If someone had told me before the season started that the Rays would be in the World Series this season, I would have said that was crack-induced. Never in a million years would I have guessed it. Yet here they are, having their first winning season and their first trip to the World Series, beating Boston 3-1 in Game 7 of the ALCS. In the process, they did what the Yankees in 2004 and the Indians in 2007 could not do–stave off Boston’s enormous comeback bid. Although Pedroia homered off Garza in the first, Garza settled in and allowed only two hits in 7+ innings. The Rays tied it in the fourth when Longoria’s double drove in Pena, took the lead in the fifth when Baldelli drove in Aybar, and added important insurance in the seventh with Aybar’s homer.
Tampa escaped a big jam in the eighth when Cora reached on Bartlett’s error and Crisp singled. But with lots of bullpen juggling, Tampa held off Boston, with rookie David Price getting Drew on a check-swing K with the bases loaded to end the eighth. Price pitched the ninth, working around a lead-off walk to Bay to eventually get PH Jed Lowrie on a force to second to send the Rays to the Series and end Boston’s season and reign as World Series champs. Kudos to the Rays for getting to the series, holding off Boston, and having a remarkable season.
All those high draft picks (Price #1 overall in 2007, Longoria in the 1st round of 2006, Upton in the 1st round of 2002, Crawford in the 2nd round of 1999, the oft-injured Baldelli in the 1st round of 2000) paying off, all that young talent mixed with the experienced players, finally coming together to propel the Rays to heights no one but perhaps the Rays players themselves saw coming. I never did.
Despite oddities such as two prolonged power outages, the Bills dispatched the Chargers 23-14 in impressive fashion today at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Led by an impressive, efficient offense and a swarming defense, the Bills improved to 5-1 while sinking the talented Chargers to 3-4. Although they have benefited from a somewhat soft early-season schedule and while this was at home, this was an impressive win for Buffalo. Strangely, it occurred despite the stadium having no power for much of the first half. Word was initially that there was a scheduled delay to correct a local electrical problem–during the game, mind you–that according to the local radio broadcast turned out to be a small balloon that wrapped around a scoreboard wire and shorted it and stadium power for much of the first half–very bizarre, including the scheduled delay. That’s shoddy planning, but the referees did a good job of keeping time and apprising fans of the situation. I wasn’t pleased to see the Bills get a delay of game penalty with the power out, however. Talk about persnickety.
This win was huge. It helped to solidify its hold on the AFC East lead. The Jets are currently down 10-3 as I write this, and the Patriots have a stiff test at home Monday night against Denver, while Miami lost 27-13 to Baltimore. Should NY and NE lose, the Bills will be up two games heading into Miami next Sunday. Regardless, the Bills are in a position to control their season and playoff chances–and it’s not too early to think about that–by piling up wins against division and conference foes. The Charges are a more than worthy adversary, their record notwithstanding.
Also, today’s win was all the more significant because the Bills were without three starters–DE Aaron Schobel, CB Terrence McGee, and center Melvin Fowler. RG Brad Butler and LT Jason Peters were hurt during the game but returned, yet backup linebacker and special teams player John DiGiorgio injured his knee and may be done for some time. Thus, the Bills won despite some significant injury issues.
In good part this resulted from a very efficient Trent Edwards, whose 25-30, 261-yard effort, again with no interceptions. Though they struggled to run the ball, they did a good job of running in the second half, especially with a lead. Marshawn Lynch got going for 70 yards and Fred Jackson for 33. More and more, I love the Bills receivers. Lee Evans and Josh Reed are undersized but good route runners with excellent speed and hands. Evans had eight catches and made a terrific one-handed grab and quickly got his feet down in the end zone to give the Bills a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. He’s earning his contract extension.
Yet the Bills won with more than a solid, effective, mistake-free offense but an aggressive defense that held a very good Chargers offense in check, limiting it to only 263 total yards. Tomlinson only rushed for 41 yards. Rivers was very good but threw a key interception midway through the fourth quarter and also lost two fumbles. With the Bills up 20-14 and the Chargers driving, Rivers threw an interception in the end zone to Kawika Mitchell, who stepped in front of Antonio Gates and returned it a good 30 yards. The Bills drove easily and added a late field goal, with a sack and fumble icing the win. I happened to make an incidental long-distance call on Mitchell’s interception, saying as the Chargers moved deep into Bills’ territory, Stop them here with a turnover. Good luck carrying forward, I suppose. Huge win.
