Archive for July, 2008

Boston Bags Bay in Blockbuster

July 31, 2008

My apologies for the alliterative title, but I couldn’t help myself.  The Boston Red Sox successfully divested themselves of infuriating left fielder Manny Ramirez, though the widely rumored outlet of the Florida Marlins fell through, apparently because dance parter Pittsburgh did not like the prospects the Marlins offered.  So instead, Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers get the oftentimes productive, and occassionaly aggravating, slugger.  The Red Sox get Pirates left fielder Jason Bay to fill the void in front of the Monster.

This trade appears to work for all 3 parties.  Obviously, Manny should improve the Dodgers offense considerably.  For all of his “Manny being Manny” moments he is still a top-notch slugger, a player whose defense can be surprisingly very good when his brain is engaged (and when its not he’s still a great slugger), and a proven clutch player.  He should serve as a shot in the arm in a division that is up for grabs due to mediocrity all around.  The Red Sox get a player in Bay that is offensively only one notch below Manny in terms of stats, less reliable power but the RBI numbers should spike being on such a good team.  He is also younger, a lot cheaper (and locked for 2009), and figures to be the complete and total opposite of Manny when it comes to personality.  Put more bluntly, he won’t be the pain in the ass Manny was.

As for the Pirates, we rebuild again.  But it looks like a good long term move, as Neil Huntington gets a lot more than the Bobby Hill that Dave Littlefield would’ve settled for.  Adam LaRoche’s brother comes over from the Dodgers as a 3rd baseman with good numbers in the high minors.  The handwriting might be on the wall for Jose Bautista.  The Dodgers also donated Bryan Morris, a righthanded pitcher with promising stats in A ball this season.  Obviously he won’t factor in Pittsburgh right away, but he hopefully develops.  From the Red Sox they get outfielder Brandon Moss and pitcher Craig Hansen.  Hansen has big league experience and Moss has solid, albeit not spectacular, numbers this season for AAA Pawtucket.  Obviously with prospects you just never know.  Maybe the Pirates hit the lottery.  Maybe they got taken to the cleaners.  Time will tell.  In the meantime Nate McLouth suddenly became the anchor of the outfield, which is to say some new guys will get to audition the next two months.  The rest of this season could be ugly, as you have to figure a major hit to the Pirates productivity offensively, but this trade and the Xavier Nady last Friday were with an eye towards 2010 and 2011.  Time to start over again.


Raising Kaine?

July 30, 2008

To the Vice Presidency?  Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is by all appearances on the Obama short-short list.  Interesting analysis on several fronts from Dr. Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia:

McCain Slickens Water in Gas Price Debate

July 29, 2008

John McCain has been running an ad the past couple weeks in the Pittsburgh market (and presumably elsewhere) that starts by showing a lone gas pump, a voice-over says that prices are high because Congress has refused to open up more land to drilling, and then asks “who should we thank”, at which point the image shifts to a picture of Barack Obama and a crowd chanting “O-bam-a!  O-bam-a”

Nice ad.  Completely without factual basis, but nice.  Tends to ignore that drilling is a 10 years down the road solution.  So if today’s gas prices are because we don’t drill enough, it is because we didn’t drill enough 10 years ago.  Barack Obama was nowhere near being in Congress 10 years ago.  John McCain, on the other hand, was part of a Republican majority in both houses of Congress 10 years ago.  I don’t recall him lobbying for more drilling back then.

Veepstakes Predictions

July 28, 2008

I should preface this column by advising my readers that I suck at predictions.  I have, for example on numerous  the past several years proclaimed that given year to be the year the Detroit Lions won’t suck.  With that having been said, I offer my best guesses on who Obama and McCain will be sharing campaign signs with this fall:

Your Democratic Vice Presidential nominee will be — Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.  He bolsters Obama’s two areas of most obvious opportunity, experience and foreign policy.  Though sometimes panned as being D-MBNA (he does represent Delaware after all) which could hurt with the credit crises and high rates of personal bankruptcy in the country he is the frankly rare Democrat whose foreign policy bona fides are not questioned.  He also will not shrink from a fight, which is what you want from your Veep candidate (in other words, you want the anti-Jack Kemp), especially given that McCain’s campaign strategy seems to be to throw every negative attack strand of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.  The Obama campaign will need to make sure it fights back against scurrilous charges, and Biden should be perfect for that.  Assuming Biden has no skeletons in the closet (the Obama camp, being the apparent at least to an extent front runner not needing to be too bold), I think he makes a solid fit.

