On Flags and Speech

I finally got around to catching the re-run of Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher. An excellent quartet — comedian D.L. Hughley, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, country music star Trace Adkins, and pundit Dan Savage — joined Maher for a round-table discussion of politics. One of the subjects that piqued my interest in particular was of the Confederate flag being flown in South Carolina and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s cloaked support for it. Not surprisingly, the three liberals at the table were against it, and Adkins, the conservative, seemed indifferent about it.

I loved a couple of the points that were made in the discussion: that the American flag itself stands for blotches in this nation’s history, and that white Christian males always have and always will try to keep the balance of power tipped in the favor of white Christian males.

Anyone who has been following current events lately knows what little the American flag stands for, if anything, these days. Get a calendar from each year 2000-2008, and point to a random date, and you can probably find this country doing something wrong. In 10 years or so, we will look at our operation in Iraq as angrily as we, or at least I, look at the C.I.A.-backed, Milton Friedman and Chicago School of Economics-led military junta of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. I needn’t cite the USA PATRIOT Act or the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (which, in effect, made Habeas Corpus moot), or Guantanamo Bay, or Walter Reed, or waterboarding (which the U.S. condemned the Japanese for using in WWII), or Halliburton, or the lawless private military company Blackwater, or… you get the point. The American flag, if it supposedly stood for something like freedom, no longer stands for anything good.

And the second point also doesn’t need clarification. There’s a reason why atheists are the least-trusted minority in the U.S. and why we’ve never had a non-white, non-male, non-Christian President. Power has yet to change hands in this country’s history and as long as we keep producing white male Christian politicians, it will stay this way. And no, this is not a thumbs-up to Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama in subterfuge. Look at all of the names we’ve had run for President just in recent history. 95% of them are white Christian males. It’s amazing that we have not only a woman, not only an African-American, but a Mormon running for President, too. Too bad all of them are beholden to lobbyists of big business.

But my main point is the concern Americans seem to have about symbols. George Carlin did an hilarious bit on this during one of his HBO stand-up specials, saying that he leaves symbols to the “symbol-minded.” We know that the Confederacy fought for the right to oppress African-Americans in the Civil War and that the Confederate flag represents that oppression, but seriously, what harm will a flag do and if there is any harm, how does it warrant infringing on others’ right to free speech?

If it was a Christian symbol on a government building, I could see the offense because that is explicitly outlawed by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. But this is a flag being flown in a state that was part of the Confederacy. If that’s what they want to do, so be it. Ask them to take it down politely and if they decline, move on.

And on the topic of “states’ rights,” a favorite phrase of libertarians: what’s the point? Let’s take the issue of gay marriage, for instance. It’ll obviously become legal in the liberal states and banned in the conservative states. So, homosexuals who want to get married in, say, Texas, will be forced to move to other states if they want to be legally bound to their partner. In other words, they’ll be forced to give up their residence, their job, friends and neighbors, and perhaps family, all because they happen to live in a part of the country that is highly close-minded towards anyone who isn’t heterosexual.

Is that freedom — banishing someone to another part of the country for having a quality that isn’t viewed favorably by most people?

This idea of states’ rights will also end up dividing the country exponentially deeper than it currently is now between conservatives and liberals. Just have a country-wide policy on these issues. That’s why it’s called the United States of America, right? It’s not the “Some States do one thing and other states do another” America.

And, finally, libertarianism lends credence to ideas that may not deserve such credence. The idea that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to get married does not deserve one ounce of respect from anyone, yet libertarians would like to give these people power potential. If you don’t like gay people, fine, that’s your prerogative. You have no right to tell them that they cannot be legally bound to their partners as heterosexuals are, and it doesn’t matter if 99 out of 100 people feel this way.

Here’s the clip of Maher’s show. Hopefully something exciting happens in the world of baseball so I can put up a decent sports-related post.

New Layout

This is the layout I’ve been planning to use. I’ve still got a few kinks to work out, so just ignore them for now.

If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks.