Before I forget, it would be wrong to overlook what a great punter Brian Moorman is. Great punter? you might ask. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Fair enough, but Moorman is a modern-day Ray Guy. The perennial Pro Bowl punter can flat-out blast a ball and is very adept at “flipping the field” on opponents–taking a team’s defensive stop that puts the Bills deep in their own territory and ripping one 50-60 yards, with hang time for the coverage team to get downfield, to negate that defensive stop. He’s an honest-to-goodness difference maker on the Bills, in my mind the best punter in the game, and adept enough to hold for kicks and throw an occasional pass as he did in the Week One win over Seattle.
Now the Bills need to show how good they actually are. I’m still convinced that the class of the AFC is Pittsburgh and Tennessee, with the Bills a solid third. Pittsburgh just might roll not just in a weak division, but with all the injuries they have, once the Steelers get healthy they’ll be very tough to beat anywhere against anyone. Tennessee is also hot despite Vince Young’s situation, with PSU product Kerry Collins playing well and the defense still staunch. The Bills are right there at 5-1, but need to continue to improve. Very telling will be how many injuries pile up, and they’ve started to. Also, the running game has yet to take off as people expected it to. It’s been decent but not great yet. That needs to change, especially as they play better teams who can pressure Edwards. The defense also lacks the ability to consistently pressure the opponent’s QB, and Schobel’s injury does nothing to help that. But it’s hard as a fan not to like where the Bills are right now after struggling for the last decade. They’re fundamentally sound, don’t beat themselves much, and are solid on offense, defense, and special teams–no glaring weak spots. Time to make hay against the AFC East, with the Dolphins, Jets, and Patriots looming.
I’ll hit the recent comments now after a busy but thoroughly enjoyable day. How good was it? I went for a long run, then listened to football interspersed with playing hockey and football with my son–each of us taking a 7-5 decision in driveway hockey, and his beating me twice on the front-yard gridiron, 17-7 and 23-14 oddly enough (three TDs and a safety on me, not 2 TDs and 3 FGs). Then we settled into a hearty pot of beef stew my wife made, filled with beef and vegetables and cooked with a pint of Guinness Extra Stout, with two slices of fresh Italian bread on the side. I would have had this post up earlier, but I’ve been rubbing my stomach for half an hour and it’s tough to type with one hand. Life is good.
[Edit: Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski just hit a 57-yard field goal that would have been good from 62 late in OT to beat the Jets 16-13. Life is even better.]
My Sabres dropped a 3-2 shootout last night, the first loss of the season and the second time in three seasons that Atlanta ended the Sabres’ undefeated start to a season in a shootout. The Thrashers did the same on October 28, 2006, with a 5-4 shootout win. Well, if nothing else, the Sabres won’t be saddled with the pressures of an undefeated season.
PSU struggled to stop Michigan in the first half yesterday, helping the Wolverines with a first-quarter turnover, before getting a touchdown to end the first half 17-14 Michigan. In the second half, PSU blew away Michigan, forcing turnovers and moving the ball with ease in a 46-17 blowout, scoring 39 unanswered points. I am shocked, shocked, that Joe the Statistician Magician would dare to insinuate the PSU was running up the score. When has that ever happened in college football? Ohio State looms next week for the Nittany Lions, a must-watch game.
[Shaking head] Joba, Joba, Joba. Mr. Chamberlain was arrested for driving under the influence in Nebraska, while also having an open container and speeding. Um, Joba, I know you can work magic on the mound, but your mess stinks like everybody else’s. Get it together, kid, and stop acting stupid, please.
The Bills have a big test today against the Chargers. After losing their first game to Arizona two weeks ago, the Bills play for the first time after a bye week, which should help QB Trent Edwards play after his concussions against the Cardinals. San Diego will test the Bills’ defense just as Arizona did, with SD averaging about 30 points a game. I’m hoping it’s on locally, though it probably won’t so I presume the radio beckons. OK by me. I say Bills 27-24.