I also think Ohio Governor Ted Strickland would be a great pick, for reasons other than Biden, but the Obama camp does not seem to be leaning that way.  But Strickland might help put Ohio over the top, which would quite likely give Obama the White House, and generally speaking Strickland, being a minister and a proponent of gun rights, could help placate some of those “bitter” voters in the rustbelt.

As for your Republican Vice Presidential nominee — Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusettes.  This is a build the base pick, as Romney placates monied interests vital to the Republican party that are not sanguine about the maverick McCain.  And while religious conservatives were at first leery of jumping in bed with the Mormon, they seemed to warm to him during the primaries, especially after the quixotic Sam Brownback campaign ended.  Some also suggest that Romney would help McCain try to win Michigan, though I am not convinced of that.

A month ago I would’ve picked Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota.  But that was mostly geopolitical considerations, and I’m not sure Minnesota would be in play even with Pawlenty.  Another possibility is Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, but he’s just too much younger than McCain.  He doesn’t balance the ticket, he reinforces the grandfather image.  Some have suggested former Ohio Congressman Rob Portman, but I don’t see that either.  He would also serve to placate the monied interests, but so does someone (Romney) that people outside one Cincinnati Congressional District and policy wonks have actually heard of.

Ready for Capital One Bowl Week?

July 27, 2008

Never too early to think football.  You can find the ESPN/ABC portion of the 2008-9 bowl schedule at the below link:

A lot of games the Saturday before Christmas front-loading the schedule.  And the Liberty Bowl has been pulled out to after New Year’s Day.  I assume timed to lead into a BCS game on Fox that night.  Its the most wonderful week of the year.

Kill Two Birds With One Stone

July 27, 2008

I think I know how to settle our two biggest sports headache storylines of the moment.  The Green Bay Packers should trade Brett Favre to the Boston Red Sox for Manny Ramirez.  Favre’s strong arm should make it simple to gun down baserunners from left field.  Not sure what Manny could do for the Packers, but he would at least be there for Joe Buck to excoriate some more.  And we won’t have to hear about either of them as much anymore.

Debacle at the Brickyard

July 27, 2008

The #48 car of Jimmie Johnson cruised onto Victory Lane after crossing the brick finish line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this afternoon to claim the Brickyard 400.  But the story of the day was the deplorable situation with the racing tires that simply could not withstand the rough surface.  Especially the right rear tires became completely worn out after a mere 12-15 laps.  This forced NASCAR to mar the race with numerous competition cautions so the cars could come onto pit road for new tires en masse and go back out to race a few more laps.  I realize that the Indy Speedway was designed for open wheel racing, and not stock cars, but NASCAR has been using this track for over a decade now, and converting to “the car of tomorrow” should not have made that radical a difference.  I don’t know if fault lies with the roughness of the pavement or the engineers at Goodyear, but today’s product was unacceptable.  Sprint Cup races are often won in the pits, but not solely by the guys wielding air guns for the lug nuts.  A complete race is decided by fuel strategy, tire strategy, and pitting at the correct times along with pit crew speed.  Also its nice to see stretches of more than a dozen laps of green flag racing so the drivers with good cars can better differentiate themselves.  Take nothing away from Jimmie Johnson’s win; he and his crew made the best of a bad situation, but today’s race is not what auto racing is all about, and it simply should never happen.

Congressman Wilson Letter on AHRFPA Passage

July 26, 2008

Below is a letter in my inbox from Congressman Charlie Wilson (D-OH6)

Dear Friends, 

This week I voted for the most comprehensive response yet to the American mortgage crisis. The American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act will help families keep their homes; aid local communities hit hard by the foreclosure crisis and strengthen the economy and financial markets. The bill was passed in the House by a vote of 272-152, the Senate is likely to take it up this weekend and the President has said he’ll sign it.

Unfortunately the mortgage crisis has hit Ohio really hard. I’m pleased that this comprehensive bill includes language that I helped to draft early last year that clearly outlines unacceptable practices when it comes to influencing house appraisals. Unfair house appraisals have led to some families actually owing more than what their house is worth. That’s bad for working families, for communities and for our economy. This legislation will also require civil penalties for improperly influencing house appraisals.

