Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Trip to Where?!?!?



In light of the, um, colorful reception that POTUS-43 received in Baghdad over the weekend (see above)-- even in a controlled environment -- one wonders if the Secret Service is rethinking the wisdom of allowing POTUS-44 to make a speech in an Islamic capital, as has been rumored.

Regardless, the visual will almost certainly be different than the one this summer in Germany, simply because it's unlikely to be in such an unstructured environment:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Angler vs. Backseat














"Angler" is Vice President Dick Cheney's current Secret Service codename. (It is also the title of Bart Gelman's new book on Cheney.)

When he was Chief-of-Staff to Gerald Ford, his codename was "Backseat." His background -- a staffer at the highest level -- has given him an unprecedented ability to manipulate the White House staffing process. And his unprecedented access to a President who disdains details (according to Gelman's account.)

"Backseat" spent his formative years learning the ways of bureaucratic Washington: major policy decisions effected well below the "principal" (cabinet) or "POTUS" (Presidential) level; controlling a meeting by controlling the agenda; inserting allies throughout government to insure timely information is being reported back; and 'reaching down' through the layers of government to see real, raw information -- direct and unfiltered. (This last modus operandi was not limited to Iraqi or al Queda intelligence.)

As "Angler", Cheney was able to taking staffing to the next level. Unlike staff -- or even Cabinet principals -- the vice president cannot be fired. Further, Cheney scheduled regular lunches with 43, without any other staff; such unfettered access is the holy grail of White House personnel.

As "Angler", Cheney also removed himself -- and his thinking -- from political calculations. Gellman shows only one example of politics playing a role in Cheney's actions, and even that -- the use of the Klamath River for irrigation -- was more by accident. Cheney's Western-sensibility, and instinctive opposition to federal governmental intervention, ended up being good local politics in Oregon. But such political ramifications were by accident -- Gellman makes it clear that the politics were often the last thing from Cheney's mind.

Perhaps it is this element of "Angler" that is most interesting and surprising. For a person a heartbeat away from the peak of political power, Vice President Cheney seemingly spends no time thinking about politics. Indeed, highly political initiatives -- like funding for faith-based programs or No Child Left Behind -- are ignored by "Angler." The ultimate political insider has been transformed into a constitutional officer who rarely, if ever, considers grubby day-to-day politics.

November Jobs Numbers

The Department of Labor announced this morning that the November payrolls were down by more than 530,000. While economists expected job losses to be significant, the reality far exceeded consensus expectations of 320,000.

Reaction to the news (as compiled by the WSJ) was very negative:

History tells that once the labor market weakens as much as it has in the past several months, job-shedding takes on a life of its own and tends to persist for a long while. We expect labor market conditions to be dreadful for many months to come... -- Joshua Shapiro, MFR
This was much worse than was expected and represents wholesale capitulation. The threat of a widespread depression is now real and present. –Peter Morici, University of Maryland
The traditional view is that job losses gradually build, and therefore the sharp break (60% over the expected number) is a terrible sign. But at the risk of being too contrarian, one has to wonder whether in a world of cable news and 24-hour information accessibility, sharp cuts in jobs may get us to a bottom faster. Employers saw the market meltdowns of September and October, and made decisions to act decisively in November, before the holiday season.

Or else welcome to the Great Depression II.

Insult to Injury

It's bad enough that Notre Dame has not won a bowl game since the 1993 season (losing nine straight in that period).

But "little brother" Boston College -- having lost the #1 pick in the country last year in Matt Ryan -- plays in the ACC Championship Game tomorrow. A win sends BC to the BCS, in Miami (Orange Bowl), and will mark the tenth straight season that the Eagles have played in a bowl game.

And the Eagles have won 8 straight.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are You Ready for Some...College Football Playoff?

Head-Coach-Elect Barack Obama wants a college football playoff system. This Saturday he (and the rest of the country) will get a preview of what such a system would look like in the SEC Championship Game.

#1 (AP/BCS) Alabama plays #2(AP)/#4(BCS) Florida. The winner advances to the BCS title game.

Since a late September loss to surprising Ole Miss, Florida has been -- with all due respect to Oklahoma -- the hottest team in the country, winners of eight in a row.

Florida has rolled to a combined score of 414-97, although Coach Urban Meyer's team did roll up scores on Arkansas (5-7), Kentucky (6-6), Vandy (6-6), and The Citadel (4-8 in I-AA).

But if you just look at the four ranked teams in that eight game streak -- #4 (at the time) LSU, #6 Georgia, #25 South Carolina, and #20 Florida State, the Gators still rolled by a combined 201-52.

That's an average score -- against ranked opponents -- of 50-13.

Wonder if Coach Meyer ever regrets not taking the Notre Dame job?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wake Up the Echoes???

The controversy swirling around Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis seems to be about to be resolved as unconfirmed reports out of South Bend indicate that the fourth year coach will be given at least one more season.

But the real question is not who would replace Charlie Weis, but what are reasonable expectations for Notre Dame football in the modern era? Or put another way, when did the downward slide begin?

If you are looking for the "Last Night of the Notre Dame Dynasty," you might try November 20, 1993.

On that day, up-and-comer (at the time) -- and the only other I-A Catholic football team -- Boston College went into South Bend and shocked the #1-ranked Irish in the final game of the regular season. It was also the first time BC had beaten Notre Dame.

While ND did win the Cotton Bowl that year (24-21, over Texas A&M, played on January 1, 1994), it was their last bowl win; Notre Dame has never won a Bowl Game in the BCS era, and the bowl losing streak is now at 9.

While Lou Holtz had a record of 100-30-2 overall at ND (.765 winning percentage), his record after November 20, 1993, was 24-11-1, 0.666.

After Holtz came Bob Davie (35-25, .583), Ty Willingham (21-15, also .583), interim coach Kent Baer (0-1), and now Weis (28-21, .571).

Overall, since that fateful BC game: 108-73-1, or .593 winning percentage over a decade and a half. 1-9 in bowl games, no wins since that 1994 Cotton Bowl.

ND's record in the 15 years preceding the BC Game (which included the Gerry Faust years): 122-51-3, .693 winning percentage. 5-4 in bowl games.

As Weis "mentor" Bill Parcells once said, "You are what your record says you are."

Notre Dame has lost 6 straight to Boston College.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Who's In Charge?

The first trip by Barack Obama to the White House yesterday undoubtedly was intended by President George W. Bush as a way to show stability in a time of uncertainty and indicate to the world that the transition will be accomplished without -- to choose a word made popular in the post-election write-ups -- "drama."

Yet Obama was just a few minutes from the West Gate when word leaked that 43 and 44 had clashed over whether part of the TARP money -- the $700B allocated in the midst of the financial crisis -- could be accessed by the struggling auto industry. (Bush apparently is demanding a free-trade pact with Colombia as the price of the TARP Detroit bail-out. Somewhere, Mark Penn sighs.)

There may be some wisdom for the Obama team to study the transition efforts of FDR in 1932. Just a few weeks after defeating Herbert Hoover, FDR traveled to Washington at Hoover's request to hear about Hoover's plan to deal with the news (delivered shortly after the election) that France and Britain might default on their WWI debts.

