Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ahmadinejad Cements Ties With Venezuela President Chavez (ABC News)

The irony is, these dictators are beloved by not a few who hate President Bush's guts and whine about "suppression of free speech." Of course the people who whine about President Bush are not about to be thrown in jail or executed anytime soon whereas with Ahmadinejad or Chavez, the same assurance cannot be given. This goes to show just how mentally vacant some people can be -notably the sorts who endorse people such as Chavez.{1} To help those who need pictures to put two and two together, let us consider this "socialist summit of 2007" in pictures:

Now consider this in the context of an earlier "socialist summit" from 1934 pictured below:

For those who think this comparison is unfair, it only shows how ignorant of history they really are. For if it was the 1930's the fans of Chavez and Ahmadinejad would be going gaga over socialist Benito Mussolini and socialist Adolph Hitler forming their "alliance" also.
All we need now to have TIME Magazine nominate Ahmadinejad as "Man of the Year" the way they did with Hitler for 1938 and the parallel will be complete. (That rolling you felt was Spanish historian George Santayana rolling in his grave.)


{1} Those who are shillers for Ahmadinejad are significantly worse in this area.

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On Baseball, Recent Milestones, Etc.
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

[Note: The bulk of the material in this thread was composed a couple of months ago but remained unfinished until it was reformatted for posting and revised a bit a few days ago. -ISM]

Considering the recent record breaking feat of Barry Bonds, readers of this humble weblog who know of your host's fondness for the "thinking man's game" of baseball may be surprised that we do not view this "feat" as all that impressive. Tom Glavine's 300th win is huge as he will be the last 300 game winner until Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina do it.{1} But we at Rerum Novarum are not too impressed with a juiced up cheater like Bonds and frankly think all players of the past twenty years for whom reasonable certainty can be derived that they used steriods should have their records reduced by 10-20% as punishment for their unethical behaviour. But enough on that point for now, let us focus on what was impressive and did not involve any juicing. I refer of course to the feats of George Herman Ruth aka "Babe Ruth" among other titles given.{2}

Babe Ruth is the greatest player of all time, period this is frankly not even debatable. This is evident in countless ways of which only a few will be touched on here. The title "greatest of all time" has many applications and in Ruth's case it refers both in his prowess as an all-around offensive machine as well as the fact that he was among the most dominant pitchers of his era before becoming a full-time hitter five years into his baseball career. But now that Bonds has the home run "record" and will likely finish in the top three in runs batted in (RBI's), it seems appropriate to remind readers unfamiliar with history some of the feats of the Babe as there has never and will never be another like him.

In a twenty-two year career, Babe Ruth achieved over 90% of his stats for hitting in a sixteen year span from 1919-1934.{3} Consider this for a moment:

2657 of the Babe's 2873 hits (92.4%), 2062 of his 2174 runs scored (94.8%), 458 of his 506 doubles (90.5%), 118 of his 136 triples (86.7%), 688 of his 714 home runs (96.3%), 2085 of his 2213 runs batted in (94.2%),and 1953 of his 2062 walks (94.7%) were in a sixteen year span of his twenty-two year career. In that same span, his batting average was .344, his on base percentage was .477, and his slugging percentage rounded from the nearest thousanth was .700. In that same time period, he led the league in home runs twelve times, in slugging fourteen times, in walks eleven times, in runs batted in six times, and had 100 or more runs batted in thirteen times, and 40 or more home runs eleven times.{4}

One who wants to argue that Bonds achieved more in a four to five year stretch (2000-2004) than anyone else can consider that sustaining the standard of excellence three to four times as long is significantly more remarkable. If the two are compared on the most productive sixteen year stretches of their careers (including the subpar years each had in that span for injuries or other reasons), Ruth edges Bonds even before we get to the question of steroids. In fact, let us consider for a moment how significant Babe Ruth's achievements were when they are compared to Hank Aaron who set the record broken by Bonds this year.

If you compare their stats, you will see that Babe Ruth had nearly 4000 fewer at bats than Hank Aaron. Despite that, Ruth only hit 41 fewer home runs and 80 fewer runs batted in.{5} The only players where one could make an argument for greatest based on the OPS+ statistic (which is arguably the best stat for measuring a player against his contemporaries) and the players closest to Ruth's all time 207 figure (meaning he averaged twice the average player in overall offensive output for his career) was Ted Williams' 190 career mark and Barry Bonds' 182 career mark. (Bonds also has four of the top ten single season OPS+ marks to three for Babe Ruth and two for Ted Williams -three of Barry's four happen to be the first, second, and third most for a single season including 2001 where his single season average was 275.) However, since Bonds had over 700 more at bats and still was behind Ruth in home runs by a small margin (and runs batted in by over 300) and achieved his top three single season marks after 2000 (and when he was obviously on steriods), they are easily dispensible.

