Revelation 25 - Follow Me - Follow Me to Freedom!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Okay, so here's the thing.

I'm moving the blog down the street. Down the street there's a new building in what appears to be a better location. It's not as pretty as here, with the colors and the pictures and the whatnot, but it's got more foottraffic.

And it would be nice, you know, to make a dollar or two.

Probably, over the first few days, I'll just be importing whatever posts from here I want to take with me; including, obviously, my countdown of the 200 best baseball players ever, and then it'll be back to normal, posting when I can. Coming soon, as I just did the research and am ready to fire, the 20 Worst Major Leaguers Ever, as requested by a reader.

So - I'm gonna pack the boxes, turn on the utilities, maybe meet a neighbor or two and settle in.

Who knows? It might be good. Right? Right?

Top 200 Major League Players Ever - #195 ZACK WHEAT AND #194 DAZZY VANCE

Monday, July 14, 2008

#195 ZACK WHEAT LF Dodgers
OPS+ 129
BFW 24.1
WARP3 94.7

#194 DAZZY VANCE RHP Dodgers
ERA+ 125
PW 29.5
WARP3 90

Teammates for a dozen years - with their ranking next to each other, one write up seemed appropriate. Note how similar they are, Wheat a tick higher in OPS+ than is Vance in ERA+; Vance gets the edge in PW over Wheat's BFW, but Wheat makes it up in WARP3. Only in 3 of the 13 years with both Vance and Wheat on the club did Brooklyn finish above .500. One of those seasons was '24, which was the best combined Vance/Wheat year; Wheat never had a WARP3 above 10, but was over 9.0 twice; his third best year was '24, when he had an 8.6. Vance went nuts in '24, with a WARP3 of 13.6.

A note, WARP, as I write this, doesn't have a searchable database - VORP (no fielding) does, but not the number I'm using - so, while what I'd like to say is Vance was the best pitcher in baseball that year, that would take some more time to ferret out. But 13.6 - 13.6 is a historically significant number - and then, the year after Wheat retired, in '28 - Vance had a 12.9. That's over a quarter of his career value in two seasons, out of 21 seasons pitched. Sometimes it goes like that. Here's a simple lookup - Vance won the MVP in '24 and almost certainly should have. He finished 11th in '28 and that's probably robbery. Wheat finished 3rd for MVP in '24 - teammates finishing 1/3 in MVP, teammates going over 12.0 in WARP the same season, yeah, that's sort of a thing - particularly an arm and a bat.

Both Wheat and Vance are in the HOF, joining Lemon as guys from the list thusfar in the HOF. Wheat's top comp. is listed as Tony Gwynn, and sort of a poor man's Gwynn is not a bad way to think about him; he had a career untranslated BA of .317 and OBP of .369 - so he would have been more valuable if he took a walk every now and again.

Incidentally, I heard Andre Dawson (on the list) on Fox Sports Radio this weekend; he was asked by the hosts why he thought he wasn't in the HOF, with scorn, he said he had heard it was because he didn't walk enough.

The hosts thought this was the most ridiculous thing they had ever heard; Andre Dawson's lifetime untranslated OBP was .323 - it's less that he should have walked more than that he should have made fewer outs. Phrased that way - that Andre Dawson (who is on the list about 40 spots away) made too many outs, it seems a little less guffaw worthy.

200 Best Major League Baseball Players Ever - #196 FRANK TANANA

Sunday, July 13, 2008

#196 FRANK TANANA LHP Angels/Tigers
PW 12.8
WARP3 106.5

The best criticism of this list is that the WARP3 number focuses on career value as opposed to peak value; which is why, as mentioned elsewhere, when Baseball Prospectus evaluates HOF candidates each year, they combine career WARP3 with the 7 top WARP3 seasons from each player. My use of the Baseball Encyclopedia number is a nod in that direction; you'll note there are guys on the list like Tanana with 100+ WARP numbers but sub 20 PW (Tanana has the lowest PW number on the list) one of those things reflected there is Tanana's main resume strength is he was able to pitch for 21 years. Only 3 of those years, '75-77 were premium years; Tanana was over 10 in WARP3 each of those seasons, almost a third of his career value coming in that stretch - in the rest of his career, he topped a WARP3 7.o just once and 6.0 just two additional times. That's years of mediocre pitching, which is why his PW is so low, and why he's at the bottom of the list.

But he is on the list - and Sandy Koufax isn't.

And that's intentional, that's a methodological choice that I've made in giving great weight to career value. On his best day, Frank Tanana was not as good as Sandy Koufax on his best day. For one game, take Koufax.

But Sandy Koufax only had 3 seasons above a 10.0 WARP3, just like Tanana. And while his best season (11.9) was better than Tanana's (10.8) those numbers aren't as far apart as one might think. And then the rest of Koufax's career was one year above a 8.0, another year above 7.0, and seven seasons that look a lot like the rest of Tanana's career - except Tanana had twice as many of them.

So, at their best, Koufax was better than Tanana, but not by a substantial margin - what is substantial is that nearly 2000 innings that Tanana pitched that Koufax didn't. Sandy Koufax retired after 12 years with a WARP3 of 68.3. Through Frank Tanana's first 12 years, his WARP3 was 69.5

If Frank Tanana had pitched for only as many innings as Sandy Koufax, he would have had the same career.

But Frank Tanana then pitched for 9 more seasons. Almost 2000 innings more than Koufax.

So, while I recognize that one is in the HOF, one made the ESPN list of the greatest 100 athletes of the century, one is revered, immortalized, considered one of the half dozen greatest pitchers ever - it's the other one who is on my list.

And should be. Frank Tanana was better than Sandy Koufax.

200 Best Major League Baseball Players Ever, #197 ALBERT BELLE

Friday, July 11, 2008

#197 ALBERT BELLE LF Indians
OPS+ 144
BFW 29.5
WARP3 89.6

Albert Belle's untranslated slugging percentages in the mid 90s:
'94: .714
'95: .690
'96: .623

Dude could rake. He's the first name on the list from the "steroid" era, and he fits the profile. My feelings about steroids, mentioned in other places of this blog are that we can adjust for the offensive inflation of this era the same way we can adjust for the inflation that produced Hack Wilson's 191 rbi or the deflation of the 1960s; era adjustments and ballpark adjustments are not new; it's an easy fix. While the "steroid" era had a spike in offense, it wasn't an unprecedented one; simple research shows that the view that somehow all baseball until 1998 was played on a level field is demonstrably untrue. Offense goes up, offense goes down. Happens. The degree to which a smaller strike zone, smaller ballparks, changes in bat and ball, and other non steroid related factors influenced the most recent offensive spike are hard to quantify, but obviously they play some role. It's reasonable to think that steroids played some role too; all medical science has, be it in training or recovery - be it in radically improved surgical procedures and preventive medcine, be it the incredible monetary increases in the game that allow teams and players to focus 365 days a year in improving their bodies - whether it's Curt Schilling's ability to get his tendon sewed to his sock or Kirk Gibson having gallons of cortisone poured into his body - or player X getting lasik eye surgery, all technology, presumably, plays some role in increasing performance. We do adjustments for era and let the numbers speak. The pre-1947 players on the list are all white - and all Americans; the game not only opened up to African-Americans, but has evolved to mine global talent; the available pool of pitchers against hitters, hitters against pitchers, is exponentially deeper in 2008 than was it in 1988, 1968, 1948 or 1928. To my way of thinking, the reaction that allegations that player Y used some type of performance enhancing drug for some measure of his career invalidates that career is not supportable.

