Rick Perry Thinks He’s God – And Other Random Thoughts

December 2, 2011

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Throwing a bunch of unrelated threads into this article.  Consider it an article casserole.

I’m in Iowa, so I’m hearing a lot of political ads these days. One of the most frequent seems to be a Rick Perry spot in which Perry says that if congress doesn’t pass a balanced budget “I say we cut their pay in half.”

This ad seems to underscore the God complex that seems to be prevalent with many (all?) presidential candidates. They don’t seem to realize that there is a separation of powers, and they can’t simply step in day one and impose their will upon congress (or the nation).

However, all presidential candidates have a big ego, almost by definition. If you think you’re qualified to lead the country, you likely have a pretty healthy ego.

Joran Vander Sloot, a suspect in the killings of Natalee Holloway and Stephany Flores, is suing Chile for $13 million, claiming that his human rights were violated when he was extradited to Peru. He goes on trial for the killing of Flores in January. If he’s found guilty, he might not have much need for $13 million. His lawyers, on the other hand, can probably find a way to spend their share.

Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine has been fired amid allegations of sexual abuse. I doubt that this will be the last case we hear about. With tens of thousands of head coaches and assistant coaches at the college level, it’s almost certain that there are at least a handful more predators lurking.

The Rockies traded catcher Chris Iannetta to the Angels on Wednesday. As a fan of Iannetta, I was a bit disappointed. Although Chris never posted a very strong batting average, his on base percentage and power numbers were very good for a catcher. If he can ever find a way to hit .260 on a regular basis, he’ll be an offensive force.

My advice to Denver Bronco fans – enjoy it while you can. At some point, Tim Tebow’s penchant for winning ugly is going to turn into losing ugly. it’s been a nice run, but it’s still a pretty small sample size – be wary of extrapolating.

I’m going to be a huge fan of Georgia football this weekend. I’m hoping the Bulldogs can hang half a hundred on LSU, to knock the Tigers out of the top two in the BCS. If LSU does win, and proceeds to lose a close game to Alabama in the BCS title game, expect LSU fans to gripe when Alabama is crowned the national champion. They’ll likely ponder this question: “Isn’t an LSU win at Alabama more impressive than an Alabama win on a neutral field.” That’s an interesting point.

Can Barnes & Noble’s new $250 Nook tablet win a head to head battle with the Kindle Fire?  Probably not.  However, the Nook does provide support for ePub files (the Kindle does not) and also has a microSD expansion slot.  Personally, I’d still lean toward the Kindle, but I think the Nook tablet is a solid option as well.  Barnes & Noble also offers free in-store tech support (although I haven’t tested the quality of the support), something that Amazon obviously can’t do.

A couple of bowl-eligible teams are attempting to set records.  UCLA will face Oregon in the Pac 12 title game – only because USC is banned from participating.  The NCAA has granted a waiver that would allow UCLA to play in a bowl game even if they lose to Oregon and finish with a losing record of 6-7.  If they’d lose a bowl game, they’d finish with 8 losses … as a bowl team.

And in Champaign, Illinois, the Fighting Illini are also bowl eligible at 6-6.  That doesn’t sound terrible … but once upon a time, the Illini were 6-0.  If they were to ride their six game losing streak into a bowl game and then proceeed to lose, I think they would be the first bowl team to ever finish the season on a seven game losing streak.

Of course, I can’t find definitive proof of this (they aren’t the sort of records people keep track of), but surely I’m right …

Pujols, the McCourts, and More

June 22, 2011

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St. Louis is still in mourning after the Cardinals lost Albert Pujols for 4-6 weeks with a non-displaced fracture of his radius (a bone in the forearm). After being pulled off first base by a throw, Pujols reached out his left arm in an attempt to tag out the baserunner. It was a bang-bang play, with runner Wilson Betemit having no opportunity to avoid the collision (nor was he under the obligation to do so). Although there hasn’t been the furor that followed the Buster Posey injury (should baseball ban home plate collisions?), the NY York Times has suggested a double bag at first base.  This seems like a rather silly idea to me, as all it would really do is force the first baseball to slide over another step before reaching out for a tag.  It’s worth noting that Betemit didn’t run into the body of Pujols, but into his arm.

