Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Justin Verlander won the A.L. Rookie of the Year award, no surprise.
-Brandon Webb of the D-Backs won the Cy Young. I don't think there was a clear favorite this season and Webb did do a great job pitching. Today the AL crowns Johan Santana with his second Cy Young.
-Mark DeRosa, a player mentioned by the Phillies as being a target to succeed Abraham Nunez at third is gone, signed by the Cubs to be their regular third baseman. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Phillies are going to be left high and dry and without an alternative to Nunez for third next season.
-The Cubs are busy spending money like drunken sailors to try and get back into the playoffs. I suppose when your hated rivals win the World Series you have to try and one-up them as quickly as possible. So far the Cubs re-signed injury-prone Kerry Wood and Aramis Ramirez, their power-hitting third baseman. Ramirez was probably never much of an option for the Phillies to succeed Abraham Nunez at third (too much money and he’s not much of a fielder), but it has to depress people to see that option close.
-Hmmm … I wonder if Scott Rolen might be interested in rejoining the Phillies since he is apparently feuding with manager Tony LaRussa.
-Speaking of people spending too much money, I worry that the craziness over the Red Sox pursuit of Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to lead to across-the-board salary inflation in baseball. If we are talking $100 mil for Alfonso Soriano, I don't think the Phillies can make that kind of a commitment, especially when they have Pat Burrell's contract on the books and need to put some money together to ink Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Chase Utley to long-term deals sooner rather than later. The 2007 Phillies might look a lot more like the '06 team that we thought.
-A little politics ... I was pouring over the election results like I usually scan the Phillies box scores looking for interesting and/or unusual information and I noticed a few things of interest the other day … with limited exceptions, President Bush won nearly every Congressional seat that the Democrats picked up on November 7th back in 2004. First look at districts Kerry won in 2004...
D - R / Bush % in '04
PA-07: 56%-44% / 47%
PA-08: 50%-50% / 48%
IA-1: 55%-43% / 46%
IA-2: 51%-49% / 44%
CT-2: 50%-50% / 44%
CT-5: 56%-44% / 49%
NH-2: 53%-45% / 47%
Notice a particular flavor to them? Three are New England seats, two are suburban Philadelphia seats and two are Iowa seats. It is not surprising that these were vulnerable this time around. Iowa, of course, was a major battleground won by Bush in 2004 and was won by the Democrats for straight years, from 1988 to 2000. It looks like the Democrats won the two bluest congressional districts in Iowa ... Meanwhile, suburban Philadelphia is emerging as a key Democratic stronghold, while the three New England seats come from an area that the Republicans are nearly extinct.
Now consider districts Bush won ... First, western / sunbelt districts ...
D - R / Bush % in '04
AZ-5: 51%-46% / 54%
AZ-8: 54%-42% / 53%
CA-11: 53%-47% / 54%
CO-7: 55%-42% / 51%
TX-22: 52%-42% / 64%
FL-16: 49%-48% / 54%
FL-22: 51%-47% / 52%
To be sure, I am assuming that Nick Lampson is a one-term wonder in Texas 22nd where the Democrats basically won because disgraced leader Tom DeLay quit too late to get his name off the ballot. So too in Florida 16, where Tom Foley narrowly sank the Republican candidate there. Next the South ...
D - R / Bush % in '04
NC-11: 55%-45% / 57%
Hold that thought .... Now the midwest ...
D - R / Bush % in '04
KS-1: 51%-47% / 59%
KY-3: 51%-48% / 51%
MN-1: 53%-47% / 51%
OH-18: 62%-38% / 57%
WI-8: 51%-49% / 55%
IN-2: 54%-46% / 56%
IN-8: 61%-38% / 62%
IN-9: 49%-48% / 59%
and finally the Republican seats in the Northeast ...