More to come later. BTW, Uncle Joe from YFCR leads Bowa (even if by abduction), Randolph, Thomson, and all others with the most votes for Yankees’ third base coach in 2009. I think he’d be a great hire, personally. Keep voting here, and you can vote more than once.
I’m going to refract my mind’s trajectory to talk about the Yankees, since so much in the world right now–important to discuss and understand though it may be–is just an outright downer for me right now.
Buster Olney wrote on Thursday that the interest in Pettite pitching for the Yankees in 2009 appears mutual. After going 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA on an arm that eroded as the season wound down, I am unsure how much more the Yankees could reasonably expect from him. It could well be that, if healthy, Pettite has a bounce-back season not unlike Mussina’s sterling 2008, though hoping for Lefty to emulate Moose’s 20-9, 3.37 ERA would be asking too much. But 16-11, 4.20 ERA (which just so happens to be remarkably similar to his 16-11, 4.24 ERA of 1998), if healthy? I’d take that in a second, with a condition or two. If Pettite were willing to come back for one year at $16 million before, he should hopefully be willing to come back at one year for less, or at the very most two but for no more than Mussina’s recent two-year, $23 million deal. As it was, and it’s worth remembering, Mussina’s deal was itself a product of the Yankees’ rejecting his $17 million option and essentially agreeing to rework that previous structure into a short-term, more moderate but still very handsome contract. If Pettite were to come back, I’d want it to be somewhere around one year, $10-12 million, or two years, $20 million.
I’d rather the Yankees look elsewhere to round out the starting rotation, honestly, but the more I think about it, the more my gut tells me Pettite will be better in 2009 than he was in 2008, should he return. Perhaps more importantly, I increasingly have questions that the Yankees will be able to get top-of-the-line free agents or acquisitions for the rotation, might otherwise be left in a scramble and quite possibly reliant upon some pitchers who in fairness to them need more work (Hughes, Kennedy, and to a degree Aceves). To break this down part by part, there certainly are quality free agent pitchers available–Sabathia, Burnett, Sheets, Dempster, Lowe, Penny (if the Dodgers decline his option), Garland, Oliver Perez, and others such as Peavy and Greinke who might be available via trade. Yet initial impressions are that many in the NL such as Sabathia, Peavy, and Dempster would prefer to stay there, Sheets was yet again hurt at the end of the year, Burnett is hurt every year, Penny missed considerable time, leaving others such as Lowe and Garland who are not bad options, but not front-line pitchers, either. I’m OK with that, with either filling in middle spots in the rotation. Barring some change in players’ sentiments, that may be who the Yanks are left with. Clearly, Sabathia is high on my and everyone’s wish list. I’m not willing to hold my breath for him, however. He doesn’t seem eager to leave the NL. Nor does Jake Peavy, according to Ed Price of The Star-Ledger, with five NL teams including the Astros, Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, and Cardinals on his short trade list, according to Olney. Peavy is excellent and, at 8-8 with a 3.29 ERA in interleague play, he seems quite capable of jumping leagues. Yet I’m not eager to give away a lot, including prospects, for a guy who’d prefer to stay in the NL and, according to Pete Abraham, possibly only on the condition of an expensive extension. Wish list considerations are fine and fun. However, high-end pitching acquisitions may not be as realistic as we’d like this off-season. If they happen, great. At what cost? While I’d be more willing to trade Kennedy and to a lesser degree Hughes this off-season than last, the price tag for a potentially pouty player can’t be too high. While he frosted me last year, Cano should be considerably better than his 2008 (14 HRs 72 RBIs, .271/.305), making me hesitant to dump him quite yet. The Yanks really need to rebuild the starting staff. But do they need two aces, or two pretty good pitchers? More directly, can they make do with two pretty good pitchers? If it’s the case that the Yanks don’t acquire Sabathia, Peavy, or any top-flight starter, Pettite’s return becomes likelier. If it’s Wang, Joba, Lowe, Lefty, that leaves one spot for maybe Burnett (who has ace stuff when healthy, but isn’t healthy nearly to anyone’s liking), or Mussina’s return (presuming he doesn’t retire, and though Mussina’s apparent “three years or none” stance makes me very wary, for I wouldn’t grant him three years even after his great 2008), or an opportunity for Hughes, Aceves, Kennedy (I suppose, though he’s one guy because of his attitude I wouldn’t mind seeing dealt), or Coke if the Yankees want him to start (though he was terrific out of the bullpen down the stretch). The Yankees seem to love Burnett’s stuff–who doesn’t?–but the cost and the injury problems should make anyone wary. Burnett is a dangling carrot, but one I wish the team wouldn’t chase.
