Friday, February 27, 2004

More baseball.

I think the salary cap is a bad idea. I vaguely follow the NBA and ignore the NFL, but it always strikes me as silly and tedious that the teams now must make so many decisions based on their salary cap. It's especially silly that teams end up devising elaborate mechanisms for creating contracts specifically tailored to the salary cap.

Instead of limiting salaries, my solution is increased revenue sharing. As the system stands now, teams keep the money they make from their local TV and radio broadcasts. The teams with the biggest broadcast deals (Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Cubbies, Bravos, Dodgers) keep all that money, while all teams share the money MLB makes from national broadcasts. I think that the local team should get half the money from their broadcast deals, and half should go to MLB and then redistributed to all teams. With this base, teams would be guaranteed a minimum and, as many teams have recently shown, it's very possible to win without breaking the bank on salaries.

Teams should keep the money the make on ticket sales and concessions. I thought that this chart:
is fascinating. (It's a couple of years old, so the A's and Angels are probably higher today.) I think that teams should be rewarded for spending money to promote themselves. I've got no love for George Steinbrenner, but he has undoubtedly spent lots of money promoting the Yankees and he deserves to be rewarded. If teams put a crappy product out on the field, fans won't show up (see: Brewers, Tigers) and the owners wouldn't make the money they'd have made if they'd fielded strong teams.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Spring training will start soon, which means that we're treated to an annual rite of spring:

Time for sportswriters to consult the stories they wrote last year and repost them. Every year the same stories are written. Watch for

(a) The player from central America who's late due to "visa problems". The manager will say it's no big deal. The general manager will say "he's working on it". But it's worth a story every year.

(b) The Guy Who Shows Up Late (without a visa problem). Every year someone has "personal issues" and misses the first couple of days. The general manager "isn't happy about it". The manager "hasn't heard from him". He shows up two days late and everyone promptly forgets about it until next year because no one really cares.

(b) The Grizzled Veteran. Some over the hill retread will have been invited to camp. He "brings a lot of experience" and "he's a great example for the kids". He'll hit well for a couple of weeks, then fade, and won't make the opening day roster. (When cut, he'll whine that he "wasn't given a fair shot" because he "knows he can still contribute", but that story doesn't have to be 'written' until late March.)

(c)(1) The Guy Who's With A New Team. Maybe he was traded, maybe he signed elsewhere. But some reporter will visit him at the new team's site and ask deep questions like "Do you talk with your former teammates?" The player will likely have no hard feelings and will be excited about the upcoming season.

(c)(2) The New Guy. See above. But this time he's being interviewed by his new hometown newspaper.

(d) The Old Coach. Every team has an old guy hanging around. He's likely spitting sunflower seeds. He'll talk about how it was back when he first reported to spring training 50 years ago.

(e) The Guy Who's In Great Shape. Every year someone will have really worked hard in the offseason (i.e. it's a contract year). He's probably hired a new personal trainer and had lots of vegetables.

Monday, February 23, 2004

At the moment, the official White House energy policy seems to be "Burn Oil" or, perhaps, "Burn Oil And Ignore All Consequences".

I see two main problems with our lack of energy policy, both of which end up hurting US security. First, global warming. Second, burning oil ends up enriching many people who are not our friends.
Second things first. We don't have any choice in the matter, of course, because two thirds of the proven oil reserves out there are in Saudi Arabia, Iraq (which may well turn out to have more oil than even the Saudis), the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Iran (followed by Venezuela, Russia, and Libya, so it's not like there are other friendlies out there either). As we constitute of 25% of the world's oil consumption, we are in fact subsidizing the governments of these countries. (Do Russia and Venezuela count as democracies? Moreso than the others, I guess...) None of these countries are friendly to us. Although some members of the House of Saud like us, the evidence seems pretty clear that many more of them don't. We would be well off, as a matter of national security, to try to cut our oil consumption and stop sending money to the tyrants running these countries.

