Thursday, October 09, 2014

Free Wi-Fi isn't a "right"; It is, however, a really good idea

Maryland governor and future not-President Martin O'Malley caused a bit of a stir when he described Wi-Fi as a "human right." The right-wing internet press has, of course, been attacking him like crazy. ANYTHING described as a right is worthy of scorn to those folks, except of course your Constitutional Right to a Bushmaster .446 Remington SuperLight Carbine Semiautomatic. While I have little patience for the argument of the crazies, the underlying problem here is that the conversation we are having about infrastructure an its relation to government is broken. The government doesn't exists just to guarantee rights. It exists to enhance the public good.

Is a government that doesn't provide wi-fi committing a human rights violation? That seems a little bit ludicrous on its face, but let's twist this discussion around. A government that suppresses internet usage is authoritarian, right? Protests need a space to begin, and the nebulous internet provided the perfect public space for what became the Arab Spring, as well as the recent protests in Hong Kong. Attempts by the Chinese government to suppress internet access have been rightly condemned.

Access to a job is not a human right. Access to a road to get to your job is not a human right. Access to a port to bring your wares to market is not a human right. They are, however, all things that enhance society. A connected, employed, productive society isn't just a positive development, it is necessary to the existence of democracy. They are public goods. They increase the general welfare. They don't make America a more righteous place, but they obviously make it a better one.

And so it is with wi-fi availability. Arguing that something which didn't even really exist 10 years ago is a human right is a hard sell. The case that needs to be made is that we are all better off with consistent, reliable internet access. This was the case that was made with the establishment of a Postal Service - that being able to connect everyone, everywhere, at a reasonable price benefitted not only those in remote outposts and those who couldn't afford private parcel delivery, but strengthened as as a whole.

Let's get out of the business of trying to describe everything that helps us as a right, and back into explaining how public goods work and why they should be implemented.

Friday, October 03, 2014

10/3/2014 Playoff Marathon live-ish blog

Greetings, I've done this post several times in the past. Real life is going to cause some interference during the day. Having a one-year old is pretty cool, but it does interfere with writing about baseball for 14 hours straight.

12:08: Strike one to Ian Kinsler. I'm going to go out on a limb and declare the Tigers the winners in year one of the Kinsler-for-Fielder deal.

12:10: Torii Hunter looked bad on that strikeout. He's a free agent after this season, and while he had a poor season he was generally a very good player for the last ten years. From 2004 to 2013 he hit .284/.343/.471. And despite only being a 0.4 bWAR player in 2014, it pushed his career number up to 50.3. I wouldn't vote for him, but there are worse players in the Hall of Fame.

12:21: Justin Verlander wasn't very good this year either, but his peripherals did come around in the second half, as he cut out those walks that killed him early in the year. No idea how he'll pitch today, but my feeling is that he'll be a good pitcher again in the future.

12:24: Speaking of peripherals, Stephen Strasburg's were awesome this year. League-best 242 strikeouts, and a sterling 2.94 FIP. My only playoff prediction is that I think he's going to be a monster. He's at a career high for innings, but he cruised into the end of the regular season.

12:31: Alex Avila has exactly 11 homers and 47 RBIs in each of the past two seasons. In 2012 he drove in 48.

12:41: Time Warner Cable isn't making this any easier. Also, Justin Verlander is pitching a no-hitter. Am I doing this right?

12:44: Tigers shortstop was one of the worst positions in baseball this season. The player they settled on, Andrew Romine, plays average defense and hit .227/.279/.275, which is almost exactly his career line over parts of four season. For comparison's sake, their starting SS on opening day was Alex Gonzalez, who hit .167/.219/.233. I expect to see Eugenio Suarez at some point this weekend.

12:48: That always scares me. Sweet grab by Chen.

12:53: Dennis Eckersley is 60? Good grief.

12:57: I started following baseball in 1988, and Dennis Eckersley's transition to relief ace, redefining the closer role, was one of the biggest stories of that time. To someone who started watching baseball this season, that would be like someone telling me about 1962.

12:59: Schoop breaks up the no-hitter. For those of you following on GameCast or otherwise on the internet, it is pronounced like the mouthwash, not like that Salt N' Peppa tune.

1:04: Speaking of Eck, pretty prescient of him, noticing that Verlander was only throwing Markakis fastballs, an he finally turned on one. Even if it gets called back, that was a rocket.

1:12: Call stands. Alice has awoken. Time for a quick call to the bullpen for a pitching change, and then some play time. I will check in periodically (maybe). More to come tonight!