Should that be the case–getting one or two pretty good pitchers instead of Sabathia, the weight shifts (no pun intended) to acquiring a front-line position player such as Teixeira. The two biggest team needs are starting pitching and a good, two-way first baseman. Getting Teixeira will be somewhat contingent upon what decisions the Angels make, for they have big free agent questions themselves–K-Rod, Teixeira, Anderson, Garland, Vlad’s $15 million option (which seems a gimmee, but makes everything more expensive for the Angels), Figgins, Weaver, Kendrick, plus supplemental players Quinlan, Izturis, and Rivera. The younger players are restricted but likely to get raises, while the older, more experienced players will be challenges to keep without drastically driving up the payroll. Should the Angels want to keep many including K-Rod, that may make Teixeira more available to the Yanks. If the Yanks really want Teixeira, I’d make a hard sell early to show strong interest, but also to force the Angels’ hand–to make them respond early and reveal their priorities. Should they hesitate, maybe Teixeira would embrace a hard sell from the Yanks. If Sabathia and other front-line starters aren’t available, Teixeira may get a fat contract, an already high payroll notwithstanding. The team could use his offense and defense (5 errors last year), too. Oh yeah, Teixeira was .308 with RISP, .303 with runners on last year, .324 with RISP and .298 with runners on in his career. In a strong lineup, he’ll mash. He would make the Yankees stronger, and vice versa. He was a monster for the Angels after the trade–13 HR, 43 RBI, .358/.449/.632. But can they get him? That is, might the Angels change course somewhat and emphasize a more powerful offense by keeping Teixeira? Can they possibly replace K-Rod? I have the sense the Angels will push hard to keep Teixeira, but they have a ton of needs to meet, and maybe in a brief period of optimism, the Yanks can slip in and acquire him–at heavy cost.
We’ll see. I see the Yankees landing at least a couple good players, but am unsure which, if any, top-flight new player dons pinstripes in 2009.
This and this are downright disgraceful–and independent verification of the FAUX news story on it. These advertisements for anti-Palin misogynist hate have no place in American political discourse, nor do the poster people for stupidity wearing them.
More lows in America deepening the abyss into which our nation sinks:
Obama ghost hung in effigy, Fairfield, Ohio.
Racist anti-Obama billboard in Missouri.
McCain-Palin rally hatred in Johnstown, Pa.
Old-time racism from a California Republican women’s group.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) with nothing to say but McCarthyist smears, sounding dangerously like McCarthy herself.
So little learned from the repulsive failures, excesses, and outrages of the past. Horrible, nothing short of horrible. This isn’t Mars or some bizarro, alternative universe, people. To quote the great singer and song writer John Mellencamp, “This is our country.”
Too often these days, I feel nothing but anger and shame from current events. We live in bitter, dangerous times, alas. I know, people want to come here for baseball, sports, and other things too. If this were during the season, it would be easier to offset all this bile. Yet for me not to chronicle all this is to be asleep to history, regardless of its depravity. I feel that it’s deeply personal but also professionally necessary. My apologies for dragging anyone emotionally down. That’s really not my intent. It’s just impossible for me to bottle this up.