Global warming is an entirely different problem, but similar in that the danger lies in the future, maybe ten or twenty years. Even if the White House insists on sticking its head in the sand, the scientific evidence in favor of the greenhouse effect is overwhelming. This isn't a problem for the earth, because over time the climate has changed sporadically. The earth will be fine. It's a problem because humans have invented property rights and boundaries. I think the key to the danger is that the US is endangered by instability. Unstable countries can become what was Afganistan, i.e. breeding grounds and training camps for those who don't like us. So to pick an obvious example, if Bangladesh floods more frequently due to increased sea levels, or if Pakistan produces less food because it's even drier, these countries are apt to become less stable.
I actually don't think the effects of global warming on the US directly will be so bad. I mean, if North Carolina's outer banks disappear or the Great Plains revert to arid semi-desert, the US would suffer, but we'd get by (Scot, sorry about Kansas). But the risk to our national security from other countries is really dangerous.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Well now it appears that we're going to be selective about which laws we let the Iraqis pass. This is (yet another) problem with the war.

I opposed the war not because it was bad, but because it would be extraordinarily difficult to win the peace. And if we don't win the peace, we haven't won the war. I figured the Kurds would eventually declare independence and that Sunnis and Shiites wouldn't be able to get along. The first is the more dangerous prospect. If the Kurds declare Kurdistan, I see a high likelihood that Turkey would invade. What would we do then? Surely we wouldn't shoot at (fellow NATO member) Turks, would we? But would we stand aside while the Turks shot the Kurds? That wouldn't be particularly palatable either. There would also be the chance that Iran would invade (both Turkey and Iran suppress their Kurdish populations, and the last thing either one wants is an independent Kurdistan). This wouldn't be good either, but presumable in the Manichean worldview of Rummy and Wolfowitz, our response would be to simply start shooting Iranians. The decision making process would be far easier than deciding what to do about a hypothetical Turkish invation. Not that it's a better plan, but it's at least a simpler decision.

Thankfully, it hasn't happened. Yet. It may be worse than I thought--I didn't know about the Turkmen, but they seem rather well armed and vigorously opposed to Kurdistan. I suppose they'd support Turkey? And what of the other various minorities in the area, and the remaining arabs? I'm confident they'd be shooting at someone, but I don't know enough to predict their targets.

But anyway, the news that Bremer is set to decide which laws to sign into being points to another whole problem. It's very well and good to talk about setting up a democratic government. But what if the the people of Iraq democratically elect a stinker? This could take many forms. If they look to impose Sharia law, it'd be bad for women. What if the democratically elected government of Iraq declares holy war on Israel? Iran? Kuwait? The problem with a legitimate Iraqi government is that we can't control it. Politically, I don't think W wants to let the Iraqis make their own decisions just yet. I predict that the turnover of power won't happen until after the presidential election.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

ARod to the Yankees.

I invented and used several new expletives when I read that this deal may happen. If it does go though, I'll go into detail about my thoughts about revenue sharing in baseball and a salary cap (summarized: "more" and "no", respectively).

It does makes one wonder whether the Yankees have any fiscal limitations at all, though. I was under the impression that their revenues were somewhere in the $250 million range. This deal sounds like it'd put them close enough to a $200 million team salary that they'll go over it with their inevitable expensive midseason pickup.

From a baseball perspective, it'd suddenly give them the best hitting third baseman in baseball. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a better left half of the infield in baseball history. But Soriano's awesome. Interestingly, their careers are pretty parallel. Each had short appearances in the Show for their first two years and then caught on full time in the third. So one can compare Soriano's third season with ARod's. The only knock on Soriano is his batting eye, but his walks are trending upward. He had 38 last year while at this point in his career ARod had 45. Soriano had 130 k's, ARod 121. ARod had 42 dingers (in an old bandbox stadium in Seattle), Soriano had 39. At the same time, with the power numbers for Jeter, Giambi (though both were hurt last year), Williams (it's not possible not to love Bernie Williams, though) trending lower, they may ARod would ensure they remained offensively dominant. But it wouldn't help the offense that much, because of the Soriano loss. They say that the may have to include Contreras as well. That would be a loss, because I think he's going to have a terrific year now that he's settled.