2:09: Quick check-in. There were some home runs while I was gone. Anyhow, an observation that is tangentially related to baseball. When the televisionis on, Alice (my daughter) really reacts to it. During that sweet 5-4-3 double play in the top of the fifth, the announcer got appropriately excited, and Alice started yelling along with it. It was awesome.

2:33: I like the move to bring in Sanchez. Given the Tigers bullpen problems, it's worth the risk. Now I'm on record, feel free to quote me when this blows up.

2:45: FoxSports just twittered a picture of its pregame desk crew. Frank Thomas and Gabe Kapler are sitting next to each other. Do not mess with that side of the table.

5:18: So some stuff happened in the last two and a half hours? I can't provide a ton of analysis because I wasn't watching closely, and what can be said about the first game other than "The Tigers bullpen stinks." Joba Chamberlain blowing the game brings me joy.

5:26: Can Jake Peavy take the duck boat he bought into the San Francisco Bay? Because that would be kind of cool. He's clear outpitched Strasburg today, against a very good Washington lineup. It's a little bit surprising, but Peavy is 12th among active pitchers in bWAR so maybe it shouldn't be.

5:49: All three Giants pitchers in the sixth inning are ex-Red Sox. Jake Peavy and Javier Lopez people know about. Hunter Strickland was an 18th-round pick in 2007 and was traded to Pittsburgh (with infielder Argenis Diaz) in exchange for Adam LaRoche. Nine days later, the Sox flipped LaRoche for Casey Kotchman.

6:00: I'm not in love with the playing of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch, but I am in love with it when it is played by the Marine Corps Marching Band.

6:38: Two games at once is easy. Two games at once while giving the baby a bath and cleaning the basement might be beyond my can.

7:03: Sergio Romo seems like one of those players who, by the time he finally got credit for being good, stopped being good.

7:27: Former Supreme Court Justice Jon Jay strikes out against current Supreme Commander of Worlds Clayton Kershaw.

7:41: Adrian Gonzalez has a reputation as a cool cat, but he was obviously pretty fired up there. I don't think Wainwright hit Puig on purpose, but if he did he's a fool.

7:45: Carl Crawford really had a nice bouneback season this year. He's not the player he was signed to be in 2011, but he posted a 2.4 bWAR after totaling 2.3 from 2011 to 2013. His decline is still stark - a player with an outside shot at Hall of Fame credentials four years ago is well, well short of that. Nice to see him drive in the go-ahead run.

8:29. I missed two innings putting Alice to be. In that time, Clayton Kershaw faced six batters and struck out five of them. I'm starting to think he's good at baseball.

8:34: Hey remember three months ago when Matheny took Wainwright ahead of Kershaw to start the All-Star game?

8:45: The Cardinals' relievers would pitch better if they were given numbers that indicated they weren't going to be cut in spring training.

8:55: Of course the Ashburn Award winner homers.

8:56: Adrian Gonzalez is a good defensive first baseman. Also, he led the National League in RBI despite having his worst full offensive season.

9:01: Hanley Ramirez's helmet keeps falling off. Does he need a tighter hemlet? I think that would annoy me.

9:11: Puig really closed the gap there. Great angle to keep Holliday at second base.

9:11: Three straight hits off Kershaw? What the what is going on?

9:13: There's at least a 10% chance Kershaw loaded the bases on purpose to give himself a challenge.

9:14: Pete Kozma getting put on the Cardinals postseason roster was insane, so of course Matheny is going to turn up a Yost and Kozma will hit a grand slam.

9:18: The BABIP God's are apparently unhappy with Clayton Kershaw.

9:26: Raise your hand if you expected Kershaw to give up five runs in an inning.

9:34: Before that Peralta groundout the Cardinals were 6 for 6 on balls in play in the inning. A few of the balls off Kershaw, especially the Carpenter double and Molina hit, were well struck. But that's some busted luck right there.

9:46: Yeah, totally lost track that the Angels-Royals game was set for 9:37. I am rusty.

9:51: The Royals didn't get anyone on base in the first, so they were unable to have anyone thrown out on the bases. Fortunately the Angels stepped up there.

10:03: Adrian Gonzalez goes boom. 10-8. This playoffs has been crazy.

10:10: I don't get how Pat Neshek can pitch like that.

10:11: Both games are between innings. Why are both games in between innings. More baseball please.

10:14: The third most famous author of the Federalist Papers is 2 for 4.

