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.

D-Rays, Twins Swap Young, Garza, and more

With trade propositions swirling around the New York Yankees and Mets for left-hander Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins, the deal that is “close” to being completed between the Twins and Tampa Bay Rays looks tame. However, it could very well end up as the loudest trade of the off-season when all is said and done.

The six-player swap has the Rays exporting outfielder Delmon Young, second baseman Brendan Harris, and outfielder Jason Pridie. The Twins are exporting starting pitcher Matt Garza, shortstop Jason Bartlett, and relief pitcher Juan Rincon.

It sounds cliche, but the trade does benefit both teams.

The Twins will fill Bartlett’s spot at shortstop with Alexi Casilla, who was at second base mostly last season, but that will be Harris’ spot in ’08. Most importantly, however, the Twins recoup a good portion of the production they got from Torii Hunter, now an Angel, with Delmon Young.

The Rays ship out one of their better outfielders, but they are always well-stocked when it comes to outfielders — not so much so when it comes to pitching. They bolster an already good-looking rotation (Scott Kazmir, James Shields, possibly David Price) with the addition of Garza. Their infield is fine on the corners (Carlos Pena at first base, Akinori Iwamura at third), but in-between it is rather unimpressive, and swapping Harris for Bartlett doesn’t help that. Juan Rincon bolsters what was a horrible Rays bullpen in ’07.

Let’s break down the trade, looking at each player individually.

Delmon Young

Young has a high ceiling. He hits line drives, has power potential and above-average speed, and plays good defense. As Torii Hunter’s replacement, at least in the lineup, don’t be surprised if he actually outproduces Hunter in ’08.

Out of 11 qualified AL right fielders, Young had the fifth-best RZR. In addition, he was third among AL RF with 16 assists, and had the sixth-most plays made out of his zone. He’s moving from FieldTurf to FieldTurf, so he won’t have any unfamiliarity with defending against batted balls hit his way.

Offensively, he didn’t blow anyone away in his first full season (42nd among MLB rookies in VORP), and he hasn’t shown patience at the plate (26 walks in 681 plate appearances; 144th out of 162 with an average of 3.51 pitches per plate appearance). However, he does have a ton of potential, and his percentages on batted balls speak in his favor (22% of his batted balls are line drives). Expect that .343 BABIP to drop, though.

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Brendan Harris

In 2008, Harris will put on his fifth different MLB uniform in as many seasons. He’d previously been with the Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, the Rays, and now, the Twins.

Unlike Young, Harris did impress offensively in his first full season as a Major Leaguer, ranking 7th overall in VORP. Although his offensive production isn’t eye-popping, when you compare it to the typical AL second baseman, it’s above-average (Robinson Cano, Brian Roberts, Placido Polanco, and Ian Kinsler are the cream of the offensive crop in the AL and Harris doesn’t fall too far behind them). However, like Young, Harris showed a lack of patience at the plate, drawing only 42 walks in 576 PA, and only saw an average of 3.59 pitches per PA.

Harris doesn’t have quite the potential that Young has (Bill James projects him to slightly regress in ’08), but should be a nice complement to what should be a balanced Twins offense centered around Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

Jason Pridie

Pridie, a six-year Minor League veteran, might have finally put it together in ’07 with AAA Durham. Since 2004, he has significantly regressed from a .794 OPS with A Charleston, to a .675 OPS in ’05 between A+ Visalia and AA Montgomery, to a .585 OPS in ’06 with Montgomery.

In ’07, however, he put up a total .839 OPS between Montgomery and Durham, with the better part of it coming in AAA against tougher competition (10 HR and 39 RBI in 245 AB).

In addition to his batting, he can also steal bases — he stole 26 last season, though he did get thrown out 10 times (72% success rate). If he can be coached into a .254 swing in OPS, he can be coached into smarter baserunning. His speed also contributed to his 11 triples and 32 doubles (for those of you counting, that makes 57 extra-base hits out of 159 total hits — almost one out of every three hits is going for extra bases).

