36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

July 31, 2007

The Final Shakedown

Filed under: Sports — Kevin Feasel @ 6:16 pm

John Schuerholz was extremely busy at the trade deadline, and he’s definitely improved Atlanta this season. What this says about future seasons, though, is, uh, pretty unclear…

There were 3 deals today that the Braves got in on:

  1. Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, and Beau Jones.
  2. Octavio Dotel for Kyle Davies.
  3. Royce Ring for Will Startup and Wilfredo Ledezma.

I talked about trade #1 already. #2 is an even trade: the Braves get some much-needed bullpen help and the Royals get a pitching prospect. Davies probably wasn’t going to be back in Atlanta after getting on Bobby Cox’s list, so the fact that Atlanta could get the top reliever on the market for him is good, especially considering what Dayton Moore wanted from other teams (like, say, Phil Hughes). Ring for Startup and Ledezma, though, is weird. Ledezma was already DFA’d, so the Braves had no leverage with him. Thus, it’s basically Startup for Ring. Ring was excellent in the PCL this season, but has had some major control issues in the majors. Meanwhile, Startup is 4 years younger and has been a very good reliever in his minor league career. So I’d call that about a wash, although I’d personally keep Startup.

Thus, Atlanta really solidified its bullpen and added a major hitter to the lineup. They have a big hole at the #5 starter position, but that’s the only big hole that the Braves have—otherwise, they have a dominant offense, 2 excellent starters and another good one, a 4th starter who doesn’t suck, and a solid bullpen. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of four highly-rated prospects, a young starter who has a chance to get it together, and a prospect reliever, so it’s a huge price.

Update:  Once again, I forgot to plug my site.  For information and statistics on the guys who were traded, as well as all of the other Braves minor leaguers, check out Project Kaleidic.

De Düva (The Dove)

Filed under: Nostalgia — Kevin Feasel @ 3:42 pm

A classic film right out of the Bergman style. It even has helpful English subtitles.

Thanks, J-Pod.

Enjobination: code tangerine

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tony Demchak @ 1:52 pm

Pending a criminal background check and a drug test, I will begin working on August 9th.

Joe Morgan An Idiot; Bears Continue To Crap In The Woods

Filed under: Sports — Kevin Feasel @ 12:15 pm

Chris (Tampa): Does adding Teixeira to the Braves lineup give them one of if not the most potent lineup in baseball?

Joe Morgan: (11:23 AM ET ) No, there are better lineups than the Braves–the Tigers, the Mets. He may help their lineup, but it doesn’t make them the best.

Morgan has never actually watched a baseball game and does not have any clue of who any of the players are. The fact that he would say something like this, therefore, is hardly surprising. He had a 50-50 chance and heck, they’re all worse than the Big Red Machine.

In fact, you know how I know that Morgan doesn’t know? The Mets are currently 9th in the NL in run scoring! Behind the Braves! They have holes at catcher and right field, are throwing out below-average guys at first base and left field, and have just lost their third-best hitter in Carlos Beltran. The Braves, meanwhile, just went from brutal to bruising at first base and with the Teixeira move, now have better regulars at 7 of 8 positions (Center Field being the only exception).

July 30, 2007

Teixeira A Brave

Filed under: Sports — Kevin Feasel @ 3:42 pm

Mark Teixeira is a Brave along with Ron Mahay, in return for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and a PTBNL (perhaps Matt Harrison). Here’s what I think about this:

Teixeira will help Atlanta a huge amount. At the moment, the Braves have a good offense when Chipper is in the lineup and a bad one when he is not. Overall, that leads to 5th in the NL in R/G, thanks to last night’s drubbing. Add Teixeira and the OPS for first base goes up, say, 200 points, which brings Atlanta closer to #2 or #3 in the majors, and if Andruw can have a nice second half, the Braves have a shot at having the #1 offense in the NL as long as Chipper stays healthy. If Atlanta can sign him to an extension somehow, that’ll take a lot of the sting away.

Mahay is actually better than I realized: he handles both lefties and righties very well, which means he could slot in where Mike Gonzalez was expected to pitch this season: setup lefty. That helps the bullpen a lot.

On the down side, losing Saltalamacchia will be big in future years, but you know that he’s going to take a couple of years to develop and that any deal would require him, but Teixeira’s going to outhit him in the foreseeable future, so the difference is that Saltalamacchia is much less expensive, but will take a while to become good.

