Odds and ends number 84

After resurrecting one long-dormant series over the weekend, today we make it two. It hasn’t quite been a year since I did an ‘odds and ends” and there’s not a year’s worth of stuff, but the creative juices are flowing anyway.

Let’s begin with some good news from our national pastime. If you recall, back in July the Shorebirds made headlines for playing the longest game in their 21-season history, spreading out the drama against the Lexington Legends over two days thanks to a storm that broke over the stadium after 20 innings were in the books. It took just one inning the next evening to settle Delmarva’s 7-6 defeat, but the contest was the Fans’ Choice for a MiLBY Award. It had (ironically enough) 21% of the vote among 10 contenders. (Alas, the actual MiLBY went to some other game.)

The other sad part about that story, besides the folks at the Minor League Baseball site misidentifying us as Frederick: it turned out that one inning of baseball would be all that was played that evening as another heavy storm blew through just at scheduled game time. (I remember it well because I was at work.)

The Shorebirds were also a MiLBY bridesmaid in the blooper department with their September “goose delay.

And while Astros-Dodgers didn’t have the same cachet as the Cubs finally breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat last season, the 28 million viewers of Game 7 completed a World Series where it again kicked the NFL’s ass (as it should, since football season doesn’t start until the World Series is over anyway.) And with the erosion of the NFL’s appeal thanks to the anthem protests and – frankly – rather boring games where fundamentals are ignored, the window of NFL dominance may be closing.

Speaking of things that are dominant, a few weeks back I detailed the effort to bring the sanity of right-to-work to Sussex County, Delaware. An update from the Daily Signal detailed some of Big Labor’s reaction when it came up again. And again I respond – having the choice to join the union is better than not having the job at all.

Delaware was also the subject of one of a series of pieces that ran over the summer and fall from my friends at Energy Tomorrow. They cleverly chose a theme for each of the 50 states and the First State’s July piece was on “the beach life in Delaware.” Now what I found most interesting was just how little energy they produce compared to how much they consume, given they have no coal mines and little prospect of fracking or offshore drilling. And I was surprised how little tourism contributes to their state economy given the beach traffic in the summer.

Maryland’s, which came out last month, is quite different, as it has a companion piece about prosthetics. It obviously made sense with Johns Hopkins in the state, but what struck me was the quote included from Governor Larry Hogan. He’s the guy who betrayed the energy industry by needlessly banning fracking in the state. Unfortunately, Larry seems to suffer from the perception that energy companies are solely interested in profit when the industry knows they have to be good neighbors and environmentally responsible, too.

That’s quite all right: he doesn’t need those 22,729 votes in Allegany and Garrett counties when he can have a million liberals around the state say, “oh, Hogan banned fracking” and vote for Ben Jealous or Rushern Baker anyway.

Regularly I receive updates from the good folks at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, which tends to look at state politics in a conservative manner. But I can’t say this particular case is totally conservative or for limited government:

If Maryland lawmakers want to get serious about combating climate change and reducing pollution, they can simply tax the emission of carbon and other pollutants, thereby encouraging lower emissions and greater efficiency. No one likes a new tax, but it is a much cheaper and more effective way to cut pollution and fight climate change than a byzantine policy like the renewables mandate. Besides, revenue from a carbon tax could be used to reduce other taxes and fund other environmental initiatives. Problem is, though a carbon tax would be good for the environment and human health, it wouldn’t funnel money to politicians’ friends in corporate boardrooms and on Wall Street.

Maryland’s renewables standard isn’t about the environment and human health; it’s about money.

The last two sentences are the absolute truth, but the remainder of the excerpt is a case of “be careful what you wish for.” If the state indeed enacted a carbon tax, businesses and residents would waste no time fleeing the state for greener (pun intended) pastures. You can bet your bottom dollar that a carbon tax would be enacted on top of, not in place of, all the other taxes and fees we have.

Now it’s time for a pop quiz. Can you guess who said this?

Soon, our states will be redrawing their Congressional and state legislative district lines. It’s called redistricting, and it will take place in 2021, after the next Census takes place. That may seem far off, but the time to get started on this issue is now.

This is our best chance to eliminate the partisan gerrymandering that has blocked progress on so many of the issues we all care about. Simply put, redistricting has the potential to be a major turning point for our democracy. But we need to be prepared.

Maybe if I give you the next line you’ll have the answer.

