Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Derek Jeter...Iron Man?

Over the weekend -- during at-bat in which he struck out against the Red Sox -- Derek Jeter passed Mickey Mantle to become the New York Yankees' all-time leader in at-bats. Here's the top 10:
1. Derek Jeter 8106
2. Mickey Mantle 8102
3. Lou Gehrig 8001
4. Bernie Williams 7869
5. Yogi Berra 7546
6. Babe Ruth 7216
7. Don Mattingly 7003
8. Joe DiMaggio 6821
9. Roy White 6650
10. Willie Randolph 6303
I'm not sure why I was surprised to learn that -- Jeter's been playing since a mid-season call up in 1995 -- but surprised I was. Since then he's been a reliable fixture at short in the Bronx, never player fewer than 148 games in an injury-free year. (In 2003 he was injured, and only played 119 games.)

He's only #4 on the Yankee's all-time PA list, because he doesn't walk anywhere near as much as the 3 guys in front of him: Mantle, Gehrig, and Ruth. Not a disgraceful bunch to be trailing, you'd have to admit.

Jeter hasn't won an MVP -- and at this point in his clearly declining career, isn't likely to -- but he did get completely hosed in 1999. That year Jeter led the universe with a 103.9 VORP, and was 4th with 8.8 WARP. In one of the stupidest results ever, Ivan Rodriguez won, with his 57.9 VORP and 8.4 WARP. Even this Sox fan can see Jeter got screwed.

It's easy to hate the Yankees -- or at least it was, before they got old and hurt; now it's just habit -- but it's not possibly to do anything except root for Jeter. I hope he plays forever, ends up owning most of the Yankee career records, and gets a good head start on his induction speech for the Hall of Fame.

Arlen Specter, D-Penn

This isn't what you'd call "surprising" news.

Specter was mildly caught between a rock and a hard place. He could either vote against WH policies, and thus risk very likely being vote out of office by his moderate constituents next year; or he could vote for WH policies, and then have the GOP throw its support behind Pat Toomey; or I suppose he could try to burn the candle at both ends, which I presume wasn't working very well for him.

I can't say this makes him look very good, not a month after vowing to run again as a Republican on a Republican ticket. If you have opinions and values, then stick up for them. I have a hard time seeing this as anything other than a move to assure he gets re-elected in 2010.

My friend Kevin, who hails from the other side of the aisle from me, to be delicate, put it a little more piquantly: "The guy is a narcissistic douchebag, pure and simple."

Hard to argue with that. The guy just basically crapped all over his political history for the sake of getting re-elected in 2010. That was no certain thing anyway -- Pennsylvania has been trending more and more moderately of late, and he was no sure thing against whomever the Democrats threw at him next year. And he was facing a hard fight against Pat Toomey anyway.

I'm tempted to rhetorically wonder if the Dems really want someone like this in their ranks, but I'm sure they'll hold their nose and be pleased as punch with their supermajority once Franken takes his seat. The Republics would do a similar nose-hold/embrace were the situation reversed.

Ahh, politics. That sausage-factory tour is looking better and better, isn't it?

Monday, April 27, 2009

RIP Pontiac


GM keeps shedding marques; I don't think it's going to do a lot of good.

I personally think they killed the wrong brand this time. Instead of killing off Pontiac, GM should have rid itself of Buick instead. Buicks are completely, utterly superfluous. Except for the Lucerne -- a bizarrely nice-looking car that looks a lot like a Passat -- I can't imagine there's a single Buick car that anyone under the age of 60 would prefer over any comparable car from Mercedes or Audi or Lexus.

Of course, there only are 3 Buicks these days: the Lucerne, the LaCrosse, and the Enclave. Pontiac has -- I think; it's hard to tell -- 7 cars: the Vibe, Torrent, Solstice, G3, G5, G6 and G8. Or it might be 9 cars, since their web site lists the G5 Sedan, Coupe and Convertible separately. I can only assume the cold hard numbers won out, and 3 cars are cheaper to keep alive than 7 cars.

Not that Pontiac's current lineup is particularly worth saving. If you look at all their cars, what you see is a lot of pretty ugly rolling iron, which also all seems to look alike. Except for the Solstice, a nice sporty car I hope gets a resurrection as a Chevy, one would be hard pressed to tell any of them apart.