I wonder how fast the McCain campaign and various media outlets from MSNBC to CNN to FAUX news will be eating crow and/or retracting their statements after various revelations about “Joe the Plumber” being “the big winner from the presidential debate” Wednesday night. After claiming to have been undecided on the upcoming presidential election, and stating that he’s a plumber looking to buy a business and, allegedly according to Obama’s proposed tax changes he’d be hurt under them, it turns out that Joe Wurzelbacher is not a licensed plumber–though he needs to be in Lucas County where he resides. Also, Wurzelbacher is so concerned about paying taxes under Obama’s proposed plan that he himself has owed back taxes and, though he allegedly wants to buy the small plumbing business for which he works–apparently unaccredited and if so against Toledo’s regulations (Ohio does not have statewide licensing for plumbers, according to Larry Rohter and Liz Robbins at “The Caucus” blog at The New York Times)–has no clear idea about how to go about doing that. Yet the guy just so happens to be a registered Republican who voted for McCain in the GOP primaries in Ohio, and lavished praise on McCain while criticizing Obama after the debate, by which he admitted afterwards he “wasn’t swayed.”
Now to be clear, I don’t give a hoot in hell whether or not he’s a Republican, a licensed or unlicensed plumber, owes back taxes, or supported McCain in the past and future elections. I care that the guy was clearly dishonest. Additionally, that he just so happened to become a push-button topic for McCain to criticize Obama’s tax plan, which Wurzelbacher speciously referred to as “very socialistic” as McCain rails against “big government,” raises a red flag with me. We may never know, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the McCain camp, at some point between the driveway conversation Wurzelbacher had with Obama and Wednesday’s debate, was in contact with Wurzelbacher–if not before. It’s just fishy–Wurzelbacher just so happened to question a tax plan at which he, if he ever deigned to get accredited as a plumber, and put together a plan to buy the business where he works (though he lacks a clear one despite professing the possibility to Obama that may buy one) would be right at the $250,000 cutoff mark for providing medical insurance and getting tax breaks? The same “undecided” guy who was Republican all along? It smells fishy, especially because Wurzelbacher wasn’t honest.
Before I forget, all the sniveling about Obama’s plans for taxes and health care being “socialism” or “socialistic” is really hilarious. I was listening to a caller on a local morning radio show saying that Obama will bring socialism to the US, something possibly gleaned from the quintissential propagandist Rush Limbaugh. Please, already. Please. Obama has bipartisan advisers on everything from foreign policy to the economy, and none of them are socialists. The US has no effective left-wing party, least of all a socialist or communist party with any power whatsoever. Its most successful socialist party presidential candidate was Eugene V. Debs–nearly a century ago, who by the way was in jail during the 1920 elections. Progressive taxation and national health care, while things that socialists tout where actual, powerful socialist parties exist, are policies that myriad politicians and people espouse in the most industrialized as well as industrializing nations and less-developed countries (LDCs)–that is to say, a good many places around the world. It’s not socialism, and McCain is trying to invoke a long-standing boogey-man about these policies. McCain, Limbaugh, and others have latched onto Obama’s statement about it being good to “spread the wealth around” as somehow emblematic of socialism. One, it’s not. Two, why is this bad, the notion of spreading wealth around as income inequality has risen drastically to the highest level in the world and has been exacerbated by tax breaks? Why is spreading the wealth around so bad when yet again, wealth hoarding and risky speculation with the nation’s wealth through neo-Ponzi schemes has recently brought the economy into profound crisis? Why is the idea that employers–and not the government, note, for all falsely claming Obama’s health care plan is “socialism” or “socialistic”–providing health care such a bad thing, when this is how they wanted it right from their defeating Truman’s postwar Fair Deal? Employers asked for this system by organizing to defeat national health care in the late 1940s. Thus, until the US enacts a national health care plan, employers can provide it at a reasonable cost and with measures of regulation–another good and necessary thing. Lastly, as my very astute wife pointed out, exactly how bad off is Wurzelbacher or anyone if they’re considering buying a small business possibly worthy $250,000 or more–especially with so few staff including at least one unlicensed? My wife and I both work, as do Wurzelbacher and his wife, yet we’re not in any position to consider buying such a business. Nor are most people I know; nor would it be likely that they’d secure the loan for it, even before these lean times. If Wurzelbacher were to actually cobble together some plan and the money for buying this business, he’d be doing pretty well for himself and his family. He wouldn’t be “rich” as McCain sardonically and clumsily joked. Yet he wouldn’t be working class like me and most of us, either.