That’s where the National Democratic Redistricting Committee comes in. Led by Eric Holder, my former Attorney General, they’re the strategic hub for Democratic activity leading up to redistricting. In partnership with groups like OFA, the NDRC is building the infrastructure Democrats need to ensure a fair outcome.

Our former President is now involved in this fight for a “fair” outcome – “fair” being defined as gerrymandered like Maryland is, I suppose.

To be honest, we won’t ever have truly fair districts until the concept of “majority-minority” districts is eliminated and districts are drawn by a computer program that strictly pays attention to population and boundaries such as county, city, or township lines or even major highways. With the GIS mapping we have now it’s possible to peg population exactly by address.

And if you figure that most people with common interests tend to gather together anyway – particularly in an economic sense – simply paying attention to geography and creating “compact and contiguous” districts should ensure fair representation. To me it’s just as wrong to have an Ohio Ninth Congressional District (where I used to live) that runs like a shoestring along the southern shore of Lake Erie and was created so as to put incumbent Democratic Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur in the same district – Kaptur won that primary – as it is to have a Maryland Third Congressional District that looks like a pterodactyl. When I was growing up, the Ninth basically covered the city of Toledo and its suburbs where we then lived but as the city lost population they had to take territory from the Fifth District that surrounded it at the time. After the 1980 census they decided to follow us and take the eastern half of Fulton County, west of Toledo – much to my chagrin, since my first election was the one Kaptur beat a one-term Republican. (She’s been there that long.) Since then, the Ninth has been pulled dramatically eastward along the lakeshore to the outskirts of Cleveland, connected at one point by a bridge.

Finally, I guess I can go to what one might call the “light-hearted stack of stuff.” Again from MPPI, when it came to the Washington Metro and how to pay for it, this was a tax proposal I could really get behind. I’m just shocked that it would make $200 million a year.

On that scary note we’ll see how long it takes before I get to the next rendition of odds and ends.

The next in line

November 3, 2016 · Posted in Sports · Comments Off on The next in line 

It’s definitely time for a fun, topical post, and since my tradition on Thursday nights during the season is something baseball-related I thought this would be a enjoyable thing to do.

Unless you were under a rock for the last six months, you know the Chicago Cubs had the best record in baseball this season and proved why by outlasting three solid teams (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Cleveland) to win their first National League pennant since 1945 and their first World Series in 108 years. Since none of the other major professional sports leagues existed in 1908, their stretch between championships is likely a record that won’t be broken.

But while the Cubs had generations of fans that lived and died without ever seeing their heroes hoist a World Series trophy, beating the Indians made sure Cleveland’s record of championship futility extended to 69 seasons – they have gone without a World Series title since 1948. Yet I have figured out they are not the most overdue baseball city. (Actually, as a city Chicago hadn’t gone all that long since the White Sox won it all in 2005.)

So I sat down at lunchtime and did some figuring – here are the cities that are most overdue, and the top city may surprise you.

Washington is actually the city which has gone longest without a World Series title, although perhaps they receive an asterisk because there was no team there for over three decades. The first version of the Senators won it all in 1924, lost the World Series in 1925 and 1933, then went decades in futility (Washington was “first in war, first in peace, last in the American League”) before the team moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season. The expansion team they received (also called the Senators) lasted from 1961 to 1971 before that franchise left for the greener pastures of Texas to become the modern-day Rangers. A 34-year hiatus ensued before the Nationals were moved from Montreal in 2005, but they haven’t won a pennant – let alone a World Series.

Cleveland has the next longest losing streak, going since 1948. Here is the list of the major league cities, from way overdue to the most recent.

  • Washington (1924 – Senators 1 until 1960, Senators 2 1961-71, and Nationals since 2005)
  • Cleveland (1948 – Indians)
  • Milwaukee (1957 – Braves until 1966, Brewers* since 1970)
  • Houston (1962 – Colt .45s/Astros*)
  • San Diego (1969 – Padres*)
  • Seattle (1969 – Pilots* for 1969 season, Mariners* since 1977)
  • Dallas (1972 – Texas Rangers*)
  • Pittsburgh (1979 – Pirates)
  • Baltimore (1983 – Orioles)
  • Detroit (1984 – Tigers)
  • Los Angeles (1988 – Dodgers)
  • Oakland (1989 – Athletics)
  • Cincinnati (1990 – Reds)
  • Minneapolis (1991 – Minnesota Twins)
  • Denver (1993 – Colorado Rockies*)
  • Toronto (1993 – Blue Jays)
  • Atlanta (1995 – Braves)
  • Tampa (1998 – Devil Rays/Rays*)
  • Phoenix (2001 – Arizona Damondbacks)
  • Anaheim (2002 – Angels)
  • Miami (2003 – Marlins)
  • Philadelphia (2008 – Phillies)
  • New York (2009 – Yankees – Mets since 1986)
  • St. Louis (2011 – Cardinals)
  • Boston (2013 – Red Sox)
  • San Francisco (2014 – Giants)
  • Kansas City (2015 – Royals)
  • Chicago (2016 – Cubs – White Sox since 2005)

Teams demoted with an asterisk (*) are still looking for their first World Series title.