Andrus is somebody who everybody’s so high on, and he has a huge amount of talent, but as noted, the Braves have a lot of up-the-middle guys. Could he be better than all of the rest? Maybe so, but he wouldn’t be in Atlanta for at least 3 more years.

Feliz is a huge power arm and hey, those are nice to have. But he’s probably the third or fourth most talented guy on the Danville roster. I’d much prefer Feliz than Thomas Hanson.

Meanwhile, Harrison’s a bread-and-butter lefty with control over a fastball and changeup and who needs work on his curveball. If he, in fact, is the guy who gets dealt, he could eventually become a mid-level starter. Granted, I’d prefer to see Davies traded before Harrison, but the Braves have several mid-level starter prospects and one already in Chuck James.

So all in all, this is obviously a move toward winning now rather than in the future. As long as the Braves are able to keep Teixeira somehow, I don’t think it’s a bad deal. For the Rangers, there’s a lot of risk involved: Andrus and Feliz are a long way away, and we don’t know who the PTBNL is.

Now, what does this do for Atlanta? Given that the Braves needed help at first base, one or preferably two relievers, and a 5th starter who can get through a game without leaving in the 4rd inning, Atlanta’s plugged in two big holes. If they could make room for Will Startup, that’d help the bullpen out as well, and leave the 5th starter mess as the only major problem left. But as they stand today, this is a team that can compete in the playoffs. 3 times out of 5, the Braves are sending up a good starter, and Buddy Carlyle does a good job of beating up on bad teams. If Mahay helps the bullpen out by taking some pressure off of Soriano and Yates, that means that the bullpen should hopefully blow fewer games, and as long as Chipper stays healthy, the offense should score a whole lot of runs.

So this trade doesn’t fill all of the needs, and there’s still a risk that something bad can happen to an integral part of the team (Chipper, Smoltz, Soriano), but I wouldn’t say that it was a ripoff.

Update:  Since there are some people looking at this page, if you haven’t seen it already, go to Project Kaleidic and you can see minor league stats for these guys, as well as all of the other Braves minor leaguers.

How to win at fantasy football

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tony Demchak @ 11:16 am

Step 1: Get the number ten pick.

Step 2: ??

Step 3: Take LaDainian Tomlinson.

July 29, 2007

Abundant Social Change…And This Is A Good Thing?

Filed under: Economics — Kevin Feasel @ 4:09 am

Don Boudreaux put up a post citing favorably a passage in Brink Lindsay’s new book. The passage is as follows:

American capitalism is derided for its superficial banality, yet it has unleashed profound, convulsive social change. Condemned as mindless materialism, it has burst loose a flood tide of spiritual yearning. The civil rights movement and the sexual revolution, environmentalism and feminism, the fitness and health-care boom and the opening of the gay closet, the withering of censorship and the rise of a “creative class” of “knowledge workers” — all are the progeny of widespread prosperity.

So, let’s see, racial quotas, the destruction of the father’s role in society and replacement with the government as caretaker, stupid environmental regulations which drive up housing prices (“greenspace” laws) and prevent people from using their land in the best possible manner (“wetlands protection”), the Equal Rights Amendment (similar to what’s going in in Europe right now), the nanny state controlling what you’re allowed to eat and where you may smoke, calls for a socialist-style single-payer system, and the unleashing of an ideology which will result in the destruction of marriage as an institution and lead to government taking over as the caretaker for children even more than already. These are things we’re supposed to like? I’m a fan of Boudreaux, but I’d prefer superficial banality to the “convulsive social change” that Lindsay describes.

Also, I should note that I don’t think that markets have much to do with any of these except for knowledge workers and perhaps changes in censorship (although Lindsay is much, much too willing to ignore modern censorship when he speaks of its “withering,” as political correctness is an euphemism for censorship).

July 28, 2007

What do you say when they call in the cavalry…

Filed under: Sports — Tony Demchak @ 12:45 am

and the cavalry turns out to be something totally unexpected? With the Indians a game and a half back in the AL Central and four up in the wild card, Mark Shapiro made a bold move. That bold move was acquiring Kenny Lofton. For a reasonably talented young catcher named Max Ramirez. Now, at first, I did a spit take when I got the IM from my friend. Then I went straightaway to the Indians’ web site, and showed some pretty remarkable stats for a player of his age. A .300 plus batting average, 21 steals (!), a handful of home runs. I next turned to baseball prospectus and was even more impressed. A WARP3 of 5.2 stared me in the face. That is slightly worse than Travis Hafner, and loads better than the decaying corpse of Trot Nixon. This was a superb move for Shapiro, and Lofton already proved his worth by playing left field tonight instead of center, where Grady Sizemore rules. He went 3 for 5 with an RBI, and the Indians won. Kudos to the GM, who mortgaged a potentially useful player into a productive role player for the playoff run.