But unlike Obama, who apparently pressed Bush on policy matters, FDR did not engage. He came to Washington to "be informed on pending matters" not make any decisions, despite Hoover's requests. The war debt was Hoover's baby, FDR later told advisers. He also refused an entreaty from Hoover in mid-December to become involved with the US position on the World Economic Council.

FDR did however, apparently offered to be named Secretary of State during the waning days of the Hoover Administration, with the intent that he would become acting President if Hoover and his VP (Charles Curtis) resigned. Hoover, needless to say, did not take up his offer.

In a final transition note, FDR almost did not survive to take office. On February 15, 1933, FDR gave a speech in Miami's Bayfront Park together with Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Giuseppe Zangara fired a pistol at FDR, but managed to hit five others, including Cermak, who was shaking hands with FDR at the time. Overruling the Secret Service, FDR had his car reversed and transported Cermak to the hospital, where he died several weeks later.

Zangara was executed by the State of Florida in the electric chair thirty-three days after the shooting.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What a Difference Four Years Makes

It's worth remembering, on the eve of the election, that just four years ago, President Bush didn't recognize Barack Obama's name, according to the New Yorker:
[Congresswoman] Jan Schakowsky [spoke] about a recent visit she had made to the White House with a congressional delegation. On her way out, she said, President Bush noticed her “Obama” button. “He jumped back, almost literally,” she said. “And I knew what he was thinking. So I reassured him it was Obama, with a ‘b.’ And I explained who he was. The President said, ‘Well, I don’t know him.’ So I just said, ‘You will.’ ”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Projecting the Hall of Famers in the 2008 World Series

While Fox Sports may be disappointed by a Tampa Bay Rays/Philadelphia Phillies World Series, a fan of old-fashioned baseball should look forward to the match-up.

Tampa is riding one of the great sports stories of all time: never having won more than 70 games in a season, the Rays dropped the "Devil" and went from a worst-in-baseball 66 wins a year ago to 97 wins (trailing only the LA Angels, and tied with the Cubs.)

Playing in a division with two super-powers, the Rays have adapted by drafting good young talent, and building a team that should be able to compete for the next 3-4 years. Evan Longoria (22 years old), BJ Upton (23), and Carl Crawford (26(!)) are the anchors to build a line-up around. And the pitching is perhaps even better, with James Shields (26), Scott Kazmir (24), Matt Garza (24), and live-armed David Price (22).

Historically, virtually every World Series champ sports at least one Hall-of-Famer (see below posts for the comprehensive (we hope) list), and many have two or three. (From 1903 to 1980, every single team had at least one player; the 1981 strike-season Dodgers have only manager Tommy Lasorda, and like the 2005 Chicago White Sox, seem unlikely to add any more players.) While the vagaries of the Hall-of-Fame selection process are the subject for another post, the relationship between the HOF and WS Champs is probably two-fold:

1. In order to win, you need great years out of your great players. Like a bad penny, 'bad' players --- Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, Johnny Evers in the old days, and Jack Morris, Rickey Henderson, and Reggie Jackson in the modern ones -- keep showing up with championship teams.

2. Hall-of-Fame voters -- like other voters in other elections -- like winners. When your team wins the title, you are more likely to be remembered, and enshrined in Cooperstown. Yes, yes... we are talking about you, Curt Schilling. And Enos Slaughter as well. And of course (and ironically, as his career ended when the Yankees cut him to make room for Slaughter in August, 1956), Phil Rizzuto. A World Series title or two is a huge bonus for a guy who otherwise would be on the HOF bubble.

So who are the HOF candidates for these two teams? For the Phillies, it's easy: 1B Ryan Howard and SS Jimmy Rollins have both taken significant steps towards Cooperstown in their first few years in the bigs (5 years for Howard, 9 for Rollins). Both have earned more than half of the mythical 100 points that Bill James has documented is necessary to be a 'likely HOFer' in his HOF Monitor. (Howard has 63.5/100, while Rollins has 58/100.) And both will take a further step if their team wins it's first title in 28 years.

Tampa's players are so young, in contrast, that no one is on track for the HOF. Crawford, the longest tenured Ray with 7 years, has accumulated just 31.5 HOF Monitor 'points'; however his list of "similar players" includes HOFers Sam Crawford and Roberto Clemente. Closer Troy Percival is a potential HOFer (86/100), but he has been hurt and has yet to pitch in the 2008 post-season.

Tampa seems deeper and better. And the Rays win, we could be looking back some day to the day when a young Ray took the first step toward baseball immortality.

Prediction: Rays in 6.

And another rebuilding year in the Bronx in 2009.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (Summary)

2001-2007: 1.8 HOFer on each WS champ (projected).

1991-2000: 3.0 HOFer on each WS champ (projected).

1981-1990: 1.2 HOFers on each WS champ (actual).

1971-1980: 2.9 HOFers on each WS champ.

1961-1970: 3.0 HOFers on each WS champ.

1951-1960: 4.3 HOFers on each WS champ.

1941-1950: 3.1 HOFer on each WS champion

1931-1940: 5.0 HOFers on each WS champion.

1921-1930: 4.4 HOFers on each WS champion.

1911-1920: 2.8 HOFers on each WS champion.

1903-1910: 3.0 HOFers on each WS champion.

World Series Champs and Hall of Famers (2001 - 2007)

(All likely or possible HOFers.)

2007 - Boston Red Sox (OF Manny Ramirez (on Bill James' HOF Monitor, 208 out of 100), P Curt Schilling (171/100))

2006 - St. Louis Cardinals (1B Albert Pujols (189/100), Mgr. Tony LaRussa)

2005 - Chicago White Sox

2004 - Boston Red Sox (P Pedro Martinez (202/100), Ramirez, Schilling)

2003 - Florida Marlins (C Pudge Rodriguez (228/100))

2002 - Anaheim Angels (P Troy Percival (86/100))

2001 - Arizona Diamondbacks (Schilling, P Randy Johnson (322/100))

Projected HOFers = 11, out of 6 WS Championship teams = 1.8 HOF/WS

Note: DH Frank Thomas played 34G for 2005 CHW; did not play in WS.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1991 - 2000)

2000 - New York Yankees (No HOFers yet; possible HOFers include P Mariano Rivera (197 out of 100 on Bill James' HOF Monitor), SS Derek Jeter (235/100), P Roger Clemens (331/100), OF Bernie Williams (133/100)).