Matt Garza

One of the only things you couldn’t like about Garza last season was how many baserunners he allowed (1.542 WHIP). However, some of that was due to a high .345 BABIP.

Otherwise, there was a ton to like about the now-24-year-old. He put up a 118 ERA+ and 67 strikeouts in 83 innings, and almost 48% of his batted balls were grounders. Aside from Johan Santana, understandably, he was the most reliable starter for the Twins last season.

Jason Bartlett

He doesn’t pack much offensive firepower, but he will play good defense. He ranked second among AL SS last season in plays made out of his zone, and ranked sixth among 11 qualified AL SS in RZR, though he was only five-thousandths of a point behind third-place Michael Young (.809 to .804).

Offensively, he gets on base slightly higher than the league average (.341 to .335 over his career) but doesn’t have any power (career .362 SLG to league-average .425). He does have good speed and baserunning smarts, stealing 23 of 26 bases (88% success rate) last season.

UPDATE: The original deal originally had Juan Rincon heading to the Rays, but concerns about his elbow led to Minor League pitcher Eduardo Morlan being shipped out instead. Source: The Heater.So, if this deal actually goes through, it works out nicely for both teams and it might be the the noisiest the off-season gets. Here’s hoping the Mets don’t pull off a miracle and put together a package that appeals to the Twins and lands them Johan Santana, or appeals to the Oakland Athletics and lands them Rich Harden or Joe Blanton.

Completely Unrelated

I was trying to fool around with the MLB Gameday Pitch F/X data in Microsoft Excel (2000), but I couldn’t get it to work. I followed the directions from Friar Watch, but when I imported the data, it simply went into Row 1, Column A as XML code.

Can any of my readers assist me with this?

Dangerous Free Agent Market for CF

The marquee market in this year’s version of free agency is center fielders. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez excluded, there is no glitz and glamor available at any other position on the baseball diamond, talking strictly about free agency.

Not surprisingly, the people in charge of human perception have botched the project again. For some reason, not only was Torii Hunter the first big name — not named A-rod — to sign, but he was signed before Andruw Jones. Usually, the best player is signed first, for logical reasons.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed Hunter to a five-year, $90 million contract recently. The rationality of that move aside, Hunter is A) not worth that money and B) not in the same class as Andruw Jones.

You know what? I’m not going to put the rationality of that move aside. The Angels’ outfield now consists of Vladimir Guerrero ($14.5 million in ’08), Gary Matthews, Jr. ($9 million), Garrett Anderson ($12 million), and Hunter ($18 million). They’re paying their outfield $53.5 million, or slightly less than half of their 2007 payroll. And don’t forget about Juan Rivera, who will probably be making another $2 million or so as their 4th or 5th outfielder.

According to the Angels’ website:

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Hunter would be the regular center fielder, with Matthews providing depth at all three outfield spots. Anderson and Guerrero are expected to spend more time in the designated-hitter role in 2008, giving Matthews plenty of opportunities to play left and right.

That’s right, the Angels are paying two of their outfielders almost $27 million combined to be occasional offense-only players. Matthews is getting $9 million to be a utility outfielder.

Anyway, back to free agency. Andruw Jones is perceived to have lost value because of his poor 2007 showing. He put up only an 88 OPS+ despite hitting 26 HR and driving in 94 runs. His walks and doubles were around his career average, he just didn’t get too many hits, despite a .283 BABIP (a bit less than average).

However, Jones is only 31 and the chances of him returning to being a top-tier offensive center fielder are highly likely. Jones’ other poor season, 2001, was followed by some of the best years of his career, though they were in his prime years (ages 25-29). And despite common perception, Jones’ hasn’t lost much, if anything, on defense, as he led the National League in both RZR and OOZ.

A quick glance of Andruw Jones’ statistics tells you that he has been and still can be the best center fielder in baseball. The common perception around baseball disagrees. Jayson Stark, for instance, called him the most overrated center fielder of all time. In Stark’s article, he states about Jones’ defense:

[…]while most of us weren’t paying attention, Andruw was slowly, apparently imperceptibly, losing the part of that gift that made him special.

