A Walk on the Wild Side
The New York Times has more on this odd couple, who may be making trips to DC to see Benson pitch against our Nats.
The New York Times has more on this odd couple, who may be making trips to DC to see Benson pitch against our Nats.
Marginal Revolution is a blog you should be reading. Here they explain the "broken windows fallacy" theory for publicly financed stadiums. The theory is rather simple, so don't fret those of you who are not economically inclined.
The claim that sports teams and new stadiums are good for the economy is a classic case of the “broken window fallacy” of Bastiat. The benefits are seen—the jobs building the stadium, the fans who spend money at the restaurants near the stadium. Unseen are the jobs lost elsewhere and the restaurants on the other side of town that lose business. Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist found that the net benefit of public stadiums is basically zero—there’s no stimulus to the local economy worth talking about.
Paul Krugman thinks Alan Greenspan is "just another partisan hack", as Josh's latest post indicated. Josh responded by calling Krugman "shrill and uninformative", sentiments that are shared by your humble narrator here.
Don't get used to this folks, but in an effort to be "fair and balanced", here is an interesting article by mainstream and respected economist Stephen Roach detailing the legacy of Chairman Greespan's tenure of head of the Federal Reserve. It heaps a lot of praise on the Chairman, but includes lots of criticism as well, including an indictment of Greenspan for his contribution to the stock market bubble bursting of the late 90s:
In only one of Greenspan’s 17 years at the Fed (1990) did inflation move above 5 percent; in 11 of those years, inflation was 3 percent or lower. But there were serious complications along the way, not least of all a dangerous flirtation with outright deflation, or an overall decline in the price level, in early 2003. This problem resulted from Greenspan’s biggest gamble—a willingness to push U.S. interest rates to extremely low levels during a period of rapid economic growth. The move gave rise to the destabilizing stock market bubble of the late 1990s, a speculative excess unseen in the United States since the roaring 1920s. The bursting of that bubble in early 2000 transformed an orderly disinflation (i.e., when inflation merely decelerates) into a close call with actual deflation.
The New York Times refuses to run letters to the editor that criticize journalists -- or the paper itself -- by name, according to its in-house ombudsman, Daniel Okrent. Here's the money graf:
The letters department receives 1,000 messages every day, and publishes 15. Beyond that, many of the paper's readers find certain practices and policies regarding letters either dumbfounding or objectionable. Chief among these is the paper's general hesitance to publish letters that make accusations against The Times, criticize writers or editors, or otherwise call into question the newspaper's fairness, news judgment or professional practices.
As letters editor Thomas Feyer points out, The Times does occasionally print correspondence of this sort. But he also notes his unwillingness to publish criticisms of individual writers, and a reluctance to publish letters that suggest bias. "Such letters," he says, "seem to impute motives to reporters or to The Times that the letter writers have no way to know."
The Post is stocked with baseball news today, including:
-- Boz goes wild over catcher Brian Schneider, predicting that he "appears ready to break out into full stardom" in 2005
-- Livan Hernandez, as upbeat and bubbly as ever, sees the Nats fighting for first place this year, but it all depends on the pitching. A bit optimistic, but I agree with the pitching being crucial for the Nats.
-- In a story about the two-headed management ship up I-95, the Post speculates that Red Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes, one of those Moneyball GMs, could be in line to replace Flanagan/Beattie in 2006. Byrnes is a DC native, so he'd figure to be a good successor for Trader Jim next season as well, particularly with a local owner.
In light of the Nationals upcoming need for a stadium (which will be paid for in large part by local taxpayers), here's an interesting interview from Business Week with a Denver resident on the effect that Coors Field had on the local economy:
Q: Speaking as an entrepreneur, why do you think small businesses would want to set up near a downtown stadium?
A: The stadium becomes a big plus, a marketing vehicle. It brings all these people down there one or two times. But if they don't like the neighborhood, they're not going to come back, stadium or no stadium. In 1995, the first year that Coors Field opened, it sold out every game. Eighty-one dates sold out, with 50,000 people coming down there to every game. The Wynkoop's sales went up 50%. I went from being successful to affluent in the space of six months. What was amazing was that when baseball season ended in October, our sales stayed up through November, December, and January. All the people that came down and hadn't come downtown in a decade suddenly liked what they saw and said, "God, this is a cool neighborhood, this is a neat restaurant, and there are some other neat restaurants here." The stadium can be a catalyst -- but it can only do so much. You just can't stick it anywhere and suddenly expect a bunch of retail to thrive.