I don't have the slightest idea if Albert Belle took steroids. I don't have the slightest idea if he did take steroids to what extent that increased his performance. I don't have the slightest idea the extent to which we should invalidate any of those performance gains, even if we were able to specifically segregate them. I don't have the slightest idea how we can pretend that a home run hit while a ballplayer was "on the juice" did not happen. Does that mean the pitcher should have it removed from his record? What if the pitcher was "on the juice" - then is it okay? What if the pitcher was - and the batter wasn't? Does Babe Ruth get to keep all the home runs he hit against pitchers who would not have been in the league had African-Americans been allowed to pitch to him? Does Hank Aaron get to keep all the home runs he hit against pitchers who wouldn't have been in the league had all of the Latin American arms which have now been found, been mined, by MLB been available in the 1960s? Does Todd Helton give up home runs because the offensive spike for pre-humidor Coors Field was significantly higher than the leaguewide spike of the "steroid" era? Do we take away home runs hit in small ballparks and add home runs hit in large ballparks?

We make adjustments for era. Good adjustments. Significantly better adjustments to factor in the impact of inflation than does the consumer price index. To single out steroids (and then, just a handful of players suspected of using steroids - as I write this the Yankees just had Jason Giambi moustache day at the Stadium - when does Raffy Palmeiro get his moustache day? Why is it some suspected "users" are pariahs and others are celebrated?) as the one variable which invalidates facts.

Facts are good. They don't disappear because we don't like them.

Albert Belle's WARP3 in 1995 was 14.3. That's better than any year of Lou Gehrig's career.

Facts. Facts are good.

200 Best Major League Baseball Players Ever, #198 BOB LEMON

Thursday, July 10, 2008

#198 BOB LEMON RHP Indians
ERA+ 119
PW 34.2
WARP3 84.4

An example of where the Pete Palmer stats from the Baseball Encyclopedia (Total Baseball is gone, or maybe its taken over the Baseball Encyclopedia, regardless, I heart it so dearly and my copy sits beside my computer, well, not this computer, since I'm at work, but the other computer, the one I sit at pantsless) help to balance WARP3 - the Davenport number for Lemon is low; if BP ever puts out a list of the 200 best MLB players ever, Lemon won't be on it - but Lemon's Palmer number is high, and in the wash, Bob comes out, coincidentally enough, right one spot ahead of Chet. In my head I see them sitting over a beverage of some type, a cool refreshing drink perhaps, chuckling at the result. Of course, this ranking would take Bob clean out of the HOF (dude had a short career, yo) I don't know where I'd cut off membership to the HOF, but I'm thinking I wouldn't invite all 200 guys - maybe only the top 100 make it, the second 100 wind up celebrated in an auxillary unit - actually, concentric circles make sense - as, while all of the guys at this level are real close - once we get higher, there's real separation among the top guys - not hard at all really to find a top 25, for example. Perhaps you have, I don't know, 9 circles, ever widening, of players in the HOF, maybe for a total of 200, maybe fewer, maybe just 180 - and when a player comes into the list, as obviously will keep happening - that means someone gets kicked out. Why not? Kicked out of the HOF - absolutely. Moved down to a new circle. Sure. Right now, the Lemons are on the edge of this list - but five years from now, certainly they can't keep their spots.

Concentric circles for the Baseball HOF, say 9 of them and a total of 180 guys, and you get moved down once you're passed up. How about that?

Revelation 24 - The Democrats are Like the Republicans, but Without All the Guns.

Either you believe in civil liberties or you don't; it's one thing - one, ugly, gutless thing to criticize the left, the moveon.orgs in an effort to make that general election "move to the center" that is part of the Democrats playbook. It's irritating; it's insulting, and it's not surprising - guys like Obama don't have to move far to get to the center; in fact, they'd have to move left in order to get there.

But rhetoric is one thing - if the nominee of the Democratic party does not stand on a table and shout as the US Senate authorizes warrantless surveillance of US citizens (and gives cover for the Bush Administration's policy of what was then, inarguably, felonious surveillance) I'm uncertain why the Democratic party is needed. It would be better for the Democrats to disappear; at least then the illusion that we have a left wing political party in this country would be harder to sell. There is literally nothing Democrats could do which is conservative enough that they wouldn't be immediately branded as crazy liberals, enemies of Jesus and Capitalism by the Republicans. The FISA vote will quickly be framed not as capitulation by the Democratic party but as an issue that transcends ideology, that even liberals basically agree with the President.

They don't. A liberal not only would never, ever, ever have cast this vote, he'd resign his seat in protest.

After 9-11, the most common response from Americans when asked why the attacks took place was "they hate us for our freedoms."

This is childish, obviously - but pretending for the moment that it's true, this FISA vote may, in fact, have the impact of ending the need for the "war on terror", as we have less freedom than did we yesterday.

Top 200 Major League Baseball Players Ever, #199 CHET LEMON

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

#199 CHET LEMON CF White Sox/Tigers
OPS+ 120
BFW 18.5
WARP3 98.3

Like Cey, a player from the 70s and 80s who you would not automatically think of as being one of the 200 best major league baseball players ever - like Cey, Lemon's value was overlooked because of the offensive spike which followed his career and a lack of awareness of the value of defense. Lemon also spent his career pretty far outside the baseball media centers; Lemon had a 9.8 WARP3 for that '84 Tiger team that won 104 games and the WS - second highest to Trammell (11.1) - that was a helluva team; Trammell, Whitaker, and Evans all oughta be in the HOF with Lemon in the next tier - and then Parrish (87.2 career WARP3) and Morris (85.0) at the next level. Throw in Gibson and a career year from Willie Hernandez (9.0 WARP3) and that's just a great, great team. If you started asking even hardcore Tiger fans who had the best seasons from their WS team - I wonder how many would be able to place Chet Lemon second. It is an absolute coincidence, literally with no massaging whatsoever, that next on the list, at #198, is going to be Bob Lemon.

2008 AL All Star Roster

See the previous post please for the prefatory discussion of the rosters.