1999 - New York Yankees (none; likely Rivera, Jeter, Clemens, Williams)

1998 - New York Yankees (none; likely Rivera, Jeter, Williams)

1997 - Florida Marlins (none; possible HOFers: P Kevin Brown (93/100); SS Edgar Renteria (94/100))

1996 - New York Yankees (3B Wade Boggs; possible HOFers: Jeter, Rivera, Williams)

1995 - Atlanta Braves 3B Chipper Jones (159.5/100), P Greg Maddux (255/100), P John Smoltz (167/100), P Tom Glavine (176/100))

1994 - Not played

1993 - Toronto Blue Jays (DH Paul Molitor; other likely HOFers: 2B Roberto Alomar (193/100), OF Ricky Henderson (183/100))

1992 - Toronto Blue Jays (DH Dave Winfield; other possible HOFers: Alomar, P Jack Morris (122.5/100; 0-2, 8.44ERA in WS), P David Cone (103/100))

1991 - Minnesota Twins (OF Kirby Puckett; other possible HOFers: Morris, P Rick Aguilera (90(!)/100))

Actual HOFers = 4
Projected HOFers = 27, 9 WS Championship Teams = 3.0 HOF/WS

Note: Morris also on 1993 TOR (7-12, 6.19), but did not pitch in WS.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1981 - 1990)

1990 - Cincinnati Reds (None; other possible HOFers: SS Barry Larkin (118.5 on Bill James' HOF Monitor scale; 100 is "Likely HOFer"); P Randy Myers (97/100 HOF Monitor))

1989 - Oakland Athletics (P Dennis Eckersley; other possible HOFers: Rickey Henderson (183/100), Mark McGwire (163/100); Jose Canseco (101/100); Tony LaRussa (#3 all-time managerial wins))

1988 - Los Angeles Dodgers (Mgr Tommy Lasorda; other possible HOFers: P Orel Hershiser (90.5/100); Fernando Valenzuela (66.5/100))

1987 - Minnesota Twins (OF Kirby Puckett; other possible HOFers: P Bert Blyleven (120/100))

1986 - New York Mets (C Gary Carter; other possible HOFers: 1B Keith Hernandez (86/100))

1985 - Kansas City Royals (3B George Brett; other possibles HOFers: 2B Frank White (81/100))

1984 - Detroit Tigers (Mgr Sparky Anderson; other possible HOFers: P Jack Morris (122.5/100))

1983 - Baltimore Orioles (1B Eddie Murray, SS Cal Ripken, P Jim Palmer (1-0 in 2 IP in WS))

1982 - St. Louis Cardinals (SS Ozzie Smith, P Bruce Sutter)

1981 - Los Angeles Dodgers (Mgr Tommy Lasorda; other possible HOFers: 1B Steve Garvey (130.5/100))

12 HOFers, 10 WS Championship Teams = 1.2 HOFers/WS

Note: P Don Sutton was 3-6 for 1988 LAD, but pitched last game in August, 1988.

Note2: P Steve Carlton was 1-5 for 1987 MIN, did not pitch in post-season.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1971 - 1980)

1980 - Philadelphia Phillies (3B Mike Schmidt, P Steve Carlton)

1979 - Pittsburgh Pirates (1B Willie Stargell)

1978 - New York Yankees (OF Reggie Jackson, P Catfish Hunter)

1977 - New York Yankees (Jackson, Hunter)

1976 - Cincinnati Reds (C Johnny Bench, 1B Tony Perez, 2B Joe Morgan, Mgr Sparky Anderson)

1975 - Cincinnati Reds (Bench, Perez, Morgan, Anderson)

1974 - Oakland Athletics (Mgr Dick Williams, P Catfish Hunter, OF Reggie Jackson, P Rollie Fingers)

1973 - Oakland Athletics (Williams, Hunter, Jackson, Fingers)

1972 - Oakland Athletics (Williams, Hunter, Jackson, Fingers)

1971 - Pittsburgh Pirates (Stargell, OF Roberto Clemente)

29 HOFers, 10 WS Championship teams = 2.9 HOF/WS.

Note: 1B/3B Pete Rose was a member of 1980 PHI, 1976 CIN, 1975 CIN.

Note(2): OF Orlando Cepeda played 3G for 1972 OAK.

Note(3): Bob Lemon was manager of 1978 NYY.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1961 - 1970)

1970 - Baltimore Orioles (Mgr Earl Weaver, 3B Brooks Robinson, OF Frank Robinson, P Jim Palmer)

1969 - New York Mets (P Tom Seaver, P Nolan Ryan (6-3); 2.1 IP in WS)

1968 - Detroit Tigers (OF Al Kaline (102 G, 11-29, 2HR in WS), 3B Eddie Mathews (52AB; 1-3 AB in WS)

1967 - St. Louis Cardinals (OF Lou Brock, P Bob Gibson, 1B Orlando Cepeda, P Steve Carlton (14-9, 193 IP; 0-1 in WS))

1966 - Baltimore Orioles (B. Robinson, F. Robinson, SS Luis Aparicio, Palmer)

1965 - Los Angeles Dodgers (Mgr. Walter Alston, P Sandy Koufax, P Don Drysdale)

1964 - St. Louis Cardinals (Brock, Gibson)

1963 - Los Angeles Dodgers (Alston, Koufax, Drysdale)

1962 - New York Yankees (OF Mickey Mantle, P Whitey Ford, OF/C Yogi Berra (2AB in WS))

1961 - New York Yankees (Berra, Mantle, Ford)

30 HOFers, 10 WS Championship Teams = 3.0 HOF/WS

Note: 1967 STL managed by Red Schoendienst.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1951 - 1960)

1960 - Pittsburgh Pirates (2B Bill Mazeroski, OF Roberto Clemente)

1959 - Los Angeles Dodgers (Mgr Walter Alston, OF Duke Snider, P Sandy Koufax, P Don Drysdale)

1958 - New York Yankees (Mgr Casey Stengel, C Yogi Berra, OF Mickey Mantle, P Whitey Ford, OF Enos Slaughter (4G, 3AB in WS))

1957 - Milwaukee Braves (2B Red Schoendist, 3B Eddie Mathews, OF Hank Aaron, P Warren Spahn)

1956 - New York Yankees (Stengel, Berra, Mantle, Ford, Slaughter (7-20, 1 HR, 4 RBI in WS))

1955 - Brooklyn Dodgers (Alston, C Roy Campanella, 3B Jackie Robinson, SS Pee Wee Reese, Snider)

1954 - New York Giants (Mgr Leo Durocher, OF Willie Mays, OF Monte Irvin, P Hoyt Wilhelm)

1953 - New York Yankees (Stengel, Berra, Rizzuto, Mantle, Ford)

1952 - New York Yankees (Stengel, Berra, Rizzuto, Mantle)

1951 - New York Yankees (Stengel, Berra, Rizzuto, OF Joe DiMaggio, OF Mickey Mantle (96 G/1-5 in WS))

43 HOFers, 10 WS Championship Teams = 4.3 HOF/WS.

Note: Phil Rizzuto played 31 G for 1956 NYY, but was released August 16th.

Note (2): 1955 BRK roster included P Sandy Koufax (12 G at age 19), and P Tommy Lasorda (4 G). Neither played in the 1955 World Series.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1941 - 1950)

1950 - New York Yankees (Mgr Casey Stengel, C Yogi Berra, SS Phil Rizzuto, OF Joe DiMaggio)

1949 - New York Yankees (Stengel, Berra, Rizzuto, DiMaggio)

1948 - Cleveland Indians (Mgr/SS Lou Boudreau, P Bob Feller, B Bob Lemon, P Satchel Paige)

1947 - New York Yankees (Rizzuto, DiMaggio, Berra (83 G but 3-19, 1HR in WS))

1946 - St. Louis Cardinals (2B Red Schoendist, OF Stan Musial, OF Enos Slaughter)

1945 - Detroit Tigers (P Hal Newhouser, 1B Hank Greenberg (78 games/7-23, 2HR in WS))

1944 - St. Louis Cardinals (Musial)

1943 - New York Yankees (Mgr. Joe McCarthy, C Bill Dickey)

1942 - St. Louis Cardinals (Slaughter, Musial)

1941 - New York Yankees (McCarthy, Dickey,Rizzuto, DiMaggio, P Red Ruffing, P Lefty Gomez)

