Thursday, November 7, 2019

The 2019 World Series

The amazing Washington Nationals defied all the odds and beat the powerful Houston Astros in an exciting seven-game World Series. This continued a great trend since the turn of the century of teams breaking barren stretches. Just think of all the great stories since 2000: the Diamondbacks winning their first Series in 2001, the Angels winning their first in 2002, the Red Sox breaking an 86-year curse in 2004, the White Sox breaking an 88-year drought in 2005, the Cubs finally winning in 2016, the Astros doing the same the next year, and now it's the Nationals' turn. This is the first World Series championship for the city of Washington since the Senators won in 1924, and the first-ever for the franchise which started as the Montreal Expos.

Noteworthy about this Series is that the away team won every game!  I have no explanation or words of wisdom about this, it is just one of those oddities that make baseball such a fascinating game.  No previous Series had ever seen the away team winning even six games.

In this postseason the Nats won an amazing five elimination games, starting with the wild card game against the Brewers. And every time they came from behind to do it! They seemed to possess a toughness that allowed them to overcome all obstacles. Their first obstacle this season was overcoming a 19-31 start, the worst 50-game start for a World Series winner ever, and only the second time a team ever came from 12 games below .500 to win a series, the other being the 1914 (miracle) Braves.

A major story line in this Series is the battle between an old school organization (the Nationals) and an analytics-driven organization (the Astros). The Nats are known for putting personal character front and center in their player decisions. Ryan Zimmerman commended the front office for asking the opinion of current players before acquiring another player. The GM would ask him, "What do you hear about this guy?" The Nats are known for having a large contingent of scouts, and for relying heavily on the opinions of those scouts. In fact, many scouts who have been let go by other organizations have been hired by the Nats. The Astros, by contrast, have been in the forefront of the new style of relying on analytics. In this particular battle, old school defeated new school.

Related to this last point is the fact that the Nats are the oldest team in MLB. This is counter to the trend these days of teams going for youth over veterans, who usually cost more and get hurt more often.

Another noteworthy item going into the series was the long layoff for the Nats.  Writers made much of the fact that teams with a layoff of six or more days have historically not done well in the World Series in recent years. The Tigers fizzled in the World Series in both 2006 and 2012, after sweeping the ALCS.  And of course there is the case of the 2007 Rockies, who had won 21 of 22 games going into the World Series, but despite that were swept in decisive fashion by the Red Sox.

Despite a short layoff, the Astros had their vaunted pitching rotation set up, thanks to dispatching the Yankees in the LCS without having to go to a game seven. Their game one starter was their ace, Gerrit Cole, who had not lost since May 22nd!  So what happened?  Of course, the Nats upset the Astros with a 5-4 win.  It looked bleak when the Astros scored two in the first, giving them a 2-0 lead with their ace on the hill.  But, amazingly, the Nats clawed back for 5 unanswered runs to take a 5-2 lead into the 6th.

The first of the 5 runs was scored on a 2nd-inning homer by Ryan Zimmerman, which was fitting as he was the first-ever draft pick for the Nationals in 2005, after they moved from Montreal, and has been with the team ever since.  The Nats 2nd run came in the 4th, when 20-year-old Juan Soto homered, becoming only the 4th player in MLB history under 21 years of age to hit a homer in a World Series game.  Soto hit a double off the wall later and was the star of the game with 3 hits.

Soto emerged as a rising star in this postseason.  He was the Nats hitter who delivered the go-ahead hit in the wild card game, at a time when the Nats were four outs from elimination.  And he was also the hitter who hit the game-tying homer off Clayton Kershaw in game five of the Division Series.

Nats ace Max Scherzer didn't have his best stuff, but struggled gamely to get through 5 innings, and the much-maligned Nats bullpen managed to nail down the win, despite allowing 2 runs.  The controversy in the game occurred in the 8th inning when the Astros George Springer didn't run hard to first base, thinking his ball was out.  He ended up getting a double, but he could have had a triple had he run hard.  His rather lame excuse was that he was afraid of passing the runner on second, who was tagging up in case the ball was caught.  Springer also opined that he would have been out had he tried for third.  However, consensus opinion is that Springer surely could have gotten to third had he run hard.  And he then would have had a chance to score and tie the game when the next batter hit a fly ball to the outfield.  Replays show that he was watching the ball all the way, and never even looked to see where the runner was.  His manager said he talked to him about it after the game, and said that Springer "got caught up in the moment".  Shame on Springer.

Game two saw an epic matchup between Steven Strasburg and Justin Verlander, both superstars who would be #1 starters on almost any other club, but relegated to #2 on their current clubs.  Both pitchers allowed two runs in the first inning, then settled down and it was still 2-2 going into the 7th.  Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki led off the 7th with a homer, and I went to bed.  The next morning I was shocked to learn that the Nats had gone on to score nine more runs in the last three innings, to win 12-3!

Game three saw the Nat's record-tying eight-game winning streak in a single postseason come to an end, as the Astros won rather uneventfully, 4-1.  It was the first World Series game in the city of Washington in 86 years.

Astros starter Zach Greinke pitched in and out of trouble for four and 2/3 innings, but allowed only one run, and then the Astros bullpen took over an held the Nats scoreless the rest of the way.  Altuve shined with two doubles, and scored twice on clutch hits by Michael Brantley.  The Nats' Juan Soto, on his 21st birthday, went 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts, and made a fielding error in left.

Game four saw the Astros score two runs in the first, and go on to an easy 8-1 win, evening the series at 2-2.

Game five saw another Astro win, 7-1, as Max Scherzer had some physical problems and couldn't go, while the Astros ace Gerrit Cole was his usual dominant self.  A story line in the game was the inconsistency of the home plate umpire, who called a ball on strike three to Correa, who promptly hit a 2-run homer.  And then later, he called a strike on ball 4 to a Nats hitter, squelching a possible rally. Calls for an automated strike zone were heard.  I think this would help the hitters, who would not, with 2 strikes on them, have to swing at a ball just out of the zone, for fear the ump would call strike three.  Away team has now won all five of the games so far.

Game six had many compelling story lines.  Strasburg was dominant, running his record to 5-0 for this postseason, the first pitcher to ever go 5-0 in a single postseason.  He gave up two runs in the first, but then corrected a tell which had him tipping his pitches (unlike the bum Yu Darvish two years ago), and pitched into the ninth.  Strasburg worked out of a 2nd and 3rd base jam in the 5th by striking out Altuve on three super-nasty pitches, all off-speed.

