Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Lightning Round: Tigers trades, President Bloomberg, and More

You take a few days off from posting and the Detroit Tigers make a few trades, the mayor of New York City changes his political affiliation, and who knows what else went on. This is only my 14th post of the month, after 48 in May and 50 in April so let's get back into it and see what's been going on.

* The Detroit Tigers trade Wil Ledezma and Mike Maroth: In what was the long expected shakeup of the Detroit Tigers pitching staff, with both Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson returning from the Disabled List, the Tigers made two trades last week, acquiring left-handed reliever Macay McBride from Atlanta for Wil Ledezma and trading fan-favorite Mike Maroth to the St. Louis Cardinals for the oft-traded "player to be named later."

Neither move bothers me too much, though anytime you trade away a young left-hander like Ledezma that can touch the mid-90s you are a bit hesitant, but really, the Tigers had very little choice. Roster spots are at a premium, and with the Tigers set with their position players, the return of Rogers, Robertson, and perhaps even Zach Miner meant people had to go. McBride, who was acquired from Atlanta, is holding lefthanded batters to a .160 average this year, but with the way Bobby Seay and Tim Brydak have pitched, he likely won't stick with the big league club, at least for the moment. Which just gives the team greater depth at AAA, and if McBride can continue to improve (he's only 24) he could be the left handed specialist for years to come that the Tigers lost when Jamie Walker went to Baltimore. And Ledemza, though he showed flashes of promise, was never going to crack the Tigers starting rotation, and never really seemed comfortable in the bullpen. A change of scenery may be the best for his career.

As for trading Mike Maroth, it was inevitable the moment the Tigers drafted Andrew Miller, but it's still sad from the perspective that, Maroth was here when the Tigers hit the lowest of lows in the early years of this century, but when they made it to the World Series last year, he was hurt and left off the post-season roster, and this year, when they seemed primed to make another run at the pennant, he gets traded to St. Louis.

But, on the other hand, baseball is baseball, and a move needed to be made and Maroth was the most logical candidate. He was the weakest of the 7 potential starting pitchers the Tigers have (including Chad Durbin and Andrew Miller in that calculation) and somebody needed to go to make room for Nate Robertson if the plan was to keep Andrew Miller in the starting rotation, which it is, at least for now.

And while there are thoughts on both sides of the debate over whether Miller is best served in the big leagues (as Kurt contends at Mack Avenue Tigers) or developing a change-up back in AA Erie (as Billfer writes at the Detroit Tigers Weblog) I'm happy to see him stick with the Tigers for now. Yes, he may be a more polished pitcher if he was in AA, but you can't measure the value of big-league experience. I completely understand the argument that while Jeremy Bonderman is a great pitcher today, he may be even better if he had time to develop a change-up in the minor leagues. But, at the same time, maybe he wouldn't be as strong mentally, or as prepared to face big league batters, had he spent time in the minor leagues instead of with the Tigers. You can't teach experience and when you already have the kind of stuff Miller does, keeping him in the majors, where he can get that experience, I think will be crucial to his development.

And even the Tigers bullpen may be turning the corner (though, I don't want to speak too soon). Fernando Rodney and Todd Jones closed out a 2-1 win yesterday, and this young kid from the minors, Eulogio De La Cruz, looks like he could be a pretty special player, although he's only pitched three big league innings, so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. With Zach Miner potentially returning next week, and Chad Durbin sliding into the bullpen, it suddenly has a new look, and is much stronger than it was a few weeks ago. Hopefully, they'll pitch that way.

* Michael Bloomberg drops the Republican Party, may run for President: Now here's something really interesting. A week after landing on the cover of Time Magazine with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he was leaving the Republican Party, becoming an independent, which opened the door to an as-yet-unannounced third-party run for the White House in 2008.