It's the brand that's worth saving, I think. No one thinks back fondly on the cherished LeSabre or Reatta of their youth (though the Grand National was awesome, and wow those Super Sedans from the early 50s) -- but the Bonneville, the Chieftan, the Star Chief, the Firebird, the Grand Am, even the Fiero. Call me soft, but there's something there.

GM does need to consolidate; they have too many cars in a shrinking market, and it's only going to get worse. They need to turn Chevy into the brand for all low- and mid-range cars; keep Pontiac and make it the brand of sports and touring cars (including the Corvette); dump Buick; keep Cadillac the way it is; and take all the trucks and SUVs out of the other marques, get rid of the duplicates, and consolidate them all in GMC. Saturn, Saab and Hummer are separate problems. Saturn is doing fine, through the cars are suffering from a severe case of the blahs. They need to get rid of Saab, for pennies on the dollar if they have to; sell it to the Swedish government if necessary. And as for Hummer, sell it off or let it die.

It might already be too late for GM. Chrysler might declare chapter 11 within the week, and Fiat might pick up the pieces. GM may not be far behind. It isn't going to just go away, unless people simply stop buying, but it isn't going to be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Baseball Predictions 2009

AL East-heavy edition.

AL East

New York

Check out the difference between the '09 Sox, and the '03 Sox. That other team was a mind-blowing collection of mashers that set the all time MLB record for team SLG. Six years later, Boston's transition to a run-prevention team is nearly complete. They have plus defenders at nearly every position, and pitchers who won't give the guys standing behind them much to do. Their weakness is offensive depth, as they will be hurting for answers if/when Lowell/Drew/Ortiz goes down. Expect a lot of local attention on Holliday or Fielder if their teams fall out of contention.

The Yankees made a lot of noise, but they honestly didn't get loads better. CC essentially replaces Mussina, and I think I'd rather have Moose in a big game. Giambi and Abreu were replaced by Tex, who consolidates their offense while providing a huge D upgrade. Their only true "add" was AJ, who isn't exactly the guy you want to count on if it isn't a walk year. Their defense continues to circle the drain, and they're counting on way too many guys (Matsui, Damon, Jeter, Posada, A-Rod) either beginning or well into their career slides. Their bullpen is stellar, but it won't be pretty watching all those ground balls slip through the infield. If A-Rod is out longer than projected, or if Posada can't catch 120 games, it's going to be a *very* long summer in the Bronx. There's a non-zero chance of the Yankees collapsing like the Tigers last year.

Tampa is probably the 3rd best team in the game, and the fact that they could struggle to reach 90 wins is only a testament to the fact that they play in the toughest division in the majors. They obviously have a much higher upside than New York, but they had a lot of things go right last year (bullpen, BABIP, etc) and there will be some regression. Outside the AL East, they take any of the other 5 divisions with ease.

Toronto had their window last year, and couldn't make their move. Now it's probably too late, as they have too much money tied up in millstones like Wells and Rios. Remind yourself that 2010 is the last year of Halladay's contract, and imagine how much he'd be worth on the trade market. Now squint and try even harder to imagine the Jays trading him within the division. No, I can't see it either.

Baltimore has finally started doing it right, after years of foolish FA signings. Not that it will do them any good, not here, not for another 3-4 years at least. They sent Wieters down to start the season, causing wails of grief among fantasy players everywhere.

AL Central

Kansas City

Nobody has noticed, but the Central has been almost as stratified as the East the past few years. Minnesota has the better pitching, but the Indians have the better everything else, and that's what will do it for them.

AL West

Los Angelheim

Not much to say here. The Angels overplayed their talent by about 13 games last year, and their high-strikeout/singles-happy offense will being them back to earth this year.

NL East

New York

No, I'm not big on the Phillies; why do you ask? Of course, the Mess will probably fold down the stretch just like the last 2 years, but you can't predict that sort of thing, you know?

NL Central

St. Louis

I think Milwaukee will come back to earth too, just like Tampa and the Angels. Chicago isn't as good as a lot of people predict, but they're good enough to win this division. Pittsburgh might somehow find a way to finish seventh.

NL West
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Dan Diego

Signing Manny probably gave the Dodgers the division.


AL MVP: Sizemore
AL Cy: Matsuzaka
AL Rookie: Wieters

NL MVP: Pujols
NL Cy: Santana
NL Rookie: Maybin

Wild Cards: New York Yankees, Atlanta

Pennants: Boston, Atlanta

World Series: Boston