AL All Star Roster w/ WARP3

Joe Mauer
Kevin Youkilis
Dustin Pedroia
Alex Rodriguez
New York
Derek Jeter
New York
Josh Hamilton
Manny Ramirez
Ichiro Suzuki
# David Ortiz

@Justin Duchscherer
Roy Halladay
Scott Kazmir
Tampa Bay
Cliff Lee
@Joe Nathan
Jonathan Papelbon
Mariano Rivera
New York
Francisco Rodriguez
Los Angeles
Ervin Santana
Los Angeles
Joe Saunders
Los Angeles
@George Sherrill
@Joakim Soria
Kansas City

@Dioner Navarro
Tampa Bay
Jason Varitek
Justin Morneau
Ian Kinsler
Michael Young
Joe Crede
@Carlos Guillen
J.D. Drew
Carlos Quentin
Grady Sizemore
Milton Bradley

Mauer and Navarro are the two catchers I picked; having a 3rd catcher makes sense, but there really isn't one deserving. Pudge Rodriguez is 6.1, and not for nothing, but he's a first ballot Hall of Famer. In fact, keep reading the relaunched list of the 200 Greatest Major League Baseball Players ever to see the historical esteem in which Ivan Rodriguez should be held. He should be the 3rd catcher this season instead of Varitek. I took Giambi (6.2) as my backup to Youkilis at first, but Morneau's having a better season, they got that right. The fans picked Pedroia, who is having a good year, but not as good as Kinsler, who still has the highest WARP3 in the AL, or my choice for backup, Brian Roberts (9.6). Adding Roberts would allow the AL to drop Sherill as the Oriole rep, which would be an upgrade. My AL starting shortstop is also the backup, also from the Rangers, and he's having a wildly better year than Jeter, who frankly, has been terrible. I named Jeter as my backup, but that's dumb; Orlando Cabrera's WARP3 is 7.3, he should be the backup to Young. But Jeter, as the SI player poll correctly noted, is the most overrated player in baseball and the fans voted him to start.

My third basemen were ARod, Guillen, and Longoria (10.2) Evan Longoria not only is having a better year than Joe Crede (and is a rookie playing for the best team in baseball) but he's having a better year than ARod. The worst decision made this year was not naming him to the team; you should vote early and often to make him the 32nd player on the AL roster. They did a great job with the AL OF, my only difference was Jermaine Dye (8.5) instead of Ichiro. Ichiro and Manny won the fan vote - actually, Ichiro's WARP3 is significantly better than Manny's and Carlos Quentin's - it's the two of them who shouldn't be going to the All Star game, Ichiro's a good choice. In the NL post, I said that Brian Wilson was the worst All Star this year; technically, it's David Ortiz (2.9) elected by the fans, but he won't play with the injury - he's replaced by Bradley and should be. Taking Quentin over Dye is a weird decision.

There are 6 closers on the AL roster. This is ridiculous. I speak to this at more length in my NL post where I'm irritated with their having 4 closers. I chose 3 for each league, and that's probably 1 more than I'd actually pick if you put me in charge (and you should). As with the NL, 7 of my 12 pitchers made the roster. Instead of Kazmir (4.5) Sherrill (4.8) KRod (6.7) Santana (6.1) and Papelbon (5.7) I had Danks (7.6) Marcum (6.3) King Felix (7.8) Harden (4.5) and Greinke (6.5). Sherill was chosen to get an Oriole, but as discussed, Brian Roberts could fix that. If they replaced Varitek with Pudge, they'd have a Tiger; then they wouldn't need Guillen, who could be replaced by Roberts. Replace Kazmir with Danks, Sherill with Felix -- KRod is a better choice than Harden, Marcum's had a better year than Santana, but he's hurt, so that's a reasonable swap - and then take Greinke over Papelbon. Cliff Lee should start for the AL. Go vote for Evan Longoria.

2008 NL All Star Roster

In a previous post, I put together my rosters for next Tuesday's MLB all Star Game as dictated by WARP3. Here is the roster for the NL as elected by the fans and named by the players and manager (Hurdle) along with the WARP3 for each.

NL All Star Rosters w/WARP3

Geovany Soto
Lance Berkman
Chase Utley
Chipper Jones
Hanley Ramirez
Ryan Braun
Alfonso Soriano
Kosuke Fukudome

@Aaron Cook
Ryan Dempster
@Dan Haren
Brad Lidge
Tim Lincecum
San Francisco
Ben Sheets
Edinson Volquez
@Billy Wagner
New York
Brandon Webb
Brian Wilson
San Francisco
Kerry Wood
@Carlos Zambrano

Russell Martin
Los Angeles
@Brian McCann
Adrian Gonzalez
San Diego
@Albert Pujols
St. Louis
Dan Uggla
Aramis Ramirez
@Cristian Guzman
Miguel Tejada
Matt Holliday
Ryan Ludwick
St. Louis
Nate McLouth

So, who's missing?

Well, the NL catcher with the highest WARP3 is Ryan Doumit of the Pirates (9.1) but with Soto winning the fan vote, McCann and Martin (who, as is Soto, are all having worthy seasons) Martin's the only rep from the Dodgers, but Doumit could have gone ahead of McCann. I had all 3 first basemen on my roster, so they got that right. We also match at second base; note that Utley continues to have the highest WARP3 in all of MLB. The fans got the starter, Hanley Ramirez, right at SS - but Tejada and Guzman don't make a lot of sense backing up. Jose Reyes's WARP3 is 9.7; he's having a much better season and oughta be the backup. I had Furcal as the last guy on my NL roster; that's also error as his WARP3 is 4.4, given his missed playing time. With Berkman, Tejada isn't needed on the NL roster; Guzman's the only National; I got around that by taking their closer, Jon Rauch. Put Rauch on the roster, take off Brian Wilson (he's my guy, but at 3.2, he's the All Star having the worst season of all 62) and add Pat Burrell as the 7th OF for the NL. His WARP3 is 9.1 and it's nuts he hasn't made the team. Presumably, if he doesn't win the 32nd player vote in the NL, he'll be named to replace Soriano, who won't be able to play. Chipper won the fan vote at third, which was right; my backup was David Wright, whose WARP3 is 7.9, higher than Ramirez, and he should have gotten that spot. My OF differences were Burrell (9.1) Bay (7.7) and Beltran (7.0) in for Soriano and Fukudome (both elected by the fans, neither should have been, but the fans vote for who they vote, and Fukudome's close enough to Beltran that it's fine). Of the reserves, McLouth should have been swapped for his teammate Bay.

Of the arms, I had 7 of the 12 selected on my roster - Volquez, at 8.6, has the highest WARP3, so he'd be my starter next Tuesday, if he doesn't start for the Reds this weekend. The fundamental disagreement I have with the structure of contemporary All-Star rosters are the number of closers named; 4 of the 12 NL pitchers are closers; I chose 3 - and honestly, even choosing 3 was bowing to the reality over closer overrepresentation. Starting pitchers are more valuable than closers, even elite closers. The innings difference worked is vast, and given that managers use closers around the save rule, there is a percentage of time where the highest leverage innings are actually thrown by the set up men. So, not on my roster were Wagner (a terrible pick, chosen because he's the only Met, but both Reyes and Wright should make the team) Wilson (the most undeserving All Star this season, there's no good reason he's on the team) Dempster, Webb, and Cook (he's deserving, they got that right). As mentioned, I had Rauch (6.5) which would have solved the Wagner, Wilson, Guzman, Reyes issues all with one pick -- Jurrjens (5.5 - shouldn't make the team, Cook's a better choice) Santana (6.5 - not as good as Webb but stronger than Dempster) Hudson (5.8, shouldn't make it) and Hamels (7.9). Swap Rauch in for Wilson, Hamels in for Wagner, and Santana in for Dempster. Neither of the Braves from my roster should make it; Cook's a better choice.

