Florida Again, but Next Time Will Be Worse

For the second time in twenty years, a major national election outcome hangs in the balance as election officials in Florida count votes, bicker over the counting of the votesand, in some cases, try to prevent the counting of the votes. The stakes are different in 2018 from what they were in 2000. Eighteen years ago, the presidency itself would be determined by whether George W. Bush or Al Gore was awarded Florida’s electoral votes. Now a US Senate seat and the governorship are being contested. That is not the same as the presidency, but with the GOP likely to have a slim majority in the Senate, the difference of one seat there will make a difference. Additionally, given the history of voter suppression in Florida and the potential challenges around the recently passed Amendment Four, which returns voting rights to many felons who have served their time, the difference between a pro-voting rights Democrat and a voter suppression oriented Republican as governor could have a big impact in the 2020 when Florida will again be the country’s biggest swing state.

They Called Him Stretch

My favorite baseball player ever died this month. Perhaps that is a rite of middle aged American male passage. Willie McCovey was a gigantic left-handed slugger who hit his first home run when Eisenhower was President and George Christopher was mayor of San Francisco, the city where McCovey played most of his career. He hit his last home run for the Giants when Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Dianne Feinstein was our mayor. During his very long career, McCovey was often overshadowed by his more famous teammate with whom he shared a home state, Alabama, and the same first name. McCovey was not as good as Willie Mays, but almost nobody ever was. Nonetheless McCovey a formidable power hitter. When he retired in 1980 McCovey’s 521 career home runs tied him with Ted Williams for second most ever by a left handed hitter. At that time, the only player with more round trippers from the left side of the plate was Babe Ruth.

Resigning Brett Gardner Makes the 2019 Yankees Better

What do the following players from Yankee history, Bob Meusel, Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, Gene Woodling, Roger Maris, Reggie Jackson and Paul O’Neill have in common? All were outfielders who, except for Jackson, were very good Yankee players, but not quite of Hall of Fame caliber. Reggie was a truly great player, but spent only five years in pinstripes. However, they have something else in common as well; they all played fewer games in the outfield for the Yankees than Brett Garnder has. Currently, Garnder has played the eighth most games in the outfield in Yankee history. If he plays 50 next years, he will pass Hank Bauer an move into 7th place on that list, one hundred more games patrolling left or center field will push him past Hall of Famer Earle Combs into sixth place. The next question is a little easier. What do Rickey Henderson and Derek Jeter have in common? They are the only two players who have stolen more bases with the Yankees than Gardner. 

Democracy After the Midterms

Although the midterms went better for the Democrats than the Republicans, they did not quite run the table. Democratic control of the House of Representatives is good news for that Party and all but guarantees that the conservative legislative phase, such as it was, of Donald Trump’s presidency is over. However, Republicans can point to the US Senate where they expanded their lead meaning that President Trump will be encounter no resistance when appointing federal judges, cabinet appointees or other positions requiring Senate confirmation. Thus, both parties can claim partial victories, but there was a clear loser-American democracy.

It's Not Just About Turnout

The turnout assertion is also intellectually lazy and, if believed, unhelpful for democracy. Focusing too much on turnout suggests that nothing else is important. If everything comes down to turnout, then there is no need to probe issues, look at why some voters are undecided or even to campaign outside of a party’s political base.  

The Other First Base Solution from San Francisco

If the Yankees want to improve at first base, there is another player on the Giants who would be a more intriguing option. Buster Posey has been the face of the Giants franchise more or less since he was brought up to the team during the 2010 season. He has led them to three World Series victories and is a likely future Hall of Famer. However, he will be 32 years old when the 2019 season opens, may not be a full time catcher anymore and is clearly in the decline phase of his career. From 2012-2015, Posey posted an OPS+ of 145. Over the last four seasons, that number has declined to 117. That is still valuable production, but not what is needed from the middle of the order on a contending team, a role the Giants expected him to play in 2018. Moreover, Posey is owed $88.5 million over the next four years, so the Giants are stuck paying him more than what he is worth at this phase of his career.