D - R / Bush % in '04
PA-4: 52%-48% / 54%
PA-10: 53%-47% / 60%
NH-1: 51%-49% / 51%
NY-19: 51%-49% / 54%
NY-20: 53%-47% / 54%
NY-24: 54%-45% / 53%
Of the Democrats 30 or so wins (I think I am missing a seat in there somewhere), 11 were in the Northeast, 10 in the Midwest, 7 in the West and 1 in the South. I think what is interesting is that while Democrats did do very well in the Northeastern U.S., writing-off the election as simply being the Democrats plucking off vulnerable Northeastern Republicans is wrong. Outside of the South, the Democrats really cut into the Republicans. The Democrats swept all three Indiana seats in a state that hasn't vote for the Democrat since LBJ. And the Democrats did it without the help of someone at the top of the ticket: there was no Gubernatorial election and the GOP Senator from Indiana, Richard Lugar, was unopposed for re-election.
For a long time now the Republican emphasis on theo-conservatism has given the GOP a leg up in the South. Notice that the Democrats won one seat in the South against a gaffe-prone GOP Congressman Democrats have been gunning for and Harold Ford Jr. ran a strong campaign for the Senate in Tennessee and still lost. The Democrats only two vulnerable Congressional seats were in Georgia. Their theo-con direction helped them to a certain extent in the Midwest where people a more likely to be socially conservative but the Democrats made big inroads by sounding an economically populist message.
The theo-con strategy has really hurt the Republicans in the Western U.S. Obviously on the Left Coast people are progressive in their outlook and the Republican party hasn't bothered to campaign for the presidency in California since 1988. But in the Mountain West people are very libertarian in their outlook and things like the Patriot Act and the wire-tapping make them nervous about the Federal government looking into their private lives. Add in increased concern for the environment and the Mountain West finds little to like about the theocons. No surprise then that in 2004 and 2006 the Democrats captured two of Colorado's five GOP Congressional seats, a U.S. Senate seat, the Governor's office and both houses of the state legislature. In Arizona the Democrats failed to mount a challenge to Senator Jon Kyl, but got a Democratic Governor re-elected by a wide margin (63%-35%), captured two of the state's six Republican-held Congressional districts, and the voters rejected a ban on gay marriage, a national first. In Montana Jon Tester ousted Conrad Burns from the U.S. Senate and in Wyoming the Democrats nearly captured the state's Congressional seat and the Democratic Governor won 70% of the vote in his re-election campaign. I predict that the Mountain West will be a major battleground in 2008: Democrats will be trying to win states like Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana and Nevada in the Presidential election and there is a vulernable Republican up for re-election in Colorado for the Senate.
Anyway, as everyone can see the race for the Presidency is on. John McCain and Rudy Guiliani have declared their intentions to run, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is in and there is a ton of speculation swirling around Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barak Obama. Certainly election day made McCain's walk to the GOP nomination easier: Rick Santorium, beloved theocon who might still run, was annihalted by Bob Casey Jr., and George Allen, lost as well. Other than out-going Florida Governor Jebbie Bush and Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, I don't see any serious threat to McCain as the GOP candidate. That is sort of bad news for Democrats because McCain is a good candidate who appeals to independent voters. I would would have voted for him in '00 over Al Gore.
Speaking of which, I've heard both Al Gore and John Kerry are interested. I hope they pass. I hope Hillary Clinton passes too. What the Democrats need is a Governor, someone not associated with Washington D.C. and the partisan mess there. I had hoped that former Virginia Governor Mark Warner would make a run but he apparently passed and will be a candidate for the U.S. Senate in '08 (where he'll almost certainly oust and/or succeed the GOP's John Warner), so my attention is focused on either Governor Vilsack, former General Wesley Clark or John Edwards. I don't know a whole lot about Vilsack other than the fact that he was originally born in Pittsburgh and was the runner-up to Edwards to be Kerry's running mate. Edwards has done a good job keeping his nose clean as well. I think either one would be a strong candidate: someone not in Washington who could appeal to blue-collar voters in the Midwest and the West.