Justin Verlander's World series frustrations continued as he is now 0-6 in the Fall Classic.  He left after five innings, trailing 3-2.

A major story line was the way Astro's 3b Bergman carried his bat all the way to first following his first inning home run.  This was universally condemned, and he apologized after the game.  The announcer said "he's going to get one of his teammates hurt".  Then in the fifth, the Nats' Soto hit a homer and did the same thing.

But the major drama occurred in the 7th, when Nats SS Trea Turner hit a little dribbler toward 3rd (the kind of hit that announcers wrongly call a "swinging bunt").  The throw was bad and took the first baseman over to the home plate side of first, and Turner ran into the glove.  The home plate ump called him out, and the Nats erupted in fury, with manager Martinez getting thrown out between innings when he continued to protest, and had to be restrained by his bench coach.

Turner looked to me to be running right on the base line, and so shouldn't have been called out.  There was an almost 5-minute delay while the umps called New York.  But the out call stood.  Commentators opined that technically the rule was correctly applied, but it is usually not called, as it wasn't with Bellinger in a recent World Series.  The rule itself is the problem, as it needs to be rewritten or at least clarified.  What is so troubling is that without a bad throw, there would have been no problem.  The Astros came out better with the bad throw than if they had thrown Turner out, as the runner who was on first had to return to first, when otherwise he would have been on at least second.  One suggested rules change is to make the play reviewable, as now it is a judgment call which is not reviewable.  (The headset delay was due to calling New York not to review the play, but to determine whether the Nats' attempt to protest the game was legitimate.  Martinez had asked for a rules clarification, which Joe Torre encourages in his talk with the managers before every World Series, and this is what the call was about.)

This bad call had the potential to be a major blight on the game and the Series, but fortunately, Anthony Rendon bailed out the umps by hitting a two-run homer later in the inning, so it didn't cost the Nats the game.  They won 7-2, with Rendon getting five RBI's.

Game seven saw yet another comeback by the resilient Nationals.  They were down 2-0 after six innings, unable to do anything against Zach Greinke. Max Scherzer pitched five gritty innings, starting the game after not being able to raise his arm above his head three days earlier, due to neck spasms. A cortisone shot got him in condition to go in game seven, and he gave it his all, warrior that he is. The game four starter, Patrick Corbin, then pitched the next three innings, and the Nats' closer took care of the ninth.The Nats finally broke through for three runs in the seventh, and then added one in the eighth and two more in the ninth, for a final of 6-2, the final score not indicative of how close and tense the game actually was.

The victory of the Nats followed a tumultuous offseason in which the Nats were not able to retain celebrated outfielder Bryce Harper, who signed a huge contract with the Phillies. Most commentators, this writer included, predicted that the Phillies would be improved and probably win the division, and that the Nats would once again disappoint. But they prevailed, in magnificent fashion!

The MVP went to Stephen Strasburg, the starter in games two and six. His success certainly vindicated the Nats' caution in limiting his innings in 2012 when he was coming back from Tommy John surgery. The Nats, who had the best record in baseball that year but failed to get past the Division Series with Strasburg shut down, were heavily criticized at the time.  But their long-range concern for Strasburg's health, sacrificing short-term gain, has finally paid off. Kudos to the Nats, World Series champions!

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Iran Hostage Crisis

It was 40 years ago today that the U.S. embassy in Tehran was overrun and 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. A very informative discussion of this was on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" yesterday.

In my presidential rankings, I was quite hard on Jimmy Carter for permitting this crisis to develop. I said he had intelligence reports that our embassy wold be overrun if he allowed the Shah into this country, but he did it anyway, his excuse being that the Shah needed medical treatment only available in this country. Since this proved later to be false, as the doctors were willing to go down to Mexico City to treat him, I concluded that Carter had lied to us.

Carter adviser Stu Eizenstat presented an informative account on the C-SPAN show of Carter's handling of  the crisis. It turns out that it was more than just one or two reports that our embassy would be overrun; rather, Carter was repeatedly warned quite strongly that the embassy would definitely be in jeopardy. However, a major factor at that time was the ongoing Cold War, and evacuating the embassy would have allowed free rein to the Soviets to exert more influence in Iran, and Iran was seen as an important bulwark against communism in that part of the world. Hence, we stayed with a skeleton contingent.

Carter resisted allowing the Shah into the country for a long time, but he finally relented based on two state dept. doctors saying he needed treatment only available in the U.S. Apparently he didn't bother to obtain an independent opinion from a neutral doctor. Eizenstat admits that this advice was false, and treatment could have been rendered in Mexico City, as it turned out. So, perhaps the word "lie" is too strong, if Eizenstat's account is to be believed. But he was certainly negligent and incompetent in his handling of the matter.

As to his handling of the crisis once it developed, Eizenstat stresses that Carter did eventually get all of them out unharmed, which was the goal all along. And Eizenstat does feel that the crisis was the cause of losing the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan. He says that as of the Sunday before the election, Carter was even or a little ahead in the polls. Then, he got word of a possible peace initiative, and he canceled his campaign stops and flew back to  Washington from Chicago, which Eizenstat says was a huge mistake. The peace offer could and should have been responded to from where he was in Chicago, and didn't require flying home. Carter's handling of this made him look weak and ineffectual, like he was so desperate for the hostages' release that he would do anything, and then it still led to no progress.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The 2019 League Championship Series

The two League Championship Series were just the opposite of the Division Series, meaning that all the drama this time was on the American League side.  In the NL, the Nationals swept the Cardinals 4-0, with scores of 2-0, 3-1, 8-1, and 7-4.  So thoroughly did the Nationals starting pitching dominate the Cards that the Cards never had a lead in the entire series.  The Cardinals hit a woeful .130, with an OPS of only .374.

The AL series between 100-game winners the Yankees and the Astros was, by contrast, full of drama.  The Astros won it in six games, with Altuve hitting a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth in game 6.  The scores of the games were 0-7, 3-2, 4-1, 8-3, 1-4, and 6-4.

My enduring image from game six won't be Altuve's walkoff, but a spectacular play by Michael Brantley in left.  He dove and caught a line drive inches off the ground, then jumped up and threw out the runner from first who couldn't get back in time.  Simply awesome.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Why can't the Republicans answer a simple question?

The question is really quite straightforward.  "Do you think it's appropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader for help digging up dirt on his political opponents?"