31 HOFs, 10 WS Championship teams = 3.1 HOF/WS

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1931 - 1940)

1940 - Cincinnati Reds (Mgr Bill McKechnie, C Ernie Lombardi)

1939 - New York Yankees (Mgr Joe McCarthy, C Bill Dickey, OF Joe DiMaggio, P Red Ruffing, P Lefty Gomez)

1938 - New York Yankees (McCarthy, Dickey, 1B Lou Gehrig, DiMaggio, Ruffing, Gomez)

1937 - New York Yankees (McCarthy, Dickey, Gehrig, 2B Tony Lazzeri, DiMaggio, Ruffing, Gomez)

1936 - New York Yankees (McCarthy, Dickey, Gehrig, Lazzeri, DiMaggio, Ruffing, Gomez)

1935 - Detroit Tigers (Mgr/C Mickey Cochrane, 1B Hank Greenberg, 2B Charlie Gehringer, OF Goose Goslin)

1934 - St. Louis Cardinals (2B Frankie Frisch, OF Joe Medwick, P Dizzy Dean)

1933 - New York Giants (Mgr/1B Bill Terry, OF Mel Ott, P Carl Hubbell)

1932 - New York Yankees (McCarthy, Dickey, 3B Joe Sewell, OF Babe Ruth, Lazzeri, Gehrig, Gomez, Ruffing, P Herb Pennock)

1931 - St. Louis Cardinals (1B Jim Bottomley, 2B Frankie Frisch, OF Chick Hafey, P Burleigh Grimes)

50 HOF, 10 WS Championship Team = 5.0 HOF/WS

Note: SS Leo Durocher played 146 games for 1934 STL, including 7-27, 4 R in WS.

Note(2): C Ernie Lombardi played just 109 G for 1940 CIN, and 2G, 1-3, 1 2B in WS.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1921 - 1930)

1930 - Philadelphia Athletics (Mgr Connie Mack, C Mickey Cochrane, 1B Jimmie Foxx, OF Al Simmons, P Lefty Grove)

1929 - Philadelphia Athletics (Mack, Cochrane, Foxx, Simmons, Grove)

1928 - New York Yankees (OF Babe Ruth, 1B Lou Gehrig, 2B Tony Lazzeri, OF Earle Combs, P Waite Hoyt, P Herb Pennock, Mgr Miller Huggins)

1927 - New York Yankees (Ruth, Gehrig, Lazzeri, Combs, Hoyt, Pennock, Huggins)

1926 - St. Louis Cardinals(Mgr/2B Rogers Hornsby, 1B Jim Bottomley, P Pete Alexander)

1925 - Pittsburgh Pirates (2B Pie Traynor, OF Kiki Cuyler)

1924 - Washington Senators (OF Goose Goslin, P Walter Johnson, OF Sam Rice)

1923 - New York Yankees (Ruth, Pennock, Hoyt, Huggins)

1922 - New York Giants (1B George Kelly, 3B Frankie Frisch, SS Dave Bancroft, Mgr John McGraw)

1921 - New York Giants (Kelly, Frisch, Bancroft, McGraw)


44 HOFs, 10 WS Championship Team = 4.4 HOF/WS

Note: OF Casey Stengel was a member of the 1922 NYG, although was not a HOF player.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1911 - 1920)

1920 - Cleveland Indians (OF Tris Speaker, P Stan Coveleski)

1919 - Cincinnati Reds (OF Edd Roush)

1918 - Boston Red Sox (OF Harry Hooper, OF/P Babe Ruth)

1917 - Chicago White Sox (C Ray Schalk, 2B Eddie Collins, P Red Faber)

1916 - Boston Red Sox (Hooper, Ruth)

1915 - Boston Red Sox (Hooper, OF Tris Speaker, Ruth)

1914 - Boston Braves (SS Rabbit Maranville, 2B Johnny Evers)

1913 - Philadelphia Athletics (Mgr Connie Mack, 2B Eddie Collins, 3B Frank (Home Run) Baker, P Eddie Plank, P Chief Bender, P Herb Pennock)

1912 - Boston Red Sox (OF Harry Hooper, OF Tris Speaker)

1911 - Philadelphia Athletics (Mack, Collins, Baker, Plank, Bender)

28 Hall-of-Famers, 10 WS Championship teams = 2.8 HOF/WS

Note: 1917 CWS Shoeless Joe Jackson also probably a Hall of Famer, but for 1919 Black Sox scandal.

World Series Champs & Hall of Famers (1903 - 1910)

1910 - Philadelphia Athletics (Mgr Connie Mack, 2B Eddie Collins, 3B Frank (Home Run) Baker, P Eddie Plank)

1909 - Pittsburgh Pirates (SS Honus Wagner, P Vic Willis)

1908 - Chicago Cubs (SS Joe Tinker, 2B Johnny Evers, 1B Frank Chance, P Mordecai Brown)

1907 - Chicago Cubs (Tinker,Evers, Chance, Brown)

1906 - Chicago White Sox (SS George Davis, P Ed Walsh)

1905 - New York Giants (P Christy Mathewson, C Roger Bresnahan, P Joe McGinnity)

1904 - not played

1903 - Boston Pilgrims (P Cy Young, Mgr/3B Jimmy Collins)

21 Hall of Famers, 7 WS Championship Teams = 3 HOF/WS champ

Friday, October 17, 2008

Architecture

Most architects must have a fulfilling life. You design, you build, and you and others admire for years to come. With respect to the financial system, loud calls are being made for a new architecture. How did we get here and where do we go?

Alan Greenspan has been referred to as the "intellectual architect" of current policy and financial structure. That makes him "similar in profession" to his mentor Ayn Rand's most famous character, Howard Roark. Maybe not in the completely uncompromising, unconventional way, but no doubt Rand/Roark's influence made its way into Greenspan's laissez-faire, free market philosophy.

The other name to invoke here is Adam Smith. Greenspan is again a long-time admirer of the 18th century economist/philosopher. Trust the invisible hand, and society will maximize its potential.

A key distinction must be made, however, between free market commerce and free market finance. When Greenspan was mastering his craft, pouring over thousands and thousands of pieces of data, figuring out mathematical relationships and dissecting economic indicators, he was engrossed in the real economy. When he became Fed Chairman though, he inherited power and persuasion over financial markets. Quotes from the late 90's show that he was clearly in favor of extending the invisible hand throughout the financial system and limiting the reach of regulation.

By now it is clear that the financial architecture is going to undergo change. Speculation and leverage have different systemic implications in the financial markets than they do in commerce, and steps are being taken to prevent the current crisis from reoccurring once we have all conveniently forgotten the missteps of the recent past. I sincerely hope though that the current architects keep the spirit of Greenspan's philosophy alive, albeit with a humble acknowledgment that trust and transparency are key characteristics of a sustainable financial system.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

'Peace with Honor'

With the unraveling of the McCain campaign almost complete (Intrade currently gives Obama a 77% likelihood of becoming the next President), it may be time for the final act of McCain's political life: peace with honor.