[…]

I thought: that can’t be right. A friend suggested maybe it was a function of the Braves’ pitching staff. Maybe they were just throwing fewer fly balls than they used to. Great point. So I checked. Fortunately, there’s a stat that measures that, too — zone rating (the percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical zone).

So I called up the 2006 zone rating of all qualifying major league center fielders on ESPN.com. Guess who was last on the list? Yessir, Andruw. He also finished last in 2004. And fifth from the bottom in 2005. I kept checking. As recently as 2001, he led his league in zone rating. So obviously, we had a definitive trend on our hands.

However, using the Revised Zone Rating (RZR), we find that Andruw’s defense only slipped in one season: 2004 (8th out of 11 NL CF in RZR; tied-first in OOZ). His OOZ shows that he was still able to get to balls most CF weren’t able to get. But in 2005, he was third among 9 qualified NL CF in RZR and second in OOZ. 2006? 4th of 11 in RZR, 2nd in OOZ. And, as mentioned, he led in both categories in 2007.

So, his defense hasn’t slipped nearly as much as Stark thinks.

Sticking with Sabermetrics — in such a lousy year for Jones, he still managed to add almost six and a half wins to his team. Guess how many Hunter added in one of his best seasons of his career? Eight. The difference between Jones at his worst and Hunter at his best is one and a half wins.

Jones’ worst WARP-3 prior to 2007 was 7.9. Hunter’s best was 8.3. Just a half a win difference there.

The other misconception is that Hunter’s defense is impeccable.

YEAR: RZR, RANK; OOZ, RANK

2007: .891 RZR, 7th out of 10; 47 OOZ, 5th in AL

2006: .894 RZR, 8th out of 10; 48 OOZ, 6th in AL

2005: Not enough defensive innings

2004: .822 RZR, 3rd out of 8; 65 OOZ, 1st in AL

Even Hunter’s “good” defensive season in 2004 is mediocre compared to the seasons after.

Offensively, Hunter is good, but isn’t anything truly special. In his nine full seasons, his career average OPS+ is 104. League-average is always 100. His last two seasons, though, have been among the best in his career, so there’s hope for a trend there if you’re the Angels. Overall, Hunter is the overrated center fielder, not Jones. The Angels will likely end up regretting giving Hunter such a large contract. A player that produces on average only slightly better than the league average doesn’t deserve $18 million per season.

Another center fielder looking for a big contract is Aaron Rowand. In his 5 seasons of 300 or more at-bats, two have been below-average, two have been above-average, and one has been average. So, he’s an average center fielder coming off of a career season in his walk year. That has warning labels stuck all over it.

Rowand, perhaps more so than Hunter, is noted for his grit and disregard for his own safety, as evidenced by his face-plant into the Citizens Bank Park center field fence in 2006 that earned him a broken nose.

Aaron Rowand post-face-plant

Beware of Rowand. Compare his career .343 OBP to the .342 league average. Or his career .462 slugging to the league average .439. He averages 5.75 wins per season to his team, which isn’t bad, but doesn’t place him among the elite in center field.

You never know with his defense, either. In 2006, the year he busted his face, his RZR was 9th among 11 qualified NL CF. He was 10th in OOZ plays, but OOZ is a counting statistic and Rowand missed time twice with injuries in 2006. However, his teammate Shane Victorino had one more OOZ and a .902 RZR (to Rowand’s .882) in 343 fewer defensive innings in 2006.

Realistically, only Jones deserves to be paid highly, but the prices aren’t dictated like that. The market for any good player is remarkably high, since the free agent class has been so weak not just this off-season, but last off-season as well — remember Adam Eaton and Gil Meche’s contracts?

Hunter and Rowand will be sought after highly not only because they’re perceived (wrongly) to be great players, but because they’re the best among what little is available. Who would you want: Aaron Rowand or Corey Patterson? Torii Hunter or Jeff DaVanon?

Clarification on the Conlin Comments

I didn’t expect the firestorm that ensued as a result of Conlin’s comments, but when you essentially tell bloggers that they are a group worthy of an untimely demise, as the Jews were to Hitler, you’re not going to win any new friends.