Despite its simplicity, Republicans have been incredibly unable to give an answer.  Last Sunday we had Ron Johnson on "Meet the Press", and Jim Jordan on "This Week", neither of whom would give an answer, despite repeated questioning.  I don't know what the Republicans think they are accomplishing by being so evasive.  The right answer is really quite simple: of course it is not proper.

Colorado Senator Corey Gardner was similarly evasive:  he refused to answer despite repeated requests to do so.  He is locked in a tough re-election race, which is said to explain his reluctance. But aren't voters smart enough to see through this sham?  Maybe, maybe not, I guess we'll see.

A repugnant false equivalency turned up the other day when CNN's Kate Bolduan repeatedly badgered a guest to answer why the Democrats wouldn't hold a House vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry.  This is like asking why I didn't eat breakfast this morning.  It is totally irrelevant to anything. Nothing in the Constitution or the House rules requires such a vote.  To hold one now would be to look weak in the face of Trump's stonewall tactics.

Mr. Bolduan's premise was that Trump would magically start cooperating if such a vote were held. This is totally ridiculous, as he would simply come up with another excuse not to cooperate if the vote were held.  The fact is, House committee's conduct investigations all the time, it's an important part of their job. The full House does not authorize each one.  Needless to say, I will not be watching the no-talent-bum Kate Bolduan anymore.  Neither will I watch any of the other phony fake-blonde airheads who CNN is so enamored with.

Friday, October 11, 2019

The 2019 Division Series

Cardinals-Braves.  This series was hotly contested for the first four games, until the Cards blew game five open with ten (!) runs in the first inning.  The main story of game one was the failure of the Braves Ronald Acuna Jr. to hustle on a fly ball to left.  Apparently thinking it was a homer, he lollygagged down the line holding his bat, turning a double into a single and probably costing the Braves a run.  The Braves led 3-1 going into the 8th, but the Cards rallied to tie, sparked by Paul Goldschmidt's homer.  Then the Cards rallied for four more in the 9th, only to barely win when Braves come up with three in the bottom of the ninth. 7-6 Cards

In game two the Braves evened the series with a 3-0 win, behind starter Mike Foltynewicz.

In game three the Cards led 1-0 going into the 9th, thanks to a great start by starter Adam Wainwwright.  Wainright loaded the bases in the 8th, but then Andrew Miller came on and got the 3rd out.  However, the Braves rallied for 3 in the ninth, to win 3-1.

Game four was full of late-inning drama.  Yadier Molina tied the game in the 8th with a single, and then won it in the 10th with a sac fly.  5-4 Cards.

Game five saw the unprecedented first-inning rally for the Cards, and that was the ballgame and the series.

Dodgers-Nationals.  This was expected to be a runaway for the Dodgers, who set a new franchise record with 106 regular season wins.  The Nationals were in thanks to an exciting comeback in the wild card game vs. the Brewers.  Down 3-1 in the 8th, the Nats' Juan Soto hit a bases-loaded single to right which scored three runs when the ball went under the right fielder's glove.  This was a mental error by the right fielder, as there was no chance of throwing out the runner from second, since with two outs he was going on contact.  He should have made sure to field it cleanly so as to hold the runner from first on third, and thereby keep the score tied.

The first game was a 6-0 Dodger win, with starter Walker Buehler shutting down the Nats, and it looked like it might be a short series.  Even after the Nats won the second game, they had to use both of their star pitchers, Scherzer and Strasburg, to win it, and I thought they were done.  The Dodgers then romped 10-4 in the third game, and I really thought the Nats were done at that point.

With their backs to the wall, the Nationals won the 4th game 6-1 behind Scherzer's strong seven innings of work, setting up the decisive 5th game.  Strasburg gave up 3 runs early in game five, and it looked like the Nats were done.  But Steve settled down and held the Dodgers scoreless for the rest of his 6-inning stint.  The Nats tied it up 3-3 in the 8th, when they hit back-to-back dingers against Clayton Kershaw on consecutive pitches!  Manager Dave Roberts was roundly second-guessed by all the commentators for bringing Kershaw back to start the 8th, after he'd gotten the last out in the 7th.  The Dodgers had five rested relievers in the bullpen, but Roberts apparently wanted to give Kershaw a chance to have a rare post-season success.  But oh, how that did backfire!

The score remained tied into the 10th, when the Nats loaded the bases and Howie Kendrick hit a grand slam.  Kendrick had made three errors plus a base running blunder up to that point, so this was redemption for him.  The Nats at one point were 19-31, and their season seemed over.  But they rallied to finish second in the NL East to the Braves, and then rallied to win both the wild card game and the Division Series.  This marks the first time the Nats have ever won a post-season series, as they have under-achieved almost every year during this decade.

This has been the Steven Strasburg decade for the Nats, as he was the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, and one of the most-hyped draft picks in history.  He started out strong with the Nats in 2010, but then got hurt and had to have Tommy John surgery.  This led to the Nats limiting his innings in 2012, for which they were roundly criticized.  With the most wins in MLB at 98, they nonetheless lost in the Division Series.  But they were trying to be careful with him, and after the recent Division Series Ryan Zimmerman opined that Strasburg would not have been the pitcher he was this year had the Nats not shut him down in 2012.  So, maybe the Nats got it right in 2012 after all.

10/16/19 update.  The Dodgers have announced that Dave Roberts will be back as manager next season.  Normally a club would not be making an announcement when a manager under contract is not fired.  However, due to all the second-guessing about his pitching moves in game five, and also about some in-game decisions from the past two World Series, the Dodgers found an announcement needed.  I think Roberts has the ideal skills a manger needs--poise, calmness, thoughtfulness. and an ability to relate to players.  When your manager goes to two World Series in a row, and then the next year sets a club record for wins, it is ludicrous to consider firing him!

The two AL series lacked the drama of the NL series.  The mighty Astros dispatched the wild-card winning Rays 6-2 and 3-1 in the first two games, and it looked like a rout was on.  However, the surprising Rays fought back with 10-3 and 4-1 wins in the next two, setting up the decisive game five.  In game five the Rays pitcher was tipping his pitches, holding his hands higher in the set position for a fastball compared to the curve.  The Astros likely would have won anyway, as their
Ace Gerritt Cole shut down the Rays.  Astros win 5-1.

In the other AL series, the mighty Yankees swept away the Twins 3-0.  What is noteworthy about this is that it represented 13 straight postseason games the Twins have lost to the Yanks, and their 16th straight overall.