McCain's bounce over the summer was attributed to the addition of Steve Schmidt and other veterans of the Bush White House. But last week, after focusing much of their time and energy targeting Obama's associations with former 1960s terrorist William Ayers, McCain did not bring up Ayers' name at the town-hall debate in St. Louis, causing many to question its relevance.(*)

Schmidt's rise came at the apparent expense of long-time McCain advisor Rick Davis; others cast aside who had been with the Arizona during the dark days of the summer of 2007, when he was broke and left for dead by the GOP, include Mark Salter.

Salter has been McCain chief writer (of speeches) and ghost-writer (of books) for a number of years. He helped McCain develop the effective narrative of his life -- that he learned to love his country while a prisoner overseas -- and has been said to "'channel John McCain's voice.'"

Salter, more than anyone except perhaps Cindy McCain, has helped create John McCain's maverick -- and bi-partisan -- brand, which has been lost in the fall campaign. And it may fall to Salter to discuss quietly with McCain that the last few weeks of the campaign may be best spent trying to rehabilitate an image that the national press, at least, has spent much of the last few weeks criticizing at length.

A positive 'close' may allow McCain to claw back a few of the swing states -- all of which appear to be tipping Democratic -- and help the bottom of the Republican ticket that now fears an overwhelming, and filibuster-proof majority in both Houses.

Mark Salter, tell John McCain: it's time.


(*-Note that McCain claimed today that it is "probably ensured" that McCain will raise the name in this week's debate. But with the nation focusing on economic issues, it is still not clear what relevance -- or resonance -- Ayers will have with undecided voters.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ideas Lost to History III

Julio Lugo as the Red Sox starting shortstop.

Oh wait.

It seems that they can win without him.

Ideas Lost to History II

Here's another idea you don't hear too much about any more: privatizing Social Security.

Back in the halcyon days of 2004-5, a then-newly re-elected President Bush claimed that he would spend his political capital to expand the "ownership society" to allow people to invest some, or perhaps all, of their Social Security accounts into the stock market.

As we know, Social Security is currently underfunded, but even with no reforms it would remain solvent through 2041 (with recipients receiving 78% of scheduled benefits that year.)

Today's stock market would have much more damaging effects for a hypothetical private Social Security account.

Of course, with the US Government's ownership of stakes in AIG and now, perhaps investing equity into a number of US banks, one might argue that the privatization of 'Social Security' (which after all is a US Government obligation like any other one, notwithstanding the theoretical Social Security 'Trust Fund,') has been effected with lightning speed.

Ideas Lost to History

In light of almost daily financial news that borders on the cataclysmic, one can't help but notice that you don't hear too many people talking about the dangers of "moral hazard" anymore.

If you think back to the fall of Bear Stearns, many observers noted that by saving Bear (it ended up being purchased -- with US Government backstops -- by JP Morgan Chase), we risked allowing those who took enormous risks to walk away from the consequences of their actions.

At the time, the mortgage market was already frozen, but it was not until this fall -- with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Freddie-and-Fannie -- that the true extent of the financial damage has been seen. And the worries about 'moral hazard' have been superseded; because of the interlocking counterparty risk of countless derivatives, the fall-out from the failure of many financial institutions is not limited to those who were at that entity, taking the risk. We are all part of the "moral hazard."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

1907












With the defeat of the 'Bailout Bill' in Congress yesterday, one can't help but think of the Panic of 1907, which occurred almost 100 years ago.

In 1907, horse-drawn carriages and 'special' trains were state-of-the-art. But while financial markets change, the core elements of a panic remain the same: financial innovation runs ahead of regulation; a short-squeeze; interlocking and connected financial institutions, resulting in a domino-effect of falling institutions; the spread of the contagion; and then, most dangerously, a run on previously-healthy banks.

The 1907 Panic was stemmed on the evening of November 2-3, when JP Morgan famously locked a number of presidents of trust companies (which were the financial innovations of the day, as derivatives and credit-default swaps are today) in his library; they were not 'released' until they all agreed to subscribe to a $25M loan for the Trust Company of America, an otherwise healthy institution that was facing a run. And like in 1907, it is collective action -- individuals acting against their own personal short-term interests for the good of all -- that can stem a panic.

The House vote yesterday was a political version of the 'Prisoner's Dilemma.' The bill would help everyone, but it was in many member's interest to have been able to vote against an unpopular bill. But once it became clear that the House Republicans were not near the 100 votes that Speaker Pelosi wanted, Democrats were not going to pass a bill with little or no GOP support.

The good news, if any, is that the lessons of 1907 still hold; the meeting in Morgan's library was not the first time that "Pierpont" had tried to stem the tide. More than a week earlier, on October 23rd, 1907, Morgan had summoned the trust presidents to his office and urged them to help TCA; but at that time, they were still more concerned about their own cash position, and Morgan had trouble raising $10M. (A week later, it required considerably more money -- $25M -- to stop the run on TCA.)

And as the contagion spread throughout the stock market, Morgan had to inveigh upon then-President Teddy Roosevelt to allow the takeover of Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad by US Steel. Roosevelt was known as a 'trust buster', so politically he was contradicting his well-established position. But TR did what was needed to be done, and so avoided (in his words later) "a panic and general industrial smashup at this time."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

With the Volume Down?!?

Gov. Sarah Palin was asked last night by Sean Hannity whether she had seen Tina Fey's portrayal of her on last weekend's Saturday Night Live:

HANNITY: One last question that I didn't ask you: Did you watch Tina Fey on "Saturday Night Live"?

PALIN: I watched with the volume all the way down and I thought it was hilarious, she was spot on.

HANNITY: Do you think you could play her one day?

PALIN: Oh absolutely. It was hilarious. Again, I didn't hear a word she said, but the visual was spot on.
Watching SNL with the volume down?!?!?

Isn't this the moral equivalent of then-Governor Bill Clinton's statement in 1992: "When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and didn't like it. I didn't inhale and I didn't try it again."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Electing FDR












With shadows from 1929 appearing -- seemingly -- on the business (and front) pages every day, it is perhaps instructive to look back at the true "Great Depression", and the election held in 1932. (It is worth noting that there appears to be an increase in interest in the FDR era in pop culture at this time as well, from AMC's "Mad Men" and the "Hobo Code" to John McCain's memories of Pearl Harbor in his RNC Nomination Speech.)

Donald Ritchie's "Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932" begins with the rise of Herbert Hoover, self-made man, shortly after the turn of the century. By the end of the First World War, Hoover (then just 43 years old) was entrusted with the Food Administration, and had become a national figure. By 1920, some Washington wags were discussing a potential Hoover-FDR ticket on the Democratic side; Hoover demurred, and eventually declared himself a Republican. (It was interesting to learn that Hoover and Roosevelt were social acquaintances.)

By 1927, Hoover helped organize relief for the Mississippi River flood (the previous 'big one' that was referenced during Hurricane Katrina), and became the GOP nominee in 1928. Facing Al Smith, the New York Governor and first Catholic to head a party ticket, Hoover won with the promise of a "chicken in every pot, a car in every garage."

Four years later, promises of the "Hoover economy" had collapsed into the bitterness of "Hoovervilles" and "Hoover blankets" (newspapers). But he was relieved when FDR won the Democratic nomination in Chicago (holding off a challenge from his former mentor, Al Smith); Hoover felt that FDR would not be a tough opponent.