And of course Ruth was also cherished for reasons outside of baseball. For this reason, anyone who approached one of his records was going to get grief. Roger Maris was the recipient of it in 1961 when he broke Ruth's record for single season home runs in the first 162 game season.{5} His all-time record for home runs{6} was of course surpassed by Hank Aaron who was among the most disciplined, consistent, and classy players to ever play the game. But the stats themselves{7} do not lie.

Barry Bonds was (and is) talented in his own right -I would say (and did in years past) that he was the best all-around player in the game during the decade of the 1990's before the controversy with steroids. However, he allowed himself to be seduced by the attention being paid to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa when they challenged the single season record in 1998 (both surpassing it that year). Sosa has since been shown to have used a corked bat which calls a number of his homeruns into question (to say nothing about the bulking up he did) and McGwire at the Senate hearings on steriod use in baseball did not come across well and was rejected overwhelmingly on his first bid for the Hall of Fame.

For those who do not know, 500 home runs for hitting was at one time what 300 wins for pitching is: basically a defacto entry for the Hall of Fame.{8} So for McGwire to lose overwhelmingly in his first bid by 87% -falling 54% short for inclusion- is a significant rebuke considering that he had nearly 600 home runs and is the only player in history to homer in fewer average at bats than the Babe. Sosa who has over 600 home runs thus far is not going to fare much better so that leaves Bonds. Will the new so-called "Home Run King" make it into the Hall of Fame??? Seriously, I am not so sure he will even though before he decided to sully his reputation with steroid bulking up he was well on track to do so as one of the most gifted players ever to play the game.

In short, I am very happy for Glavine who achieved a feat that will in the coming years be rare if not practically non-existent. But as for Bonds, I am not similarly well-wishing. Perhaps a little rhyme I threw together recently on the matter can explain this succinctly so I will end with it now:

The Sultan of Swat did it{9} with hot dogs and pizazz
Hammering Hank did it with consistency and class
Barry Bonds did it with a needle in his ass

And that is the bottom line really.


{1} We are confident that Randy Johnson will find a way to nurse his perpetually injured back well aged beyond his 44 years and conjure up the 16 wins needed to make 300 before he wraps up his career. Mike Mussina needs about 53 wins and at 37 years of age should see that achieved within the next four years. Beyond that, we are not sure there will be another 300 game winner for about two decades or more (if ever).

{2} He was also given the following nicknames:

The Big Bam", "The Sultan of Swat," "The Bambino," "The Colossus of Clout," "The Wali of Wallop," "The Wazir of Wham," "The Maharajah of Mash," "The Rajah of Rap," "The Caliph of Clout," and "The Behemoth of Bust."

{3} I picked this span of time because it started with the first year where he was a fulltime hitter (instead of a fulltime pitcher) and left off the last year where he was clearly a shadow of his former self. (In the interest of fairness I included the 1934 season which was the first season where he had a noticeable decline in production in all offensive categories.)

{4} In 1922 he missed a fifth of a season and fell 1 RBI short of 100 and five HR's short of 40. Similarly he missed over a third of the 1925 season due to an illness which left him 34 RBI's short of 100 and 15 HR's short of 40. (His batting average in those two years was a shade under .300 too.) Based on the balance of his career stats, there is no reason to conclude otherwise than he would have hit at least 100 RBI's, 40 HR's, and batted over .300 in those years as he did in every season where he played at least close to a full schedule of games.

{5} As of this writing, Aaron and Ruth are first and second all-time in RBI's or "runs batted in."

{6} The seasons were 154 games up to 1960: one reason Maris' record was astrisked. When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa broke Maris' record in 1998, they both did it in 154 games or less unlike Maris who tied Ruth and broke the latter's record after the 154 game point of the 1961 season.

{7} Another note: when Ruth hit his 700th home run, there was no one else even half way to that number. Heck, his teammate Lou "Iron Horse" Gehrig was at 347 and Philadelphia Athletics slugger Jimmy "the Beast" Foxx was at 266: their total combined was still almost a hundred homers fewer than Ruth's total. (Jimmy Foxx was second in home runs when he finished his career in 1945 and was not supplanted in that spot until 1965 when he was passed by Willie Mays. Futhermore, when Ruth died, "The Beast" was the only other player in history to have over 500 home runs in his career.)