A Turning Point for American Jewry

The murder of eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue was horrific. The were killed by a vicious anti-Semite who had proclaimed that “all Jews must die.” These killings are a terrible blew to the Squirrel Hill community in Pittsburgh, all Jewish Americans, and indeed our entire country. It also feels like a turning point for American Jews and for the slowly unfolding civil conflict in the US. The killings came only days after bombs were sent to several high profile critics of President Trump by a deranged supporter of the President. More importantly, it comes following weeks of Republican candidates, pundits and propaganda organizations warning the American people that a shady Jewish billionaire is funding caravans of brown people to invade our country. It also occurred during the presidency of a man who, despite his hawkish support for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned on ancient anti-Semitic themes, has surrounded himself with anti-Semitic advisors and has never spoken out against the anti-Semites who are among his supporters.

Trump’s Possible Election Night Reaction

With the midterm elections only two weeks away, we have seen Donald Trump return to his message that Democrats are committing widespread vote fraud, primarily through allowing non-citizens to vote in large numbers. For example, on October 20th, Trump Tweeted “All levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!” He has also riffed on this theme, which dovetails with Republican fear mongering around immigration in recent speeches. We should remember that implicit in all the right wing talk about caravans crossing the border, although not the border into the US, are that those people will come here and cast illegal votes for the Democratic Party.

What the Yankees Should Have Learned this Month

The easiest person to blame for this is Giancarlo Stanton whose ninth inning strikeout with two runners on base in game four was just one of several times in that series when the slugger came up empty in potentially game changing situations. That strikeout will likely be the enduring memory from a solid, but unspectacular season from Stanton, his first with the Yankees. However, the fault cannot be laid entirely at the feet of Stanton. The problem is bigger than that and starts with a team that had five batters with 100 or more strikeouts, two more with between 90-99 whiffs and 180 more team strikeout than the Astros, Red Sox or Indians, the other teams that made it into the final four in the American League.

Trump’s Road to Reelection Will Not Be Smooth

Although the midterm election is almost upon us, many pundits have already begun to look towards the 2020 election. Correspondingly, something of a cottage industry has developed around earnest warnings that Donald Trump is in a good position to get reelected in 2020. These warnings are better understood as conservative talking points, or pundits enjoying sparking debate, rather than rigorous political analysis. While it is extremely unlikely that 2020 will be a Democratic landslide, the Democratic nominee, whoever that may be, will likely be in a much stronger position that these warnings indicate.

Don't Look to the Farm System for Help

Top Yankee prospects are either a few years away like Estevan Florial or Anthony Seigler, major question marks like Clint Frazier or, like eight of the team’s top ten prospects according to MLB.com, pitchers. Overall, the system is no longer very impressive. The highest ranked, again according to MLB.com, Yankee prospect is Justus Sheffield at 31st. The Yankees placed a respectable but not overwhelming four prospects in MLB’s top 100. Prospect ranking are imperfect and always in flux, but these rankings are consistent with what we know about the system-no elite prospects ready to contribute immediately and a lot of somewhat unformed pitching.

The Midterm Elections and the Point of No Return for American Democracy

A good midterm for the Democrats is necessary for the future of democracy, but it will not solve all, or really virtually any, of our problems. A Democratic victory will bring some modest change, slow down the damage being done to our country and allow advocates for democracy to, metaphorically speaking, live to fight another day, but a Republican sweep will strengthen the emerging cult of Trump and perhaps take American democracy to a tipping point from which it cannot recover. 

The Kavanaugh Hearings and the GOP War on Science

At the core of this very revealing, and for many upsetting, hearing was the radically different approaches the two parties take to knowledge. The Democratic Senators seemed comfortable is the realm of science and the reality that human memory is complex and that some moments remain deeply imprinted while others may fade away. The Republicans pursued a different course, one that was more grounded in a subjective sense of Kavanaugh’s character and honesty. 