With all the anti-Conlin sentiment, there has been the odd comment questioning me or my motives, and I welcome that. However, a lot of what I read was either misinterpretation or a misunderstanding, so I’d like to clear those up in a pseudo-FAQ fashion.

You revealed a private conversation that occurred via E-mail. This is illegal and/or immoral.

It’s certainly not illegal. Once you click “Send,” you lose all rights to the content of your E-mail. What if, instead of through E-mail, my correspondence with Conlin occurred via paper mail? Imagine me opening up the letter, seeing the “Hitler” comment and being shocked. Is it illegal for me to show that letter to anyone else, since it was intended (presumably) only for my eyes? Of course not.

Especially in this age of technology, the fault lies with the person sending the offensive comment for not preparing for the comment being seen by unintended eyes.

As for its immorality, you’re neither right nor wrong for viewing it either way. I can’t say whether it was immoral or moral, as my set of morals probably differs from yours.

You were being intentionally inflammatory and baiting Conlin into saying those nasty things.

In retrospect, a couple things I said were almost definitely going to be interpreted as inflammatory, as pointed out by a couple readers, but my intent (I don’t know what that counts for) was never to incite what has occurred. I simply read Conlin’s article (linked in FJM’s article debunking it) and decided to E-mail him. I thought it was rather nice, and my comment about not bashing him was sympathetic, or at least, that was my intent.

I thought he was getting beat up enough, as I had read from a few different sources how idiotic his article was, and there were quite a few attacks on his character.

Linking to the sites bashing him probably was a bad idea, but I don’t think he clicked on them anyway. He barely read the E-mails I sent him, as evidenced by his mistaking me for a Mets fan after I clearly stated that I was a Phillies fan (twice), so I doubt he ever read FJM’s dismantling of his article.

Conlin’s comment is anti-Semitic.

I can’t faut anyone for taking it this way, but it wasn’t actually an anti-Semitic comment. It probably minimalized what happened in Hitler’s holocaust, but his intent behind the comment was that the world would be better if bloggers didn’t have a voice provided by the Internet, and that Hitler probably would have made sure we didn’t.

Plenty of readers have pointed out that his comments about pampleteers and such were historically inaccurate and/or hypocritical. The Good Phight does a good job of proving most or all of this.

Bill Conlin made those comments as a private citizen, not as a writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, so they shouldn’t reprimand him.

While others are calling for Conlin’s head to roll, I am not. In fact, I am taking the coward’s way out and am not espousing an opinion on what should happen to him as a result of his comments.

To factually clear up the above statement, though, the E-mail address I used to contact Conlin was listed right next to his name on the website of the Philadelphia Daily News. Whether or not he uses that E-mail account for purely personal purposes is irrelevant — it is on a web page of his professional work for his employer, so any E-mails he sends from that account, he is also representing his employer, as well.

You were just as close-minded as Conlin with your use of Sabermetrics.

In my E-mail exchange with Conlin, I explicitly refrained from citing Sabermetrics, and instead made my case with just standard statistics.

If this refers to my article(s) on the MVP award, yes, I do make heavy use of Sabermetrics and pay almost no mind to statistics like batting average, win-loss records, strikeout totals for hitters, etc. In addition, I don’t factor in intangibles when opining about the “most valuable player” in a given league. My feeling on that is that, if you can’t prove it, I’m not going to factor it in. Intangibles, since they can’t be proven by definition, are wholly subjective, and thus incredibly prone to error.

Some may think Jimmy Rollins is a leader, and David Wright is not. Others feel that Wright is more of a leader than Rollins. Who’s right? You can’t prove it, so it’s all moot in the end. That’s why I don’t factor it in at the risk of having some inaccuracies in my points. It very well may be true that, without Rollins’ leadership, the Phillies would have been dead in the water.

In that respect, I don’t view that as me being close-minded, just selective of which factors I personally use to determine value.

Publishing emails without permission will have a negative effect on everyone else’s possible correspondence with journalists.

