Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In praise of Joe Posnanski

I love reading Joe Posnanski's blog, and I can't wait to read his book on the '75 Reds.  He is both a great writer and someone who understands what he's writing about, which is a wonderful and noteworthy combination.  I decided to write this because of a small paragraph in a recent post:

The only quarterback taken who became a regular starter was Jake Plummer, who for me had this Memento effect. That is to say, every year Plummer would be starting for the Broncos or Cardinals or whoever, and I would think: “Oh, Plummer’s pretty good.” And then I would watch him play again, and I would remember: “Oh yeah, he is NOT actually pretty good.” And I would think that I should probably tattoo “Plummer is not good” on my arm somewhere.

How great is that?  Aside from the fact that I felt exactly the same way about Plummer (although I'm still convinced he was good), it's just such great imagery.  It's fitting that Kyle Orton has gone to the Broncos to fill Plummer's shoes because I'm equally deluded about Orton's ability.  And I'm not even a Broncos fan, which is perhaps for the best.

[My favorite baseball team was the Reds, although I'm too young to remember living through their great mid-70s teams.  Of course I remember the 1990 championship team, but I still don't understand how they beat the A's.  At the time, it was obviously considered an upset ("Cincinnati, the champions of baseball for 1990...with an improbable sweep over Oakland!!!"), but looking back on it it's even more astonishing.

The A's had Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave/Rickey Henderson, Willie McGee (I completely forgot he was on this team, if I ever knew at all), Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, and Dennis Eckersley.

The Reds had ... Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, Paul O'Neill, Chris Sabo, Billy Hatcher, Jose Rijo, Danny Jackson, and the Nasty Boys.

There just wasn't anything that memorable about this Reds team.  Barry Larkin is the only player who can reasonably expect to be in the Hall of Fame, but he was never as glamorous as Ozzie Smith or Cal Ripken or Robin Yount.  The Nasty Boys were of course very good, but not in comparison to Eckersley, I don't think.  The most memorable player on the team, for me, was Eric Davis.  I was always fond of Davis, especially because he always seemed to destroy the Phillies - I remember reading headlines about 'Eric the Red' on the back page of the Trentonian.  I don't know if he was especially good against the Phillies or if the Phillies were especially bad, but it seemed that Davis could (and did) beat them single-handedly.   Don't disabuse me with statistics if my memory is faulty.

It's probably unfair to ding Larkin for not being glamorous.  It seems that people are coming around to viewing him as one of the greatest shortstops of all time.  And maybe it's unfair to hold the 1990 team to the standards of perhaps the greatest team of all time, but I can't get over the fact that this is the magazine cover celebrating my favorite team's most recent championship:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Simple Goldman question

After reading the SEC's complaint against Goldman Sachs, as well as a decent amount of coverage (much of it by Felix Salmon), I can't understand one large aspect:

Why is this an SEC action, rather than private actions against Goldman (raised by ACA, IKB, and maybe ABN)?

Obviously I'm uninformed, but my brief thoughts are:

  1. Goldman wins this case.  It's not at all clear to me that they violated securities regulations.
  2. It seems that ACA was the misled party here, and that they would have never allowed their valuable name to be used in Goldman's marketing materials had they known they were effectively endorsing the short side of the portfolio.  They also come out looking badly in this, in terms of their role as a collateral manager.  It seems they're saying something like, "We would have worked much harder at choosing the reference securities if we knew that the sponsor wasn't going long."   
  3. Lack of illegal behavior doesn't imply lack of bad behavior.  I've got to imagine that Goldman is going to client relationships in the wake of this mess.  As Bond Girl says, "why the hell would anyone want to be a client of Goldman Sachs after reading this?" 
  4. I wonder what Buffett is thinking.  He's got one bad experience with Salomon Brothers under his belt.  Remember his famous testimony to congress, as quoted by Bloomberg:
``I want to find out exactly what happened in the past so that this stain is borne by the guilty few and removed from the innocent,'' he told Congress. He testified that he told his employees: ``Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.''

 I hope that Buffett discusses this in this year's shareholders' meeting.