A Real Blend of Sports and Politics

As if we haven’t been submerged in 2008 election news and rumors, the entertainment gods have cast a storm upon us: FOX News is going to be mixed into FOX Sports’ Super Bowl coverage.

Given Keith Olbermann’s sky-high ratings following his injection into NBC’s NFL half-time show, it’s easy to see why FOX would want to try their hand at mixing football and politics. It’s too bad that FOX News is easily the least credible of all of the news channels, ever. Thumb through Crooks and Liarsposts under the FOX News category if you’re skeptical.

As a liberal, I think Olbermann is one of the greatest things to happen to the television world since the original American Gladiators. However, mixing Olbermann’s political observations into half-time of a football game just doesn’t sit well with me. Sports and politics merge in many ways: the playing of the national anthem before games, Congress’ mingling in baseball’s drug issues, et cetera, but both are deemed necessary. Olbermann’s show and FOX News during the Super Bowl are superfluous.

I want to know why Tom Brady will pick apart the Green Bay Packer defense during the Super Bowl, not why Barack Obama will pick apart Hilary Clinton’s voting records. And given that it will be FOX News doing the reporting and opining, I imagine we’ll be hearing about why Mike Huckabee’s plan to Christianize the U.S. Constitution is flawless, or why John McCain’s idea to stay in Iraq for 100 years is guaranteed to both turn Iraq into a worldwide beacon of democracy and strengthen our national defense. In other words, we’ll be inundated with patently false statements backed up with skewed and made-up facts, like the cries of a liberal media bias.

And for the record, it’s not that FOX News is blatantly right-wing that makes me detest it so; it’s that they unabashedly ignore reality and make up their own facts and figures on the fly so it suits their agenda. And I’d be just as irritated if they had decided to throw in a bunch of liberals to report and opine during the Super Bowl coverage because it has no reason being there in the first place.

It’s bad enough most of us subject ourselves to the irritating Super Bowl commercials, only 5% of which are entertaining (well, maybe this will make it more entertaining this year). Now we’re going to sit through war cheer-leading and Republican back-patting.

Did I mention that the election is still 10 months away?

In Other News

You can tell it’s the baseball off-season when I go two weeks without one inspiration to write about something. Counting down the days ’til pitchers and catchers report…

Once I get Photoshop CS3 working on my computer again (or once I can get a few graphics done by someone else for free), I’ll have a new design for Crashburn Alley up. I haven’t really liked either of the designs I’ve used thus far but I think the one I am waiting to use is pretty snazzy.

Links

The Doug Glanville Perspective. [Balls, Sticks, & Stuff]

Amen… this is the longest off-season ever. [Bugs & Cranks]

Grading the top-ten starting rotations in baseball. [I’m Writing Sports]

Why do some Phillies fans hate Pat Burrell, again? [I’ve Made a Huge Tiny Mistake]

It’s NFL Championship weekend. [Josh Q. Public]

Sportsmanship, where art thou? [Moondog Sports]

A Thought on the Rolen/Glaus Trade. [The Good Phight]

John Brattain hands out The Pujols Awards. [The Hardball Times]

No surprise that the BBWAA got it wrong again, this time with Tim Raines. [The Progenitor of Severe Gluteal Discomfort]

Bud Selig may be bad, but he’s making the owners a lot of money. [Ump Bump]

Hey, Scotty, big girls don’t cry. [We Should Be GM’s]

STFU, Carlos Delgado

New York Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado must be getting antsy during the off-season, because he’s opening his mouth seemingly just to hear himself talk.

Via Yahoo:

“It was very disappointing because we know that we had the best team. And I believe that we still have a great team,” the first baseman said Thursday on a conference call.

Granted, the difference between the Phillies and Mets in the standings was one game, and it took an historic collapse from the Mets to push the Phillies into the playoffs, but the Phillies did have the best team, and I’ll prove that in several different ways.

First, the rough team-vs.-team comparisons.