Both Burrell and Wright are on the list for the 32nd player, which you can go vote for at; a Giant, Aaron Rowand (7.3) would be the 3rd best player (Corey Hart is 6.1, Carlos Lee is 5.4) are the other 2 eligible. Go vote for Wright; I assume Burrell will replace Soriano anyway.

200 Best Major League Baseball Players Ever - #200 RON CEY

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

#200 RON CEY 3B Dodgers
OPS+ 121
BFW 21.2
WARP3 97.4

In a comment, I noted that Duke Snider is essentially #201; his WARP3 is just a tick lower than is Cey's, with the positional value of 3B outweighing Snider's better bat just a tiny bit. There is almost no statistical distinction among players #200-160 on the list and another dozen or so who didn't make it. That's why, in my initial run at this, the rankings vary from how they will look now, as really, given the nature of equivalency stats and my ham-slamming together the universal theory of everything numbers that I believe are most indicative of value, it's fair to slot the first 40 guys virtually any way one likes.

But, I didn't like my initial slotting and have decided to be as mathematically precise as I can; I am a list junkie, a devotee, and have been literally as far as my memory goes; the lists that made up my earliest childhoos were sports lists, just like this. So, even if it's just to clear up a particularly well worn space in my head - I had to put together what I really do feel is the definitive Top 200 list of ML Baseball players ever.

With that - Cey is 200, he and Reggie Smith are the only Dodger position players from that 70s team to make the list. Cey's forever part of that LA infield, one of the more famous in ML history, here's how the other 3 rate:

Steve Garvey
OPS+ 117
BFW -6.1
WARP3 79.2

Davey Lopes
OPS+ 106
BFW 12.1
WARP3 82.2

Bill Russell
OPS+ 82
BFW 1.0
WARP3 69.7

The moral of the story - there's no debate that Cey had the best career, and there's no debate that Lopes was 2nd. Garvey's the one you know; he was a glamor player at a glamor position in a glamor town; I don't know if there were 5 better known baseball players on the planet in the late 1970s than Steve Garvey. But he had no power, didn't walk, and hurt you with his glove; he was just another guy. He was nice to me in 2000; as a guy, I have nothing bad to say about Garvey, but he wasn't as good as we were led to believe. If you're a baseball fan about my age, in your (gulp) late 30s, and your sense of baseball was formed in the late 70s, to learn that not only was Darrell Evans a better baseball player than Steve Garvey - but that it isn't even close is a transformative experience. That's a good litmus test, actually, for your local beat writer, ask him who was better, Evans or Garvey. If he gets it wrong, literally never listen to another syllable.

Russell couldn't hit at all, his glove wasn't special enough to elevate him; Lopes's, however, was; the high WARP3 reflects a strong showing in the defensive metrics (and his baserunning), given his run of the mill bat.

Top 200 Major League Baseball Players Ever...Additions, Corrections, Absolutions

Sunday, July 6, 2008

As mentioned in the most recent post, I did a recalibration recently, and while outside of one or two, I could leave rankings 200-160 as they stand, resting on the idea that the numbers are so close, so tightly packed together in a Bush/Gore type of way, that any statistical separation is really hair splitting.

But let's split some hair.

When I finished the Top 100 movie list of the past quarter-century, I mentioned that I would be willing to warrant my top 100 baseball players on this top 200 list as the definitive, objective, statistically verifiable compilation of the top 100 major leaguers ever.

Instead of that - let's make it the full 200.

So, 5 players already listed as in:

Andruw Jones
Hank Greenberg
Joe Jackson
Mickey Cochrane
Dave Bancroft

...are now out.

Jones is still active, but I'm unwilling to give him the active player nudge, he's better positioned with Giambi, Helton, Hoffman, Posada, Pettitte, Delgado, and Tejada as guys who are just off the list; it's possible that all could be on by season's end, but possible they all continue to miss until sometime next year. Ichiro, Wagner, Berkman, Santana, Oswalt, Hudson, Halladay are on the next couple of tiers below and you could expect all to make the list by decade's end.

Duke Snider, Juan Marichal, Bob Elliott, Dizzy Trout join the other 4 players who were removed from my first attempt at this list as being just the slightest tick outside the top 200, not too far behind would be George Sisler, Bill Terry, Jim Kaat, Kenny Lofton, Wes Ferrell, Kevin Appier, Cupid Childs, Norm Cash, Omar Vizquel, Fred Dunlap, Dave Steib, Roy Campanella, Eppa Rixey, Charlie Bennett, Kirby Puckett, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Red Faber, Billy Pierce, Ed Walsh, Jose Canseco, Lance Parrish, Dutch Leonard, Cesar Cedeno, Rube Waddell, Nomar Garciaparra, and Pee Wee Reese.

Just a little below are Bob Caruthers, Three Finger Brown, Carl Mays, Clark Griffith. Pete Browning, Urban Shocker, Hughie Jennings, John Franco, Gene Tenace, Brian Downing, Tim Salmon, Stan Coveleski, Jim Fregosi, Thurman Munson, Bucky Walters, Lenny Dykstra, Lee Smith, Rollie Fingers, Rocky Colavito, Darryl Strawberry, Sandy Koufax, Dizzy Dean, Charlie Keller, Kent Tekulve, Harry Stovey, Minnie Minoso, Ed Konetchy, Chuck Klein, Wally Berger, Ernie Lombardi, Vern Stephens, Eric Davis, Darrell Porter, Wally Schang, Ken Caminiti, Eddie Stanky.

Okay - so, when I gear up again, we'll have The Top 200 Major League Baseball Players Ever, version 2.0.

Revelation 23 - A Movie Worth Seeing is A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar

Saturday, July 5, 2008

It's a documentary about people studying for the California Bar Exam. I took that exam in the summer of 1995, when I was 24 years old. Mysteriously, perhaps through a clerical error of some type, I passed.

It was a thing; I haven't practiced law in years; more than occasionally I will question...well, all of the decisions I've made in my life; I'm uncertain there's a great argument that law school was the right choice for me, all things considered. Nonetheless, it's nice to recall accomplishments. I would have preferred the film to focus more on the applicants for the Bar and less on the contextual question of "do we have too many lawsuits" as I'd suggest that corporate wrongdoing is exponentially a greater ill than the occasional plaintiff recovery. However, if anyone ever wanted to know how I spent the summer of 1995, it felt a lot like this movie.

Entertainment Weekly Ranks the Top 100 TV Shows of the Past 25 Years

In case you missed it.

The parameters are that shows which began from '83 on were eligible, earlier shows, meaning those which started before '83 but were still airing into the time frame were not.

I don't think of television as a lesser art form than film; either in content or in its revelatory nature; in an earlier post, I compared George Carlin to Mark Twain; let me suggest that if we're fortunate enough to still consider such things 50 years from now, academia will have properly found a way to fully allow the study of television to stand shoulder to shoulder with the study of other forms of art. There have been a few hundred (I'm assuming) writers for The Simpsons and that makes it difficult for us to endow one person with traits of greatness in the way that we can look at The Sound and the Fury and say "Faulkner - genius" - but were one to stack two decades of the Simpsons end to end and measure its artistic value against the most revered books in the Western canon, it's silly to dismiss the former because its words were primarily said and not read. Hamlet is a production, written and conceived as a production, and yet we have obviously demonstrated a readiness to treat it as substantial, as signficant, as genius - wouldn't it still be the same play if it weren't written by "one great man", Shakespeare, but instead by a collection of a few hundred writers? Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet?