It's official - Livan Hernandez will throw out the first pitch in the new era of Washington Nationals baseball.
As for the rest of the rotation, ESPN's Depth Chart is indicating that Esteban Loaiza will be the #2 guy, followed by Tony Armas, Tomo Ohka, and Zach Day. My fearless prediction: Look for Loaiza to get dumped to the bullpen by mid-year in favor of Jon Rauch. Rauch still has plenty of gas on his fastball, and one can argue that the reason his career hasn't reached its fruition is due almost entirely to injuries. Given a full season, Rauch could develop into a solid three starter.
The Nats aren't going to be world beaters by any stretch of the imagination this year, but they could surprise some people. Unfortunately, they play in the very deep NL East division. However, the Mets are a routinely overrated team and could very possibly be the NL East's cellar dwellar, with the Nats finishing 4th.
Or perhaps George Steinbrenner will disregard league rules and sign every single active roster player in baseball, thereby declaring victory for the Yankees, and relegating every other team to a tie for 2nd place. Hey, it's not like I'm the first one to ever suggest such a possibility.
Jim Caple says it best:
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week ... whether your ankle is fully healed or not.
I'm dismayed to see the Powerline, a blog that I regularly read and enjoy, go so far over the top in nearly declaring former president Jimmy Carter a traitor in today's post.
I'm no expert on the historiography surrounding Carter's freelance diplomacy, but I can tell you that I would never cite NewsMax as a source to make such a damning charge. I'm also pretty skeptical that Carter would seriously undermine the United States by collaborating with the Soviets, circa 1984 -- despite his misguided policy proposals. Hindrocket is already backtracking from his original quote, blegging for more information to back up his originally weak assertion that Carter's behavior was close to treasonous.
And I'm no softie on Jimmy Carter. I think he was the worst president since Warren Harding. (In fact, the two presidents have a lot in common. Perhaps more on that later.) He makes ridiculous statements, and has fawned over dictatorial regimes since leaving the presidency. Nearly every comment he's made on foreign policy recently is pretty absurd, whether it's about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute or Fidel Castro. He clearly was a disaster as president, and apparently not a good poet, either.
But just because he's on the left wing doesn't mean he's on the other side and his actions don't approximate Lynne Stewart/Johnny Lindh-type treason. The Powerline guys -- all well-educated, indeed -- should know that citing NewsMax to prove a serious point -- wouldn't pass muster anywhere, in the classroom or the newsroom.
The latest columnist to diss our Nats is one Buster Olney, who sees the Nationals as the bottom-feeders for the other four NL East teams to dominate. Buster's got a reputation of getting a lot of things wrong but if he's reading, I'd bet him a few Foggy Bottom ales that the Nats won't be the cellar dwellars.
Anyways, here's the first base roundup in the NL East:
One first baseman refused to return a World Series winning historic baseball. Another one went under the radar, despite nearly slugging .500 in his rookie season. One traveled thousands of miles south to make big bucks in the warm confines of Miami. There's the dean of the first basemen, who has mashed at least 40 HRs since 2001. And our own Nick Johnson tries to get off the injury schnide and live up to his potential.
Here are the rankings:
1. Jim Thome, Philadelphia Phillies (2004 line: .274./.396/.581)
He's so damn good, consistent but doesn't get as much attention as he did when playing for the playoff Cleveland Indians in the 1990s. He has a career .569 slugging average. The man can hit.
First-basemen don't age as quickly as players in more skill positions, and at 34, Thome will be a force to be reckoned with in 2005.
2. Carlos Delgado, Florida Marlins (2004: .289/.372/.535)
Last season was the worst seasons for Delgado since 1997, and he still outhit most of the junior circuit. Now he's in the National League and is hoping to merit the $52 million contract the Fish dished out. (Small market? I don't think so.)
