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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Big Brother in Alabama & Other News .... 

Not really having anything whatsoever to do with baseball or the Phillies, but I saw this on Yahoo! Headlines and I couldn't pass without commenting on it:



Supreme Court Rejects Appeal on Ban on Sex Toy Sale

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Tuesday a constitutional challenge to an Alabama law that makes it a crime to sell sex toys.

The high court refused to hear an appeal by a group of individuals who regularly use sexual devices and by two vendors who argued the case raised important issues about the scope of the constitutional right to sexual privacy.

The law prohibited the distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." First-time violators can face a fine of up to $10,000 and as much as one year in jail.

What a sad world we live in when it's a felony(!) to use a vibrator. Doesn't the state legislature of Alabama have anything better to do with its time? Like, I dunno, fixing their dilapitated schools? Getting people out of poverty? Preventing cousins from marrying? This is major-league silliness, Red State Big Brotherism at its worst.

I pity the poor users of sex toys who get prosecuted under this law. Imagine sitting in the holding cell and listening to your other cell mates talk:

Thug #1: "What are you in for?"
Thug #2: "Armed robbery..."
Thug #3: "Aggrivated Assault..."
Thug #4: "Possession of narcotics..."
Guy in the polo shirt: "Buying a vibrator..."

I'm a little surprised that the Supreme Court won't hear the case. I certainly can't fathom the state of Alabama's legal reasoning for the sex toy ban. Where is the rational basis behind it? Preventing people from having pleasure? I suppose if you are one of those people who endorse the idea that sex is entirely for procreation this makes sense. (Hey, if you don't want to enjoy it, why should anyone else too?) I note that representatives from the Catholic Church, not exactly a bastion of hedonism, told my wife & I during our marriage counseling classes that the Church has rejected the "sex is for procreation purposes only" belief. So, if I could stand on my soap-box for a moment: what consenting adults do behind closed doors is their business, provided that they aren't hurting anyone. This is just one of those things you just have to shake your head at and thank god that you live in a place where people aren't that ignorant or narrow-minded. Lighten up, Alabama.

On a less adult subject, I'm transitioning my email account to my new gmail account. It's pretty sweet stuff. Contact me at citizensblog@gmail.com I made the adjustment on my contact info.

Enjoy the weekend. And stay clear of Alabama.

(26) comments

Thursday, February 24, 2005

All Hail Peter Gammons... 

Like many bloggers and sabremetricians, I throughly enjoy reading Peter Gammons work on ESPN.com and listen intently whenever he's on Baseball Tonight and Sportscenter. So why do we pay attention to Gammons work so intently?

There are few writers in the game today who mix an appreciation for statistics with a conversational writing style that gives the lay reader an accessible peek into the real story of baseball. Unlike most writers he seems to grasp how tremendous Billy Beane's work in Oakland really has been, and grasped the fact that the Hudson and Mulder deals aren't the end of the A's dominance. (see also.)

Gammons is also a keen reader of trends in the game. His September 12th piece on the fact that Defense was poised to become the "next big thing" in sabremetrics was uncannily prescient. This winter we've seen two major efforts to expand on existing defensive theories and break new ground. (I refer to Dave Pinto's PMR and Mike Humphires DRA.) Gammons has also been very open-minded towards Moneyball disciples Theo Epstein and Paul DePodesta, correctly noting that their much-criticized deals at the 2004 trading deadline would actually help their teams when the conventional wisdom was that the Dodgers had foolishly dealt their clutch bat, Paul Lo Duca, and that the Red Sox were crazy to deal Nomar for Cabrera.

I'm not the only blogger who thinks Gammons is a demi-god. Aaron Gleeman has praised his writing style and so have many other bloggers I've talked to informally via email.

I suppose what bloggers really like about Gammons is his willingness to embrace new ideas. Too often writers fall into ruts, recycling conventional wisdom and old platitudes without subjecting them to any thought. (I've often complained that people who rest their arguments on tradition - "This is the way things are done" - lack the capacity to see the world outside of their box. They enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.) Gammons gives us a cutting edge look at the game and digs deep to give us a peek into what the managers and GMs are thinking when they make decisions.

Bravo, Mr Gammons. Your work is always worthwhile!

(2) comments

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Buster Olney 

There are a few blogs that I read every day. The only non-Phillies blog that I never fail to check out is Aaron Gleeman's blog. Aaron's a terrific writer, full of humor and information. Readable but not wordy, he makes terrific use of the stats at his disposal without getting drowned in numbers (as I fear I often do). Like many bloggers he has pet peeves that are entertaining to read. I can't share his fascination with Eliza Cuthbert (I'm married, plus I watched way too many irritating "Kim gets in trouble" plots on 24), but I always am entertained by his loathing of ESPN's Buster Olney. Aaron's tart tongue has savaged Olney more times than I can count, from getting ages of players wrong to mocking "Productive Outs".

Now, I don't share Aaron's dislike of Olney. I've seen him on ESPNews and he's always struck me as being an intelligent guy and writes well (I read a little of his book, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, and was pretty impressed), but unlike Peter Gammons (my favorite baseball writer these days) he hasn't really embraced the numbers revolution. Olney's decision to rank the Phillies fifteenth of 30 teams in the MLB preseason rankings makes me want to join in:

-Olney is seduced by the Yankees payroll and annoints them No. 1 ... Okay, I disagree but reasonable minds can differ. (Or so one of my law professors told me, before explaining why something he disagreed with was wrong.)

