I agree that, for the most part, he’s pretty much the best candidate out there, along with Mike Gravel, but that’s like being the smartest kid with Down Syndrome (that’s a reference from the movie Waiting, by the way).

The reality is that Ron Paul is antithetical to progress. While it’s true that he wants to leave almost every decision up to the state governments, rather than the federal government, that does not mean he’s neutral on the issues. He’s devoutly religious, so it’s no surprise that he’s anti-secularism (see his article, Christmas in Secular America) and anti-abortion, and doesn’t have a problem with religious content in public schools (read: funded by the government) if the states decide to allow it, even though it is explicitly not allowed by the Constitution.

He’s on the right track when it comes to a lot of issues, such as foreign policy (he’s for non-interventionism — and thus for getting U.S. troops out of the Middle East — if only we could move him over to multi-lateralism), freedom of speech, the neutrality of the Internet, and so on.

His economic ideals are, well, insane. If ever there was a mascot for the free market, Ron Paul is it. He wants to completely disarm the federal government and arm the state governments, as mentioned (why not just break the country into 50 smaller countries at that point?), he wants to privatize NASA, minimize the CIA and get rid of most of the government agencies (e.g. Departments of Education, Energy, Homeland Security; FEMA, ICC, and the IRS).

Even as someone who is pro-government and pro-socialism, I might support a gradual decline of the aforementioned, but not a clean sweep overnight. Why does NASA need to be privatized anyway? Can you count the conflicts of interest that would arise there?

Paul is also for lowering taxes, which I wouldn’t complain about personally, but when you look at the big picture, taxes are almost completely necessary at this point in our nation’s history. Our economy is declining at an ever-increasing rate, we slip further and further into debt, and the cost of our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are running up the tab infinitely. How would Paul right our economy, eliminate our debt, and pay for Bush’s wars without using taxes? I’m interested to hear his plan for that.

I agree that too much government is a bad thing. I also think that too little government is also a bad thing. So, it’s no surprise that, when you look at the U.N.’s Human Development Index, the top nations are ones that have mixed or socialist-leaning economies. Paul would be smart to come back towards the economic center.

Another reason Paul’s supporters defend him is because “he actually follows the Constitution.” Isn’t it sad that that is a noticeable quality in a candidate? Shouldn’t all of the candidates follow the Constitution? I know our current President certainly hasn’t, but have we lowered our standards this low as a result? And, while I certainly don’t have a grain of support for Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, etc., I’m pretty sure they — with the exception of Rudy Giuliani — would uphold the Constitution just like Paul.

Speaking of Paul supporters, there’s a heavily publicized blog out there called “Please Ignore Ron Paul,” written, of course, with biting sarcasm. It is essentially a passing of the buck — a “blame everyone else but me” screed. Take the following, from that blog:

For years you have force fed what you deem to be important down the throats of Americans citizens. Minimized most of what the public should be concerned about while sensationalizing the mundane and trivial.

Notice the passing of the buck from the citizens, who should be able to think for themselves, to the media. The blog says that the media has “force fed” the public. Did anyone force the public to swallow? I’m a consumer of American media and I certainly never felt I was being force fed anything. If CBS, ABC, NBC, or any other television station says something I don’t agree with, I’ll either continue watching while outlining in my head the reasons why they are wrong, or I’ll just turn the channel. No one held a gun to my head and told me to believe in what they’re telling me. Why couldn’t this blog writer have done the same? The author, Kris, essentially admits to being just a vessel, lapping up whatever is played on TV.

Further, this Paul supporter — remember, Paul supports free-market capitalism, the pursuit of more and more wealth — impugns the American media for paper-chasing:

Did you do it for the all powerful dollar? The same dollar that is now worth half of what it was worth a few years ago?

Hypocritical. If you support capitalism, you have no right to be mad at others for trying to accumulate more wealth. This accusation is made frequently in sports against agents who try to get the best deals for their clients, and against those clients for asking for so much (see: Rodriguez, Alex; Boras, Scott). Supporters of Ron Paul have absolutely no right to make such an accusation.

This blogger continues to pass the buck further:

I must admit that you almost had me. At one time I felt that the United States reigned supreme, the greatest, the infallible, the just. Those were happy times … so I happily ignored reality while I sort-of-listened to your newscasters tell me how it really was.