Bloomberg, who has often said that a short, Jewish, divorced billionaire would have a difficult time winning the presidency looks like he may be willing to give it a shot. And as a short, Jewish, hope-to-one-day-be a billionare, his candidacy is really intreguing (although, at the moment, I'm still in the Barack Obama camp. There's a lot to like about Bloomberg, from his stance on the environment, to his willingness to stand up to the National Rifle Association when most politicians are too timid, to his ban on smoking throughout New York City.
Look at global warming. Washington rejected the Kyoto Protocol, but more than 500 U.S. mayors have pledged to meet its emissions-reduction standards, none more aggressively than Bloomberg. His PlaNYC calls for a 30% cut in greenhouse gases by 2030. It will quadruple the city's bike lanes, convert the city's taxis to hybrids and impose a controversial congestion fee for driving into Manhattan.

[. . .]

But they're tackling not just the climate. Bloomberg is leading a national crackdown on illegal guns, along with America's biggest affordable-housing program. He also enacted America's most draconian smoking ban and the first big-city trans-fat ban. And he's so concerned about Washington's neglect of the working poor that he's raised $50 million in private money, including some of his own millions, to fund a pilot workfare program.

[. . . ]

Bloomberg hasn't etched his personality into the city's soul, but major crime has dropped 30% in New York in the Bloomberg era, without the racial antagonisms of the Giuliani era. Test scores and graduation rates are up, unemployment is at a record low, welfare rolls are at a 40-year low, construction is booming, the deficit has become a surplus, and the city's bond rating just hit an all-time high of double-A.
The entire Time Magazine story about he and Govoner Schwarzenegger taking matters into their own hands is really fascinating and worth a read.

And the real advantage of a Bloomberg candidacy? It's two-fold. First, one of the things I love about Obama is his ability, I believe, to bring people together. But, Bloomberg may be able to bring both political parties together, which is pretty remarkable. And secondly, while even Obama, who has said he will not take money from PACs and is against 527 groups, will be beholden to special interests and other groups lining his campaign warchest. He'll have to be, it's part of the business of running for president and nobody is immune. Except for Bloomberg. A self-made billionare, he could spend $500 million to $1 billion of his own money on the campaign and not break a sweat. He would be beholden to nobody, no special interests, no lobbying groups. No political parties. He could come out, say he was financing his own campaign 100% and that while the other candidates could talk all they wanted about being "above" old-school politics, he was the only candidate who could honestly say he didn't take a dime from anybody. He would come into the White House with a completely clean slate, with the ability to govern as he saw fit without worrying about pleasing the groups that put him in office or the political party which nominated him in the first place. And he'd have the resources himself to fight back against any attack from the NRA or the tobacco companies or anybody else. It's really exciting to think about actually.

* Reading and Watching DVDs: So what else has been going on? I blew through the entire first season of the Practice on DVD in about a week, so that was fun. I forgot how real and gritty the first season was. And watching the bonus feature on the DVD, that was David E. Kelley's original vision for the show. Not the big trial every week but the raw, behind-the-glory Practice of law. But, when the show was placed at 9:00 Saturday nights, in order to save the show from extinction, Kelley thought they needed a dead body by 9:05 to hook people in, and thus began the long history of big murder trials for Bobby Donnell and company. When the show finally settled into its 10:00 Sunday timeslot, people had come to expect the big trial, so while the show still maintained an edge, it was a different show than the first few episodes, which were great.

I've also been reading more of Jon Meacham's American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation and I continue to be amazed with the wisdom and logic of the Founding Fathers. I'm now moving into religion in American politics during the Civil War era and I'm loving this book. If you are interested at all in the constant debate over the scope of religion in the United States and the role religion has played in our public history, this book is a must-read. Some great quotes about tolerance of others religious beliefs ("I write with freedom because, while I claim a right to believe in one God, I yield as freely to others that of believing in three. Both religions, I find, make honest men, and that is the only point society ha any right to look to. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg" from Thomas Jefferson and "Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe the religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us" from James Madison). A great read.

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Anonymous said...

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