The Marlins had minimal production from the first base slot last year, going with the underrated Hee Sop-Choi and then, after his trade, locked Jeff Conine into the position. Needless to say, Delgado -- at his peak or even his 2004 form -- is a big step above those two, and should help make up for the black holes at offense they have courtesy Conine and shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
3. Nick Johnson, Washington Nationals (2004: .251/.359/.398)
I'm bullish on NickJ, whose nickname should be the Enigma for those statistically-inclined who once thought he was the Next Big Thing. He struggled through injuries last year but is one year removed from a top-notch .284/.422/.472 season in 2003 with the Yankees. For a 24-year old, those are outstanding numbers. Phil thinks I'm drinking the Kool-Aid on Schneider outplaying LoDuca -- I wonder what he'll say about my analysis of Johnson. Still, I think he will be key to how the Nats do in 2005.
My guess is he'll outperform projections, post at least a .400 on-base percentage and show some decent power. With his slick glove, he will be an asset for the Nats.
4. Adam LaRoche, Atlanta Braves (2004: .278/.333/.488)
Will the sophomore slump hit LaRoche? Not likely for this underrated hitter. LaRoche was a solid hitter throughout his career in the Braves minor league system, but not spectacular. He does everything pretty well: walks a bit, has some pop, fields competently. He had to share time with the ageless Julio Franco (now 46) who actually held his own in 2004. LaRoche should see more action in 2005, and will be a long-term presence in the Braves lineup.
5. Doug Mientkiewicz, New York Mets (2004: .238/.326/.350)
If Ball Thief (R) was a stock, sell! This guy's offensive numbers have atrophied since his peak season in 2001. He's 31, and doesn't hit well enough to justify his defensive presence in the lineup. The Mets signed all the big name stars this offseason, but they won only 71 games last year and still could face three black holes in the infield (Minky, along with Reyes and Kaz) if they perform at their 2004 levels.
He's faced a tumultous offseason after winning the World Series, trying to keep the baseball that ended the 2004 World Series instead of giving the historic ball to the Red Sox. He clearly doesn't have much confidence in his MLB future; he said he needed the ball for the dinero.
In a city where the media glare never ends, Minky's going to have a tough time keeping the starting job, and may end up relegating it to Mike Piazza by season's end.
Contemporary music station Z-104 and the weak 1,000-watt signal of WFED-AM (who?) will be broadcasting the Nats for the 2005 season.
This probably means there won't be a pre or post-game show for the Nationals since the station is all-music. It also relegates 40 games to a signal that most people in the DC area can't even pick up. Both stations do very poorly in the seasonal Arbitron ratings, if that means anything.
Bonneville is the smallest of the four big radio corporations here (CC, Infinity, ABC), only owning WTOP in addition to Z-104 and WFED.
The only consolation: this looks like a one-year deal.
In Peter Beinart's column today arguing that Democrats truly are the party of democracy, he writes that John Kerry would have made democracy promotion in the Middle East a central part of his presidency:
But that's exactly the point. Bush's second inaugural doesn't challenge liberals at the level of policy; it challenges them at the level of rhetoric. And, unless they respond in kind, they'll experience the same fate that befell John Kerry. In policy terms, Kerry probably had a more serious democratization agenda than Bush. But, rhetorically, he never matched Bush's grandeur. And, in the United States, where it is great causes and missionary impulses that rouse citizens to engage with the world, Bush's language captured the public imagination, and Kerry's did not.
play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia, instead focusing on other objectives that he said are more central to the United States' security.
During the interview, he eschewed the soaring rhetoric on freedom and democracy that are commonplace in Bush's speeches and news conferences. At one point, he stumbled over the words when he tried to emphasize his interest in promoting American values: "The idea of America is, I think proudly and chauvinistically, the best idea that we've developed in this world."
Of promoting democracy overseas, Kerry said: "How fast you can do that and how rapidly others can embrace it and what can be expected over a period of time varies from place to place." Emphasizing his interest in setting realistic goals, he added: "Beware of the presidential candidate who just sort of says with a big paintbrush we're going to make everything all right overnight."
The Twins re-upped Johan Santana for 4 years and 40 million dollars showing that they are yet again a better evaluator of talent than the real GM of my former favorite baseball team, one George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees.