-I agree with Olney that the Marlins are the team to beat in the NL East. But the Mets are No. 10? Huh? They have a lot of holes. I'm not seduced by the Mets decision to sign a pitcher on the decline (Pedro), a busted ace who never played to his potential (Benson) and a single, talented player (Beltran) to their roster. The Rangers were awful with A-Rod. One player does not reverse a team's descent into mediocrity. And their pitching is going to be much worse than advertised. Again, $ does not = wins.

-The A's are 17th and the Angels are 5th? Huh? The A's were more than just the Big Three in 2004. They have a lot of talent, especially on the mound, and nobody really thinks that they didn't improve at the plate with Kendall. The Angels regressed. They are still a good team, but they look like they've lost a step. I don't see how any reasonable person can think there is that much of a gap between the two.

So let's give Olney the benefit of the doubt and look at his capsule review of the Phillies. I actually agree with him that Burrell is the biggest X-factor the Phillies have to figure out, but I snorted at his dismissal of Cory Lidle and Jon Lieber as "not [to] be confused as an impact-type pitcher..." Lidle pitched very well coming over to the Phillies from the Reds, and Lieber is a tremendous pitcher. He won 20 games with the Cubs in 2002. Not an "impact-type pitcher" my eye.

Now that I've attacked Olney I can count on that job at ESPN goodbye, but I have a lot of respect for the work done at ESPN and I don't think Olney is a bad writer. I think he needs to make better use of stats than he does. (e.g., click here for Hardball Times brutal analysis of his "Productive Outs" article.) I won't mock silly things like getting a player's age wrong because I do things like that all of the time, but Olney falls into the rut of assuming that free agency and money can improve teams more than developing talent and wise spending.

Tomorrow. All hail Peter Gammons...

(2) comments

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Nice Article on Jays 

Short post today ... I just wanted to comment on a piece in today's ESPN.com about the 2005 Blue Jays, our nemesis in the 1993 World Series. The Jays are the fourth MLB team to explicitly endorse the Moneyball philosophy in designing a team, after the A's, Red Sox and Dodgers. GM J.P. Riccardi is a disciple of Billy Beane and has a formitable task before him: compete with the two largest payrolls in the MLB and Baltimore, a team that - if it ever got its act together - would be a formitable foe. Third place seems the best the Jays can shoot for. (And they did finish third for six consecutive years from 1998-2003, before falling to fifth in '04.)

I think the 2005 season will be a real test for the Jays. Letting Carlos Delgado go and rebuilding around younger players is a necessity for them, but if the Jays can roll past the Yankees and their bloated payroll wouldn't that be a tremendous blow for Moneyball cause? Money really can't buy you a pennant. The success that Billy Beane has had in Oakland can be replicated elsewhere. If the Jays fall to fifth again the critics out there will sharpen their knives and complain that Moneyball really doesn't work, that you can't beat baseball's city hall.

I know we don't want to root for the Jays after the '93 World Series, but let's root for them to win some games in 2005. A 90+ win Jays team would be good for baseball's health. (What's bad for the Yankees is good for baseball.)

More tomorrow, I hope. Thank you to everyone who sent along their words for my wife taking the bar today and tomorrow. I appreciate it.

(9) comments

Monday, February 21, 2005

Thoughts on DRA 

I’ve gotten a chance to review Mike Humphries Defense Regression Analysis (DRA) a little and I have a couple of thoughts:

As I said the other day, Defense seems to be the Next Big Thing in baseball studies and DRA will undoubtedly play a part in how we understand defense. Coming on the heels of Dave Pinto’s PMR, this seems to be undoubtedly true.

The individual Phillies do well in DRA:

-Jimmy Rollins rates well in DRA, significantly better than how UZR* rates his performance. Rollins rates a +3 with DRA, much higher than Derek Jeter (-22) and even with the Pirates Jack Wilson.

*Ultimate Zone Rating, a fielding stat developed by Mitchel Lichtman.

-Placido Polanco and Chase Utley didn’t log enough playing time to be counted, which is a shame, given that we’d all love to see if their high ratings in PMR could be replicated here.

-The biggest shock to me was that David Bell was rated as good, or perhaps even better, defensively than Scott Rolen. In fact, Bell rated as one of the top 3B’s in the MLB. If true, this would certainly shoot a hole in my theory that the Phillies should deal Bell and install Polanco.

-Unsurprisingly, Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell both fare poorly under DRA: Abreu at -4, Burrell at -12. In fact, Burrell is rated as the worst corner outfielder in the MLB. We don’t have data for Kenny Lofton or Marlon Byrd, which is too bad.

-Jim Thome also rates poorly, to nobody’s real surprise. Only the Reds Casey rated worse in DRA (-11 to Thome’s -10).

I’m always eager to get information and DRA supplies us with a lot. After chewing over what I’ve read, I’m inclined to say that the data strikes me as accurate, though I’m skeptical about Bell. I’m disappointed that there isn’t data to evaluate Utley, Polanco, Byrd or Lofton, because their status is important to evaluating the quality of the Phillies 2005 defensive alignment. That said, DRA is a valuable resource. Well done, Mike.

No post tomorrow. My wife is taking the PA bar exam the next two days and we’ll both be busy. Check back Thursday.

For those who put comments on A Citizen’s Blog this past week: I’ve been having trouble accessing the comments page thanks to the new internet security software I’ve installed on my laptop. Sorry. I’ll check it as soon as I can.

(65) comments

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