{8} There are a variety of things to consider and players can get in by other criteria (i.e Ty Cobb as a hitter and Catfish Hunter who had nowhere near 500 HR's and 300 wins respectively) but those have long been viewed as automatic benchmarks for entry into the Hall.

{9} Though if modern rules were applied to Ruth's hits, he would have had at least 765 home runs rather than the 714 to which he is credited. To quote Wikipedia on the matter:

As a sidelight to his prominent role in changing the game to the power-game, the frequency and popularity of Ruth's home runs eventually led to a rule change pertaining to those hit in sudden-death mode (bottom of the ninth or later inning). Prior to 1931, as soon as the first necessary run to win the game scored, the play was over, and the batter was credited only with the number of bases needed to drive in the winning run. Thus, if the score was 3-2 with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, and the batter smacked an "over the fence home run", the game would end at 4-3, with the batter only allowed a double, and the runners officially stopped on 2nd and 3rd (since they weren't needed to win the game). The new rule allowed the entire play to complete, justified on the grounds that the ball was dead and that all runners could freely advance, thus granting the full allotment of HR and RBI's to the batter, as we know it today. Several players lost home runs that way, including Ruth, whose career total would have been changed to 715 if historians during the 1960s had been successful in pursuing this matter. Major League Baseball elected not to retrofit the records to the modern rules, and Ruth's total stayed at 714.

Another rules change that affected Ruth was the method used by umpires to judge potential home runs when the batted ball left the field near a foul pole. Before 1931, i.e through most of Ruth's most productive years, the umpire called the play based on the ball's final resting place "when last seen". Thus, if a ball went over the fence fair, and curved behind the foul pole, it was ruled foul. Beginning in 1931 and continuing to the present day, the rule was changed to require the umpire to judge based on the point where the ball cleared the fence. Jenkinson's book (p.374-375) lists 78 foul balls near the foul pole in Ruth's career, and the research indicates at least 50 of them were likely to have been home runs under the modern rule.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Iraqi deaths fall by 50 percent

Gee, could it be that perhaps the surge is working???

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On the Seahawks and the 2007 Season Thus Far:
(With Kevin Tierney)

This thread is a composite of sorts from a few discussions that Kevin and I have had in recent weeks about sports in general with the focus on football. To start with, it seems appropriate to highlight my season prediction for the Hawks as I noted to Kevin back on September 11th:

I am going to say 12-4 and in the Superbowl this year

As for the rest, the following conversation tidbits are from a chat Kevin and I had on September 30th. Without further ado...

Kevin: well i'm sure your happy today, you guys nearly sent alex smith to the morgue :-p
me: no autopsy no foul as Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro used to say
Kevin: did you see that hit or no
me: unfortunately I missed the game today
Kevin: someone hit san frans qb, pancaked him
ripped apart his shoulder
out of the game in the first quarter
me: Julian Peterson possibly?
that guy is a wrecking machine

Kevin: he was blitzing, had a full head of steam, leaped at him, and just pancaked him right into the ground

me: they have ome good hitters on defense
could have been [Lofa] Tatupu
considering how [the Washington Huskies] gave away the game against USC yesterday
I will take that kind of defensive power everytime (I love good defensive in football)
Kevin: Rocky Bernard made the hit
me: next week will be the test
aah yes, Bernard
we have so many beasts on defense
that I did not think of Bernard first should tell yo how stacked we are there

Kevin: he was blitzing, had a full head of steam, leaped at him, and just pancaked him right into the ground
me: they have some good hitters on defense
heck, we got rid of Bryce Fischer earlier this year -a reserve who could start on virtually any other team

Kevin: even though detroit isn't in the playoffs, this should be an interesting october

me: the Hawks have a strong, fast, and youthful offense
me: I mean defense after today's game, I like our [chances] against the Steelers
if we had lost, whoeeee boy that would not be good
it was questionable to me only cause it was a road game
we gave the Cards a win in AZ earlier this year
snatching defeat from the jaws of victory there
so we had not proven we could win a road game yet
and going 0-2 road into Pittsburgh would mean likely slaughter
1-1 is more comfortable but the Steelers still have to be favoured

plus, we proved we could win when Alexander rushed for less than 100 yards

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