-I read a piece in the newspaper over the weekend about Karl Rove and how Rove insisted that the election was not a surprise, an interesting thing to say given that he went on NPR and snottily insisted that the liberals were utterly wrong when they predicted a sweep. Rove has apparently hung his hat on the "six-year itch", the historical fact that the President's party usually gets their collective asses kicked in the midterm election of a President's second term. The problem? Recent history runs against Rove: the Democrats actually gained seats in the House in 1998 and scored major victories in the Senate races in New York and North Carolina that year. Forecasted Republican gains in both houses turned into a swap of three seats each in the Senate and the Dems gaining five or so seats in the House. The Democrats victory in 1986 was largely about the Democrats sweeping out vulernable GOP Senators elected by Ronald Reagan in 1980. The Democrats didn't gain many House seats that year as I recall. In this era of ticket-splitting, the old rules don't apply. Rove doesn't want to admit it, but in positioning the Republicans with the theocons, Rove has largely run the Republicans right out of the north and west.
-I was astonished by the results in PA. Rendell got 60% of the vote. Rendell won 70% of the vote in Bucks County, 65% in Chester County, 74% in Delaware County, 72% in Montgomery County and 89% in Philly. I added the numbers up and found that Rendell took 71% of the vote in the Philadelphia suburbs and 76% in the Philadelphia Metro region as a whole. It was basically an complete annihilation of Lynn Swann and if the Republican Party wants to win in the Philadelphia region again they’ll have to get some moderate Republicans that the rest of the state GOP can stomach. The problem that the Swann campaign really had was that Rendell was strong in the rest of the state as well: winning 52% of the vote outside of the Philadelphia Metro region. Rendell even took 60% of the vote in Allegheny County: Pittsburgh, the place where the Steelers play football and Lynn Swann lives. That’s humiliating.
-Bob Casey Jr. won largely due to the fact that Democratic voters utterly despised Rick Santorium. The interesting thing to me was that Casey’s support was much less in the Philadelphia region and more concentrated in the western part of the state. E.g., Casey won 55% of the vote in Chester County, running about ten points behind Rendell. Casey won 65% of the vote in Allegheny County (five better than Rendell) and actually won conservative rural communities like Armstrong County where it would have been unthinkable that the voters would have considered voting for Rendell. I wondered about what kind of a voter would split their ticket, casting a ballot for one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate and then giving their vote to the former Mayor of Philadelphia.
-As for the local congressional races … well, I am surprised that the Democrats didn’t knock off Jim Gerlach in the Sixth. Gerlach was #1 on the Democratic Hit List and I am very impressed he survived once more. The Democrats are going to have to load up and return with a new candidate in 2008 and with a better message. If the Democrats are planning on keeping control of the House of Representatives they’ll have to mount a clear offensive in the Sixth and capture it in 2008.
-Out in the Pittsburgh area Jason Altmire, a little-known former health care analyst, stunned incumbent Congresswoman Melissa Hart, who apparently was in denial that Altmire posed a danger. It was a stunning loss and might end the career of someone who was a rising star in the Republican Party.
-The new James Bond movie comes out this weekend. Sadly I have plans – my sister-in-law is getting married – so I will not be one of the first people in line to see the new 007. I am a huge, major fan of the 007 franchise. I’ve seen nearly every scene in nearly every movie five or six times. I have basically memorized Dr. No.