My point here is that I think about television critically and will offer...not my top 100, I don't think, but maybe my top 25 television series of the past 25 years...and I think I'll do it in order.

But not tonight. I have a job and whatnot.

Here's a spoiler....I think my number one not on the EW list.

Here is that list, in case you did not see it.

1. The Simpsons, Fox, 1989-present

2 The Sopranos, HBO (1999-2007)

3 Seinfeld, NBC (1989-98)

4 The X-Files, Fox (1993-2002)

5 Sex and the City, HBO (1998-2004)

6 Survivor, CBS (2000-present)

7 The Cosby Show, NBC (1984-92)

8 Lost, ABC (2004-present)

9 Friends, NBC (1994-2004)

10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The WB (1997-2001); UPN (2001-03)

11 The Wire, HBO (2002-08)

12 South Park, Comedy Central (1997-present)

13 Freaks and Geeks, NBC (1999-2000)

14 The Daily Show, Comedy Central (1996-present)

15 The Oprah Winfrey Show, Syndicated (1986-present)

16 Arrested Development, Fox (2003-06)

17 The Office (U.K. version), BBC2 (2001-03)

18 American Idol, Fox (2002-present)

19 ER, NBC (1994-present)

20 Beverly Hills, 90210, Fox (1990-2000)

21 Roseanne, ABC (1988-97)

22 The Real World, MTV (1992-present)

23 The West Wing, NBC (1999-2006)

24 Star Trek: The Next Generation, Syndication (1987-94)

25 Miami Vice, NBC (1984-89)

26 Chappelle's Show, Comedy Central (2003-06)

27 Law & Order, NBC (1990-present)

28 The Larry Sanders Show, HBO (1992-98)

29 The Shield, FX (2002-present)

30 Late Show With David Letterman, CBS (1993-present)

31 The Civil War, PBS (1990)

32 Gilmore Girls, The WB (2000-06), The CW (2006-07)

33 My So-Called Life, ABC (1994-95)

34 24, Fox (2001-present)

35 CSI, CBS (2000-present)

36 thirtysomething, ABC (1987-91)

38 Beavis and Butt-head, MTV (1993-97)

39 Six Feet Under, HBO (2001-05) 4

0 Mr. Show, (HBO, 1995-98)

41 Frasier, NBC (1993-2004)

42 L.A. Law, NBC (1986-94)

43 Late Night With Conan O'Brien, NBC (1993-present)

44 Jeopardy!, Syndicated (1984-present)

45 Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO (2000-present

) 46 Homicide: Life on the Street, NBC (1993-99)

47 30 Rock, NBC (2006-present)

48 Ally McBeal, Fox (1997-2002)

49 Twin Peaks, ABC (1990-91)

50 Baywatch, NBC (1989-90), Syndicated (1991-2001)

51. Melrose Place, Fox (1992-99)

52. Felicity, The WB (1998-2002)

53. Will & Grace, NBC (1998-2006

)54. Moonlighting, ABC (1985-89)5

55. Pee-wee's Playhouse, CBS (1986-90

)56. Desperate Housewives, ABC (2004-present

)57. The Amazing Race, CBS (2001-present)

58. The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, NBC (1992-present)

59. Battlestar Galactica, Sci Fi (2003-2008)

60. Xena: Warrior Princess, Syndicated (1995-2001)

61. The Office (U.S.), NBC (2005-present)

62. House, Fox (2004-present)

63. Mystery Science Theater 3000, Comedy Central (1989-96), Sci Fi (1997-99)

64. The Osbournes, MTV (2002-05)

65. Family Guy, Fox (1999-2002, 2005-present

)66. Grey’s Anatomy, ABC (2005-present)

67. Planet Earth, Discovery Channel (2007

)68. Jackass, MTV (2000-02)

69. The Colbert Report, Comedy Central (2005-present)

70. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS (1996-2005

)71. Friday Night Lights, NBC (2006-present)

72. NewsRadio, NBC (1995-99)

73. Oz, HBO (1997-2003)

74. Wiseguy, CBS (1987-90)

75. Project Runway, Bravo (2004-present)

76. In Living Color, Fox (1990-94)

77. The Golden Girls, NBC (1985-92)

78. I'll Fly Away, NBC (1991-93)

79. The Comeback, HBO (2005)

80. King of the Hill, Fox (1997-present)

81. Murphy Brown, CBS (1988-98)

82. The Hills, MTV (2006-present)

83. Absolutely Fabulous, BBC2 (1992), BBC1 (1994-2004)

84. Northern Exposure, CBS (1990-95)

85. The Kids in the Hall, HBO (1989-92), CBS (1992-95)

86. Prime Suspect, ITV (1991-2006)

87. Deadwood, HBO (2004-06)

88. Malcolm in the Middle, Fox (2000-06)

89. SpongeBob SquarePants, Nickelodeon (1999-present)

90. Dawson's Creek, The WB (1998-2003)

91. Mad Men, AMC (2007-present)

92. The Ben Stiller Show, Fox (1992-93)

93. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Bravo (2003-07)

94. Married...With Children, Fox (1987-97)

95. Designing Women, CBS (1986-93)

96. The Arsenio Hall Show, Syndicated (1989-94)

97. Party of Five, Fox (1994-2000)

98. MacGyver, ABC (1985-92)

99. The Bachelor, ABC (2002-present)

100. Saved by the Bell, NBC (1989-93)

Revelation 22: So, the Best 100 Movies of the Past 25 Years are...

Friday, July 4, 2008

For those of you who are reading the baseball list, understand that my warrant about that Top 100 is distinct from this list. I have only rudimentary knowledge of film, really limited to the United States; I feel stronger on documentaries than fiction, stronger on the quality of sports films than other types of fiction - this list is a product of multiple posts deconstructing the Entertainment Weekly list of the Top 100 movies since 1983. I think my list is better than theres, but, honestly, that's all the warrant I'll give it.

I'm currently at 159 on my baseball list. When I get to the top 100, I am flat going to say that is the definitive list of the best 100 major league baseball players who ever lived.

With that - this isn't in any order outside of the top 10; perhaps I'll rank them beyond that at some point, that point will not be today.

1. Pulp Fiction
2. Do The Right Thing
3. Boogie Nights
4. Raising Arizona
5. Adaptation
6. Say Anything
7. JFK
8. Clerks
9. Silence of the Lambs
10. Fahrenheit 9-11.