FDR for his part did not underestimate the incumbent, although Hoover did not campaign vigorously (employing the Rose Garden strategy) until very near the end. Moreover events moved against Hoover: a "Bonus March" of WWI veterans was broken up -- albeit over Hoover's orders for non-violence -- by calvary commanded by Douglas MacArthur (with assistance from Dwight D. Eisenhower). Public opinion -- which incredibly seemed split evenly between FDR and Hoover, although polling was in its infancy -- began to move against the sitting President.

In the end, the country was ready to turn to a fresh leader (although one with a familiar name). FDR tallied 22.8M votes against just 15.7M for Hoover.

The transition, which lasted through March, when FDR was sworn in, was marked by a near assassination (in Miami, when Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak was struck and eventually died; the assassin was convicted and executed within 33 days after the shooting); and increasing tension between former associates Hoover and FDR.

Although the Depression would linger for much of the rest of the 1930s, the country was clearly headed in a new direction. Hoover's reluctant campaigning and bad luck (as evidenced by the Bonus March), combined with the crushing economic climate, made the result a foregone conclusion (in retrospect).

But the backstory -- and the personal relationship between the two combatants -- made the re-telling an interesting one, especially given the current business headlines.

Here's What Mitt Thinks...

We wondered a few days ago what Mitt Romney would think of the current McCain/Palin Campaign efforts to distort Obama's record (and for that matter, to obfuscate some of the weaker points of Palin's record).

[Apparently clip was from earlier in the year; we still don't know what Mitt thinks...apologies for any confusion]

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Boats Against the Tide













While it has been 20 years since Morgan Magic, it has been an unbelievable 30 years since the first public statement of "Bucky Bleeping Dent."

Although born in 1967 with the Impossible Dream, and baptized with the 1975 World Series, it was truly 1978 that forged "Red Sox Nation."

A season that began with so much promise (the Sox were ahead by 8.5 games on the second place Brewers and 14 on the Yankees on July 17th), ended with an injury-riddled disaster of the "Boston Massacre" in early September.

But despite allegations of "choking", the '78 Sox came off of the mat and closed with a 13-2 streak that allowed them to crawl into a first-place tie with the Yankees on the last game of the season, thanks to the final win in a storied (Sox) career by all-time gamer Luis Tiant.

Richard Bradley chronicles the season, and the Playoff Game between the two clubs (played in Fenway on October 2, 1978), in the "The Greatest Game."

Bradley does a great job of reaching many of the Game's protagonists, and putting them in the frame-of-mind that they were during that October afternoon. From the night before at latter-day Sox' Derek Lowe's favorite 'local watering hole' -- Daisy Buchanan's -- to the tension between Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin (replaced at mid-season by Bob Lemon.)

The pivotal figure -- as in ESPN's chronicle of the previous season, "The Bronx is Burning" -- is Thurman Munson (played by Erik Jensen in the TV series). Munson reminds one of the role apparent played by Jason Varitek on the current Sox team, with value well in excess of OPS+ or OBP.

Unfortunately, the text is from time-to-time littered with logical or editing inconsistencies, which take away from the overall narrative. For instance, in the chapter on the Second Inning of the Playoff Game (page 99), Bradley writes:
Yaz had pulled a home run off a pitcher who almost never gave up home runs -- just 12 in 269 innings up to that point, and only one of those home runs had been hit by a left-handed hitter. Players on both sides knew what that meant: Guidry's fastball wasn't up to par.
So far, so good. But then, it is followed by this non sequiter:
In right field, Lou Piniella, playing in place of the defensively challenged Reggie Jackson, took note. If Yaz had been able to homer off a Guidry fastball, the Red Sox might all be pulling the ball a little more than usual. He resolved that when left-handers came to the plate, he would play a few steps closer to the left field line than he normally would. (Emphasis added)
While such editing issues are not fatal, they pull away from the general impression of the work; but all-in-all, a good read, at least (for Sox fans) until the final pages.

The Spring of 1940

With news that Lehman Brothers hangs on the brink of bankruptcy, one is reminded of the words of novelist Graham Greene in The End of the Affair. Writing (with the benefit of hindsight, in 1950), of the Spring of 1940, he wrote:
the spring like a corpse was sweet with the smell of doom.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tampa Bay: AL East champs?

By grinding out wins on successive nights in Boston, the Tampa Bay Rays have made a strong case that they might cling to their 2 1/2 game lead in the AL East, despite a tough September schedule, as previously discussed.

(Of course, after the infamous collapse of the Mets a year ago, going 5-12 over the last 17 games, no lead is safe.)

The Rays have hung in despite losing two stars -- Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria -- for most of the past two months to injury.

They are also an inspiration to small-market teams everywhere: they play in the shadows of AL East superpowers Yankees and Red Sox, with a combined $340M payroll.

In fact, with the Red Sox paying Manny Ramirez's salary for the entire year (a condition for the July 31st three-way trade with the Dodgers and Pirates), the Sox pay almost as much for their (two) leftfielders (Ramirez ($19M) and his replacement, Jason Bay ($6M) as the Rays pay their entire team ($43M).

Tampa Bay Rays.

Good for baseball.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Week in Politics

A week ago today, Sarah Palin had yet to speak to the GOP Convention, and the markets were predicting that there was a 15% chance that she would not make it on the ticket through November.



A week later, there's few who thinks she's coming off the ticket, and the market for Obama winning the Presidency has dropped from about 60% likelihood to 49.

A week can be a long time in politics.

Inside Mitt's Mind

The news this morning is that the McCain/Palin campaign has apparently released a new ad accusing Barack Obama as having a single educational legislative accomplishment: that of passing "legislation to teach 'comprehensive sex education' to kindergartners. Learning about sex before learning to read?"

The Obama campaign reacted swiftly, and accused the McCain campaign of being dishonorable:
It is shameful and downright perverse for the McCain campaign to use a bill that was written to protect young children from sexual predators as a recycled and discredited political attack against a father of two young girls - a position that his friend Mitt Romney also holds. Last week, John McCain told Time magazine he couldn't define what honor was. Now we know why.
Smearing an opponent is not honorable, but it's not the first time that McCain has done so in this cycle.

In late January, with his campaign in trouble, Romney was buried in Florida when McCain took a Romney quote about setting timetables in Iraq and twisted its meaning by changing the context. Here's the Romney quote:

[T]he president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you’re going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police, and the leadership of the Iraqi government.
But during the primary season, McCain seized on the single word "timetable" and claimed that by discussing 'timetables', even in private (with Iraq PM Maliki), Romney was part of the defeatist crowd that was against the Surge:
Governor Romney obviously said there had to be, “timetables,” although they had to be secret because we weren’t going to tell the enemy when we were leaving. I mean, that’s — that’s just a fact. And if we’d have done that, as the Democrats and some Republicans wanted to do, we would’ve lost that surge and al-Qaeda would be celebrating a victory over the United States of America.
To be sure, Romney was in trouble already, having lost Iowa and New Hampshire; but a win in Florida would have put him back on the map, and McCain's distortions helped seal his fate.

At the time, the mainstream media didn't pay much attention to what McCain was engaged in; after all, as George W. Bush famously told McCain himself in 2000 (when McCain was being smeared for his adopted daughter from Bangladesh), it's just 'politics.'

McCain's 2000 experience may have changed him, like Richard Nixon's experience in Illinois and Texas did in 1960. When the "new Nixon" got another change -- in 1968 and 1972 -- he left nothing to chance.