And now, on to the League Championship Series.  Two 100-win teams lock horns in the AL, with the Astros playing the Yankees, while the two top seeds in the NL were ousted in the Division Series.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

When the star of the show is the setting

I have been watching many shows from British Commonwealth countries during the past two years.  Often the biggest treat to these shows is the way they show the settings in which they take place.

Here are some examples:

Death in Paradise.  This BBC series takes place on the fictional island of Saint Marie, a Caribbean island near Guadeloupe and Martinique.  It is shot on Guadeloupe.  The format is a bit formulaic and even hokey, as the chief detective always gathers the suspects together at the end and reveals which one of them them actually committed the murder; however, the scenery and the glimpses into the native culture more than make up for this slight drawback.

The Last Post.  This BBC series takes place in the city of Aden, and depicts life on a British army post during the last years of the British occupation of Yemen.  There are two main themes here; one is the relationship of the British soldiers to the native people, and the other is the depiction of the bored lives of the soldiers' wives, who are stuck there with little to do, amid the sexual revolution of the 1960s.  Oddly, the show is shot in Cape Town, but the visuals accurately reflect the Aden location, with the desert, coast, mountains, and colonial architecture. The show is said to accurately reflect the lives of the British families in Yemen during this turbulent period, in which an active guerrilla movement was underway to drive the British out of the the country.  (Britain did in fact leave the country in 1967.)  The last episode is quite gut-wrenching in its depiction of a court-martial of an officer for disobeying orders by negotiating with terrorists for the release of a hostage.  The court-martial fell apart when it was shown that the British Secretary for Colonial Affairs was similarly negotiating with the terrorist leader, even as the official British policy remained opposed to this.

Mystery Road.  This is a six-episode mini-series, with all episodes dealing with a single case.  It is set in the Australian outback, and deals sympathetically with the problems of the native (Aboriginal) people, as do all the shows listed in this post.

The Brokenwood Mysteries.  This is set in a fictional small town in New Zealand.  It is shot in various small towns north of Auckland, with the town of Warkworth doubling as Brokenwood.

Broadchurch.  This three-season series is a crime drama set in a fictional English town.  The setting is stunningly beautiful, with the English coast and cliffs playing a large part.

This is only a small sampling of the many series which give us a glimpse of faraway places and cultures.  I strongly recommend all of them.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Felicity Huffman Sentencing

Felicity Huffman yesterday was sentenced to 14 days in prison for trying to rig her daughter's SAT score.  What is troubling about this sentence is that the normal sentence for a non-violent crime by a defendant with no prior criminal record would be presumptive probation, in almost every court in the land.

Add to that the fact that there was no real victim here, that she chose to cooperate by pleading guilty, and that she showed genuine remorse, and the sentence is just about impossible to justify.  One can't escape the conclusion that the judge and the prosecutor, as so often happens, were unduly harsh because she is a rich celebrity.  Surely an average, run-of-the-mill low-profile defendant would  have received probation in a case like this.

We can only wait and see what Lori Loughlin, who paid $500,000, compared to Huffman's $15,000, will get as  a sentence.  If Huffman's crime is worth 15 days, Loughlin will surely get much more than that given her greater crime, and for her lack of cooperation in choosing to roll the dice with a trial instead of cooperating.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The September Democratic Debate

Having just acquired cable TV service after a five-year lapse, I was excited to be able to watch last night's Democratic debate.  Ten candidates filled the stage, the first time all the top candidates were on the same debate stage.

My main takeaway is that the Democratic Party is in great shape.  Except for Julian Castro, who made a complete fool of himself, there were nine candidates who would be excellent nominees for the party in 2020.  And, it should be said, all nine would all be vastly better than the poor candidates the party has selected in the past 50 years: McGovern in 1972, Carter in 1976 and 1980, Mondale in 1984, Dukakis in 1988, Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004, and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The top three--Biden, Warren, and Sanders--held their own, although only Warren of the three was the most solid.  Biden gave a bizarre, rambling, incoherent answer to a question about the legacy of slavery, but otherwise he did OK.

Most of the candidates below the top tier helped themselves.  Amy Klobuchar in particular was outstanding, getting her message across that having a candidate from the Midwest would be a good thing for the party and for the country.  Cory Booker was effective in presenting himself as someone who can unite the country, as he emphasized the importance of empathy in our daily lives, the message being that what unites us is stronger than what divides us.  Mayor Pete gave a great closing speech about his coming out as gay.

A striking aspect of the debate is that for the first time Democratic candidates were willing to talk about the problem of gun violence in this country.  Beto O'Rourke had the sound bite of the night, when he said that "Hell, yes, we're gong to take away your (assault weapons)".  He later clarified on "Morning Joe" that while it would be a mandatory buyback, he expected law-abiding citizens to comply, and he said "we don't go house-to-house in this country looking for violations of the law".

Almost as important as the debate itself is the after-debate commentary by the participants when interviewed.  "Morning Joe" this morning interviewed a bunch of them--Klobuchar, Booker, Kamala Harris, and Beto O'Rourke--all of whom distinguished themselves with the clarity of their comments.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Kirsten

Kirsten Gillibrand has abandoned her long-shot bid to become the 2020 Democratic nominee.   I say, good riddance.

A recent New Yorker article described how seven current and former Senators who called for Al Franken's resignation have expressed regrets at their hasty and premature actions.  But not Kirsten, who still says she has no regrets.

Typical of the seven regretful Senators is Pat Leahy, who called it "one of the biggest mistakes I've made" in his 45 years in the Senate.  Others who also had the courage to admit their mistakes include Heidi Heitkamp, Tammy Duckworth, Angus King, Jeff Merkley, Bill Nelson, and Tom Udall.  But not Kirsten Gillibrand.

I say goodbye and good riddance to a bad Senator and a morally reprehensible jerk.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Mental Illness and Mass Shootings

People continue to cite "mental illness' as a cause of mass shootings.  This is wrong for many reasons.

The motivation for many who talk about this is to divert attention away from the real problem, which is the proliferation of guns in this country.  In fact, the people who talk about mental illness as a cause of gun violence are often the same people who oppose increased funding for mental illness and other programs designed to promote the general welfare.

Experts tell us that mental illness is a primary cause of only about 5% of mass shootings.  They point out that hate is not a mental illness.

To continually refer to mental illness as a cause serves to further stigmatize those folks who suffer from some form of mental illness.  This further discourages those needing help from seeking it.

The fact is that those suffering from mental illness are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators of it.  Further, if they do commit violence, it is more likely to be upon themselves rather than upon others.