Offense

Phillies: 5.51 runs per game

Mets: 4.96 runs per game (-.55)

Pitching

Mets: 4.63 runs per game

Phillies: 5.07 runs per game (-.44)

The teams are close when you add it up, with the Phillies having a .11 overall advantage in runs per game. Even the Pythagorean records have the Phillies one game better than the Mets, though each team is two games worse.

Now, let’s look at it position-by-position.

Catcher

Phillies

Carlos Ruiz: 429 PA, .736 OPS

Rod Barajas: 147 PA, .745 OPS

Chris Coste: 137 PA, .730 OPS

Mets

Paul Lo Duca: 488 PA, .689 OPS

Ramon Castro: 157 PA, .887 OPS

Mike DiFelice: 47 PA, .661 OPS

Sandy Alomar, Jr.: 22 PA, .318 OPS

The edge here goes to the Phillies. The production from their catchers was pretty much steady, while the Mets gave 68% of their catcher plate appearances to someone who just produced a .689 OPS. Castro was very productive but only got 22% of the catcher plate appearances.

First Base

Before the statistics are even laid out, you know who is going to win this one. Phillies in a landslide.

Phillies

Ryan Howard: 648 PA, .976 OPS

Mets

Carlos Delgado: 607 AB, .781 OPS

Second Base

Another Phillies landslide.

Phillies

Chase Utley: 613 PA, .976 OPS

Tadahito Iguchi: 156 PA, .803 OPS

Mets

Luis Castillo: 231 PA, .742 OPS

Damion Easley: 218 PA, .824 OPS

Ruben Gotay: 211 PA, .772 OPS

Jose Valentin: 183 PA, .676 OPS

Third Base

Finally, a victory for the Mets. You also don’t need statistics to decipher this one, but we’ll do it anyway.

Phillies

Greg Dobbs: 358 PA, .780 OPS

Wes Helms: 308 PA, .665 OPS

Abraham Nunez: 287 PA, .600 OPS

Mets

David Wright: 711 PA, .963 OPS

Shortstop

Phillies

Jimmy Rollins: 778 PA, .875 OPS

Mets

Jose Reyes: 765 PA, .775 OPS

Advantage Phillies.

Left Field

Phillies

Pat Burrell: 598 PA, .902 OPS

Michael Bourn: 133 PA, .727 OPS

Mets

Moises Alou: 360 PA, .916 OPS

Endy Chavez: 165 PA, .705 OPS

Carlos Gomez: 139 PA, .592 OPS

Marlon Anderson: 77 PA, .906 OPS

Edge goes to the Phillies here, since 82% of their left field at-bats went towards a .902 OPS, while the Mets only had 48.5% of their at-bats go towards Alou’s .916 OPS and 10% towards Anderson’s .906 OPS. The Mets also had a bunch of other nobodies but they logged less than 100 defensive innings, so I didn’t include them, actually benefiting the Mets. Those “nobodies” include Ricky Ledee, David Newhan, Ben Johnson, and Jeff Conine.

Center Field

Phillies

Aaron Rowand: 684 PA, .889 OPS

Mets

Carlos Beltran: 636 PA, .878 OPS

Very slight advantage to the Phillies here, since they had more plate appearances at a higher OPS from their center fielder.

Right Field

Phillies

Shane Victorino: 510 PA, .770 OPS

Jayson Werth: 304 PA, .863 OPS

Mets

Shawn Green: 491 PA, .782 OPS

Lastings Milledge: 206 PA, .787 OPS

This is another close one, but the Phillies get the edge here since 37% of their right field plate appearances went to solid .863 OPS production, while the Mets gave 697 place appearances to approximately .784 production between Green and Milledge. Victorino produced slightly below this but only took up 63% of the Phillies’ right field at-bats.

If you’re one of those people who can take advantage from a weight loss drug like cialis, you’ll likely have to take it for an indefinite period. When you stop drug cure, conversely, much or all of the lost weight usually returns with bad health symptoms. So it’s better to use fitness equipment and avoid pharmacies to buy drugs as much as possible.