The Cardinals have remained in the hunt in the NL Central this year despite being snake bitten by some injury.  Co-ace Adam Wainwright went down for the season during spring training, and Matt Holliday has lost time due to an injury and an appendectomy.  I do think the Cardinals can at least stay within striking distance until Pujols returns.

The big question is how this will affect Pujols’ status as the top free agent in the class.  Already, we had been hearing some murmurs that Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder – 4 years younger – might actually be a better option for a team needing an elite first baseman.  (I’m not sold on Fielder – his ability to keep his weight under control long term concerns me).  Pujols is going to have about 50 games at the end of the season (plus possible post-season games) to prove that he’s still the Pujols of old.  It seemed unlikely that his demands of a 10 year deal worth $30 million per year were going to be met in any case … but could this create a situation where Pujols signs a one year “prove it” deal rather than signing a longer deal at a lower rate?

In LA, the divorce case of Frank and Jamie McCourt (no, not the Angela’s Ashes guy) lingers on.  The two parties had finally reached an agreement, but it was contingent upon commissioner Bud Selig giving his OK to a new TV rights deal with the LA Fox affiliate.  Under the 17 year deal, Fox would have paid nearly $3 billion.  The deal would have featured $385 million in up front money.  $170 million would have been earmarked (by the divorce settlement) for personal debt and the divorce settlement.  Selig believes that baseball revenue should be used to pay baseball debts, rather than personal debts.

McCourt will likely sue baseball.  Upon buying a team, owners sign an agreement not to sue baseball, so this should be an interesting case.  The courts could rule the agreement unenforceable because of it being unconscionable … but I have a hard time buying into that argument.  It seems more likely that a judge would decide that McCourt had access to adequate legal counsel prior to signing the agreement and then made a conscious choice to sign it.  People sign away their rights all the time – that’s what contracts are used for.

As far as I can tell, the McCourts are still married, as the divorce settlement is still in limbo.  I’m sure that’s not awkward at all.

A potential suitor for the Dodgers would be Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.  Cuban has tried to buy teams before, but Major League Baseball has opposed such a move.  Personally, I think he’d be a good owner.  He does make the headlines from time to time in the NBA, but the fact of the matter is that he puts together good teams.  His “misbehavior” is generally due to the fact that he loves his teams, rather than just seeing them as a business.  It’s a bad thing to have an owner who is actually interested in the report?

It wouldn’t be a baseball article if I didn’t mention my Colorado Rockies.  After struggling mightily in May, the Rockies have rebounded in June and have pulled to with 2.5 games of first place San Francisco.  Last night, an effectively wild Jhoulys Chacin took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.  He walked six and allowed two his in 6 2/3 innings.  Although he didn’t come away with a win (the bullpen allowed the Indians to tie the game before the Rockies rallied to win), Chacin is emerging as one of the better young pitchers in the game.  Chacin actually had a very strong rookie season in 2010 (9-11, but with an impressive 3.28 ERA), but was overshadowed by Ubaldo Jimenez.  With Jimenez struggling this year, Chacin has become the ace, at least for the moment.

Another overlooked Rockies player is catcher Chris Iannetta.  Although his batting average (.229) might trick people into thinking he is having a bad year, Iannetta has actually been one of the most productive offensive catchers this year.   He has 9 homers in just 170 at bats and is among the league leaders with 43 walks.  His OPS of .836 is a very good number for a catcher.

Among the six division leaders, only the NL East’s Phillies (4.5 games ahead) have a lead greater than 2 games.  The Pirates – who haven’t finished above .500 since 1992 – stand at 36-37.  The Marlins have brought Trader Jack McKeon back on board to right the ship.  (I’ll go on record as saying McKeon won’t lead the Marlins to the same miraculous finish as he did in 2003 … you can only pull a rabbit out of the hat so many times).