Left unaddressed is the problem of how do you get those suffering from a mental illness to get help, if they don't want it?  Is the right wing prepared to incarcerate everyone who needs help but won't seek it voluntarily?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Jews have it right on Abortion

After years of letting the anti-abortion crowd control the narrative on abortion, a member of the mainstream media has finally presented  the other side.  USA today, to its eternal credit, published an article on July 25th detailing the Jewish position on abortion, which holds that the fetus is not a living being.

The long article presents different interpretations of the same Old Testament texts which the anti-abortion crowd relies upon.  But even more pertinent, the article details why common sense dictates a different view.

If, as many anti-abortion extremists say, abortion is really murder, then women who have abortions should be prosecuted for first-degree murder, since it is obviously a premeditated act.  They should then be sentenced to life imprisonment, or, in states which still have the death penalty, to execution.  That the anti-abortionists do not go this far demonstrates that they don't really believe their own demagogic rhetoric.  

We cannot allow the anti-abortionist fanatics to hijack our religion.  When Jesus said "love thy neighbor", he was talking about loving people, not fetuses.  A fetus is not life; it is, at best, potential life.  Let us pray that common sense will prevail in this country, although right now that day seems a long way off.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Letter to National Review

I have always respected National Review as a thoughtful magazine, dedicated to an honest rendition of conservative ideas.  But the David French article, "The South Secedes from the Culture of Death" is a complete joke.

To say that "abortion is America's second great sin" is ludicrous.  Surely you are aware that many religious traditions do not treat abortion as a sin.  And surely you are aware that it is wrong for the government to inject itself into the private and agonizing choice of a woman to have an abortion.  It is none of the government's business.  And it is certainly not in line with conservative tradition for the government to dictate how its citizens should live their private lives!

The article repeatedly talks about the fetus as if it is a living, breathing human being, which is false.  Phrases like "granting a woman the right to hire a doctor to kill her child" are thrown around so carelessly by French that it fatally damages the credibility of your magazine.

French praises the seven southern states which have passed severe anti-abortion bills.  He says "the Christians of the South are leading the nation" in defense of life.  Of 25 executions last year, all but three were in the South.  Now, tell me again how much the South respects life!

Please cancel my subscription immediately.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Tyreek Hill saga

Zach Gelb, the resident idiot0in-chief at CBS Sports Radio, has been ranting and raving for two weeks about how the NFL Commissioner was remiss in not suspending Chiefs' wide receiver Tyreek Hill.  Despite getting put in his place by a reporter who actually had followed the story and knew what was going on, Gelb continues to beat this to death.

Gelb interviewed the reporter after spending the first three hours of his four-hour show blasting the Commissioner, along with any fans who dared to defend Hill and/or the Commissioner.  The reporter said that Hill had been unusually honest, sincere, and forthcoming during the eight-hour interview with the Commissioner.  Think of that--eight hours!  And yet Gelb and his fellow sports talk idiots think it is perfectly OK to rush to judgment based on some snippets from a telephone conversation which the woman in question surreptitiously taped while talking to Hill about how their son broke his arm.

And now in recent days Hill was given an ovation by Chiefs fans when he appeared for practice with his team.  This of course set off a whole knew round of denunciations by Gelb and others at CBS, this time directed at the fans who applauded.  Have these CBS morons never heard of forgiveness, of redemption, of welcoming back a family member who had been going through some rough times?

The problem here is the rush to judgment which we all are prone to do at times.  We need to remember that there are two sides to every story, and we should investigate thoroughly before condemning someone. 

This rush to judgment issue has come up in the current issue of The New Yorker, which has an article on the Al Franken resignation.  It turns out that many of Franken’s Senate colleagues have regrets about their roles in calling for his resignation. Seven current and former U.S. senators who demanded Franken’s resignation in 2017 told the reporter, Jane Mayer, that they’d been wrong to do so.  Patrick Leahy, the veteran Democrat from Vermont, said that his decision to seek Franken’s resignation without first getting all the facts was “one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made” in forty-five years in the Senate. Heidi Heitkamp, the former senator from North Dakota, told Mayer, “If there’s one decision I’ve made that I would take back, it’s the decision to call for his resignation. It was made in the heat of the moment, without concern for exactly what this was.”

A more level-headed CBS sports talk host suggested that perhaps the Commissioner should not even be involved in disciplining players for off-the-field issues.  He thought it should be up to the individual clubs to discipline their players.  This is how it usually works in labor relations; it is the employer whose job it is to impose discipline for misdeeds of its employees.  The Commissioner can continue to be in charge of on-field issues, but off-field issues should be left to the individual clubs.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

"Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson", by William H. Rehnquist

I first read this book in the mid-1990s, after my interest in U.S. presidential history had been piqued by Eugene Roseboom's wonderful book, "A History of U.S. Presidential Elections".  Since then I have read many books and articles on impeachment, but Rhenquist's book still remains the best thing I have read on the subject.

"Grand Inquests" is much more than an account of the two major 19th-century impeachments.  Most of the book consists of a remarkably well-written and entertaining history covering the period of 1775 to the 1868 Johnson impeachment trial.

Rhenquist emphasizes that in the early years the Supreme Court justices spent only a few weeks a year in Washington sitting as members of that court. The rest of the time they "rode circuit", traveling around in the geographic area to which they were assigned, and sitting with a local federal judge to try cases. It was for actions in his capacity as a circuit rider for which Chase was impeached, and in no way pertained to his Supreme Court duties.

Rhenquist says that from the beginning the justices "complained bitterly" about their "onerous circuit-riding duties", and turnover was high.  As a result, the Judiciary Act of 1801 was passed in the lame-duck session of Congress in February of 1801, just before Jefferson took office. This Act created six new circuit courts, and sixteen new circuit judges, to be named by outgoing president John Adams.

Jefferson's party regarded this, "with considerable justification, as a piece of political chicanery".  The undelivered commission to James Marbury, for the minor office of justice of the peace for the District of Columbia, resulted in the celebrated case of Marbury v. Madison, in which the Supreme Court declared its authority to find acts of Congress unconstitutional.

Chases' impeachment trial began on February 4, 1805, presided over by Vice President Aaron Burr, who after the trial would "disappear into the wilderness on an adventure, the purpose of which still puzzles historians. He would emerge two years later from that wilderness in the custody of United States be tried for treason".