Wonder what Mitt thinks.

Shades of 1988 (Part I)

While we march towards the 30th(!) anniversary of the seminal modern-day Red Sox/Yankees game (the 2 October 1978 one-game playoff, of which more later), this year also marks the 20th anniversary of 'Morgan Magic.'

John McNamara was a year-and-a-half-removed from Game Six in Shea Stadium, but a disappointed 78-win season in 1987 (collective hang-over from the World Series, personified by Bob Stanley's 4-15, 5.07 ERA, 1.572 WHIP campaign.)

With the 1988 edition stuck in mediocrity (43-42), then-GM Lou Gorman fired McNamara, and gave the helm to local son (and Sox-lifer) Morgan while Gorman interviewed 'real' managers to take over. But when the Sox won 12 in a row, and 19 of 20, the former snow-plow driver dropped the "interim" label.

The 1988 team won the division, but faced the Canseco/McGuire-fueled A'steam in the ALCS.

Morgan led the team to another title in 1990, and again the Sox were swept by the Bash Brothers; but the manager also known as "the other Joe Morgan" still brings a smile to Red Sox Nation.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The State of Manny

Speaking of Manny, it's been a bizarre ten days in Manny-World, punctuated by today's quote:
The Red Sox don't deserve a player like me. During my years here, I've seen how they [the Red Sox] have mistreated other great players when they didn't want them to try to turn the fans against them. The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don't deserve me. I'm not talking about money. Mental peace has no price, and I don't have peace here.
In fact, fan sentiment has turned against Manny, at least as judged by the callers on nitwit, er, sports radio.

But why has Manny gone off the deep end all of a sudden? After a relatively quiet first half of the season, where the only news Manny made was that he was actually talking to the media, why are we getting another edition of Manny-World with, seemingly every news cycle?

As every one knows, the Sox own two successive options over Manny for 2009 and 2010, each for $20M each. (The Manny contract, by the way, although negotiated by Sox anti-Theo Dan Duquette, has looked better and better over time.) As also has been made clear to everyone, Manny turns 37 next May; while a 36-year old player might get a 4 year deal, it's unlikely that a 38-year old (going on 39) would get one in the winter of 2010-11.

So let's say that Manny is looking for one more contract. With each year that goes by, it becomes less and less likely that some GM will invest $90-100M to a 37 or 38-year old.

After all of that, what if I told you that Manny switched agents (to Scott Boras) last winter?

And what if I told you that if the Red Sox exercise one or both of the existing options on Manny, Boras gets paid nothing for the next two years and his previous agent collects 5% (or a cool $1M per option) for each year?

And what if I told you that as a 10/5 player, Manny can veto any trade unless the new team meets his agent's, rather, Manny's conditions? And what if those conditions included getting a four-year extension, the commission on which would be payable to Boras rather than the previous agent?

Do you think a new contract is something Mr. Boras -- or rather, Manny -- would be interested in?

Of course, there is more than a little irony in the fact that agent Boras may be trying to orchestrate the revocation of a team option; it was little more than a season ago when JD Drew opted out of his (player) option with the Dodgers to take a big payday with the Sox.

JD's agent? The same Mr. Boras.

September Scheduling

The trading deadline looms tomorrow, and teams are making a decision between trying to make a move to get them deep into the playoffs, and thinking about 'next year.'

With the Yankees having addressed two major and one minor problem (catcher, left-field, and situational lefty) with moves in the past few moves, it's clear that the Bronx Bombers have stepped up their efforts to close in on the AL East-leading Rays, and the (slumping, but still) Wild Card-leading Red Sox.

But the Yanks had best be in good playoff position when September 1st rolls around (when, by the way, Chien-Ming Wang is scheduled to return from the DL). In the month of September, the Yankees have just 10 homes games, against 16 road games; the homes series in the Bronx are against the East-leading Rays (3 games), the Central-leading White Sox (4 games), and the Orioles (last place in the East, although owning a respectable 51-56 record).

The Rays have a similar September, with just 10 homes games (against the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Twins (currently 0.5 game out of first place in the Central, and 1.5 games out of the Wild Card spot); Tampa also has 17 away games, including a double-header the last week of the season against Baltimore.

And what about the other AL East contender? The Red Sox have the reverse schedule: 16 home and 10 away. The home series for the Sox include Baltimore (3 games); Tampa (3); Toronto (3); and a final week that includes 4 with Cleveland and a final 3 with the Yankees.

So how come the Yankees finish the season on the road, even though it's the last year at Yankee Stadium? You'll have to ask the schedule-makers at MLB; the last scheduled home game at the "House that Ruth Built" will be on September 21st.

And with the Yankee's September schedule, there's no guarantee that there will be baseball in the Bronx in October.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Win It For... (Part III)

...Brad Lohaus.

...Chris Corchiani.

...Dana Barros.

...Ed Pinckney.

...Dave Gavitt.

...Rick Pinito.

...DeCovan Brown.

...and (summer league signee in 2002) Oliver Miller.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Win It For... (Part II)

...Pervis Ellison.

...Ricky Davis.

...Alaa Abdelnaby.

...Marcus Banks.

...Mark Blount.

...James Blackwell.

...Eric Montross.

...Alton Lister.

...Andrew DeClercq.

...Travis Knight.

...Ron Mercer.

Win It For...

One of the most authentic elements of the Red Sox run to the 2004 World Series title was a thread posted on Sons of Sam Horn, entitled it simply "Win It For..."

SoSH readers then contributed there own stories -- of grandfathers, brothers, friends -- who were life-long Red Sox fans and who, in many cases, were not living at the time the Sox appeared to be ready to win the long-awaited title. (Former Sox players, like Johnny Pesky, still alive then and now, and Ted Williams, not, were also featured.)

The SoSH thread was then turned into a book that was published to modest acclaim.

With the Celtics firmly in command in the second half last night, thoughts turned to a "Win It For..." thread for old Celts.

Red Auerbach would be featured prominently in any such thread; the new-look Celts, with hard-nosed defense and an unselfish core group of KG, Ray-Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, would have been appreciated by Red even in today's NBA.

...Johnny Most.

...Reggie Lewis and ...Easy Ed Macauley (the only Celtics with their numbers retired without a World Championship ring; Macauley was traded in 1956 for Bill Russell.)

The wags had some fun with some other memories of Celtics past:

...Acie Earl.

...Todd Day.

...Dino Radja.

...Xavier McDaniel.

But perhaps the most compelling "Win It For..." would be a young man, who 22 years ago tonight, flew back from Boston to his dorm at the University of Maryland, having just been selected as the 'heir apparent' by the then-World Champion Boston Celtics.

Before 9:00am the next morning, Len Bias' dream was gone.









And it took the franchise until last night to get back on top.

Hat tip: AH

Friday, June 13, 2008

Urgency

Twenty-three years ago, in Game One of the 1985 NBA Finals, the Celtics administered the worst whipping ever in a Finals game to the Lakers. A year removed from the riveting 7-game 1984 Finals, Celtics fans anticipated a quicker resolution, and the opening game gave no reason for doubt. The final score of the "Memorial Day Massacre" was 148-114, but the game wasn't-as-close-as-the-score-indicated.