If journalists cannot communicate with E-mailers without insinuating that they are worthy of having no freedom of speech and/or worthy of being killed, then that falls on the journalists.

I guess the journalists could be hesitant to respond to E-mailers for anything that might get taken out of context and blown out of proportion, but then again, they can just comb over their E-mails and make sure they were professional, factual, and rational.

It’s the journalists’ loss — not the readers’ — if they don’t respond to E-mails. When they respond, they are representing the publication they work for, and thus, are advertising in a sense. A good rapport with a reader increases the chance that they will purchase the publication in the future, and a bad rapport decreases that chance. With most print publications hurting, behavior like Conlin’s only sets himself and his employer(s) back.

You’re a hypocrite: Your previous article was titled, “Political Correctness Has Gone Too Far,” and now you’re whining about Conlin offending you.

I haven’t heard this one yet, but I wanted to address it since I was thinking about it. I haven’t complained about being offended. Frankly, I’m not offended by what Conlin said or how he acted. I’m disappointed more than anything, especially since he represents a sizable amount of journalists in terms of his views on bloggers and Sabermetrics.

A lot of other people have been offended by what Conlin said. Based on a particular reader, most of the people at The Good Phight are Jewish, so they have a gripe with Conlin because of his Hitler comment.

I would never assume I have the power to tell people what they should or should not be offended at. The Good Phight has every right to be offended by Conlin’s comments. The only problem I take with anyone getting offended over something is when they try to limit others’ freedom to do something as a result of that offense.

That’s a bit vague, so let me clarify. I support Conlin’s freedom of speech to make tasteless jokes like that. That is not to say that I share his intent behind it, or the literal interpretation of it, but I support his right to say idiotic, tasteless things. That goes for anyone. To have true freedom of speech, you need to be willing to take the good with the bad. So, for every noble crusader speaking out against the Bush administration and the Iraq war, for instance, there is presumably an idiot making a tasteless joke about a minority group. As long as they’re not espousing anything that would take away the rights or enjoyment of life away from members of that minority group, he has the same right to make that joke as that noble crusader has to make noble political statements.

Please let me know if anything else needs to be clarified.

Conlin’s Losing Numbers [UPDATED TWICE: See end]

As you might recall from late August, I picked on Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News for his close-minded and immature diatribe against proponents of Sabermetrics in baseball.

I’ve found another target. Bill Conlin, also of the Philadelphia Daily News, recently wrote an article called Rollins’ Winning Numbers. Fire Joe Morgan has done a great job of dissecting his article.

I sent Conlin an E-mail, but before I reveal those, I’d just like to point out the snippet of his article which deserves much ire.

Despite his defensive contribution being backhanded by Red Sox front office stat man Bill James – baseball’s most influential cybergeek – the league’s managers and coaches awarded him a Gold Glove.

Apparently, James decided that a Range Factor based on successful chances (putouts plus assists) times nine innings, divided by number of defensive innings played is more important than the result – for example, a friggin’ out. Despite his No. 3 fielding percentage of .985 (behind Troy Tulowitzki’s .987 and Omar Vizquel’s .986) Rollins rated No. 15 in the James Range Factor. Fortunately, the baseball men who vote for the Gold Gloves depend on what they see, not laptop science. Jose Reyes, a nimble windshield wiper, ranked No. 25 in RF.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of that article:

  1. Conlin attempts to insult Sabermetricians, who devalue Rollins’ defense compared to baseball statistical traditionalists, because he was given a Gold Glove anyway. Remember how meaningful the Gold Glove is when you are reminded that Rafael Palmeiro was given a Gold Glove at first base in a season in which he logged just 28 games at that position.
  2. Conlin shows his ignorance of basic math by making Range Factor out to be more complicated than it really is. Range Factor is (Putouts plus Assists) divided by Innings Pitched. Fielding Percentage is (Putouts plus Assists) divided by (Putouts + Assists + Errors). Which one is more “complicated”? In addition, he wrote, “James decided that a Range Factor […] is more important than the result – for example, a friggin’ out.” If only the result of putouts and assists wasn’t “a friggin’ out.”