There should be an honorable mention for Montreal (which would slot in with the Padres and Pilots from 1969) who did not win a title in their 1969-2004 Montreal run and for Brooklyn, which lost the Dodgers after the 1957 season but last won the World Series in 1955.

Of the most overdue teams, Washington has a legitimate shot at ending their streak next season as they were a playoff team this season. Obviously Cleveland looks like a contender as well. (Just as an aside, for all the talk about the AL East being a good division, the Central division has sent four of the last five AL champs to the World Series – Cleveland this year, Kansas City in 2014 and 2015, and Detroit in 2012.) Milwaukee has an up-and-coming young team that should contend with the Cubs in the next few seasons, while Houston has made some noise in the playoffs recently, too. Only San Diego in the top 5 seems to be stuck in mediocrity.

All right, you’ll get political stuff again tomorrow and Sunday, although I have a music review set for Saturday. I just had to have some fun expanding a Facebook post I did in the wake of Chicago’s victory last night.

Another baseball season closes

October 28, 2011 · Posted in Detroit Tigers, Personal stuff, Sports · 2 Comments 

It’s another reason to hate the wild card, the designated hitter rule, and the idea that home field advantage in the World Series is based on the league which wins the All-Star Game.

St. Louis had the worst record of any of the eight teams entering the post-season but managed to make the playoffs and get hot – beating teams that finished well ahead of them in the standings. But because they happened to have the home field advantage in the World Series, it may have been enough to catapult them to a world championship. Granted, Texas couldn’t pitch their way out of a paper bag in the last two games but perhaps the result would have been different had they been at home for games six and seven.

(Not that the designated hitter would have made much of a difference, but it is a slight advantage to National League teams when American League pitchers have to hit. I just would prefer pitchers get to hit in the American League.)

But I like the NBA and NHL models, where the better team gets home-court or home-ice advantage throughout. I wouldn’t even mind a model where a team with a better record only has to break even to advance (say, win two of four or three of six.) Back in the old days it was the best team in each league, based on their performance during an entire 162-game season, that played for the title. On the other hand, St. Louis has won their last two titles based on pedestrian regular-season performances but getting hot at the right time. Can’t take it away from them, but sometimes rewards should go to those who did best in the long run.

We’ll see how things go in 2012. Yet one thing we learned is that each game, each inning, each strike really matters. Just ask Texas; if they had one more strike – twice – they would be celebrating their first title. But they couldn’t get it.

But even earlier, events during the season added up. I went to one big league game this year, when I saw my Tigers play in Baltimore. This was the one game that Doug Fister lost as a member of the Tigers as the Orioles won that day 8-5. But the impact turned out to be huge, as a Tiger win that day would have changed the following:

  • Instead of the Tigers playing the Yankees and Texas against Tampa Bay, the opponents would have been reversed: Texas vs. New York and Detroit vs. Tampa Bay.
  • And instead of the Rangers having home field in the playoffs based on a better record, the Tigers would have had home field based on winning the tiebreaker – they were 6-3 against Texas in the regular season.

Everything counts. Orioles fans celebrated a day of otherwise playing out the string on the last day of the season as if they won the World Series because they rallied in the last inning to beat Boston, knocking them out of playoff contention because Tampa Bay came back from 7-0 down to beat the Yankees. Of course, New York had already salted away a division title so the game didn’t much matter to them.

I guess I’m a traditionalist at heart, and seeing a team that couldn’t even win its division based on a lengthy 162 game schedule get the whole ball of wax irks me. Yankee fans brag about their 27 world championships, but how many were won back in the period before playoffs began? There’s a pretty good chance they would have been knocked out of contention in many of those seasons had the rules of today been in effect.

So next year my Tigers have a little unfinished business to attend to – get the home field advantage and keep it all the way to a world championship. By the way, the Yankees won 20 titles in the pre-playoff era.

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