In addition, the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act will allow hard-working American families in danger of losing their home to refinance into lower-cost government -insured mortgages they can afford to repay – at no cost to the American taxpayer. The legislation also:

– expands homeownership opportunities for veterans and helps returning soldiers avoid foreclosure and stay in their home;
– provides tax breaks to spur home buying;
– creates a new fund to boost the nation’s stock of affordable rental housing in both rural and urban areas for low and very low-income individuals and families; and
– strengthens neighborhoods hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis by providing $4 billion to allow cities and states to buy up and rehabilitate foreclosed properties that are currently driving down home prices, reducing state and local revenues, and destabilizing neighborhoods.

I’m particularly pleased that this major piece of legislation will also allow communities to use some of that money to demolish blighted properties, if they need to. If foreclosed properties are so far gone that they can’t be rehabilitated, neighborhoods need to have the option to get rid of the problem. I fought hard for communities to have this option, and I’m proud that it’s included.

The legislation passed this week also includes provisions that will help restore confidence in financial markets and shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bill provides the Department of the Treasury with emergency and temporary financing authority for these two government sponsored enterprises. Fannie and Freddie are important institutions that hold or guarantee nearly half of all mortgages in the United States.

Charlie Wilson
Member of Congress
Ohio’s Sixth District


Is It Too Early to Think Electoral College Math?

July 26, 2008

Probably, but what the hell:

Giving the map a quick glance, a few things stand out to me:

1) The Dakotas appear to be in play.  There is a strong libertarian streak to the Upper Plains and Rockies area.  Another era in history it was called rugged individualism.  Should create strong Republicanism, but the Bush Administration has not always been about the small government it professes to be.  Which is why Montana is currently in the Obama column, and to a lesser extent explains Colorado as well (the urbanization of metro Denver is also a factor).

2) Though not by massive numbers, Pennsylvania and Michigan are both shaded blue.  McCain does not have to win either state, but he at least needs Obama to have to sweat them to the end and spend craploads of resources holding serve.

3) Virginia is a tossup and the Carolinas, Georgia, and Arkansas only favor McCain by single digits.  This is very troubling for McCain.  He needs a Solid South.

4) Perhaps better news for McCain is Florida, Ohio, and Missouri.  All toss-ups that McCain shows fractional leads in.  Electoral evidence points to Florida trending Republican, so this being close might not be great news.  But Ohio and Missouri are traditional bellweathers that practically always go to the winner.  It is hard to wrap my brain around the concept of the Democrat doing better in Montana than Ohio, but that’s where the numbers are.  Ohio could be a good example of a state that breaks Obama in the end if the older working and middle class white women that were behind Hillary and have misgivings about Obama get over said misgivings.  Then again, if they don’t . . .

5) Why the heck is McCain’s strongest lead Tennessee?  That has to be an outlier poll.  I certainly believe the Volunteer State to be McCain country, but by stronger numbers even than Utah??

6) Another very strong state for McCain is West Virginia.  That is no accident.  Democrats have lost the Mountain State for at least a generation I fear.  Overwhelmingly white, religious, gun owning, and strict environmentalism hurts its chief industry, so pocketbook issues aren’t even a slam dunk for Democrats here.  Democrats better hope the Republican politicians in the state don’t grow a deeper bench of talent before the theoretical points in time that Byrd and Rockefeller retire from the Senate (or die in office).

7) Alaska is only +7 for McCain.  That state doesn’t get to see the candidates personally very often, for obvious reasons.  If he has the resources to spare Obama can try an ad campaign blitz up there and see what happens.  The rugged individualism thing again.  I would have to assume oil drilling vis a vis conservation is a big issue up there.

8) Overall this map leads me towards what I was thinking all along; excepting of course a major scandal or other landscape altering event, the range of result for this election is between a close McCain win and a comfortable (350-185) Obama win.

Tribe Sends Blake To Chavez Ravine

July 26, 2008

Indians made a modest move today, sending glue guy Casey Blake to the LA Dodgers for two prospects.  It makes sense for the Indians to clear space to see for sure what they have in Andy Marte and make sure they are getting plenty of outfield playing time for the likes of Franklin Gutierrez and Ben Francisco.  They got a good young catching prospect with an eye to a few years down the road when Victor Martinez almost certainly won’t be crouching behind a plate anymore, and a pitching prospect.

As for the Dodgers, I doubt Casey Blake massively re-orients their season.  But he is a useful guy to have on a contending team.  A solid hitter, his greatest value is in position flexibility.  He can play either corner infield or corner outfield location and field it with aplomb.  Even if they don’t have an everyday location to park him (and I frankly don’t know the Dodgers well enough to speak intelligently there) he can play several times a week spot relieving regulars, plus pinch hit.  He covers two roster spots in one person.