Meanwhile, the once great Barry Larkin has officially retired from baseball and has joined the Nationals front office. Larkin should be a great addition, having been a former MVP and all around tools guy. The Nats are going to be a very young team and could use a veteran ballplayer with the expertise of Larkin guiding them into the 2005 season.
Finally, on the projections front, I think we're going to see a breakout year for one time Yankees wunderkid Nick Johnson and a surprisingly good year from one time White Sox top prospect and Randy Johnson wannabe Jon Rauch (he's 6'11 folks).
As for my esteemed colleague Josh, he is surely deluding himself if he thinks Brian Schneider is better than Paul LoDuca. Someone should check a cult list, because Josh is drinking the Kool-Aid. After all, this is the same guy who thought D'Angelo Jimenez was going to be better than Alfonso Soriano (and we all know how that turned out).
So, Dave Sheinin today proclaims that the Nationals are likely to finish in the doormat of the NL East, which seems to be a consensus opinion. Sheinin thinks the NL East is the strongest division in baseball. I strongly differ: every team in the AL West is above-average. I also think the AL East is stronger than its NL counterpart.
The NL East has five solid teams -- but all have serious flaws. The Mets, despite all their additions, still have a middle infield (Matsui/Reyes) that struggled to put up an OPS above 700 last season. Their bullpen isn't much above average, either. The Bravos lost their best hitter, J.D. Drew, best pitcher, Jaret Wright and are depending on many innings in the rotation from an aging reliever (Smoltz) and a resurgent John Thomson to match his solid 2004 output.
The Fish, who only won 83 games last year, gained Al Leiter and Carlos Delgado, but lost their best pitcher in 2004 (Carl Pavano) and the best closer in baseball. And the Phillies' strengths (Abreu/Thome) are counterbalanced by an iffy rotation and holes in CF and 3B.
Despite the Nats' weaknesses (Castilla/Guzman/E. Chavez, if Frank Robinson plays him), it's not clear to me off-hand that they're an automatic cellar dwellar. In fact, I could see them mounting a charge for a playoff berth. Nationals Review will analyze the teams position by position and conclude with a prediction of the NL East standings. Consider this an informed guide to our new division. We'll start off with the catchers:
1. Johnny Estrada, Atlanta Braves (2004 line: .314/.378/.450)
Estrada, 29, emerged as a pleasant surprise for Atlanta last year. He was the "throw-in" involved when the Braves dumped Kevin Millwood, and he outperformed most expectations. He struggled with a sub-800 OPS with the Phillies' AAA team in 2002 -- usually not an encouraging sign -- but rebounded with the Richmond Braves, and has one solid major league season in the books.
He didn't throw many runners out last season (18%) compared to his counterpart Eddie Perez (34%). But his offensive success at a skill position for the Braves after they lost Javy Lopez was key in 2004 and he should be a solid catcher for them in 2005.
2. Mike Lieberthal, Philadelphia Phillies (2004: .271/.335/.447)
This is the guy that made Estrada expendable for the Phils. A lifetime Phillie, he's been consistently solid, with EQAs above .265 the last three seasons. The negative is that he's 33 years old -- which is up there in years for a catcher, and is likely to decline a bit next season.
He has a poor defensive reputation, only throwing out 20% of runners last year. But his offense allows him to stay in the Philly lineup and he's a notch above the defensively challenged and offensively-declining Piazza and our own Brian Schneider.
3. Mike Piazza, New York Mets (2004: .266/.362/.444)
Catchers generally don't age very well. And while Piazza has lasted longer than most, his injuries have increased and his production has slipped substantially since 2002. He's hardly even a catcher anymore: last season the Mets started him at first base 69 times and he'll likely occasionally split time there with newly acquired Doug Mientkiewicz in 2005.
At 36, Piazza is an increasing liability for the Mets: a 800 OPS won't cut it at first base, and his poor defense behind the plate doesn't help handling pitchers one bit. He's had a great career, but at this stage in his career, he's not the same player he once was.