10:16: Offense is up in the playoffs this year because of bunting? Thanks Harold Reynolds, for actively making me miss Tim McCarver.

10:19: Joba Chamberlain's ERA is 108.00 in the playoffs. Couldn't happen to a more deserving fellow.

10:22: Legitimately great bun there by Moustakas to beat the shift. I understand stud hitters not bunting on the overshift - you want David Ortiz swinging for the fences. But if a team is going to shift like that for someone who hit .212/.271/.361 then yeah, bunt yourself onto first.

10:25: Then having your leadoff hitter sacrifice bunt in the third inning. Sigh.

10:32: Yasiel Puig up with a runner on third and two outs, down by one in the bottom of the ninth. Against a guy who throws 100. I likey.

10:36: And Mighty Yasiel has struck out. The Wainwright-Kershaw duel ends 10-9. I think you won if you bet the over.

10:38: Meanwhile a few miles south in Anaheim... Nice to see Yordano Ventura bouncing back from his tough appearance in the wild card game. Doesn't appear to have any effect, though I wonder if he'll be on a shorter pitch count.

10:55: Salvador Perez leadoff single. Does Infante bunt to get the Moustakas and Escobar?

10:57: Nope, Yost resisted the urge. I guess that's improvement!

11:05: Ventura retired 11 in a row but has given up two straight singles. That's not necessarily concerning, but he left that pitch to Aybar up and down the middle. Worth keeping an eye on.

11:07: The double play is the pitcher's best friend.

11:34: Ventura walks Trout, and Albert Pujols is coming up. Pujols is 0 for 6 in the series. Good luck, kid.

11:36: Worse pitchers than Yordano Ventura have given up game-tying hits to Pujols. That said, Ventura seems to be overthrowing a bit. I don't know if I'd let him face Kendrick here. Very dangerous situation.

11:38: Kendrick grounds harmlessly to third. 1-1 through six.

11:40: There is a fly in my family room and it is huge and it is annoying me.

11:43: Baldwinsville's own Jason Grilli on for the seventh. He struggled in the first half with Pittsburgh but pitched better after the trade out west. He was certainly more effective than Ernesto Frieri in that sort-of challenge trade.

11:52: Ventura for the seventh. At only 85 pitches and Herrera on the shelf I can see it, but I guess I'm a little surprised. Finnegan should be ready behind him.

12:03: I've had to power cycle my modem five times since starting this, twelve hours ago. Thanks for the consistency, Time Warner.

12:08: Yost makes a good move, going to Wade Davis in the tie game. And then of course C.J. Cron rips a first-pitch curveball for a double down the left-field line.

12:13: Great time for a TOOTBLAN!

12:15: Seriously, I get wanting to get to third with less than two outs. But the top of the order was coming up. He's already on second.

12:16: And I'm excited for the morons who, if the Royals win, will credit "small ball." The Angels are the ones wasting outs. Pitching and defense isn't small ball.

12:20: I really want the Royals to not score right here just to see what Yost does in another tie game in the bottom of the ninth. Stick with Davis? Go to Holland? The Mystery Box?

12:29: I know Alex Gordon is a much tougher out than Salvador Perez, but that run is important, too. Much better chance the Royals put up a crooked number this inning, making a potential comback in the bottom of the inning a significantly tougher task.

12:31: Got out of it. Trout/Pujols to start the bottom of the ninth.

12:34: I'm not sure there's a right person to face Mike Trout in the tie game of the bottom of the ninth. But Wade Davis and Greg Hollard are available, with all due respect to Jason Frasor it shouldn't be him.

12:35: And Frasor pops Trout up. Shows you what I know.

12:38: Pujols pops up too. Ned Yost's moves don't have consequences.

12:39: Extra innings again! Who needs sleep?!

12:44: Huston Street on for a second inning of work, and he strikes out Omar Infante. Pretty amazing that Street had zero games this season where he recorded more than three outs. The rigidity of modern bullpen usage drives me bats.

12:53: Brandon Finnegan needs only one pitch to get his first out. Did you know he was in college earlier this year and selected in the 2014 draft? Did you? Huh? Huh? Did you? The blue cheese is baked right in, folks.

12:59: Going to the 11th. Excellent 3-6-3 by the Royals there. Very impressive play for Hosmer to field, throw, and get back to the bag in plenty of time to receive th e relay.

1:06: Two-run homer. Eric Hosmer. Incredible.

1:21: Greg Holland is good. I can't believe the "save your closer in case your worse relievers don't blow it" keeps working.


