Friday, February 15, 2002

MORE ON WHY SOME TEAMS STAY BAD: In an otherwise unremarkable dispatch from the Yankees' spring training camp in Tampa, Joel Sherman has this note on the neighboring Devil Rays:

Yesterday's Tampa Tribune had a headline that read, "Few Jobs Open as Rays Open Camp." That is interesting since here in Year 5 of their existence, the Devil Rays have never won 70 games and lost 100 last season.
For Tampa to have few jobs open, then its leadership is either delusional or the players' abilities are being scored on a curve even outrageous for French pairs figure skating judges.


KRUGMAN'S END: Jonathan Rauch is always worth reading, and this piece on Paul Krugman and his Enron money is wonderfully nasty. I personally don't object to his Enron fees as Andrew Sullivan and others have; his problem is his recycling the same half-baked political screed over and over again, as Rauch wonderfully shows.
Krugman's column today is actually slightly better than some of his other efforts, so I will wait to inaugurate my planned Krugman feature. Hopefully it will be irregular. More on it as events develop.

Thursday, February 14, 2002

BUD SELIG'S WORST NIGHTMARE: Check out this preview of the Minnesota Twins for a look at how good the Twins can be in the upcoming years. Even allowing for the fact that Sickels is a Twins fan, you can see how much young talent they have stockpiled.
Here's a handy way to show why you should never believe Bud Selig. How often have you heard the Commisioner say a variation of the following: "At the start of spring training, there no longer exists hope and faith for the fans of more than half our 30 clubs."
Now take out a copy of last year's standings, and compile a list of teams which, as spring training begins again, have "hope and faith" of making the playoffs if things go right. As Peter Gammons points out, your list will probably include between 16-22 teams. If anything, I'd say he's being too pessimistic about the Padres. Even Detroit has a chance to be good in the near future, now that they have a real GM. In any case, even if your criteria are stricter than Gammons', there is no way your list can exclude half the teams in the game. (And historically, if your criteria are much stricter than Gammons, you stand a good chance of being shocked on a regular basis. More on that another time.)
There is a lot to say on the subject of competitive balance in baseball, and this site will hopefully say some of it. But as an introductory principle, you can't go wrong with this: Don't believe Bud Selig.
UPDATE: This David Schoenfeld piece elaborates on Gammons' list, and shows another point about which much more could be said: many of the teams that have "no hope and faith" cannot use the lack of resources as their excuse.
AND, IN HONOR OF THE ACADEMY AWARDS, WE PRESENT THE HEIR TO PAULINE KAEL: Bill Simmons strikes again with this review of "Rollerball." I have never seen the original and certainly won't see the remake, but Simmons' movie writing is always good for laughs (most of which are meant to be intentional). Yankee fans can torture Red Sox fans who are still giddy over the Patriots' victory with this homage to "The Godfather."
THIS ARTICLE IS VERY GOOD NEWS: For those of us who look at eight hours' sleep as 2-3 days' worth.
OCCAM'S RAZOR MEETS THE STATE OF THE UNION: An irresistible Michael Kelly column gets this off to a good start. Two selections from a column full of them, on common predictions of disaster if the U.S. moves against Iraq:

It is "simplisme." It is simplistic, or simple-minded, as the French foreign minister, whose name is Petain or Maginot or something, sniffed last week. C'est vrai. It is indeed "simplisme" to pick fights with evil regimes just because those regimes want to kill you or enslave you or at least force you to knuckle under and collaborate in their evil, when one might choose the far safer and far more profitable path of shrugging one's shoulders in a fetchingly Gallic fashion and sending one's Jews off to the camps, as one's new masters in government request.

And,

The Arab Street will rise in flames. The "street" in any given Arab country consists of 278 state-sanctioned mullahs already preaching death to the Americans and the Jews, five state-controlled newspaper opinion columnists preaching ditto, 577,000 state security officers making sure nobody says anything to the contrary and 73 million people who would very much like to be living in New Jersey. In Kabul, they cheered and kissed our soldiers. In Baghdad, they'd love to have the chance.

The power of inertia over critical thinking is always stunning. Don't people remember the Iraqis trying to surrender to anything that moved in 1991? And about the French...well, there's nothing like Mr. Kelly sticking the knife and giving it a good twist. The media needs to be more cynical towards Europe in examining their motives for criticizing everything the U.S. does, rather than accepting it at face value and using it to validate their own impulses.