And the rest, again, in no particular order.
-Blue Velvet
-True Romance
-Saving Private Ryan
-Waiting for Guffman
-Hannah and Her Sisters
-Crimes and Misdemeanors
-Full Metal Jacket
-Swimming to Cambodia
-Die Hard
-Bull Durham
-Dangerous Liaisons
-Midnight Run
-A Fish Called Wanda
-This is Spinal Tap
-Barton Fink
-Millers Crossing
-Bob Roberts
-Ferris Bueller's Day Off
-The Color of Money
-Hearts of Darkness
-Bowling for Columbine
-American Movie
-Hoop Dreams
-When We Were Kings
-Why We Fight
-Murder on a Sunday Morning
-The Thin Blue Line
-Shawshank Redemption
-Lost in Translation
-Lone Star
-Stop Making Sense (yeah, I know this is the 12th doc. and I said I'd limit it to 10, I lied)
-Better off Dead
-What Happened Was
-Breaking the Waves
-When Harry Met Sally
-Wag the Dog
-American Beauty
-Fight Club
-Three Kings
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-Being John Malkovich
-The Spanish Prisoner
-House of Games
-Glengarry Glen Ross
-Death of a Salesman
-You Can Count on Me
-Dazed and Confused
-Leaving Las Vegas
-The Player
-Short Cuts
-Rain Man
-The Accidental Tourist
-Broadcast News
-Reservoir Dogs
-The Princess Bride
-The Usual Suspects
-The Truman Show
-Risky Business
-The Big Chill
-The Right Stuff
-L.A. Confidential (I think this is #100, were I to make a change, this is the film that loses its spot. In my head, Brazil, Donnie Darko, The River's Edge all all sitting just outside the list, I could probably be convinced to swap any of them in this spot)
-Prizzi's Honor
-Sex, Lies, and Videotape
-No Country for Old Men
-Natural Born Killers
-The Grifters
-Donnie Brasco
-Boyz n the Hood
-The Fisher King
-Thelma and Louise
-Quiz Show
-The Departed
-In the Company of Men
-The 40 Year Old Virgin

Wrapping Up the Entertainment Weekly Movie List

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Okay, after pruning my thoughts from the first half of the EW list, here's where we are:

I have 75 movies in my top 100. So, from the next 50, I can take 25. And that's the name of that tune.

51. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Out. See how easy this is?

52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988)

Out. Good movie, but not near this level. I've already been through the films I would add in '88, the '88 comedies I'm adding are A Fish Called Wanda and Midnight Run. I sit at 75.

53. The Truman Show (1998)

In. That gives me 76. I liked this ranking a lot; Truman Show's tended to get forgotten in the last ten years, I thought it deserved this spot exactly. My regards to Amelie (and to Trainspotting, for that matter) neither is going to make my list. My apologies.

54. Fatal Attraction (1987)
Out. Still at 76.

55. Risky Business (1983)
In. 77. I'm...I'm gonna take The Big Chill too from '83. That gives me 78. Oh - The Right Stuff. The Right Stuff is terrific. That's 79.

56. The Lives of Others (2006)
I lied, I haven't seen all the films on the list, in fact, I think there are 3 I have not seen - this is one of them. So, not on the list. I'm just one man. I did see Half Nelson and Borat from '06, they are good films which won't make the list.

57. There’s Something About Mary (1998)

Aw, hell....the thing is, I prefer Kingpin, and as mentioned, it's not going to make it - so...out. Still at 79.

58. Ghostbusters (1984)

I was 13, so I loved me some Ghostbusters. Bustin' makes me feel good is a solid, under the radar, extra dirty lyric from a kids' movie. But no - it doesn't make it; I don't currently have room for Groundhog Day, a Murray I liked more. No. Still at 79. Better as a kids movie from '84 was Buckaroo Bonzai, which doesn't make my, doesn't make it. Karate Kid was better and doesn't make it. Starman - Starman was the best film in this paragraph. It doesn't make it. Still at 79.

59. L.A. Confidential (1997)

In. That's 80.

60. Scream (1996)

Out. Instead of '96 movies, let me consider '85, as I've just done '83 and '84 and that makes sense to me as I sit here on 80. Brazil....argh. Argh. Argh. Out. Argh. Prizzi's Honor - in. That's 81.

61. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Argh. I'm an Eddie Murphy guy and the result of my list is that I';m not going to have any Eddie Murphy on the list. Out. Argh. Let's consider '86 - of the films I haven't yet discussed...where are we on Stand by Me? Nope. Still out. Sitting on 81.

62. sex, lies and videotape (1989)

In. 82. Of the films I haven't covered in '87...I don't think Roxanne makes it, No Way Out was also really good. I'm gonna stick at 82.

63. Big (1988)

In. I've done '88 talk - Talk Radio is a film that's just gonna miss for me. 83.

64. No Country For Old Men (2007)

In. Lower, however. I think this is it from last year for me. 84.

65. Dirty Dancing (1987)

Out. Way, way, way out. I'm good for other '89 films.

66. Natural Born Killers (1994)

In. And higher. That makes 85. The Grifters gets in from 1990. That's 86. I really liked both Metropolitan and Pump Up the Volume, they don't make it. I'm at 86 after all.

67. Donnie Brasco (1997)

In. I'll say Brasco in and Carlito's Way out. That's 87.

68. Witness (1985)

Argh...out. Yeah, out. I've got the Fugitive in and I'm gonna leave Witness out. Considering 1991, a note should be offered for all of the Michael Apted docs, they don't make it - I wanted to limit myself to ten and I've got 10. So, no. But 35 Up came out in '91. As did Boyz n the Hood - which is in, that's 88. And the Fisher King. Hell. 89.

69. All About My Mother (1999)

Out. Still at 89.

70. Broadcast News (1987)

In. 90. I've already put in Accidental Tourist, as mentioned. I'm gonna get stuck unable to put in either Defending Your Life or Lost in America. This list makes me sad.

71. Unforgiven (1992)

In. 91. And it should be higher. I've mentioned my '92 films.

72. Thelma & Louise (1991)

Yeah. 92. Clearly, I'm going to have to start cutting from my list. Fearless was a good '93 film as were Dave and Searching for Bobby Fischer. Oh - and Flesh and Bone, that was good. And A Perfect World and Bodies, Rest and Motion and Malice. "I am God" - who doesn't love some motherfucking Alec Baldwin? The War Room didn't make my doc. cut down to 10 incidentally.

73. Office Space (1999)

Nope. I'm at 92 and drawing the line! No, I'm not - Quiz Show was a 1994. That's in. I'm at 93.

74. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

Ahhhhh. Ahhhhhh. Ahhhhhhh. Out. Kicking and Screaming and Swimming with Sharks are both real good 1995 films.

75. Out of Africa (1985)

Out. Welcome to the Dollhouse and Slingblade miss from '96. Celluloid Closet was a doc that didn't make the ten as was Looking for Richard. I liked Walking and Talking

76. The Departed (2006)
In. 94. The Sweet Hereafter is just going to miss, right along with The Ice Storm from '97. Grosse Point Blank misses...but I'm going to put in In the Company of Men. 95.

77. Sid and Nancy (1986)

No, like Office Space, I don't have the room. Happiness and Gods and Monsters miss from '98, but The Opposite of, that misses too. Grumble.

78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Out. I thought I was going to leave out Being John Malkovich, but I'm not. 96. I liked Go a lot from ', I'm putting it in. Go. That's 97. I'm screwed.

79. Waiting for Guffman (1996)

In. 98. You Can Count on Me was really good from 2000. Yeah, it's in and the Fugitive is out, keeping me at 97. Okay, let's take something else out to keep me at 97...I'm going to take out the Thin Red Line. Not the Thin Blue Line, which stays - the Thin Red Line goes, keeping me at 97.