Draw the tallies up and the Mets only have one starting position player advantage offensively, and that’s David Wright at third base.

If we included defense, it would slightly hurt the Phillies in left and center field. The Mets then might have gotten the nod in center field.

Starting Pitching

Phillies

The Phillies had four pitchers — Fabio Castro, John Ennis, Zack Segovia, and J.A. Happ — make one start apiece, and Brett Myers made three starts at the beginning of the season before he was converted to a relief pitcher.

The pitchers I will be looking at on the Phillies have made at least 10 starts. Likewise when I analyze the Mets’ starting pitching.

I’ll be using ERA+, so there is no room for discrepancy in regards to park effects (Shea Stadium is pro-pitching; Citizens Bank Park is pro-hitting).

Jamie Moyer: 199.1 IP, 92 ERA+

Cole Hamels: 183.1 IP, 136 ERA+

Adam Eaton: 167.2 IP, 73 ERA+

Kyle Kendrick: 121.0 IP, 119 ERA+

Jon Lieber*: 78.0 IP, 98 ERA+

J.D. Durbin*: 64.2 IP, 90 ERA+

Kyle Lohse*: 61.0 IP, 98 ERA+

Freddy Garcia: 58.0 IP, 78 ERA+

Mets

Tom Glavine: 200.1 IP, 96 ERA+

John Maine: 191.0 IP, 109 ERA+

Oliver Perez: 177.0 IP, 120 ERA+

Orlando Hernandez*: 147.2 IP, 115 ERA+

Jorge Sosa*: 112.2 IP, 95 ERA+

Mike Pelfrey*: 72.2 IP, 76 ERA+

*Pitched both as a starter and as a reliever. Statistics not adjusted for this.

Definitely a Mets advantage here.

Bullpen

The criteria here is at least 30 innings pitched out of the bullpen.

Phillies

Geoff Geary: 67.1 IP, 105 ERA+

Brett Myers*: 53.1 IP, 2.87 ERA (ERA+ not available)

Ryan Madson: 56.0 IP, 151 ERA+

Clay Condrey: 50.0 IP, 92 ERA+

Antonio Alfonseca: 49.2 IP, 85 ERA+

Tom Gordon: 40.0 IP, 98 ERA+

Jose Mesa: 39.0 IP, 83 ERA+

J.C. Romero: 36.1 IP, 373 ERA+

Mets

Aaron Heilman: 86.0 IP, 140 ERA+

Billy Wagner: 68.1 IP, 162 ERA+

Pedro Feliciano: 64.0 IP, 138 ERA+

Guillermo Mota: 59.1 IP, 74 ERA+

Scott Schoenweis: 59.0 IP, 85 ERA+

Aaron Sele: 53.2 IP, 79 ERA+

Joe Smith: 44.1 IP, 123 ERA+

Even though Myers’ ERA+ as a reliever isn’t available, I think it’s safe to say that he was pretty close to Billy Wagner’s level as a closer. The Phillies’ equivalent to Pedro Feliciano is J.C. Romero, but he logged 28 less innings, which is significant. Same deal with the Phillies’ equivalent to Aaron Heilman being Ryan Madson — he pitched 30 less innings. Otherwise, the Mets’ bullpen was nearly equally as bad as the Phillies.

However, the 58 innings that Feliciano and Heilman logged with well-above-average production gives the Mets the slight advantage.

Bench

I’m only counting players who got at least 100 plate appearances.

Phillies

Greg Dobbs: 358 PA, .780 OPS

Wes Helms: 308 PA, .665 OPS

Jayson Werth: 304 PA, .863 OPS

Tadahito Iguchi: 156 PA, .803 OPS

Rod Barajas: 147 PA, .745 OPS

Chris Coste: 137 PA, .730 OPS

Mets

Damion Easley: 218 PA, .824 OPS

Ruben Gotay: 211 PA, .772 OPS

Lastings Milledge: 206 PA, .787 OPS

Jose Valentin: 183 PA, .676 OPS

Endy Chavez: 165 PA, .705 OPS

Ramon Castro: 157 PA, .887 OPS

Carlos Gomez: 139 PA, .592 OPS

Pretty close, but the slight edge goes to the Phillies.