The first Article of Impeachment against Chase dealt with his handling of the John Fries trial. Fries was on trial for treason for his involvement in the 1799 Fries Rebellion, which was the third of the three major tax revolts in 18th-century U.S. history, the others being the 1786 Shays Rebellion and the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion.  I have a special interest in the Fries Rebellion, since it involved a revolt of Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, some of whom no doubt were among my ancestors on my mother's side.

Chase's error in his handling of the Fries trial was that he delivered an opinion on a question of law, without first allowing the defense counsel to have their say.  This opinion was announced by Chase even before the trial started, and it involved the definition of "treason".  Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution, which says that "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to her Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort".

Since we were not at war at the time of the Fries Rebellion, the last part of the definition could not apply, and the accusation had to be that Fries was "levying war".  Chase's opinion, announced without hearing counsel, was that "any armed resistance to the enforcement of a federal statute" could be considered to be "levying war".  Obviously this is seriously open to interpretation, and counsel should have been allowed to argue this matter fully to the jury, especially in light of the fact that poor Fries was on trial for his life.

The Senate vote on the Fries article of impeachment against Chase was 18-16 for acquittal, and on another article, also for Chase's mishandling of a circuit rider case, the vote was 19-15 for conviction, still four votes short of the 2/3 super majority required by the Founders.

The votes followed party lines, except that six Republicans defected and voted for acquittal. The only one of the six who explained his vote is Samuel Michill, who wrote almost daily letters to is wife. After the vote he wrote:

"Thus, this tedious and important trial is brought to an end. All this mighty effort has ended in nothing. On this occasion myself and my colleague Smith acted with the Federalists. But we did so on full conviction that the evidence, our oaths, and the Constitution, and our conscience required us to act as we have done."

Another first-hand report is from the diary of John Quincy Adams, who was in the Senate as the time.  As usual, John Quincy gets it about right when he writes:

"This was a party prosecution, and is issued in the unexpected and total disappointment of those by whom it was brought forward. It has exhibited the Senate of the United States fulfilling the most important purpose of its institution, by putting a check upon the impetuous violence of the House of Representatives. It has proved that a sense of justice is strong enough to overpower the furies of factions; but it has, at the same time, shown the wisdom and necessity of that provision in the Constitution which requires the concurrence of two-thirds for conviction upon impeachments. The attack upon Mr. Chase was a systematic attempt upon the independence and powers of the Judicial Department..."

I have three main takeaways from the Adams statement. First, it references the danger which the Founders saw in (pure) democracy. Hence, the Founders built in all kind of safeguards to ensure that the "passion of the moment" cannot prevail in our system. One of these safeguards is the six-year term for Senators, providing a check on the "impetuous violence" and the "furies of factions" of the House.  Another safeguard is the Electoral College, helping to ensure that a demagogue cannot be elected (although the election of Trump shows that the E.C. no longer fulfills that function).

A second takeaway is the wisdom of the two-thirds majority required for important decisions like a conviction at an impeachment trial. The Founders wrote this into our system for important decisions, like approval of a treaty by the Senate. Certainly this concept was ignored by the British in the Brexit referendum, a horrendous idea violating both of the principles Adams alludes to. Whatever was Cameron thinking?

A third takeaway, not mentioned by Rhenquist, is that Adams himself ignored his own principles and participated in a "party prosecution" when it was his party doing the impeaching. This occurred in 1842 when John Tyler was the subject of an impeachment attempt by House Whigs because of his vetoes of Congressional legislation. The head of the House select committee for this impeachment attempt was none other than John Quincy Adams! I guess even the great ones are capable of gross hypocrisy when it suits their purpose.

The failure of the Chase impeachment attempt did much to ensure the independence of the federal judiciary, and Rhenquist asserts that to this day there have been no further impeachments of federal judges based upon their judicial decisions.  A major test of this new-found judicial independence occurred two years later at the trial of Aaron Burr for treason, based upon plans he had supposedly made to cause the secession of the southwestern states during his two-year sojourn to that part of the country after he left the Vice-Presidency.

The Burr trial was presided over by Chief Justice Marshall, and from the beginning President Jefferson "took an inordinate interest in obtaining the conviction of Burr", and made thinly-veiled threats on the independence of the judiciary.  Marshall refused to yield to the pressure and made legal rulings that essentially required Burr's acquittal.  Rhenquist speculates that had Chase been convicted, Marshall would not have felt able to assert his independence as he did.

To set the stage for the Johnson impeachment case, Rehnquist presents an informative history of slavery in this country, starting with the delivery of twenty slaves to Jamestown in 1619.  Rehnquist highlights the fact that the slave trade was abolished by Congress in 1808, based on a specific provision in the "Constitution protecting the slave trade only until January 1, 1808.

Rhenquist's historical account eventually arrives at the start of the Lincoln presidency.  Lincoln intentionally chose a diverse cabinet, with appointees from New York, Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Connecticut, and Maryland.  Although this group did contain a diversity of views, it should be noted that none were from the deep South.

At his very first cabinet meeting, on March 9, 1861, Lincoln asked each cabinet member to give his views on whether it would be wise to send provisions to Fort Sumter, whose commander had sent word that his supplies were running low and substantial reinforcements were needed.  The cabinet members were given a week to think about it, and upon reconvening five answered unqualifiedly "no", one answered "yes", and one said not if it would result in civil war.

Lincoln sent his own emissaries to assess the situation, and the South Carolina governor made it clear to them that any attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter would mean civil war.  The cabinet again met, and this time was evenly divided.  Despite this, Lincoln ordered the reinforcements sent.

To me this was a clear error on Lincoln's part.  If, using his great eloquent powers, he cold not even convince a majority of his own cabinet, how could he possibly expect to unite the country for his war effort?  And besides, what was so wrong about letting those seven deep South states secede, based on the principles of self-determination on which our country was founded?  Surely we would have much less partisan rancor today had those seven states been allowed to go their own way.  (It should be noted that the other four states of the Confederacy seceded only after Lincoln decided to go to war.)

A civil war is a particularly odious kind of war.  For Lincoln to plunge headlong into civil war, without the support even of his own cabinet, was surely not warranted.  It must follow, then, that his exalted position in American history is not warranted.

The impeachment and trial of Andrew Johnson was a very interesting chapter in American history.  Johnson was impeached and tried because he had violated the Tenure in Office Act by removing and replacing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

This impeachment attempt was horribly flawed no matter how one looks at it.  First, from a political standpoint is was just plain silly.  The House voted impeachment on February 24, 1968.  With the next election less than a year away, it would make much more sense to simply vote Johnson out of office.