As many other “cyber-geeks” did, I decided to send Conlin an E-mail.

Hi Mr. Conlin,

Hope all is well. My name is Bill as well, and I run a blog called Crashburn Alley. Needless to say, I’ve read many of the blogs bashing your article, such as Fire Joe Morgan and the discussion at Baseball Think Factory.

So, I’m not going to bash you since it’s already been done. And hey, I already picked on your colleague Marcus Hayes.

I do want to ask you, though, what makes Rollins better than New York Mets third baseman David Wright as a National League MVP candidate?

Wright hits for more power (.546 SLG to Rollins’ .531), gets on base at a higher rate (.416 OBP to Rollins’ .344), fields his position about equally as well as Rollins fields his (shortstop is defensively more demanding, however, but not enough to make a huge difference), and has comparable speed to Rollins (34 SB, seven less than Rollins’ 41).

The Sabermetrics really make the case for Wright, but I know you’re not a fan of those and won’t waste your time with them.

What does Rollins do better, besides being a hairline better than Wright defensively and on the basepaths (whereas Wright is more than a hairline better than Rollins at getting on base and slugging, the two things a hitter is paid to do)?

My personal top-five NL MVP rankings would go Wright, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Rollins, and Matt Holliday.

It’s a bitter pill for me to swallow — to make the case against Rollins — being a die-hard Phillies fan, but I try to be objective. I don’t even think Ryan Howard deserved the NL MVP award last season over Albert Pujols.

Thanks for your time,

Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Conlin deftly dodges my questions and stated facts with a simple response.

Know what, pal? Bash this. . .Tell your bloggers, my career against theirs. . .

If I felt like being smarmy, I could have pointed out to him that this is just an appeal to authority. A statement is not any more right because someone more important is saying it. For instance, is 2+2=4 any more correct if Albert Einstein says it than if George W. Bush says it? You don’t have to go to accounting college to know that.

Anyway, I let him know I was disappointed in his failure to address any of my points.

Well, Mr. Conlin, I have to say that I’m disappointed. I know your colleague Marcus Hayes responded with little tact, but I guess it’s a trait of those who work at the Daily News.

I will take it by your evasion of my questions and the facts I’ve stated that you are unable to make any legitimate case for Rollins over Wright for MVP. But, hey, whatever helps you sell papers.

You have given me an easy decision, with your tactless, factless response, not to ever buy a newspaper from the Philadelphia Daily News or to watch their program on Comcast SportsNet, at least until you and Mr. Hayes resign, or in a more likely scenario, are fired.

Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

— Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Note in my initial E-mail to Conlin that I identified myself as a Phillies fan, and in both E-mails, I linked him to my blog. So, there should be no confusion that I am a fan of any other team but the Phillies, right?

Wrong. He responded thusly.

Don’t you need to contact the 30 electors–including the two Mets beat writers–who failed to give write a single first place vote instead of a commentator who does not vote for the awards. You’re a Mets fan and you had your little bubble of arrogance and smugness burst. Your team choked big time, an epic gagaroo. At least the 1964 Phillies had an excuse–they were probably no more than the Cardinals, Reds, Braves, Dodgers and Giants that year. One question: When a Mets team chokes in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a gagging sound? Next time bring more to the table than wishful fan numbers that bear no semblance to reality. I wonder how it feels to be the Phillies bitch

That would hurt so much… if I was a Mets fan. I’m a Phillies fan making an objective case for David Wright.

So, this is twice now that a journalist from the Philadelphia Daily News has been both tactless and unable to present a legitimate factual case for anything they’ve posited. I truly hope that Conlin isn’t a microcosm of American sports media — ignorant and close-minded.

As for Wright over Rollins, the facts make it plain to see.

Rollins

.875 OPS (.344 OBP; .531 SLG)

41-for-47 in stolen bases

9th out of 14 qualified NL SS in Revised Zone Rating; third in Out of Zone plays.