Basically, this blogger again admits to having been incapable of thinking for him or herself.

Oh yes, I remember … The ‘Sold’ war. The logic, your logic, to me it made sense. it was simple really, simple enough for the average channel surfer or newspaper reader to get: To defend, we must go on the offensive. To protect ourself, we must attack them. And years later, after the reasons we went there had changed and changed again … And when there was no army left for us to fight … new reasons were given to us as to why we are still there and why we had to stay and can not leave. But, like so many others, I could flip through the channels, not feeling anything as the casualty toll rose and rose.

This is essentially a straw man argument, accusing the media as a whole of supporting the War in Iraq and the reasoning behind it. While there was certainly support from a majority of the media, to accuse the entirety of the American media of being a mouthpiece for the Bush administration is flat-out wrong. I completely agree with the sentiment that the media did a piss-poor job of asking questions and holding the Bush administration accountable, but had I also been a supporter of the War in Iraq when it first started, I would have been responsible for my own mistaken beliefs. There are other forms of media out there besides the American one.

Was every American buying into the War in Iraq and the logic behind it? Certainly not. How did they achieve that position, even though the entire American media, according to this blogger, was trumpeting Bush’s talking points? That’s because there are ways to be informed on issues without relying on TV newscasters and other American journalists.

Every once in a while I would be trying to ignore you while waiting for the next rerun of my favorite show and you would continue to tell us who our president would be. Then you went out of your way to tell us that there was someone who has ‘No chance’ and you did not know why they were even trying.

Basically a straw man argument. I agree with the general sentiment that the media seems to be favoring a close race among the big names like Clinton and Obama; Giuliani and Romney. However, the media’s favoritism also correlates with the polls (see: Dem. — Rep.). The media’s job, first and foremost, is to attract new viewers/readers/listeners, and that leads to more purchases of their product (newspapers, magazines) or consumption (viewer- or listenership). With Paul at just 4.5%, why would they pander to Paul when they can speak favorably of Romney, Huckabee, and Giuliani, who are all in the double-digits in the Iowa Caucus? Since supporters of Ron Paul are most likely supporters of his views on economics, they should also support the media’s piggy-backing of the big names, as well.

At first I dismissed it, after all, you were telling us who was ‘winning’, and you could be trusted, but the more I heard about the guy who absolutely had ‘NO CHANCE!’, this man, ‘Ron Paul would never … could never …’, the closer I began to listen.

Another straw man argument. If I had corresponded with this blogger, I would ask him or her to cite just one instance of the American media saying that Paul had “no chance” and “would never” win (I invite my readers to make the case for this blogger).

I will never forget that it was your bias against this man that made me remember him.

Guess who? Straw man. Guess what? Hypocrisy.

With the exception of the ones who look in to the only person who can not win, the rest will not give a damn at all … ever.

This blogger essentially said that anyone who doesn’t support Ron Paul does not and will not ever give a damn. How close-minded can you get?

Meanwhile this minority, this revolution, it does what it does, these amazing things that have never been done before, these are the people who are out there making a change, and then there is you, continuing to do the best thing for us by ignoring Ron Paul.

Ah, yes, that revolution. Like the Bostonians who threw their tea into the water to rebel against taxes, these Ron Paul fans are… writing blogs and whining about how the media brainwashed them, and meeting up. Quite a revolution.

To clarify, I despise the American media myself. I think it’s too vastly controlled by corporations and there are obvious conflicts of interest that lead to bias (the easy example is FOX News). However, I refuse to blame any ignorance I may have had or currently have on the media. I am responsible for myself and anything that I consume and believe in. For example, I’m an atheist, and have read Dawkins book mentioned at the top of this entry. If it turns out that God is proven to exist, I’m not going to blame Dawkins for leading me astray. I chose to read his book, I chose to follow the logic behind it.

Before I close, I’d just like to highlight some of the comments made on that blog by Paul supporters when a non-Paul-supporter came by to leave his thoughts:

Don’t speak of things on which you don’t understand.

If [Paul becomes just an historical footnote], you can pat yourself on the back for supporting the continued rape of American citizens.

Screw you dude.[...]

Keep in mind that these people may or may not represent the majority of Paul supporters, but it’s just a fun thing to see. If you do read through the comments, check out the number of fallacious “doomsday scenarios” brought up. It’s like they just listened to Rage Against the Machine.