I was reading about Arlen Specter this morning. If you don’t know, the 30-year U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania who’s career was marked by twice switching political parties (nothing like sticking to your guns) just lost in the Democratic primary to a relative nobody without the supposedly necessary support of big special interests and even his own party. The election in November is shaping up to be a bloodbath for incumbents, particularly on the Democratic side. And justifiably so, in my opinion. Anyway, in reading some of the comments beneath the article, one struck me as particularly insightful on the current state of electoral politics in this country:
“Politicians are like drug dealers. You finally take one down and you end up with an immediate replacement who is as bad or worse than the original.”
So before we get all excited about the political upheaval that’s coming, we need to remember that we don’t need to just boot out the incumbents but actually replace them with people who won’t end up falling victim to the same forces of money, party and special interests that we’re trying to get away from. I’ve seen a few changes in political leadership in my life to this point, all painted as very different choices at the time, but in retrospect, outside of a few talking point, essentially party-mandated policy decisions, I’ve seen very few actual differences. If you’re going to vote, vote for somebody you believe in, not just against someone you don’t. A choice between the lesser of two evils, or made just to get rid of one guy without regard to the other isn’t a choice at all. That is how we got where we are today.
Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins put on a display of dogging it on the baseball field the other day that Rickey Henderson would be proud of. Ramirez, a shortstop, ran into shallow left field chasing a pop up, he didn’t get to it in time, then proceeded to boot the ball deep into the outfield corner. Two runners that were on base scored easily and the batter made it to third before Ramirez managed to saunter over to the ball. Upon returning to the dugout, Ramirez was promptly dressed down by his manager, Fredi Gonzalez. After which, Ramirez said to the media something to the affect of, “What does he know, he never played in the majors.”
Ramirez, who is one of the best players in the National League, has been roundly criticized, as well he should be. He dogged it after that ball, and there’s just no excuse for that. Of course, maybe he’s just sick of playing for a cheap-skate franchise in an empty stadium. I’m sure that if there were any fans in the stadium, they would have booed Ramirez lack of effort. As for Gonzalez, Ramirez has a point. Who is this guy? He’s been the manager of the Marlins since replacing Joe Girardi in 2007, and has led Florida to zero playoff appearances, and an overall .500 record. That just commands respect doesn’t it? Still, Ramirez should have run harder for that ball. With a little effort, he could have kept the batter to second base instead of third, and that could have made all the difference. Preventing that run and the Marlins would have lost 4-1 instead of 5-1. Plus, the decision to pull Ramirez from the game didn’t give the player an opportunity to atone for the error with his potent, NL Batting Champion bat.
Still, hustle is a lost art in baseball. I was watching the Phillies the other night in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. All-Star second baseman Chase Utley hit a short grounder fielded by Brewers pitcher Dave Bush. Bush stumbled his way to first base, ending up on his backside in the baseline between Utley and the base. The Phillies second baseman tried to dance around the prone Bush and was tagged out easily. I couldn’t help but think about past Phillies players and how they would have handled that situation, namely Charlie Hustle himself, Pete Rose. Rose would have went all Ronnie Lott on Bush, hitting him like a free safety smacks a defenseless wide receiver, knocked the ball away and been safe at first. This is a guy that ran over catcher Ray Fosse in the 1970 All Star Game, after all, putting a more fierce lick on that catcher than we’ve seen in any NFL Pro Bowl of late. Man, I miss the good old days.
Somehow, I got on an email list for candidate Ted Patterson, who’s running for State Delegate of District 34B, a position held for the past four terms by Dave Rudolph. Anyway, in an email I received yesterday, Patterson, in full campaign speak, rants against the unfairness of the sales tax in Maryland and how that particular tax hammers us in Cecil County given our close proximity to tax-free Delaware. He goes on to say that he will not vote for any state sales tax increases, and will fight to actually cut the tax.
First off, I couldn’t agree more. The sales tax kills us here in Cecil County. It keeps retail businesses on the Delaware side of the state line, and who knows how many untold millions of dollars the stores we do have lose out to the tax free version just 10 minutes or so away? I’m all for cutting or outright eliminating the sales tax here. But good luck getting that done. The problem with Maryland politics is that one little corridor in the center of the State; the Baltimore-Annapolis-DC Suburbs corridor; basically runs the entire show, regardless of what we on the outskirts need. And they’re not dealing with sales tax issues because Washington DC, Virginia and Pennsylvania all have comparable 5 or 6 percent sales taxes of their own. Our issues in dealing with this tax mean absolutely nothing to them.
Of course, get rid of the tax and we not only equal out Delaware’s advantage over us here in the east, but gain big advantages over Maryland’s surrounding states, which to me seems like it might be a pretty good idea. It’ll never happen. The dominance over state politics exhibited by the State’s central corridor is precisely why I’m always sympathetic every time I hear someone suggesting those of us on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay should form our own state. And who can ever forget former Governor William Donald Schaefer famously referring to Maryland’s Eastern Shore as a shithouse back in 1991? That’s respect for you.
Anyone else think the NBA’s Draft Lottery was rigged? The Washington Wizards, who changed their team nickname from the Bullets in 1995, partly because of concerns related to the high crime and gun violence rate in DC at the time (and not because of the obvious marketing positives of selling NBA merchandise in the inner cities with pictures of an old guy in a robe and pointy hat on it. Nothing says street cred like sporting a Gandolf jersey) had their season crash and burn after a gun incident involving their best player in their own locker room. Gilbert Arenas’ idiocy notwithstanding, long-time Washington owner (and NBA Commissioner David Stern’s buddy) Abe Polin passed away less than six weeks before the incident took place. Arenas and the Wizards were a disgrace to the league, Washington and it’s image, especially after standing around in a circle before a game playing cowboys and indians with finger pointing “gunfire” only days after the incident. Well, now, Washington, who was the fifth most likely team to win the lottery and get the top pick, actually got it. Odd, no?
Anyway, the New Jersey Nets, who were historically bad this season at 12-70, ended up with the third pick and prime in the possible bust range. That got the third horse in a two-horse race. Kentucky’s John Wall and Ohio State’s Evan Turner are the obvious one-two, and after them, it’s a guessing game. This draft is said to be deep with talented players, but it’s not without risk. It may, in fact, be one of those drafts where you’re better off picking 8-9-10 instead of 3-4-5, and let someone else nab those highly touted but risky potential guys so you won’t be tempted to. Still, it sucks to be a Nets fan. With the number one pick and John Wall coming to town, they may have had a shot at Lebron or Dwayne Wade. Now, that’s not going top happen. Sitting pretty at number two is the Philadelphia 76ers, who are guaranteed to get a very nice player to add to an already talented, if massively underachieving roster. This could be your sleeper team in the East next season.