1:25: Error extends the game for Mike Trout. Trout is probably good enough to hit a three-run homer with only one man on base, so the Royals should be careful.

1:25: But seriously stop with the Big Game James. He's pitched in seven playoff games and is 2-4 with a 5.26 ERA. He's an awful pitcher in big games. He's done his best work in April. We can call him Cold Game James or something. But he absolutely cannot take James Worthy's nickname.

1:27: Mike Trout strikes out to end it. He is 0 for 8 in the two games. Four games today. Three decided by one run, the other going into extra innings. It is very late here in the northeast portion of the midwest, so I shall depart. Thanks if you've been following along. Also, seek help.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Discovering Syracuse: Believe in Syracuse event at Beer Belly Deli & Pub

I spent a couple hours on Tuesday night at an event at Beer Belly Deli presented by a group called Believe in Syracuse. In its own words, Believe in Syracuse is a "non-profit organization that promotes the positive features of the Greater Syracuse Area and cultivates connections and civic engagement within the Greater Syracuse community." Specifically on the agenda Tuesday was the recent improvements on and near Westcott Street. 

Having been in Syracuse only a short time, I can't accurately speak to how the area has been improved and what the impact has been. But it is likely my favorite area in town, with a nice mix of shopping, restaurants, bars, cafes, and residences. It it comfortably walkable and well-lit. The Beer Belly was a real highlight - an excellent beer selection, tasty food, an a great, friendly atmosphere both inside the restaurant and outside on the back patio. 

One takeaway from the event, which may have been inadvertant, was the seeming difficulty possible business owners have trying to borrow money to invest in the neighborhood. One of the owners of Beer Belly discussed trying multiple avenues before ultimately working with the local Syracuse Federal Credit Union. Restorations of the Babcock-Shattuck House on the corner of Westcott and Genesee came in fits and stops, in no small part because of financing issues. The success of both will hopefully allow more lenders to be willing to work with local investors. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

2014 Richie Ashburn Award

A number of years ago, I created the Richie Ashburn Award, to give credit for one of my favorite statistical oddities: players with a higher on-base percentage than slugging percentage. It takes quite a level of skill and plate discipline for a player to be able to force himself on base without the benefit of power. And since a player gets points on his slugging percentage for singles, usually Ashburn Award winners do so by working high numbers of walks.

The award gets his name for the great Phillies outfielder, one of the best in history at getting on base despite not being at all a power hitter. Let's quickly review the three rules for winning an Ashburn Award.

1. The player must have an OBP higher than his SLG. Close doesn't count. Better luck next year, Jon Jay (.303/.372/.378).

2. The player must have an OBP above. 350. Out of luck, Robbie Grossman (.233/.337/.333).

3. The player must have at least 400 plate appearances. Chone Figgins' .217/.373/.267 in 76 plate appearances isn't going to cut it.

Amazingly, there were no Ashburn Award winners in 2012 or 2013. And we came perilously close to not having one in 2014. But one player stepped up, sneaking in by .00003.

Congratulations, Matt Carpenter, who ended the two-year drought with a .37482 OBP and a .37479 SLG.

Matt Carpenter

Carpenter, who finished fourth in the National League MVP voting in 2013, saw his batting average and power take a dive this season. But his patience did not suffer, as Carpenter led the senior circuit with 95 walks.

2013 had been a breakout season, as Carpenter had led the league with 55 doubles while helping the Cardinals to their fourth NL pennant in ten years. While 2014 was less productive for the 28-year-old, he was still a highly productive player. Losing 40 points on his BABIP didn't help Carpenter's cause, but he will be in the leadoff spot when the Cardinals head to Dodger Stadium for the NLDS.

But who cares about all that stuff. The important thing here is that Carpenter has ended a two-year Ashburn Award drought.

Photo Credit: By gcny1956 (IMGP8588) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 01, 2014

Goodbye, Massachusetts

I have lived in Massachusetts my entire life. I went away to college for four years, but was still home for vacations and the summer, so it was hard to even say then that I'd moved away. I grew up in Melrose and moved to Somerville 11 years ago today. 

On Saturday, my wife and I moved to Syracuse, New York. The hazy picture above is from I-90 at about 6:00, when crossing the border. My parents and my sister-in-law still live in the Greater Boston area, so I will visit frequently, but the portion of my adventure where I call Massachusetts home has come to a close. I am excited for an exciting opportunity out here, but I already miss the only city that I've ever considered to be home.