Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I hate to do it, but I have to go with the Yankees, at least to win the AL East. If he can be healthy, Randy Johnson will go about 24-3.

I do hope the Sox can make the wild card again. I'll go with Oakland in the West and Minnesota in the Central.

In the NL, I'll go with Atlanta (come on, 14 consecutive years, they know what they're doing) in the East, St. Louis in the Central, and the Giants in the West. I think Bonds is going to come back in June and be rested all year. The wild card is tough, maybe the Dodgers? Maybe the Marlins? I'll go with the Fish.

Anything can happen in the playoffs, so it's silly to pick winners of those series. But I'd sure be happy with a rematch of last year's World Series.

I think Pedro's going to have a fantastic year for the Mets (though he'll be mediocre by the end of his contract) and I'll pick him for the Cy Young. Johnson in the AL. I know, a cop out, but he should have won it last year, even going 16-14....

Thursday, March 24, 2005 the Boston Globe:

Sidney "The Contender" Ponson

This makes me laugh.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It looks like Barry Bonds does, in fact, want to be liked. He put up a wall for as long as he could, but unknown to all of us it was affecting him. I bet he'll be back by June. The G-Men better hope he isn't out much longer--I'm starting to think the rest of the team is actually pretty good this year.

Advice for Bonds: don't be so distant. San Francisco wants to love you. The world is not out to get you, and you don't make friends in the media by pretending it is.

The US Attorney's office may be a different story. It looks to me like they're trying to get him for perjury. Why else would they bring his old mistress in? They want to go after him for the same reason they went after Martha Stewart, and Bernie Ebbers, and Frank Quattrone. They want to nail the big cheese.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I just read a thing about how the Cardinals of the 1930s-1940s were like the A's of today.

Since this was before free agency, teams would sell their players to other teams. The Cardinals would consistently sell their most valuable players to other teams, but always stay competitive.

Their method, developed by Branch Rickey (before he went on the Brooklyn) was to have three farm systems. Three AAA clubs, three AA clubs, etc. That way, they had an enormous pipeline of young, talented, hungry, CHEAP players. This was at a time when some clubs wouldn't ever have their own farm teams--they would just buy players from independent minor league teams. Pretty clever. I wonder why no one does it now. Maybe it isn't allowed?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Since Mark McGuire has essentially admitted using steroids, I wonder what this means for his chances at the Hall of Fame. Surely he was a shoe-in before all this, but what about now? I think he'll make it eventually, but not on the first ballot.

I also think he should fire his lawyer immediately. He should admit that he used steroids while crying, say it was a big mistake, say he was young, apologize (especially for the kids, sniff sniff) and point out that it was all legal at the time. Perhaps he should mention Jesus. We forgive people who admit they were wrong. But not people who weasel around behind lawyer-talk.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

I was amused by this article in the Chronicle, mentioning the popularity of American consumer goods in Iran, despite the official ban on US companies doing business there.

What's funny is that Adidas is prominantly mentioned, as evidence of the popularity of American products. Perhaps someone should inform the Chronicle that Adidas is a German company....

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Well, the players have got themselves subpoenaed. If I can predict it, it can't be too surprising.

Why did they not see this coming? They're not dumb. I think it's a combination of arrogence (to a degree that the rest of us nonprofessional athletes can't possibly understand) and being way out of touch. Way out of touch.

Note: the one player who looks good in all this is Frank Thomas, who notably said from the beginning that he'd be happy to testify. My respect for him has grown considerably.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I'm reading a fascinating book about the peace conference at the end of World War One called Paris 1919. For a few months, the victors were in Paris: US, UK, France, Italy (until they left in a snit), Japan (when they were listened to), and other little ones. They also had delegations from everyone. Serbs, Zionists, Prince Faisal. Even Ho Chi Minh, who happened to be living in Paris, tried to bring their attention to Vietnam (he was ignored). They had a lot to do, and it's amazing how many things that crossed their collective desks were decided incorrectly. Most conflicts of the last 85 years have their origins at this conference.

World War Two (Europe)--the peace terms imposed on Germany were too harsh

World War Two (Asia)--they managed to turn BOTH China and Japan away from being liberal democracies, so China moved to the left, Japan moved to the right, and their territorial differences were not solved at all

Greece-Turkey (1920s)-Yep.

