Friday, May 27, 2011

Don't You Make This Difficult For Me, Jon Huntsman

It's early, and my feelings are confused right now, but I think I'm starting to really like Jon Huntsman.  I mean, I liked him a lot when he was governor because we just never had governors like him in Utah.  He supported cap-and-trade legislation, he moved us forward on civil rights by supporting gay rights and civil unions, he supported immigrant rights, he called out those ridiculous congressional Republicans for being useless (his word was "inconsequential"), and he generally talked and acted like a moderate in a state where Republican politicians are almost universally crazies.  I even started to like that weird thing he does with his eyebrows.  He wasn't perfect, but he was pretty good.

Then he praised Obama and Clinton and went to work as the ambassador to China in the Obama administration, even when everyone knew he had national aspirations.

Now it is clear that he's running for president and he continues to talk like a moderate, reasonable conservative and, frankly, it's jarring.  Take a look at this article by the Deseret News and in particular the transcript of the interview he did with CNN's John King.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Liberal States' Rights

My visceral opposition to strong states' rights comes from a variety of sources.  First, I don't like the way my state generally does things.  Utah is a drag.  This is an intellectually shallow argument against states' rights, but its real for many people.

Second, I think the constitutional arguments behind it are pretty weak, or have become weaker in a changing world that the Founding Fathers could not possibly have foreseen.  I went into detail about this here.

Third, I think there are certain basic privileges and protections that the federal government should ensure that many states are hostile to, such as health care, which we'll discuss more below.  I support the federal government setting minimum standards for health care, the financial sector, etc. that are binding on states and put all Americans on a more equal footing.  As long as we are the United States of America, what's bad for one of us is bad for all of us.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Second Greatest Mormon Baseball Player (Pitcher Division)

Our quest to identify the second greatest Mormon baseball player brings us to the pitchers.  I'm proud to say that this is a pretty good crop.  There seem to be more very good Mormon pitchers than Mormon position players, and if anyone has a theory as to why I'd like to hear it.  But this analysis comes down to five pitchers: Roy Halladay, Jack Morris, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Hurst, and Vernon Law.

I'll just note here that my search for the second greatest Mormon baseball players is not contingent on church activity or faithfulness.  First, I have no way of knowing and second it's not my place to make those judgment calls anyway.  Eckersley, for instance, is only known to have been active for a few years as a youth and has had some well publicized trials and struggles and as far as I can tell does not identify as a Mormon, but he was baptized and so we consider him.  I'm not sure if this is the best way to do it or not, but I'm a big-tent Mormon kind of guy and so we push on.

This is going to get a little long so let me just dispense with the suspense right now for those that don't want to read the whole thing: Roy Halladay, with even a partially completed career, is the greatest Mormon pitcher of all time and by the time it's all said and done it won't even be close.  There, you know how it ends, now lets enjoy the journey, in alphabetical order.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Second Greatest Mormon Baseball Player (Non-Pitcher Division)

If Harmon Killebrew is the obvious greatest Mormon baseball player of all time, and I think he is, then it behooves us to identify the second greatest Mormon baseball player of all time.  This is a bit of a closer call, so we'll break it down into two posts with this first one focusing on everyday players and the next one on pitchers.

This really comes down to Dale Murphy and Jeff Kent, though we'll throw Wally Joyner in there because he was pretty good, as well.  We'll start with a couple WAR chart comparisons from Fangraphs and then break 'em down individually.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Harmon Killebrew, Greatest Mormon Baseball Player, Dies

Harmon Killebrew died of esophageal cancer yesterday.  He is the greatest Mormon baseball player to ever live.  Let's explore.

They called him Killer because his name was Killebrew but his personality was the exact opposite.  There are hundreds of stories out there about how kind and gentle and approachable Killer was.  But at the plate the man lived up to the name.  As the incomparable Joe Posnanski points out, he was inhumanly strong and hit home runs at a pace greater than Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and Sammy Sosa.  He was born to rake.

In his career he hit 573 home runs, including eight 40 homer seasons (and one 39 homer season), which is good for 11th all time.  Though the list is now polluted with steroid users, at the time he retired he was in the top five or six fifth all time.  His career slash stats are .256/.376/.509, which means that while he wasn't a high average guy, he did the things which are actually important really well, i.e. get on base and hit with power.  In his MVP year of 1969 he had a 1.011 OPS, led the league in on-base percentage, hit 49 home runs, and led the league in intentional walks.  He was voted to the Hall of Fame in 1984 (it inexplicably took four tries to get voted into the Hall, which is more evidence that the BBWAA should not be solely in charge of that process).  He did all this in an era of depressed offense, which is reflected in his career OPS+ of 143, which is about the same as A-Rod, Vlad Guerrero, Willy McCovey, and Mike Schmidt.

There has always been a rumor that Killer was the model for the MLB logo, though it is not entirely clear.  You can read up about it here.  Killebrew always maintained that it was him, and the man that supposedly designed it maintained that was just a composite of a lot of different batters.  In any case, he is an iconic figure in baseball, the face of Minnesota Twins, and, in my opinion, one of the mythical "inner circle" Hall of Famers.

Dale Murphy was a pretty great centerfielder and has a good case for the Hall of Fame, Jacoby Ellsbury is a Red Sox which automatically makes him capital-G Great, Jeff Kent is one of the great offensive second basemen of all time, Bryce Harper is quickly gaining legend as perhaps the greatest prospect ever, and when all is said and done, Roy Halladay may end up taking the title of greatest Mormon baseball player of all time from Killebrew and leave Killer just as the greatest Mormon hitter of all time, but for now Harmon Killebrew stands alone, and baseball and Mormons have lost a great one.

Friday, May 6, 2011

He's Dead

This is a follow up to Andrew's great picture earlier.  I laugh every time.

Also, if you that initial thrill has worn off the bin Laden situation and you want to think a little more about it, here are a couple good things to read.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is dead

I think this image sums up the last couple of years quite nicely:

OBL's death may be largely symbolic, but the symbolism is powerful. The thugs that are Al-Qaeda have stolen the focus for too many years from the billions of peaceful Muslims in the world. If nothing else, I'm hoping his death will undo that supreme injustice.