80. Michael Clayton (2007)

This is the second of the three movies I haven't seen, so out. 97. In The Bedroom was a real good 2001 movie that doesn't make it.

81. Moonstruck (1987)

Good film. Out. 97. I liked About a Boy, Igby Goes Down, and Roger Dodger from '02.

82. Lost in Translation (2003)

In. 98. The Cooler is a real good 2003.

83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)

The 3rd movie I haven't seen. Out. You know what was good - Ghost, no room. The Notebook was 2004; I feel a little embarassed that I liked it, not enough for the list - but i liked it - and either I'm embarassed because it's manipulative (a good reason) or because we've designated it culturally as belonging to women - and like reality tv and soap operas, entertainment that becomes assigned to the women's sphere is treated with an extra disdain.

84. Sideways (2004)

In. 99.

85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

In. 100. I liked The Aristocrats - although the Seinfeld doc. Comedian is better. Yikes, I'm at 100. That means I have to dip into the original 75 if I'm going to add any of the final 15. A History of Violence was good in '05.

86. Y Tu Mamá También (2002)

Out. I'm out of spots!

87. Swingers (1996)

In. 101. That knocks out All the Right Moves. 100.

88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Out. I've run through 2006 and 2007, so we're on the glide path home.

89. Breaking the Waves (1996)

In. I take out Good Will Hunting.

90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Out. No room.

91. Back to the Future (1985)

Out. I saw it and St. Elmo's Fire in the theatre on the same day, by myself, when I was 14. Good times.

92. Menace II Society (1993)


93. Ed Wood (1994)

Ahhhhhh. Out.

94. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

In. And much higher, this is so low I think I mentioned in an earlier post that it wasn't on the EW list. I'll take off Little Man Tate.

95. In the Mood for Love (2001)


96. Far From Heaven (2002)


97. Glory (1989)


98. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

I really liked this. Out.

99. The Blair Witch Project (1999)


100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)

And out. 100. We're good. I'll put the full list of my 100, although probably not in order given time restrictions and my baseball list requirements.

Whew. 100 down. Enjoy your holiday.

Revelation 21 - The Baseball Hall of Fame is No Longer a Museum

In the history of Major League Baseball, there is only one ball which was hit for a ballplayer's 756th home run. Of the arguments made for Congressional intrusion into the affairs of baseball with the steroid hearings was baseball's singular historic role in the fabric of the United States; long running and continuous, we can draw a direct line from games played during Reconstruction to games being played tonight. In my ongoing countdown of the 200 Best Major Leaguers ever, I include ballplayers who began their careers in the 1880s, the ability to adjust statistics for era allows baseball, really more than any other human endeavor, to cross space and time.

I know, I'm going all "if you build it, he will come" on you. I apologize.

But baseball, for a hundred and fifty years, has had a cultural impact on the United States which is undeniable.

And that means that the artifacts of baseball - the material culture which makes up its history - matters.

You know the story about 756; Marc Ecko, a pointless man living a trivial life, purchased the ball, used the media's insatiable need to ridicule Bonds to drum up publicity over an internet poll, and affixed it with an asterisk, a literal branding that reflects the tarnish the sports punditry and Major League Baseball have so assiduously tried to layer upon the home run record.

And now that ball is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The arguments used to support Ecko are that the ball was his personal property (true) and he could do with it what he wished (legally true).

Consider this thought experiment if you would.

Do you know there is more than one original copy of the Declaration of Independence? Not replications - original, hand written by Thomas Jefferson hisownself, copies.

True story. And one you should know, given that Friday is the 4th of July.

Do you know who owns one of those copies?

Norman Lear. Hollywood liberal. All in the Family. People for the American Way. Normal Lear. Part of the counter-culture that Obama attacked this week.

The Declaration of Independence, the birthing document of the United States, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," is owned by Norman Lear.

He bought it.

It's his personal property.

He has the legal right to annotate it - scrawl "Jefferson was a slave owning rapist" or "There is no creator, grow the hell up" or "Sure, all white property owning men are created equal - but you founding fathers sure gave the rest of the people the shaft."

And on and on and on. Right there. He could do it on the 4th of July. Could do it on PPV. Could do it on the Washington Mall.

It's his personal property after all.

And let me suggest that while we can be pretty sure Bonds took steroids, you don't have the slightest idea what impact they had on his ability to hit home runs. If you think his 755 is more tainted than Babe Ruth's 714, given that he didn't have to face African-American pitchers, you and I pray at different churches.

But while we aren't sure about Bonds - we do know about Jefferson. We do know about what "all men are created equal" meant in force and effect of law at the time of the Declaration and then after the Constitution was ratified in 1789. The expanse between the rhetoric of American freedom and the conditions of American reality are a matter of historical record and became embedded in America's game of baseball, which is why, until 1947, every single home run ever hit in the major leagues deserves an asterisk far bigger and bolder than the one the fashion designer chose to attach to Bonds.

But we don't do that. We use statistics to adjust for era, adjust for rule changes, for ballpark effects, for the wide variations in space and time in which baseball has persists. And that allows us, somewhat fictionally, but better, again, let me suggest, than in any other human endeavor, to mathematically quantify events. We don't need asterisks. We can use statistical adjustments.

Facts. Glorious facts.

Ecko's defacement of 756 was treated by the sports punditry as a joke, defended as being his "personal property."

Were Lear to annotate the Declaration - my guess is the very same people would argue that free speech and personal property be damned - he should be locked up - waterboarded - held without charge in Gitmo.

But take it a step further and imagine that the defaced Declaration was then donated to the Smithsonian, for example - and displayed, comments and all, as a symbol of American history.

What would the reaction be to that?

Marc Ecko doesn't get to change facts. His voice doesn't get to speak louder than mine on 756; his view of history doesn't count more even though he had three quarters of a million dollars to spend on a baseball and I'm clipping coupons for diet cheese.

How much will we allow the wealthy to change the truth?

The baseball is no longer the thing that happened. Now, it's a fashion designer's interpretation of the thing that happened.

He's allowed to have his view. You're allowed to have yours. You can think that Barry Bonds's home run records, both career and single season, are tarnished.

I mean, you're wrong. But you can think that.

But what we don't do is solely on the basis of one of those views being backed by money, display that defaced ball in the museum of record for that sport.

Were Norman Lear to scrawl his thoughts on the Declaration of Independence, even though they might be thoughts I agree with, Lear should be shunned from polite society. He has the right to do it, but it is wrong to do.

Marc Ecko should be treated exactly the same way.

Revelation 20 - Barack Obama's Having a Bad Couple of Weeks

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Barack Obama's had a really troubling two weeks for those of us who are members of the Deomocratic wing of the Democratic party. My decision to vote for him in November was a difficult one; his voting record, Republican hit pieces aside, is not particularly liberal. I am unused to not voting for a 3rd party in a Presidential election; in 2004, people smarter than I convinced me that the damage done by the current administration was such that a person with conscience living in a swing state (guilty) would be making an error in not voting for John Kerry, but he was the first major party candidate for whom I voted for President since 1988.