Balkans (1980s, 1990s)-Yugoslavia came into being on its own in 1918 but was endorsed here; even in 1919 the Serbs were arrogent, overbearing jerks

Middle East (1920s-present)--they invented the following countries: Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Israel (effectively), Lebanon. One could argue they did a poor job with every single one of them. They tried to control Egypt and Saudi Arabia also, but events on the ground moved too fast for them. As bad as they screwed up Europe and Asia, this may be their most lasting mistake. After all, most of Yugoslavia is peaceful these days (and plotting to take over the NBA), and that's the only mistake left in Europe. They can't be blamed for ongoing unrest in Asia. But the entire shape of the Middle East was created at this conference (except for Iran, which wasn't their fault). And they did a poor, poor job of it. Iraq, for example, should not exist. It should be three countries. And yet it might still.

That's another interesting feature of what happened. Many of their mistakes were unmade later, but at the cost of millions of lives. Except Czechoslovakia, which was invented here but had the good sense to split peacefully.

All this aside, did they do a bad job? That's sort of another way of asking if anyone else could have done any better. They had a lot of problems. To take perhaps the most obvious example, no one had any idea what was going on in Russia because it was, inconveniently, in the midst of the Bolshevik Revolution. So they were trying to do things like draw boundaries for Poland and Turkey without Russia's input and without knowing whether any government in Russia even existed.

If, like me, you believe that to understand the present one must understand the past, this book is essential reading. I've learned an amazing amount from it and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I'm rather entertained by major league baseball players 'deciding' whether to testify before Congress.

Some good quotes:

Schilling: "It depends on what it's for."
Giambi: "I have no idea what they're trying to do. I'm just trying to play baseball."
Palmeiro: "March 17 is my wife's birthday. That should tell you right there what my answer is."
Sosa: "I don't know about that. I'll have to call my agent."

Uhhhh, guys. This isn't the local sportswriter. Their entire lives they've been accustomed to talking when they want, and not talking when they don't want to. They can tell half-truths, and evade or ignore the question whenever they want to. But this game is not being played on their terms. Sportswriters don't have the power of the subpoena.

You can't just "decide" whether to testify if Congress wants you. If they're stupid enough not to attend, I fully expect them to receive subpoenas, and then they won't have any choice. Steroids are a great issue for members of Congress. It's high visibility, so they'll get their names in the press. There is no lobby out there fighting for steroids, so they're not going to antagonize anybody. It's bipartisan. It plays great in the heartland. Everybody understands it. There are plenty of opportunities for practiced one-liners that might get picked up in USA Today. And the baseball players aren't going to do themselves any favors by hemming and hawing. Personally, this is the rare time that I think Congress is on the right track. Make those guys raise their right hands and get the truth out there!

What they should do, of course, it just come clean. Apologize, maybe tear up a little, and swear a solemn oath to the American People that they'll never do it again. Perhaps mention The Lord, and how much He means to them (connection to steroids: uncertain, but the American people love mentions of The Lord). This story would be old news quickly. But if they fight it, it's just going to drag on and on. There will be editorials in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Talking heads will cover the whole thing on Court TV. There will be Commissions, and much discussion about Baseball History and the Sacred nature of the game. And there will be discussion of The Children.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Interesting case in the Supreme Court today about whether the government can display the Ten Commandments without violating the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...")

Proponents of putting the Ten Commandments up must argue that they're not religious, because if they were, the government would be endorsing religion. Of course, it's blindingly obvious that they're religious (see, e.g. "I am the Lord thy God..." and "Thou shalt have no other gods before me.") If they weren't religious, no one would be fighting so hard to keep them up.

It's impossible to deny with a straight face that organizations have put them up because they come from the Bible. If they want to put up some secular monument honoring the development of law or something, switch the Ten Commandments with the Bill of Rights! Easy solution! It's even ten and ten!

But no one is putting up 2.6 ton stone monuments carved with the Bill of Rights.

To me, this is an easy case. The government can't put up the Ten Commandments. Yes, they are partially (but not entirely) carved on the Supreme Court's building, but that carving also includes Confucius, Solon, Hammurabi, Napoleon, and various other law givers. But if it's only the Ten Commandments, it's unconstitutional.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Interesting, I think, the parallels between the uprisings in Lebanon and Ukraine. Ukraine went down this road a few months ago, and it would be good if Lebanon would follow.

Both cases feature a smaller, weaker country dominated by Big Brother (Russia, Syria). In both cases, Big Brother feels entitled to interfere in the internal politics of the Little Brother. In both cases, Big Brother tried something stupid, but didn't get away with it (poisening their unfavored presidential candidate, assassinating their unfavored ex-Prime Minister). In both countries, there have been big popular uprisings that were nominally illegal. Just today I read that the Lebanese security forces aren't doing much to stop the demonstraters, just like what happened in the Ukraine.

One can only hope that the resolution in Lebanon is as peaceful as it was in Kiev.....