Rosenstein, Kavanaugh and Trump's Coverup

If Trump is able to succeed in creating a legal buffer by curtailing the Mueller investigation and getting Kavanaugh on to the Supreme Court it will be with strong assistance from the Republican controlled Congress. Republican Senators could have urged Trump not to nominate Kavanaugh, but to choose a conservative with a different view of presidential power and immunity, as that is not yet a partisan or ideological issue. Similarly, at any time in the last 20 months, either House of Congress could have begun a real investigation into Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin or passed laws seeking to protect the Mueller investigation. Their failure to do that only solidified their role as co-conspirators with regards to Russia, but also to the corruption that has defined this administration.

The Privilege of an Unexamined Life

Kavanaugh is a smart and very well educated man who has for several decades chosen to use his intellect and education to ensure that his class retains its wealth and privilege and that those born into less fortunate circumstances do not threaten that wealth or privilege. A smart man can only do that if he believes in his own righteousness and pushes out all ideas that threaten the assumptions of righteousness, and rightness, around which he has built his life and his ideology.

Republican Complicity in the Trump Cover Up Extends to the Supreme Court

When Brett Kavanaugh gets confirmed, which barring extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances will happen, and Donald Trump is given a get out of jail free card from the Supreme Court we should remember that it was Republican Senators, not Donald Trump, who voted to confirm him, shepherded Kavanaugh through a Senate hearing and withheld important documents about Kavanaugh from Senate Democrats and the American people. For anybody who has been paying attention during the last few months, years or decades this is not exactly a shock, but it is nonetheless significant. We now must recognize that there is no scenario where the GOP would act to rein in an erratic and dangerous President. The depths of their complicity grows with each passing week, but last week was a big one. 

Remember Manafort, Cohen and Last Month's Major Turning Point

If the last three years or so have taught us anything it is that there are no turning points, crossing of Rubicons, or other dividing lines in the unfolding of the Trumpian assault on our democracy. Manafort’s conviction has faded into the background, just as Woodward’s book will in a few weeks. However, the media, even the progressive media, cannot get away from this narrative. The fundamental problem with this approach is that if everything is a turning point, then nothing is a turning point. If everything is signal and not noise than ultimately everything is just noise. Because what we are experiencing is without precedent in American history, we keep grasping at straws that might bring us back to the familiar and less frightening terrain of more normal American politics. This is natural, but is also, at its core, denial about just how grave a threat the Trump administration, and the political party that now supports him, represent.

The Healthy Yankees

The Yankees have had their share of injuries this year as Greg Bird, Clint Frazier, Brandon Drury, Jordan Montgomery and others have spent time on the disabled list or recovering from injuries, but none of these injuries have been to a genuinely central player. Bird had won the first base job,but was the fourth best power bat on the team when spring training began. Montgomery is a valuable back of the rotation starter, but very far from being an ace, while Drury is an intriguing role player, but not much more. On balance, the Yankees have been lucky to have eluded major injury to one of their key players. Indeed that is one of the reasons they have the second best record in all of baseball.

Ivanishvili Returns After Never Really Leaving

Bidzina Ivanishvili’s decision to return to a formal role as Chair of the Georgian Dream (GD) is more interesting for its timing than for the action itself. Ivanishvili, despite his protestations to the contrary, has never fully removed himself from Georgian political life since stepping down as Prime Minister in November of 2013. Over the last four and a half years his role has diminished somewhat, but major Georgian Dream, and government, decisions are rarely made without his input.

The Fake Right Wing Outrage Machine

While Wolf’s comments may have been more offensive than any similar speech in the past, they are also a reminder that gatherings of the media political tribes, where animus can be put aside for an evening, like the White House Correspondents Dinner, no longer have a space in Donald Trump’s divided, hyperpartisan and mean spirited America. For those in conservative media who have always tried to keep one foot in mainstream respectability, Wolf’s speech is a reminder that is no longer possible. Spokespeople like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and more importantly media enablers of Trump’s viciousness and democratic rollback from previously respectable or semi-respectable media outlets and even those from more moderate media outlets who simply profit from the fight, will no longer be given a free pass. For the huge majority of Americans who were not at the dinner and who don’t make their living talking about Trump (I do it on a volunteer basis), this is very good news.