4. Brian Schneider, Washington Nationals (2004: .257/.325/.399)
I'm a big fan of Schneider's (as BallWonk calls him, Officer Schneider) He's young, competent offensively, and strong defensively. He has shown some signs of pop (.459 SLG in 2002; mid-400 SLGs in the minors) but taking a walk isn't his forte. He threw out an impressive 48% amount of runners, and the pitchers tallied an impressive 3.83 ERA when Scheneider was behind the plate. (Backup catcher Einar Diaz's CERA was 5.89.)
But his defense isn't quite good enough to rank him over Estrada, Lieberthal or Piazza. He's above average, but not among this group of divisional catchers. But he is young, and if he improves his offensive game -- he might challenge those guys for the title of best catcher in the division.
5. Paul LoDuca, Florida Marlins (2004: .286/.338/.421 combined LA/FLA)
One word: overrated. Not that LoDuca isn't a good player. He's had some very productive seasons with Los Angeles. But he's 33 years old, notorious for declining down the stretch (.314/.378 with FLA), has consistently declined throughout the last four seasons and isn't that great defensively. He's a good candidate -- in my mind -- to collapse next season, and will be be a burden to the Fish.
He does have a good reputation for handling pitchers, but only threw out 24% of baserunners. But I see him falling off the map in 2005, with age catching up to him at a demanding position.
While Nats fans are still awaiting word on which radio station will broadcast the team's games, we now know who won't be hosting the pre-game show.
Phil Wood will soon be hosting XM Radio's MLB pre-game show from 6-7 p.m. -- so he's out for any pre-game duties, at the least. And the unlistenable Rob Dibble, who has been mentioned as a possible play-by-play guy, is also busy with XM duties, co-hosting a 3-6 p.m. show on the network. I'd say it would be doubtful for him to pull both gigs off.
Compare these two accounts about Chile's private pension system. Here's the article from last week' s LA Times and here's today's Outlook analysis in the Washington Post.
You be the judge, but I think it's a perfect example of media bias, and -- in the case of the LA Times' story -- a reporter trying to reach a pre-ordained conclusion.
Unbeknownst to me in advance, CNN aired a screen shot of Nationals Review on Howie Kurtz's Reliable Sources show during a discussion of Le Affair Eason Jordan. Hopefully, some intrepid blogger taped it, and saved the screen shot.
Hopefully, as Glenn suggested, they didn't confuse us with the blog over at National Review (The Corner) -- but I wouldn't be shocked if the producer got confused.
Michael Barone hits a home run in his USNews column today about the difference between the popular bloggers on the Left and their growing role within the Democratic party and the well-read conservative bloggers.
Lefty bloggers like Atrios and Daily Kos tend to be mean-spirited, resort to ad-hominem attacks and, as I posted below, just aren't very politically astute (according to Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi). And these are guys that are part of the Democratic party infrastructure -- and their role is only increasing.
The righty bloggers, agree or disagree, tend to be well-reasoned, encourage analytical debate and rarely resort to infantile name calling.
There's a huge difference between blogs on the conservative side and the popular left-leaning ones, with a few exceptions. Atrios would be considered a joke by most political analysts, but he gets tons of visitors a day deluded into thinking a left-wing message will win over a majority of the country. It's not even going to win over a majority of Democrats.
Barone hit the nail on the head. Blogs are making the Democrats swing far to the left, while they're keeping the press -- as well as a lot of conservatives -- honest. Indeed, that is only good news for the Republicans.
Well no, (those giant blue pillars you see there aren't the backwoods), not exactly. But Joel Kotkin of the Weekly Standard notes that even America's cities are becoming less uniform politically these days. Kotkin divides the cities into what he calls "Euro-American" and "aspirational". (ed. Ouch! Apparently Europeans aren't aspirational.)
Older cities like New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco fall into the Euro camp, while smaller but booming cities such as Reno, NV, Boise, ID, Orlando, FL, Phoenix, AZ, and Salt Lake City, UT fall into the latter camp. I tend to agree with Kotkin's assessment, being born and raised in the Euro variant city of New York and seeing what a whole array of "progressive" causes can do to the city. (for instance, Times Square, the location of the New Year's Eve ball drop, used to be uninhabitable after dark until Guiliani was elected mayor). San Francisco, incapable of examining the consequences of its feel good policies, continues down the beaten path even today. Meanwhile, America's aspirational cities continue to grow rapidly.