That’s what all this is meant to do–use people’s fears of taxation to try to elide widening class divisions and ignore that the richest people, including McCain, are the ones who far and away benefit most from tax breaks. McCain might as well crow from behind the curtain, “Pay no attention to the very wealthy candidate with several homes and thirteen cars who married into money behind the curtain. I am everyman!”
Also, this business about ACORN and allegations of voting fraud deserves significant attention–more than Joe the unlicensed plumber. It isn’t as though there aren’t some real problems with ACORN’s system of hiring people to enroll voters, for there are especially since those working to enroll voters seem to get, or seem to have been, paid by the quantity or people enrolled. (There is discrepancy about whether or not this system of pay still exists, though ACORN says they pay people hourly. Even if so, they don’t pay well, possibly part of the problem.) But honestly, there are some important facts and recent history to consider if we are to treat allegations of ACORN and voter fraud seriously. First, yes, there have been phony signatures and information among the forms that ACORN submitted, including some clearly oddball signatures such as “Mickey Mouse.” These present problems and a waste of people power sorting these out. But these are not voting fraud. In fact, one should question whether or not these even represent voter registration fraud. Why? In order for actual voter fraud to occur, one would have to present identification and verification of residence with a phony name and/or residence, and get away with it. The chances of this are very slim, and the instances of this quite rare. Also, it’s difficult to consider this voter registration fraud–note the difference–when ACORN itself has turned in and notified prosecutors of those potentially committing such fraud. According to former US attorney Bud Cummins such instances make ACORN not a perpetrator of fraud (the intent to deceive) but the one on whom fraud is perpetrated.
This is crucial not only because the GOP is trying to curtail the effectiveness of massive voter registration for the Democrats especially galvanized by Obama’s presidential campaign, but also and crucially to use some of the same methods as in 2006 and 2004 that ultimately resulted in some of the firings of US attorneys general, either reluctant to press voter fraud claims or who found no evidence of them, after the trouncing the GOP took in 2006. Fired US attorney general David Iglesias responded to news that the FBI is pursuing an investigation into ACORN by saying, “I’m astounded that this issue is being trotted out again,” Iglesias told TPMmuckraker. “Based on what I saw in 2004 and 2006, it’s a scare tactic.” He’d know, he was inappropriately fired for not pursuing such voting fraud claims with sufficient vigor for Republicans, according to the Department of Justice’s own Inspector General report.
Wurzelbacher as a very timely stand-in for McCain’s political attacks is a bit fishy to me, and we’ll see how much more about Samuel Joseph Wurzelbach. The bigger, stinkier fish to me is the ACORN issue, problems with ACORN’s system of voter registration notwithstanding. This is 2004 and 2006 all over again, and where the real focus should lie–more than on some lying unlicensed plumber in Ohio who wouldn’t own up to his political affiliations.
[Edit: I forgot to mention this earlier, but the issue of tax breaks is something on which Obama and McCain have a fair degree of agreement, with the main differences being who would benefit most from them. In the process, I believe Obama has missed some opportunities to change the discourses about how we consider taxes, probably for fear of invoking lots of opposition from people over taxation. These changes, including through the right wing's anti-tax pushes, in discourse take time and don't occur overnight. The right pushed for tax cuts for a long time before they came to pass. Obama, if he's actually interested in this and that's something I question, he'll need to continually take time to convince everyday people who are legitimately squeezed by the combination of wage constraints, tough economic times, and taxation especially if they're home owners that such plans actually benefit them and the nation. He also needs to illustrate, if he's interested in this also and I question it, that there are stark differences between the everyday people who desire tax cuts and fairness while they are often willing to pay taxes for certain things but want to see tangible policies and results, and the very wealthy who benefit far disproportionately from tax cuts. That is, he needs to explain that tax cuts aqnd tax policy is not the same for everyone, and that takes changing the debate and discussing it a lot. He's not done that much, and that's a problem to me.