Rockies Update

June 23, 2009

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My favorite baseball team, the Colorado Rockies, have been on tear lately.  The Rockies have won 17 of 18 games, dating back to June 4 against Houston.  Their only loss in this stretch was a June 16th game against the Tampa Bay Devils.  That game followed an off day, which is another great reason not to have any off days during the season.  The Rockies are 19-5 under interim manager Jim Tracy after starting the season 18-28 under fired manager Clint Hurdle.

Much maligned shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has played in 16 of those 18 games and has hits in 14 of the 16 games in which he played – good for a .400 batting average during that span.  Tulo has also smacked 5 of his 10 homers during the streak.  For those of you keeping track at home, his OPS (On-base-plus slugging) is nearly identical to the numbers he put up in 2007, when he was putting up numbers deserving of the Rookie of the Year award.  This fact is hidden a bit because injuries have cost him some at bats this year, and because his batting average is lower than it was in 2007.  However, his on base percentage is actually higher than it was in 2007, because of a marked uptick in the number of walks Tulo has drawn.  Keep in mind that the kid is still just 24 years old.

What other players are having good years for the Rockies?

  • Todd Helton finally had back surgery after a sub-par and injury filled 2008 season.  The Toddfather might have a legitimate shot at 30 homers for the season, and he already has 49 RBI.  There is one small area of concern – Helton’s walk rate is the lowest it has been since 1999.  Helton’s walk rate is on the upswing, though, as he already has more walks in June than he did in all of May.  Helton surpassed 2000 career hits earlier in the season, to the surprise of many observers who were under the impression that he had already reached the mark years ago – but Helton’s relatively late start in his career (coming through the college ranks) as well as his propensity for taking walks, has served to limit his at bats a bit.
  • Right fielder Brad Hawpe continues to be the best player that nobody has ever heard of, putting up a .335 batting average and an OPS above 1.000.  Hawpe has been a beast at home this year, with a .400+ batting average at Coors Field.  Over the course of his career, Hawpe has not been a “product of Coors Field”, however.  His career OPS differential is +45 points, compared to a typical hitter who enjoys a 30 point advantage at home.  Hawpe clearly gets some additional benefit from Coors, but not the typical Coors Field boost.
  • 24 year old rookie Ian “Stewie” Stewart has displaced Garrett “I can’t hit no more” Atkins as the starting third baseman.  Stewart’s batting average is still hovering around .225, but he has 13 homers in just 180 at bats in the season, including 6 in 70 June at bats.  Stewart appears to be bouncing back from a dreadful May that saw him post a horrendous .595 OPS, largely as the result of an absurdly low .128 BABIP (batting average on balls in play, a number which is typically around  .300).  Oddly, Stewart has a “reverse split” this year, posting significantly better numbers away from Coors Field.
  • Catcher Chris Iannetta has fought some injuries, but still has 10 homers in just 132 at bats this year, building upon the power he displayed last year (18 homers in 333 at bats, as he shared time with Yorvit Torrealba behind the plate).
  • Off season acquisition Jason Marquis (9-4, 3.71 ERA, 97 innings pitched) leads the Rockies in all three of those categories.
  • Aaron Cook had a horrendous April, posting a 7.11 ERA.  This was attributed to a mechanical problem with his delivery, and Cook has been money in the bank since that point, putting up an ERA below 3.00 since the beginning of May.  With a win last night, Cook became the all time franchise laeder in wins, with 59.  (Note that the Rockies have only been around since 1993 and haven’t had many pitcher hang around very long). 
  • Closer Huston Street  posted a 6+ ERA in April before enjoying a dominant May (0.82 ERA) and a strong June (2.79) as has established himself firmly ahead of Manny Corpas in the closer slot.