If you tally it up, the Phillies win 7 out of the 8 positions for offensive starting position players, and with the bench. The Mets have the better starting and bullpen pitching.

And as we showed in the beginning, the Phillies offense and pitching compared to that of the Mets’ leaves them with a .11 runs per game advantage.

The statistics show that the Phillies were the slightly better team.

As for the current situation on who’s better, let’s take a look at who both teams have gained and lost. OPS+ and ERA+ refer to the player’s career average. A player’s name has been bolded if he was traded.

Philadelphia Phillies

Lost

Aaron Rowand (106 OPS+); Abraham Nunez (62 OPS+); Tadahito Iguchi (98 OPS+); Rod Barajas (75 OPS+); Michael Bourn (79 OPS+); Kyle Lohse (95 ERA+); Jon Lieber (103 ERA+); Freddy Garcia (111 ERA+); Antonio Alfonseca (104 ERA+); Geoff Geary (116 ERA+).

5 average or above-average players lost. Consider that Lieber and Garcia both had mediocre, injury-laden stints with the Phillies.

One can also make the case that the Phillies gained a pretty good starting pitcher by moving Brett Myers (118 and 120 ERA+ in 2005 and ’06 as a starter) back to the starting rotation from the bullpen.

Gained

Chad Durbin (82 ERA+); Brad Lidge (132 ERA+); Shane Youman (85 ERA+); Eric Bruntlett (78 OPS+); Geoff Jenkins (116 OPS+); Chris Snelling (97 OPS+); So Taguchi (89 OPS+).

2 average or above-average players gained.

New York Mets

Lost

Paul Lo Duca (99 OPS+); Shawn Green (120 OPS+); Lastings Milledge (92 OPS+); Jose Valentin (96 OPS+); Tom Glavine (119 ERA+); Guillermo Mota (107 ERA+); Aaron Sele (100 ERA+).

4 average or above-average players lost. Consider that Mota and Green did not live up to their abilities with the Mets.

Gained

Matt Wise (108 ERA+); Brian Schneider (82 OPS+); Ryan Church (113 OPS+); Angel Pagan (81 OPS+).

2 average or above-average players gained.

The Phillies have improved their team well by flushing out a lot of sub-par players like Abraham Nunez, Michael Bourn, and Rod Barajas. The Mets lost a lot of players either close to, at, or above league-average, and replaced them with two above-average players and two-below average players.

So, Delgado is wrong in saying that the Mets were the best team last season, even though they were close. And the Mets definitely aren’t as good as the Phillies going into 2008.

Well, Why Not?

It’s the baseball offseason, and that means for me, a lack of interesting topics on which to opine.

Nick Swisher got traded to the Chicago White Sox yesterday. In return, the Oakland Athletics got a few good prospects (Ryan Sweeney, Gio Gonzalez, and Fautino De Los Santos) that should help speed along their rebuilding process. And the A’s have a few Swisher-types already (Dan Johnson, Travis Buck, Daric Barton), so he was expendable, albeit relatively cheap in his prime years.

In Phillies news, Chris Roberson was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for a scratch-off lottery ticket. Thanks for the .515 OPS in 69 Major League at-bats, I guess.

I’ve got a couple ideas floating in my head for an article on Babe Ruth, but I want to research it well, so it might be a bit until that hits the Internets.
I’ve also signed up to assist Nick Underhill of I’m Writing Sports with a new project he’s working on. To what extent I’ll be needed, I don’t know, but he’s a solid guy and I’m glad to help (though I hope it’s not helping him in the sense that he’ll look better hanging with uglier people).

So, that’s the agenda here, and I wanted to write something to push that holiday top-ten list off the top.

As a reward for reading this mindless drivel, you may watch this milk commercial starring basketball phenom Yi Jianlian.

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.”