So, while I would have preferred Dennis Kucinich or even John Edwards, I see the value in casting a vote for Obama (and, since I've already, in this space, picked Obama to win the general election, the only prediction I've made in what's titled the "blog of revelation" I have some self interest as well) and am planning to so do.

However. Goddamn it's been a bad two weeks and getting worse.

*He came out in support of the FISA bill.
* He disagreed with the Supreme Court's decision rejecting the death penalty in child rape cases and appeared to agree (or, at least failed to disagree) with the Court's decision declaring the DC gun control law unconstitutional.
* He hit Wesley Clark,, and the "counter-culture" of the 1960s. His language in his speech defending his patriotism was a broadside at, well, at me, I guess - and my interest in blindly accepting the platitude that America - that any nation - is somehow special, chosen by god, emboldened with a magical purpose passed in 2nd grade.
* And he apparently would expand the faith based initiative programs that have made mincemeat of establishment clause; perhaps as a result of his secret meeting with evangelicals back on June 10. The type of access that...and I'm just guessing here - won't be granted to we who believe there is no one in the sky and would like to maintain a portion of our constitutionally guaranteed rights to live in a country which doesn't take a position on the issue.

Hard for me to vote for someone lining up that far opposite me.

With that - I am preparing my government course for next week and decided to offer as a revelation some thoughts on the Constitution - specifically, thoughts I had upon the creation of Constitution Day as a federal holiday. As the 4th of July approaches, it seems like the right time to share them.

For those of you outside academia (are there such people?) you may be unaware that a couple of years ago, Constitution Day, commemorating the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 18, 1787, became a required academic event for every school which receives federal funds. Putting aside the questionable premise that the federal government make as a means test any type of compelled curricula, in and of itself, the study of the U.S. Constitution, you know, is a good thing. It's the founding document of the country, and could be properly studied, along with, say, any random excerpt from a work like...I don't know...Thomas Paine's Common Sense:

Reason and Ignorance, the opposites of each other, influence the great bulk of mankind. Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.

But the problem with having a day like Constitution Day is that in a significant number of institutions, it wont be used for critical analysis of that document, but instead as an excuse for jingoism. Students across the country will recite their required chants and make their required salutes, and be taught to bow down in subservience to their masters. God shed His grace on Thee.

Particularly since its celebration arrives concurrently with the anniversary of September 11, and given the level of conservative rhetoric over the past 8 years that defines opposition to any Bush policy as a Neville Chamberlain-esque appeasement of a totalitarian regime that is knocking on our doors (candygram) right now, I'm guessing the requisite political expression that day will be limited to holding your hat over your heart.

A full two years before the American colonies would win their independence from England in 1783, representatives of those colonies ratified the Articles of Confederation. This document was not designed to bind all Americans as in indivisible nation, but to instead establish what was referred to a "firm league of friendship" among the 13 separate states. One should think of this original design as closer to a collection of European principalities than the modern day U.S.

One can understand the impulse; consider life in the 18th century: without radio, television, the automobile, the life of the average Pennsylvanian really had very little to do with the life of someone in Maryland, for example. Each state had its own economy; its own culture, its own religious tradition traditions that were often very far removed from each other. Further, recognize that the spirit of the Revolutionary War was fervent repulsion against the arbitrary rule of a powerful central government, not only from the ground level no taxation without representation rap that you learned in elementary school, but from the American elite who were tired of kicking a cut of their monthly take upstairs. So, that the colonial leaders were disinclined to yield any of their newly won power shouldn't be surprising. It won't be another boss who whacks the leader of your local crime family; it'll be someone who wants to move from check writer to check casher.

The Articles of Confederation proved flawed. The colonies fought over trade, over recognizing the individual currency printed by each state, over the location of state borders, over how new territories would be apportioned. The central government that was created under the Articles, the Confederation Congress, was buried in a morass of its own limitation. Each state only had one vote, and nine of those votes were needed to pass any piece of legislation; moreover, legislation passed by the Confederation Congress wasn't binding. States could, and did, simply say, "uh, no, were gonna go a different way on that, daddy" on any matter ruled by the majority.

For four months the delegates met in the sealed Philadelphia State House in the summer of 1787; occasionally people think of the Constitution as if it were a secular Ten Commandments, a document which somehow was dropped into our hands from the unfortunately nicknamed "founding fathers"; the truth is this was a piece of sometimes bitterly debated legislation, crafted day and night, both in boardroom and tavern hall, and what emerged is far less a piece of divine inspiration than of political compromise.

Out of those compromises came the composition of the federal government, with powers shared among three co-equal branches: a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary. The national legislature itself, the Congress, was a creature of compromise. The lower house, the people's House of Representatives, was to be filled proportionally - meaning states with greater population would receive more representation; and conversely, the upper house, named the Senate after a similar body in the Roman Republic, would be composed of the same number of members from each state. The degree to which the American people would be allowed a voice in the political process was also forged from compromise. The people would not vote for federal judges, those would be appointed by the executive. The people would not vote for the members of the Senate, those were appointed by each state's legislature until the 20th century. The people would not vote directly for the president - and as anyone who lived through the 2000 election will attest, an election where the candidate who got the most votes lost, the people still do not. I would love to see the Cold War headlines if after an election in communist country Y the candidate who got the most votes lost. We'd still teach that election in American schools as an example of the superiority of capitalismdemocracy. Further, the only people who could vote for any national office were men, property owners, and white.

The central compromise of the Constitution involved slavery; there will be some who will confuse studying the Constitution with glorifying it, but that reduces history to mere propaganda and diminishes any value Constitution Day might have. The key division at the Constitutional Convention was not merely between large and small states, as is so often taught in high school civics classes, but between north and south. As the degree to which the legislature would be based on population was being debated, the central area of dispute was how to count the slaves. States like Georgia and South Carolina had relatively small white populations, so they would have fewer representatives in the lower House than states like New Jersey and New Hampshire; however, if one added in the slaves to the population count, then the southern states would have a greater degree of power in the legislature. If one considers the starting point, 13 states so married to their independence that they wouldn't recognize each other's money, the number of votes that each would get in Congress was paramount.

The result was that slaves would be counted as 3/5 of a person for representation purposes and that the slave trade could continue for twenty years before Congress could reconsider the issue. Those who talk about the original intent of the framers of the constitution, who consider the founding fathers visionaries beyond reproach, should recognize the historical reality that the embedding of slavery into our founding document led to a brutal Civil War, led to a legalized racial segregation and discrimination (our own American apartheid) to the creation of an entire group of people consigned as third class American citizens based solely on the color of their skin.

As we celebrate Constitution Day, let us not do so mindlessly, let us not merely reflexively offer the same platitudes heard during small town parades and sing the same songs that are badly performed before minor league baseball games. What the U.S. Constitution has allowed us, in frets and starts, certainly, is to exist in a living democracy. And a democracy is not a system of government when we are told by our superiors which box we are required to check; a democracy permits, scratch that, a democracy demands that we the people, in order to form a more perfect union, never stop putting those people whose power comes solely from our grant to the fire and make them justify the actions they take in our name.

As Thomas Paine wrote, "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right." And let me suggest that Constitution Day not be used to ratify mistakes past made, but to take a clear eyed look at what it is we'd like our collective future to hold, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.

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