From what I understand the reviews for the new Bond are good and that the creators want to “re-boot” the franchise and make this Bond’s first mission or something. Casino Royale is the first book in the James Bond series, so that is appropriate. I am very interested to see what they do. The producers were very adept with Pierce Brosnan’s entries. After the fairly pedestrian Goldeneye they really gave some nice twists with the other movies – the Rupert Murdoch-esque. media baron in Tomorrow Never Dies, the villain who can’t feel pain in The World is Not Enough, and the many twists in Die Another Day, including having 007 captured in the opening credits sequence and having Bond go rogue to accomplish his mission. I liked a lot of the things they did with Brosnan’s movies, so I am hopeful they’ll really continue to breathe life into the franchise, which was getting soft and boring during the Roger Moore / Timothy Dalton era. I think the Top Ten 007 movies are:
1. Goldfinger (Connery)
2. From Russia With Love (Connery)
3. Dr. No (Connery)
4. Diamonds Are Forever (Connery)
5. Die Another Day (Brosnan)
6. The World is Not Enough (Brosnan)
7. Thunderball (Connery)
8. You Only Live Twice (Connery)
9. Tomorrow Never Dies (Brosnan)
10. The Spy Who Loved Me (Moore)
-College football’s Armageddon weekend approaches. Naturally everyone is fixated on Ohio State – Michigan, but there is another big game with far-reaching title implications: Cal – USC. USC is currently #3 in the BCS standings and needs to win this weekend and next against Notre Dame in order to make the big game in Arizona. If USC loses, then the system is thrown into disarray and chaos, because then Florida and Notre Dame become the most likely candidates to play in the Fiesta Bowl against the Michigan/Ohio State winner. I know there are a lot of Notre Dame fans out there, but their team plainly doesn’t deserve to be there.
The team I was pulling hard to be there, Louisville, lost to Rutgers 28-25 a week ago. I really liked the Cardinals and felt that they deserved a chance to play for the big game after they dismantled West Virginia. I know it made people in New Jersey happy, but Rutgers victory basically took any chance of a Big East team playing in the BCS out of the picture. Given that so many fans were writing the Big East’s obituary when Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College left the conference, it would have filled me with no little satisfaction to see the Big East team play for the national title. Rutgers is currently sixth in the BCS standings, but I can’t see them moving up over Notre Dame and Florida. Plus they have to worry about Arkansas, a team that might score some BCS points if it gets to play in the SEC title game.
Tomorrow night my alma mater, Pitt, plays West Virginia in the backyard brawl, one of the more vicious and bitter rivalries in college football. This has been a horrible season for Pitt. After starting out 6-1 with impressive wins over Virginia (38-13) and South Florida (52-7), the Panthers have lost three in a row, all conference games, to Rutgers, Central Florida and Connecticut. Pitt actually played half-way well against Rutgers but has looked terrible since, blowing a big lead to UConn and getting man-handled by UCF. Technically Pitt is Bowl-eligible, but they’ll have to beat either WVU or Louisville to get there. I don’t see that happening.
I’m profoundly disappointed in the direction that Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt has taken the team: Walt Harris, the Pitt coach from ’97 to ’04, opened up Pitt and installed a West Coast style offense back in the 1990s that worked well. Wannstedt has taken Pitt back to a conservative, grind-it-out rushing attack. I think Pitt’s offense is too conservative and unimaginative. Wannstedt has taken the game out of the hands of his strongest player, Pitt QB Tyler Palko, and handicapped their offense. This is 2006: you can’t operate a three yards and a cloud of dust anymore. For cryin’ out loud, Ohio State runs a spread offense! When even big, slow, plodding, unimaginative Big Ten teams start running the spread, it has become a mainstream offense. West Virginia runs a sophisticated spread option offense that stretches the field and takes advantage of mismatches. That’s why Pitt is going to lose and lose badly: they will not keep pace with West Virginia’s attack. No way, no how.
Here are a few predictions for the week:
West Virginia: 44, Pitt 13
USC 34, Cal 27
Auburn 17, Alabama 10
Ohio State 28, Michigan 24
Tomorrow: the final part of the Wiz Kids. Friday, I have a piece on Johnny Callison that everyone might find interesting. Next Monday Season in Review, Part II. Wednesday, Season in Review, Part III. After that, A Citizens Blog will be taking a week or so off to recharge.