July 27, 2007

Book Reviews: Decisions For War, 1914

Filed under: Kablooey!, Reviews — Kevin Feasel @ 12:17 pm

I finished up Decisions For War, 1914 recently.  This is a compendium of essays edited by Keith Wilson, describing the diplomatic atmosphere in each country coming into the Great War.  Here are some impressions and interesting ideas I got from this, with the note that Tony probably knew all of this stuff already:

Introduction – Don’t read it.  The introduction is incredibly boring and I almost put the  book down at that point.  I am sorry, Professor Sir F.H. Hinsley, but you’re boring, at least in this.

Austria-Hungary – I’m glad that I didn’t put the book down after the introduction, and this essay rewarded me for it.  Fritz Fellner described the motivations of the Austro-Hungarians extremely well:  jealousy and anger at Serbia, fear of Russian retaliation, and slightly starry-eyed hope that Germany would be willing to cover for the dual kingdom as they wipe out Serbia.  As it turns out, Germany’s idea of cover was to declare war on France and Russia and then tell the Austrians that they’re needed to guard the Russian front, so stop worrying about Serbia.  Austria-Hungary, therefore, was responsible for the direct impetus for war—their blaming the Serbian government for the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and writing the famous ultimatum to Serbia—but ultimately it was Germany who was responsible for the war, as Germany egged Austria-Hungary on, declared war on France and Russia, and tried to keep the Entente from using diplomacy to short-circuit the dispute.

Germany – As noted in the previous essay, Germany was run by jerks.  The author of this esay, John C. G. Röhl, points out the two strands of thought in historiography regarding Germany.  The first comes from Bernhard Prince von Bülow, who argued that they were led astray by “the ‘honest schoolmaster’ Bethmann and the ‘petty-minded Junker,’ the ‘third-rate diplomat’ Jagow,” as well as Zimmermann and von Stumm.  These four men, according to Bülow, offered Austria-Hungary carte blanche and this led to war.  Instead, Bülow argues, they should never have done that and instead should have forced Austria-Hungary to remove the most incendiary clauses from their ultimatum, submitted the dispute to a Hague tribunal, allowed the French or Russians to declare war on Germany, and not have violated Belgian neutrality.  Thus, these four men stumbled upon war…or did they?  As it turns out, Jagow and Stumm actually did all they could to force a war, afraid that the Russians would complete their modernization process by placing railroad lines in Poland and be powerful enough to knock Germany off as the undisputed land power in Europe.  According to this theory, which is now much more popular, Bülow’s criticisms actually miss the point.  Bülow assumed that the Germans didn’t want war, but made a lot of mistakes to stumble into it; instead, they were actually afraid that the Austro-Hungarians wouldn’t go far enough and would wimp out before war started.

Serbia – I have to admit that I knew very little about Serbia before this, so Mark Cornwall’s attempt to resurrect the reputation of Nikola Pasic was new to me.  The standard belief is that Pasic was out of his league and responded by not doing anything at all, and that he was a tool of the Russians, particulary the Russian minister in Serbia Nikolai Hartwig.  Cornwall, however, argues that Pasic did all that he could to avert war given the circumstances.  Serbia in 1914 had just come off of a draining victory against Austria-Hungary and still needed time to recover.  In addition, Pasic’s slim majority in government had collapsed, so an election was to be held later that year.  Finally, the Serbian people were far too nationalist to allow their government to cave in to Austro-Hungarian demands.  So Pasic tried to play down the murder of Franz Ferdinand, distance the Serbian government and citizenry from it, and get the Great Powers to keep Austria-Hungary in line.  Unfortunately for him, he was in the middle of a campaign, was getting little response from the main powers, and had an incompetent staff which couldn’t stay on tune.  In addition, once the ultimatum came, Serbia had only 48 hours to respond, not enough time to get any of the Great Powers (even Russia) to come to a decision, and so the Serbians jumped into the war partially out of necessity, but also in order to complete their plans to create a Greater Serbia.