Fro a legal standpoint, it is doubtful that the Tenure in Office Act even applied to Johnson.  The Act only covered cabinet members "for the term of the president who appointed them and one month thereafter".  Since Stanton had been appointed by Lincoln, not by Johnson, those supporting Johnson argued that it didn't even apply.  Michael Les Benedict, author of "The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson", says that the only historian to delve into this issue intensively has concluded that the Democrats were right on this issue.

From a constitutional standpoint, the impeachment attempt was wrongheaded because the Tenure in Office Act was a clear violation of the separation of powers envisioned by the Founders.  Indeed, the Act was watered down in 1869 under Grant, and finally repealed under Cleveland in 1887.  And in 1926 the Supreme Court, ruling in a similar case, observed that the Tenure in Office Act had been invalid.

The Johnson impeachment trial failed because seven Republicans voted to acquit, and Rhenquist delves into the reasons given by most of them.  Senator Fessenden pointed out that each senator had taken a solemn oath to "do impartial justice, according to the constitution and the law", thereby emphasizing the judicial, rather than the political, nature of the proceeding.  He concluded that the Tenure in Office Act did not apply to protect Stanton from removal from office.  And even if he were wrong on this, it was at least a highly debatable point, so that the president should not be removed for his good faith belief in the Act's inapplicability.

Similarly, Senator Grimes wrote that:

"Nor can I suffer my judgment of he law governing this case to be influenced by political considerations.  I cannot agree to destroy the harmonious working of the constitution for sake of getting rid of an unacceptable president.  Whatever may be by opinion of the incumbent, I cannot consent to trifle with the high office he holds.  I can do nothing which, by implication, may be construed into an approval of impeachments as a part of future political machinery."

Senator Fowler wrote about how cabinet members are agents of the executive and the president has the right to select his own cabinet, a right guaranteed to him by the constitution.

Rhenquist looks at the Articles of Impeachment voted on by the Judiciary Committee against Nixon in 1974, and he concludes that the result was entirely consistent with the views of the seven "recusant Republicans" who voted to acquit Johnson.  This is based on the fact that of the five Articles of Impeachment presented against Nixon, the two of them that did not represent clear and serious abuses of presidential power were rejected by the Committee vote.  Thus, the article charging Nixon with making false statements to Congress about the bombing of Cambodia was rejected by a 26-12 vote.  And similarly, the article charging Nixon with wrongfully using public money to improve his San Clemente home, and with wrongfully taking deductions on his income tax returns, was also rejected by the same 26-12 vote.

Since Rhenquist's book, published in 1992, there has been the Clinton impeachment and trial, and now the current move to impeach Trump, so a few comments on these efforts seem warranted.  The Clinton attempt was obviously way out of bounds, as there was no "clear and serious abuse of presidential power".  It was purely a political prosecution, and the Republicans came out of it looking like partisan hacks, especially the House Republicans who prosecuted the "case".

The Trump situation presents more difficult issues to analyze.  The Mueller Report describes thirty-eight separate incidents of potential obstructions of justice.  Surely Trump did try to interfere with the Mueller investigation, but his efforts were unsuccessful.  An example is his instructions to Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, to tell Attorney General Sessions to give a speech denouncing the special counsel's investigation.  However, Lewandowski was not comfortable with doing this, and never did deliver the message to Sessions.

It should be noted that "obstruction of justice" is a very murky, vague, and broad concept.  Like beauty, it exists in the eye of the beholder.  And, since Trump was unsuccessful, he cannot even be said to be guilty of it; rather, at best he would be guilty of attempted obstruction of justice.

Those who favor pursuing Trump's impeachment are victims of the fallacy, "I can, therefore I should".  The fact is, the existence of adequate grounds for impeachment is not a sufficient reason to proceed.  As set out by Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz in To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment, the existence of adequate ground is only one of a three-part test. The second part of the test is "as a matter of political reality, is the effort to remove the president likely to succeed in the House and then in the Senate".  And the third prong, then, is "is it genuinely necessary to resort to the impeachment power, recognizing that the resulting collateral damage will likely be significant".

In thinking this through, it is obvious that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is correct in refusing to push the impeachment issue.  Trump's shortcomings were well known during the campaign, and he was elected anyway.  Any impeachment effort would surely be seen as a partisan prosecution, and would fail on a party line vote, with the damage to the country being enormous.  Even Newt Gingrich now admits he and his fellow House Republicans were wrong to pursue the Clinton impeachment, and he praises Pelosi for her more temperate approach.

In summing up the six impeachment attempts mentioned in this review, we can say that the Tyler and Johnson impeachments were purely political, with no misconduct being alleged.  Tyler's alleged wrongdoing was that he vetoed measures passed by Congress which he disagreed with.  Similarly, Johnson disagreed with the Radical Republicans concerning Reconstruction policy.  Both were honest differences of opinion and obviously not proper grounds for impeachment.

Clinton was guilty of wrongdoing, but it was private wrongdoing and not related to his public duties as president.  Kudos to the five Republicans who had the political courage to vote against conviction on both Articles:  Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), Lincoln Chafee (RI), Jim Jeffords (VT), and Arlen Spector (PA).

Five additional Republicans voted against conviction on the perjury Article.  What is so striking to me is the careless way in which the term "perjury" was thrown around back then, sort of like with "obstruction of justice" today.  Many people don't seem to understand that not every instance of lying under oath is perjury. Rather, it has to be lying under oath about something which is material to an issue in the case at hand.  Clinton's consensual relationship with Monica Lewinsky was totally immaterial to any issues in the Paula Jones case, as the trial judge eventually found in dismissing the case. Hence, the 45 Republican Senators who voted for conviction on this article are guilty of gross partisanship blindness.

Chase was certainly guilty of incompetence, but the Senate wisely rejected this as a basis for removal from office. Nixon was guilty of gross misconduct, and would have been rightfully removed from office had he not resigned.

Trump presents a somewhat unique case.  He is certainly guilty of maladministration; in the words of the British ambassador, Kim Darroch, his administration has been "dysfunctional, inept and chaotic".  However, we need to remember that maladministration is not a ground for impeachment.  In fact, it was specifically suggested at the Constitutional Convention by George Mason, who promptly withdrew it when James Madison pointed out that "so vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate".