But a funny happened on the way to the repeat championship (at that time, no team had won back-to-back championships since the 1967-68 and 1968-69 Celtics, and it was seen as an extremely difficult feat; since that time, of course, the NBA has had five(*) different "teams" win six different sets of at least two championships in a row: Lakers (1987, 88); Pistons (1989, 90), Bulls (1991-93), Rockets (1994, 95), Bulls again, (1996-98) and the Lakers with a totally new group (2000-02))

The Lakers rebounded from the humiliation of Game One in 1985, with Kareem Abdul Jabbar (a year removed from the meltdowns(**) in Games Five and Seven in 1984) apologizing to his teammates privately for his 'effort' in Game One. LA went on to win the Championship by beating the Celts in the old Garden in an impressive six games; it was the first time that an opposing team had ever won a championship on the parquet. Kareem reached personal redemption by scoring 36 and 29 points, respectively, in Games 5 and 6 (with the Lakers winning both) on his way to being named Finals MVP.

Fast forward 23 years to last night, as the young Lakers suffered one of the most devastating defeats in NBA Finals history. After building leads of 24 points in the first half, allowing the Celts to slip back into the game late in the second quarter, and then ending the half with a flurry (including a Jordan Farmer running three-pointer as time ran out), the Lakers appeared in control.

As late as half-way through the third, the lead was still at 20, when Doc Rivers went small (House, Garnett, Posey, Allen, and Pierce) and the vise was tightened defensively. By the end of the third, Brown's dunk over Kobe cut the lead to 2, and the Celts were back in business.

The fourth quarter was one of the defining moments in the careers of Pierce, Garnett, Allen (who turned back the clock like Kevin McHale in the 1992 playoffs, with his blow-by (off the dribble, no less) of Sasha Vujacic with 0:16 left), and frankly, Kobe. Four days after famously abusing and embarrassing his teammates during Game Two, Kobe (while going 4-8) disappeared in the fourth; we probably won't hear much more criticism by Kobe on Sunday night.

The Lakers are young, and perhaps thinking of next year when they will add a (presumably healthy) Andrew Bynum and mid-level exception to the mix. Like a freshman-laden NCAA team, they are dreaming of multiple trips to the "Final Four" and are sure that a championship will follow.

The Celts, on the other hand, are laden with the NBA equivalent of fifth-year seniors. KG, Allen, and Pierce have labored in the backwaters of the NBA for the past decade. Their collective moment for redemption -- ironically, like Kareem in the twilight of his career -- is now; don't expect the Lakers to be boarding the plane for Boston on Sunday night.


(*)-The Bulls would win two sets of multiple championships, but both times with squads built around Jordan and Scotty Pippen; the Rockets' inter-regnum was of course during the Jordan gambl-- er, baseball sabbatical.

And speaking of the time Jordan spent with the Birmingham Barons, why would anyone think that the NBA is ever engaged in conspiracies for marketing purposes? Right, David Stern?

Hello?

Mr. Commissioner, are you there?

(**) - Between 1984 and 1985, the NBA moved from a 2-2-1-1-1 format to a 2-3-2 format, meaning Game Five in 1985 was played in LA, rather than in Boston.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Get To the Rim

Late in the second half of Game Three last night, ABC's Jeff Van Gundy noted that the Celtics might have their best chance to win a game in Los Angeles, as the Lakers were getting almost no contributions from both Lamar Odom (foul difficulties) and Pau Gausol (tough shooting night).

For a while the Celtics seemed to have the lackadaisical attitude that a loss on the Lakers' home floor was no big deal. For much of the first quarter, they were satisfied with settling for long-range jumpers and no offensive rebounds. Kobe, meanwhile, clearly took the attitude that he was going to get all the way to the rim on the Cs, rather than settling for the awkwardly-angle jumpers that -- while often going in -- had not in the two games in Boston. (The hip-checks and moving screens that certain Laker bloggers complained about in Games 1 & 2 were also called against the Cs, with one big one essentially ending the game late in the fourth.) Bryant also was essentially turned into a "rover" on defense, matching-up (not really defending) with Rajon Rondo and literally daring him to shoot the 18-footer.

But with missed layups, foul shots, and some sharpshooting from Ray Allen (the only one of the 'Big 3' who game to play the entire game last night), the Cs hung around the first half, and when Rondo went down with a twisted ankle, forgotten man Eddie House stretched the Laker defense (as Van Gundy quickly noted) and gave Kendrick Perkins and KG room to operate on the low block.

For a brief moment in the fourth, the Cs were in the position to put the game away. But Doc Rivers went with a strange lineup early in the fourth (Powe, PJ Brown, House, Posey, and Allen) and the moment was lost. The Lakers retook the lead on Kobe's wide open three (top of the key) on a broken play, and the Cs never regained their footing. Two Gausol put-backs on Lamar Odom drives proved the point that Van Gundy and others have made time-and-again: when you get to the rim, at any level of basketball, good things happen.

Tactically, the end-game defense was confusing, at best. With two minutes remaining, the Cs ran a double at Kobe (with KG) early in the shot clock; Kobe found Odom at the top of the key, and delivered to a wide-open Sasha Vujacic for a three-ball (sidenote: before this series is over, Vujacic's name will be in the small club of hated Boston-team opponents along with Dennis Rodman and Claude Lemieux). On the succeeding two possessions, the Cs brain-trust left Ray Allen on an island with Kobe, and Bryant made successive 17-footers over Ray-Ray.

While Cs fan-bloggers seem to be rejoicing in the moral victory (after all, it was a true elimination game for the Lakers), Van Gundy's point is real: the Cs had a golden opportunity to end the series, and left it there.

The Cs still look to be the better team, and will likely still win this Series outright. But the Lakers were ready to be put away, and as it has done many times this year, the Cs let a good team off the hook. The Lakers -- like the Cavaliers in the 2nd Round -- know what they are doing at crunch time: getting the ball to Kobe and letting him create.

Finally, could there have been a worse day for the NBA to revisit the Tim Donaghy situation? After Game Two's refereeing disaster, the free throw disparity went to the Lakers (34-22) in Game Three (although admittedly with reason, as the Lakers were clearly driving at the rim throughout much of the first half). But there's no question that the consistency and/or lack thereof among the refs has become a major subplot in the NBA Playoffs.

Donaghy's claims about Game Six of the 2002 Lakers/Kings series and the treatment of Yao Ming in a 2005 Rockets/Mavs series seemed to be backed-up by contemporaneous facts. The Rockets coach Van Gundy was himself fined $100,000 in 2005 for his comments about the officiating, and gave a strange interview with Mike Breen last night at halftime -- on the one hand trying to avoid giving any credibility to Donaghy's statements, but on the other unwilling to admit that he had been wrong in the substance of his comments (he did admit that he "went about it the wrong way" by raising the issue in public.

What is more interesting is the procedural background. Donaghy is apparently up for sentencing (as part of his plea bargain) and the NBA demanded restitution of $1 million for damage incurred by the league by Donaghy's actions. (If Donaghy doesn't have the money to pay the league, his sentence could be extended.)

So after a year where the Donaghy scandal had faded to the background, to be replaced by a "NBA Dream" (and ABC/ESPN Dream) Finals of Lakers/Celtics, the Donaghy matter was revived because the NBA needed to try and collect an extra $1M?

What's wrong with this picture?