One way to solve this is to illustrate that government can benefit people and the economy--that taxes can be of enormous value. For an example, see the Federal Highway Act of 1957 that greatly expanded and interconnected the interstate highway system, resulting in enormous travel, growth and spread of capital through travel, greatly expanded service industries, tens of thousands of jobs for construction, increased machine, auto, gas and parts sales, and more. Think about what the country would be like without this massive qand incredibly beneficial system, which was also created for national defense. The country simply would not be as we now know it without this system and the immense investments that the federal, state, and local governments made in it and the localized urban systems connected to it.]
As soon as the TBS announcers started speculating on a Phillies-Rays World Series matchup in the seventh inning last night, with the Rays up 7-0, I told GLG, “Here comes the comeback.” Sure enough, the Sox scored four in the seventh, including a three-run homer by Ortiz as the Fenway faithful chanted “Papi! Papi! Papi!” during his at-bat, then tied it in the eighth before winning it in the ninth. Ortiz and Drew were huge, but honestly, what on earth were the clowns in the TBS booth thinking? Did they really not consider the possibility, even at 7-0 and even as late as the seventh inning, that the Red Sox could come back? at Fenway, no less? That crew should be embarrassed. Yes, long odds, especially how the Rays looked the past few games. But honestly, ruling out the Red Sox, especially at Fenway, is playing with fire. I wasn’t sure about Boston winning, but I was pretty damn sure Boston wouldn’t end the game with zero and may well make it close. I also knew, as we all do, that Boston at Fenway is as dangerous as any team in sports. That team didn’t get off the field in the top of the seventh as if they were ready to lose but instead as if they were ready to score runs, and they did.
I don’t like the Red Sox, but I sure as hell respect that team. They never say die, never. The greatest comeback in LCS history, and the greatest in baseball post-season since the Philadelphia A’s scored 10 runs in the seventh after being down 8 to the Cubs in Game 4 of the 1929 World Series. Steve, Joe, Dan–congratulations on one for the ages, regardless of how the rest of the ALCS plays out. After 2004 and 2007, how could one count out Boston?
Initially I thought that McCain was going to run roughshod over Obama, since McCain clearly came out not only aggressively but also having some well-rehearsed attack lines. I think McCain carried the attack for most of the debate and degrees of rhetorical control for much of the first half of the debate. However, from about two-fifths of the way through until the end, I think Obama did a better job controlling the terms of the debate but, as importantly, its tenor. In good part, and this has been the case in my opinion throughout the campaign, Obama has had more solid and better-spoken positions on most issues, and has carried those well into the debates. But tonight, as with the other debates, Obama and McCain differentiated themselves on more than some policies but, as with the other debates and their respective campaigns, their demeanor. I’m not that big on this but it does matter an awful lot, especially to undecideds. Obama simply comports himself in a better, more calm, focused, better-spoken, presidential manner than McCain; consistently so. McCain was intent on coming out swinging and fighting, and he did that with lines such as that, if Obama wanted to run against Bush, he should have done so four years ago. That’s a strong, clever line that scored well. It’s also difficult to refute that McCain has been increasingly closely tied to Bush when he not only voted with him 91% of the time, but also repeatedly hugged him on stage and reversed various positions to pander to the far right.
I think the debate turned on a few points. McCain held sway on aggression if not persuasion for about the first half hour. It turned around the time McCain and Obama were asked about negativity within the campaigns, and there’s been plenty of that to go around. McCain charged out with the stuff about Obama’s alleged ties to Ayers at the same time that he said he wasn’t interested in some has-been 60s radical, then speciously claimed that ACORN was trying to propagate the biggest voter fraud this country has perhaps ever seen. Really? Not the 2000 election with Florida, not 2004 with the intentionally corrupt Diebold electronic voting machines that could and did switch and lose votes, but ACORN? That took nerve, and was just ridiculous on its face. (More about ACORN perhaps tomorrow, when I have the time) Obama handled the Ayers smears well–that he was all of eight when Ayers was involved in the radical, violent fringe left Weather Underground, that he and others including Republicans who were friends of McCain served on an education initiative with Ayers, that Obama repudiated Ayers’s past, that Obama had various and bipartisan confidants for policy (I’m no fan of gratuitous bipartisanship, personally, but this probably scored well with undecideds), that McCain’s campaign personnel admitted that they had to switch subjects from the economic crisis or lose and that such tactics say more about McCain’s campaign than Obama himself.