Returning full circle to Rehnquist, he concludes his excellent book by stating:

"The importance of these two acquittals [Chase and Johnson] in our constitutional history can hardly be overstated.  We rightly think of our courts as the final voice in the interpretation of our constitution, and therefore tend to think of constitutional law in terms of cases decided by the courts.  But these these two "cases"--decided not by the courts but by the United States Senate--surely contributed as much to the maintenance of our tripartite federal system of government as any case decided by any court."

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

An Amazing Endgame Position: A Tale of Zugzwangs

This position came up in the recent world championship match, with black to move:

White:  King on g6, Pawns on f5 and h5, Bishop on c4
Black:   King on f8, pawn on f6, Bishop on g5, Knight on d4

What makes this position so amazing is that, despite its seeming simplicity, none of the top players of the world were able to figure out the wining move!  And, what's even more amazing is that even after being shown the winning move, found by a computer, none of the top players in the world could see why the move won!!

Before delving into the wining continuation, I would offer some observations about the position.

1)  World champion Magnus Carlsen, playing white, has sacrificed a piece in an effort to relieve the pressure he was facing.  Carlsen candidly admitted after the game that he didn't know if this was the best move, but he just didn't know what else to do. Hence, white is now playing for a draw, and black for a win.

2)  It is apparent that white must keep his bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal, in order to prevent the black king from getting to the h8 corner. If black's king does get to the h8 corner, then his knight will check the white king from a dark square, forcing the king to f7, after which the black king leisurely walks up the h-file to capture the white pawn on h5.

3)  White's passed pawn on h5 seems like a threat, but black can stop it.  For example, if it was white to move in the starting position, play could go 1 h6 Nf3 2 h7 Ne5+ 3 Kh5 Kg7 and the black king stops the pawn.

4)  What the foregoing line illustrates is the advantage knights have in close positions like this. There is a common belief that bishops are better than knights, but when the pawns are all on one side of the board in an endgame, especially when some are locked up and therefore immobile as here, the knight is hugely better.

An analogy could be made to the rule of thumb that a knife is better than a gun when the adversaries are within 21 feet of each other, as illustrated in a memorable "Criminal Minds" episode called "The Tribe", in which the BAU team visits a Native American reservation in New Mexico.

Based on the foregoing, it might be supposed that the position is a draw. Indeed, that is what happened in the actual game, which continued 1...Nf3 2 Kh7! Ne5 3 Bb3 Ng4 4 Bc4 Ne3 5 Bd3 Ng4 6 Bc4 Nh6 7 Kg6 Ke7 8 Bb3 Kd6 9 Bc2 Ke5 10 Bd3 Kf4 11 Bc2 Ng4 12 Bb3 Ne3 13 h6 Bxh6 Drawn

But the computer came up with a move so totally counter-intuitive that no human ever considered it. (I will highlight the winning line.) The winning move is 1...Bh4!! All the top players, match participants and spectators alike, thought white could hold the draw by responding 2 Bd5. However, what the computer has seen is that black can win by playing his knight to e2, instead of to f3. Hence, black makes a waiting move, forcing the white bishop to unguard the e2 square.

After 1...Bh4 2 Bd5, play continues 2...Ne2!, and now 3 Bf3 loses to the amazing Ng1!!, another move which no human would ever even consider playing, as it seemingly traps his knight on g1. After 4 Bg4 Kg8 the win becomes obvious, as white will soon run out of moves and have to free the knight, which can then head to e5, freeing the black king.

The top human players thought 4 Bd5 would still hold (instead of Bg4), but this falls to 4...Bg5! 5 Kh7! (Avoiding 5 h6 Ne2 6 h7 Nf4mate) Ne2! 6 Bf3 Ng3 7 Bg4 (Not 7 Kg6 Kg8) Kf7 8 Kh8! 

And now it looks like white can draw by simply moving his king between h7 and h8. However, black has a diabolically clever plan to reposition his bishop to f8, creating a mating net in the h8 corner.

Bd2! 9 Kh7 Bb4! 10 Kh8 Bf8! 11 Kh7 Ne4! and white is soon mated!  Black has the classical bishop + knight mate against a bare king, as white's pawns and bishop are relegated to irrelevancy.

You might suppose that white could try 10 h6 to thwart black's mating net, the idea being that white can now drive the black king away from f7 by delivering a bishop check on h5 whenever white moves his knight to e4.  However, black plays 10...Bf8, putting white in zugzwang. If white moves his king, he loses the pawn on h6; and if he moves his bishop to any square but h3, he loses his pawn on f5. Consequently, play continues 11 Bh3 Ne4 11 Bg4 Ng5+ 12 Kh8 Bxh6 13 Bh5+ Kf8 followed by 14...Bg7mate. Black's domination of the dark squares at the end is a wonder to behold!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Prediction Analysis

AL East:       Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central:  Indians, Twins, White Sox, Tigers, Royals
AL West:      Astros, Angels, Athletics, Rangers, Mariners
NL East:        Phillies, Braves, Nationals, Mets, Marlins
NL Central:  Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Pirates
NL West:      Dodgers, Rockies, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants

                                         Sports Illustrated
AL East:       same as mine
AL Central:  Twins, Indians, White Sox, Royals, Tigers
AL West:      Astros, Athletics, Angels, Mariners, Rangers
NL East:        Phillies, Nationals, Mets, Braves, Marlins
NL Central:  same as mine
NL West:      Dodgers, Padres, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Giants

                                              Bleacher Report
AL East:       Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles
AL Central:  same as SI
AL West:      same as SI
NL East:        same as mine
NL Central:  Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Pirates
NL West:      same as mine

                                                  USA Today
AL East:       same as mine
AL Central:  same as SI
AL West:      same as SI
NL East:        Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins
NL Central:   Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Reds
NL West:       Dodgers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Padres, Giants

Analysis:  USA Today’s predictions are a composite of six people, and they look that way, seemingly mirroring last year’s finishes rather than offering any insight into the coming year.  SI’s picks seem the most imaginative, giving the Twins the nod over the Indians, and picking the Padres for second. 

Here are some team-by-team observations:
Red Sox:   Only Bleacher Report has them repeating.
Twins:       SI has them overtaking the Indians.
Royals:     Only I have them still in last.
Angels:     Only I have them in second.
Mariners:  Only I have them last.
Nationals: Only USA Today has them in first.
Phillies:    Only USA Today has them as low as third.
Braves:     Only SI has them as low as fourth.
Reds:        Only USA Today has them in last.
Padres:     Only SI has them as high as second, while only USA Today has them as low as fourth.