Russia – The first thing that Keith Neilson does is to point out that Russia was not the economically devastated country normally portrayed, but instead was growing at approximately 3.25% a year, a figure below that of the top European countries, but still enough to mean that they were not as backwards as some may think.  Their armed forces, however, were quite as bad as expected in 1905.  After being beaten by the Japanese, the Russians used their bountiful harvests to completely retool their military, purchase large amounts of artillery, and develop rail lines to their west.  Unfortunately for the Russian military, the people in charge of placing the 7800 guns and 7 million artillery shells were idiots, and by putting a large amount of it in their Polish territory, the Germans were quickly able to capture 3000 guns and 2 million shells…but hey, at least the Russians had it to begin with!

France – The French were caught with their pants down.  While the Austro-Hungarians were threatening Serbia, the French government was in Russia, and in fact, the ultimatum was timed to guarantee that the French government was out of telegraph range while heading back to Paris.  Because the government in Paris was run by people who had no experience during those first few days, the French were playing catch-up and were forced to react throughout the war.  The French government, once they were all back in Paris, then had to play things strictly defensively, even going so far as to prohibit their troops from going within 6 miles of the French border, just to make sure that the French did not accidentally commit an act of war.  The happiest moment for France was when Germany invaded Belgium, as that meant that France was completely blameless and would act in national unity.  In addition, it guaranteed British entrance in the war, given that the UK had pledged to honor Belgian neutrality in 1870.

Belgium – The Belgians received word from the Germans that if they did not put up any resistance to a German invasion, the Germans would give Belgium parts of French territory and would reimburse the Belgians for any actions committed by German soldiers.  This offer leaked out into the Belgian press and the result was shocking:  a huge surge of Belgian patriotism, demanding that the government reject this Judas-style offer (as they put it).  Even though the Belgian army was small and certainly could not have withstood the full might of Germany, the still told the Germans to suck an egg and fought hard in the invasion.  Their downfall came primarily because the Belgians were unable to coordinate with the British and French due to the fact that Belgium had actively tried to stay neutral in the intervening 44 years.

Britain – See France, but even more fractious.  The British were split into three camps:  Winston Churchill (who was First Lord of the Admiralty), Sir Edward Grey (Foreign Minister),  and HH Asquith (Prime Minister) demanding to side with the French and declare war on Germany; most of the Labour Party and many Liberals who were ardent pacifists; and some, like David Lloyd George (who was Chancellor of the Exchequer), who were neutral.  Because the Liberals had a very slim majority in Parliament, Churchill, Grey, and Asquith had a card which turned out to be very important:  if they resigned, the government would collapse.  As such, the British were slowly moved toward war, but it wasn’t until the Belgian invasion that war became a popular option.  Even then, however, some of Asquith’s cabinet resigned, although a couple of Liberals came back because they wanted to keep their perks.

Japan – After the British were “benevolently neutral” in 1905, the Japanese wanted to return the favor.  By “return the favor,” I mean “expand their sphere of influence and take over part of China.”  Thus, once war broke out, the Japanese government offered their services to the British and started gearing their population up for a big war.  The British didn’t want this, though, and would have preferred that Japan do little more than protecting British assets in the Far East from German attackers.  Through a series of communications to Britain and Germany, the Japanese “reluctantly” made it clear that they were going to declare a full war on Germany.  After this happened, the British and Russians asked for Japanese troops to reinforce either the eastern or western fronts, but Japan outright refused the request, instead sticking to the Pacific theater.  Their actions, however, made the Americans and Dutch wary, as they saw what the Japanese were trying to do.

Ottoman Empire – This is a story of intrigue, and one which I’ll save for those who want to read the book.

Overall, I would say that this was a nice book for somebody who already has a good amount of knowledge about the situation but does not quite know exactly how it all began.  If you don’t know that much about the war, you should read something else first, but anybody who has a strong interest in World War I has to read this book, as it will put the diplomatic pieces together better, perhaps, than anything else, and the authors are all very good and entertaining writers.

4 Chapters Done

Filed under: Schooled! — Kevin Feasel @ 11:15 am

I have finished the first four chapters of my thesis, a document which currently totals 15 pages without any diagrams, and probably closer to 23 pages after I add the diagrams in.  I still have to write chapter 5, which describes the implications of my results, and after all of that, I’ve to create two appendices and the aforementioned diagrams.  Thus, I would say that I am roughly halfway done with the first draft of my thesis.  My goal is to be completely finished with the first draft and all diagrams by August 1st, whereupon I can begin the revision process.  As a result of this, I probably will be about as scarce with my posting as I have been the last few days, but don’t worry:  I’ll eventually get to the pictures…

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