Now in Nats news....
Rumors from DCRTV now indicate that WJFK is easily the leader for Nats' broadcasts for next season, and should complete a deal sometime next week.
'JFK is my top choice. I'm looking forward for a Phil Wood pre-and-post game show, and of all the stations being rumored, I pick up JFK strongest from my Pentagon City apartment.
Keeping my fingers crossed..
Just heard Howard Dean say the following in his acceptance speech for DNC chair:
The first president to deliver a balanced budget was a Democrat, Andrew Jackson.
The result was a triumph for democracy -- and a disaster for the economy, which lost one of its few stabilizing mechanism and subsequently pitched into panic.
I hate to nitpick on the MSM, but here's another example indicating that many mainstream media journalist aren't just biased, but also lazy.
Mark Leibovich wrote a story about new DNC-chair Howard Dean kowtowing to the aggrieved ethnic minority groups in the Post's Style section today. However, one small excerpt shows me that: a) Leibovich doesn't know much about politics; and/or b) he's just lazy.
He brutally misspells the name of Kalyn Free, who prominently ran in the Democratic primary for Oklahoma's Second District Congressional seat. She got some decent press because she got a lot of money from groups like EMILY's List and the Deaniacs, and lost with an impressive 36 percent against conservative Democrat Dan Boren.
A few doors over, Dean stands before a meeting of Native Americans, some of whom say Democrats have neglected their community -- a recurring message among many of the constituencies Dean meets with.
"I'm sick of the DNC treating Indians like an ATM machine that has to be courted every couple of years," says Kaylin Free of Oklahoma. She is starting a group called "Indian's List," which will encourage Native Americans to run for office, and which Dean calls "a really great idea, really exciting."
Eason Jordan, the CNN news executive who alleged that U.S. troops intentionally targeted journalists at a forum in Davos, Switzerland, resigned yesterday under the pressure and reporting of many blogs throughout the past week. Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt and the invaluable website EasonGate.com have been among the blogosphere's leaders in covering Le Affair Eason.
Several of the nation's most prominent newspapers didn't publish a word on this story -- at least not until today. And one of those papers, the Los Angeles Times, contains a pretty egregious error illustrating the LA Times' ignorance of well-read, informative blogs.
The LA Times writes, midway through their story:
Also, a website called Easongate.com, featuring the executive's corporate portrait on its home page, offered a clearing-house of criticism related to Jordan's statements. The website linked to 25 other sites in its "Blogroll," with mainstream columnists such as Roger L. Simon and more obscure bloggers such as "Red State Rant" and "Winds of Change."
"Nobody with a brain would work for us..."
Those were the words of former Howard Dean strategist Joe Trippi, speaking to a group of UPenn students and faculty this past Friday. This reponse came in his post-mortem dissection of what went wrong with the Dean campaign. What does this suggest? That the activist Dean groupies (like Dean flack Mike Whitney) just really weren't that bright? Does this mean that half-rate left-wing "strategist-activists" who were on the Dean campaign payroll like Jerome Armstrong of MyDD.com and Markos Zuniga of the Daily Kos just aren't as politically savvy as most Democrats and Republicans?
This is a really damning claim, coming from the architect behind the Dean campaign.
And now, Dean has been anointed DNC chairman -- a position that requires both nuts-and-bolts knowledge of party building and some tact -- skills Dean sorely lacks. Heck, even a moderate like current PA governor Ed Rendell -- who generated much heartburn as DNC chair because of his blunt speaking style -- had a deputy who worked behind the scenes to accomplish much for the party back in 2000.
It appears that soon we'll be writing a post-mortem of the Democratic party -- or at least this "Democratic wing" of the Democratic party. Things aren't looking too hot in donkey land.
The Examiner debuted on local newstands today, and the inaugural issue features a column by Phil Wood, who once hosted the only baseball show on WTEM. Wood, it seems, is best suited for radio; his writing style isn't that smooth and is eclipsed by the growing number of excellent Nats bloggers. He predicts a .500 season for the debut Nats, and expects more from their offense than I do.
Still, it's nice to see him with the gig; he'll be hosting a XM radio baseball show in a couple weeks as well. I'll be tuning in.