Wright

.962 OPS (.416 OBP; .546 SLG)

34-for-39 in stolen bases

5th out of 12 qualified NL 3B in Revised Zone Rating; first in Out of Zone plays.

And that’s only using the most basic of Sabermetrics, and only for defense.

Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), which accounts for both offense and defense in one handy statistic, puts Wright at 12.7 WARP. Rollins is at 11.5. For fun, Matt Holliday is at 11.9, but he’s purely a product of Coors field.

So, not only was Conlin disrespectful and close-minded, he was flat out wrong.

CORRECTION: Thanks to reader Double D for correcting me. I had said that Conlin voted for the awards this off-season, but Double D asserted that only active beat writers get to vote.

UPDATE: Conlin just responded with what may be the quote of the decade

I said:

Mr. Conlin,

I linked you to my blog, and I called myself a die-hard Phillies fan in my initial message to you. Remember? I said:

It’s a bitter pill for me to swallow — to make the case against Rollins — being a die-hard Phillies fan, but I try to be objective.

So, I enjoyed the Mets’ collapse as much as you did. 🙂

Though I don’t appreciate your tact, I do appreciate that you respond to those who contact you. A lot of journalists don’t even do that.

Toodle-oo,

Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Conlin said:

The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler’s time on earth–I’m sure he would have eliminated all bloggers. In Colonial times, bloggers were called “Pamphleteers.” They hung on street corners handing them out to passersby. Now, they hang out on electronic street corners, hoping somebody mouses on to their pretentious sites. Different medium, same MO. Shakespeare accidentally summed up the genre best with these words from a MacBeth soliloquy: “. . .a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. . .”

UPDATE #2: Conlin clarifies his Hitler statement. Before that, though, he said:

Just make sure you bring a higher level of literacy to go with your decimal points. Most of you guys are unreadable. That’s one of my gripes. And while many of you–not all–can get away with a level of insult and ridicule that would be actionable in a publication governed by standards and libel and slander laws, professionals must abide by those standards and laws. My columns are read by a minimum of three editors for fact, style, fairness and balance. Despite that scrutiny,errors still filter by the goalies. In my Rollins column that has upset so many of you, the only thing I would remotely take back was having Holliday performing his Game 163 heroics against the Diamondbacks when, of course, it was the Padres. D’Backs were on my mind as the soon-to-be-vanquished division champions when I wrote the line. Any editor worth his salt should have caught the error. However, most of them are so intent at catching the bad stuff they let the obvious error slip by. Who checks your facts and deletes a line that is over the edge of good taste or might demean or defame an athlete or subject? Did you take a course in the libel and slander laws? Or do you merely throw it against the wall and see what sticks? That’s what most of you do. I can’t pin that on you specifically because I have never read your blog.

I said:

Mr. Conlin,

Unfortunately, your words about Hitler have sparked quite a firestorm. I don’t think you actually meant what you said there…

As for your last response to my E-mail, you bring up a host of great points. Bloggers don’t have anyone to answer to besides advertisers (if any). However, the lack of censorship can bring about a lot of good things. Subjects that you’d never be allowed to touch (for instance, would you be allowed to have a pro-steroids article published?) can easily be covered by bloggers.

The hard work you and others have put in as journalists is something I truly admire and is something I am currently striving for myself. So, yes, I am familiar with libel and slander and all that journalistic stuff.

If you responded to your readers the way you just responded to me, you’d probably enjoy bloggers a lot more than you currently do.

Please let me know if you’d like me to post a clarification of sorts on my blog for you, as a lot of people took your words the same way I did — not very kindly. I never set out to sully your name, and feel bad that you’ve drawn much ire. And hey, it might be a golden opportunity to turn over a new leaf with bloggers.