I also think that McCain’s pandering to veterans and other supporters, as if Obama was smearing them and others at his rallies, was off base. Obama clearly wasn’t talking about them but those who have clearly shouted threatening and hateful comments. While it’s possible, as FAUX News has alleged, that some outside Obama rallies might have worn misogynistic anti-Palin T-shirts, I’d rather see evidence of what would clearly be inexcusable than trust a media “outfit” that circulated an internal memo alerting staff to “be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents [who] must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress” the day after Democrats regained control of Congress in November 2006. Give me actual proof, please.
I thought Obama positively controlled debate and at times hammered McCain on health care, abortion, possible supreme court appointments, and education–essentials of domestic policy. McCain looked genuinely shocked and confused about Obama’s response to small-business health care provisions based on Obama’s description of his plan. During the follow-up section on health care, Obama completely dominated the discussion and with details, while McCain blithely railed against government-run health care. Obama had details, McCain had attacks and little else, revealing something as the night wore on. It wasn’t just that McCain had attack lines, it’s that he increasingly just had attack lines. McCain’s follow-ups were often pointed jobs and short on actual policy specifics–not always, but often. Obama responded very well and clearly to McCain’s line that Obama was in favor of partial-birth abortions by discussing in detail how it was that Obama voted against an Illinois bill to ban such procedures by saying that Illinois law already had such laws in place making such a bill unnecessary, and focusing on concerns for the health of women, to which McCain responded with a chuckle and the attempt to portray Obama’s answer as rhetorical sleight of hand. More was at stake than that, regardless of how people feel about a serious subject such as abortion, and I’m inclined to agree with Chris Matthews’s post-debate statement that McCain probably lost women voters with that response. McCain made it seem as though he was downplaying the health of women, or at the very least Obama’s concern about it, by chuckling then changing the subject from what is a core concern among women–health during any procedures, on abortion or anything medically related. Not good. Obama himself had a good line with his statement that “children are not an interest group” when discussing a McCain staffer’s reference to not increasing educaiton funding as not appeasing interest groups.
In all, if you wanted McCain to come out swinging and fighting, he did that by attacking a lot and he surely fired up his partisans. If you wanted Obama to be bold, that didn’t happen in the first half hour, but he came on later in the debate, spoke to his own base but also looked to poach votes from the right over issues such as teachers’ pay-for-performance (an atrocious idea for lots of reasons, especially in a testing-heavy climate that ignores so many subjects–another thing over which I disagree with Obama, Joe). Snap polls favor Obama by a wide margin, especially and crucially among nominal independents, I suspect in no small part because McCain is long on anger and attack and short on actual prescriptions, and Obama, while at times unspecific (and I believe he suffered in the first part of the debate by starting out slowly and trotting out the same lines he’s been rehashing from the first two debates, while McCain’s attacks were at least fresh if mostly baseless), is completely cool under pressure. Obama even passed up possible attacks and attacking retorts, laying off Palin for the most part–except for her role in ‘othering’ Obama but avoiding attacking her thorough lack of fitness for high office.
Like the first two presidential debates, this wasn’t a make-or-break debate. But this is bad for McCain, for it had to be make for him. He had to fundamentally change the terms and tenor of the debate in his favor and, while he struck with some verbal jabs, Obama warmed to respond and more often than not did so successfully. I loved when McCain attacked Obama on free trade by attacking Obama’s failure to support the alleged “no-brainer” of free trade with Colombia, to which Obama brought up human rights for one of the very few times in the debates, reminding Americans of the thousands of trade unionists who have been murdered by right-wing death squads and the Colombian government in the last two decades, and the lack of protections for workers in Colombia under the agreement. McCain’s response? Nothing on the subject. But remind workers about how you care about them, McCain.
People just aren’t buying that or much else from the self-professed “Straight Talk Express,” and that’s not good news less than three weeks away from November 4. I know I’m partisan, but I also think this is accurate.