Sidenote: it's amazing, but Soriano's only two years younger than ARod. If it seems like ARod's been around forever, he has. He first came up in 1994!

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I wonder how this BALCO controversy will affect Barry Bonds. (BALCO was the outfit that provided Bonds with his 'nutritional supplements' these last few years--its leaders have just been indicted along with Bonds' personal trainer.)

On the one hand, he's an extremely smart hitter, very selective at the plate, etc. etc. At the same time, he's enormously strong, and a much bigger guy than when he was a young player with the Pirates. (Look at the old pictures, it's like a different person.) I can't imagine that the inevitable circus atmosphere will distract him much--last year he managed to play through his father's painful death from cancer, and compared with that, I doubt an investigation into one's personal trainer would be a distraction. So mentally I think he'll be fine.
Physically, though, I wonder how his body will respond now that his supply of steroids, oops I mean nutritional supplements or human growth hormone or whatever he calls it, has been cut off. Maybe he's got somebody else providing him with the juice and it won't make any difference. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's a little tougher for him to fist balls over the right field fence or if his body breaks down a little more frequently this season. If the intimidation factor starts to slip, he may not be able to be as selective at the plate... I predict 35-40 dingers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

What to do with Saddam Hussein?

Seems to me that the last thing the White House wants is an actual fair trial, at least a trial by western standards. If I was his lawyer and I could call witnesses, I'd start by calling Rummy and George H. W. Bush to the stand. I would establish that the US was well aware of the atrocities he committed in the 1970s and 1980s. As his lawyer, I'd attack the court's definition of crimes against the Iraqi people. Can they be crimes if the US was so willing to support him? Of course, it doesn't change his guilt, but it sure makes us look bad. Perhaps the only person less eager than the White House to see this result would be Jacques Chirac, who was always willing--eager!--to sell nuclear reactors to his old buddy Hussein. So we don't want a trial, but our most vocal opponents on the world stage don't want one either.

War crimes are an interesting topic generally. I recently read an account of the Nuremberg trials and I hope to see the MacNamera movie where he basically states that the US would have been guilty of war crimes had the Japanese won, based on our fire bombing of Tokyo. Churchill was opposed to the idea of the Nuremberg trials. He advocated just lining the Nazis up and shooting them. Justice would be served either way, but he was leery of calling it a trial when it was, in reality, a trial by the victors. (Any trial involving crimes against humanity where the Soviets were the prosecutors must be somewhat farcical anyway...) I'm not prepared to say that Churchill was wrong. At a gut level, his logic has appeal.

It sounds like the Iraqis aren't really interested in having a trial either. Assuming he leaves US custody alive, he'll be dead in weeks, if not days. Churchill would presumably approve.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

So OPEC is cutting production 10%. I seem to recall that Iraq was permitted to rejoin OPEC. I wonder how much say Paul Bremer has over what Iraq's representative says at OPEC meetings. Realistically, should the United States not be a member of OPEC, at least until we hand over the government of Iraq to Ahmad Chalabi, oops, I mean a democratically elected government? I'm serious here. We're running the country, and it seems like we play an especially prominant role in Iraq's oil business.

Now, a cynic might notice that this administration is extremely close ties to the oil industry, and the oil industry makes more money as prices rise, so perhaps the US has a seat at OPEC after all...

Sidenote: what does Chalabi have on Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz? Aside from the fact that he's "our guy", why are we frantically supporting him again? Oh,wait, I guess we don't need any other reason that that...

Personal sidenote: my first-cousin-once-removed (Dad's first cousin) went to school with Paul Bremer.

Monday, February 09, 2004

At the start were the Valor. But this is not their story.

I'm unemployed and, therefore, have plenty of time on my hands. Might as well spread my blather to the whole world, on the absurd assumption that the world cares what I have to say.

Stay tuned for tirades against the Yankees, W, California drivers, Ohio State, and soup.