Thanks for the discourse,

Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Conlin responded:

I think I’ll let the words I wrote after the death of my dear friend and colleague, the former local Associated Press Bureau Chief Ralph Bernstein and the nearly half century relationship my wife and I have had with Ralph and his family through good times and bad represent me against any contrived and baseless attempt to slime me as an anti-Semite. I was a speaker at Ralph’s Memorial service. Quite obviously, the Hitler line was used in a satiric response to what has turned into a concerted assault on my Jimmy Rollins column and on my career. It was quite obviously used in a personal e-mail. I did not publish the insulting things said about me. As editor of the Temple University News in 1960-61, I received death threats from the White Citizens Council after writing an editorial denouncing Gerald L. K. Smith and his anti-black and anti-Semitic hate-mongering newspaper “The Cross and the Flag.” I was one of the most outspoken critics of Marge Schott’s blatant anti-Semitism to the point some of my columns had to be toned down. Ditto my stand on Al Campanis, a friend, by the way, and Jimmy The Greek Snyder. I also had a long and close relationship with the late, great Dick Schaap, who wrote about my impact on The Sports Reporters at length in his autobiography, “Flashing Before My Eyes.” I am heartened that both a clear conscience and the First Amendment will be at my side.

Political Correctness Has Gone Too Far

Following the New England Patriots’ complete destruction of the Buffalo Bills’ defense, we learned two things: Andrea Kremer would totally go out with Tom Brady, and the Patriots are offensive (pun!!1!) simply by taking the field and playing the game they’re paid to play.

It wasn’t the first time the Patriots have beaten an opponent as severely as they beat the Bills, and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t the first time they’ve been accused of “running up the score.”

24, 24, 31, 21, 17, 21, 45, 4, and 46. Those are the Patriots’ margins of victory in their ten games this season. That’s an average margin of victory of  over 23 points.

The latest wails of “running up the score” came after the Patriots twice went for the touchdown on fourth down instead of settling for a field goal in the Bills game. The oft-cited “unwritten rules” were brought up, that it is unethical to go for it on fourth down if you’re enjoying a comfortable lead.

This rule applies to almost any team sport, especially baseball, where, if you’re up by about 8 runs or so, it becomes unethical to steal bases, bunt, bring in your better pitchers, and try trick plays.

It’s just an example of how no one can be offended anymore in this country. On this blog, as well as in many other venues, I’ve made what some consider extremely liberal claims (e.g. drugs should be legalized), but one liberal issue I completely abhor is political correctness. It’s often hypocritical and almost always an infringement on First Amendment rights. The Patriots didn’t even speak — they simply played a game well.

Here’s a list of people you can’t offend in this country:

  • Homosexuals
  • Bisexuals
  • Transgenders
  • Christians
  • Jews
  • African-Americans
  • Women
  • Anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who is in the armed forces
  • The Bush administration, and the government in general
  • The disabled (note: not referring to the Bush administration)
  • People who are squeamish when it comes to violence or “foul”  language
  • NEW: Bad sports teams, or otherwise good teams simply getting demolished

It’s politically correct to not run up the score. It’s politically correct to not brag and to modestly acknowledge your success.

It’s politically incorrect to humorously reference a movie about homosexuality — still a fine source of humor for many in the comedy industry — and analogize it to basketball, as Phil Jackson did.

Back to the Patriots — what did the P.C. people want Belichick to do instead? Kick a field goal and tack on more points? At least if he goes for it on fourth down, he gives the Bills defense a chance to step it up and prevent them from scoring any points. At that point, with the Patriots leading as emphatically as they were, the difference between a touchdown and a field goal (four points) was moot anyway.

Isn’t it more insulting to “play down” to your opponent after you get out to a sizable lead? It says, at least to me, “I’m so good, I don’t even need to try hard to beat you. I can take out all of our best players and play second- and third-stringers.”

Don’t want the Patriots to run up the score? Keep them out of the end zone.  That was the response Leon Grant of the Seattle Seahawks gave to reporters when asked about Chad Johnson’s touchdown celebrations (another thing you’re not allowed to do when the P.C. police are around):

 And though none of the Seahawks wants to witness one of Johnson’s elaborate celebrations, they are more concerned with the reason it would occur rather than the act itself.

“My mentality is that if you don’t want a guy to do all of that on you, just keep him out of the end zone,” Grant said.

The Patriots will continue to win by at least three touchdowns, and will kick sand in the face of their opponents as they go for the fourth on fourth down.