New story on DOJ’s negotiations with JPMorgan

Have a new story up at International Business Times (IBT) on DOJ’s negotiations with JP Morgan to end DOJ’s probe of the bank for its work on behalf of Bernard Madoff.  The top of my story:

Federal prosecutors in New York are pushing for a guilty plea from JPMorgan Chase for allegedly turning a blind eye to Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, according to two law enforcement officials. They have informed their superiors in the Justice Department that they strongly oppose any settlement with the banking giant unless one of its subsidiaries pleads guilty to at least a single criminal charge.

Prosecutors advocating a guilty plea might face an uphill battle, however:

The position taken by prosecutors who work for Bharara and others in the Criminal Division in Washington may once again pit them against the highest levels of the Justice Department, who have long argued that some banks that were once “too big to fail” are also too big to face criminal charges due to the potential impact on the economy. The long-running debate over the proper punishment for these misdeeds has long stymied the aides in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York. “It does feel a lot like Groundhog Day,” said one government official involved in the matter. This time, however, they have greater optimism that they — and to their mind, the public — will prevail.

Lanny Breuer, who headed the Criminal Division until March and was in charge of prosecuting Wall Street crimes, has said decisions as to which banks to charge were based on “sober predictions that a company or bank might fail if we indict, that innocent employees could lose their jobs, that entire industries may be affected, and even that global markets will feel the effects.” His boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, has echoed those comments: “The impact on the stability of the financial markets around the world is something we take into consideration.

On the positive side, however, as I report, Breuer left the Justice Department in March.

In addition, Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, has been pushing for a more aggressive prosecutorial approach towards banks and financial institutions involved in causing the financial crisis:

Bharara has at times appeared to openly signal defiance of that doctrine: “I don’t think anyone is too big to indict — no one is too big to jail,” he declared in a July 2013 speech. Prosecutors who work for Bharara and others in D.C. hope he will now powerfully advocate their position that JPMorgan must not escape criminal charges for its involvement with Madoff.

Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg have even greater detail of this angle of the story in the New York Times:

For the government, [the case] would represent an extraordinarily rare show of force. Ever since a criminal indictment led to the demise of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, Enron’s auditor, the government has been wary of imposing criminal charges on big corporations for fear that it would imperil the institution and have ripple effects on the broader economy. Under federal guidelines, prosecutors must weigh “collateral consequences,” like job losses and economic implications, in such an action.

HSBC, for example, paid $1.9 billion to settle a money-laundering case, but the Justice Department stopped short of indicting the British bank. The case reinforced concerns that big banks, having grown so large and interconnected, are too big to indict.

Yet Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan whose office is handling the JPMorgan case, has disputed that theory. In a recent speech, Mr. Bharara said he rejected the idea from companies that “because we’re so big, to take action against us, the sky is going to fall.”

Also helping the faction in the DOJ that wants the Obama administrative and its Justice Department take a more activist stance in prosecuting Wall Street firms and banks has been a trio of Seantors:  Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).  The trio of Senators most recently flexed their muscles by torpedoing the nomination of Larry Summers to head the Federal Reserve Board.  A demand by Eric Holder and DOJ that JPMorgan plead guilty would is just the type of tough behavior that the three Senators have been pressing for.

My entire story can be found hereThe Times report is hereMatt Taibi’s take.

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Will Wendy Davis run for governor of Texas?

Wendy Davis’ conundrum:  Her heightened profile because of her pro-choice filibuster makes her a credible possibility as the Democratic party’s next gubernatorial appointee to run against Rick Perry.  But if she runs, she is likely to lose the race and also lose her State Senate seat.

Ross Ramsey, the editor of the Texas Tribune, has this analysis:

Wendy Davis is never going to see a better moment for a statewide run for office, even though the odds of a Democrat winning statewide in Texas could not be worse.

She would almost certainly lose.

There are always more reasons not to run than to run. But she has emerged as the predominant voice on an issue that pits the party in power against the party out of power…

Vexing the Republicans, frankly, is a quality she shares with none of the Democrats who have run for governor of Texas since Ann Richards: She galvanizes her supporters and makes the other team crazy. Garry Mauro, Tony Sanchez Jr., Chris Bell and Bill White had varying combinations of money, experience, skill and leadership ability. Together, they had almost enough charisma for one candidate, which made them easier for Texans to disregard. Mauro got 31.2 percent of the vote; Sanchez got 40 percent; Bell, with two major independent candidates also in the race, got 29.8 percent; and White got 42.3 percent.

Rick Perry has that same quality. His opposition can’t believe his success. They find him both irritating and hard to ignore. And the Republicans haven’t stopped voting for him since his first race under their banner in 1990.

Davis would probably be defeated in a statewide race…

She has no statewide network, and her political party doesn’t have the kind of infrastructure that parties are supposed to provide to candidates just coming into their own.

Money is a problem, though her ability to raise funds in Texas and, more importantly, from elsewhere in the country, rose tenfold over the last week. She has a hot hand right now and could put some money together.

The Republicans have the governor — if he decides to run again… political infrastructure, lots of money ($18 million at the end of the year) and a party behind him that hasn’t lost a statewide election since 1994.

A bettor would have to go with the Republicans.

The Democrats, meanwhile, need to steal a page from the other party. The Texas GOP ran decent candidates for years through the late 1970s and into the 1980s, hoping that one might break through. Most lost. Most expected to. Bill Clements, a rich oilman, broke through the wall unexpectedly in 1978, and a scandal on the Texas Supreme Court started helping some Republican judges succeed on the ballot.

Their other candidates — the George Strakes and the Rob Mosbachers and so on — never made it to statewide office. The odds changed as the state changed, largely in reaction to national politics. Part of the Republican success of the moment in Texas is tied to the unpopularity of Barack Obama. Every Republican on the ticket, or who wants to be on the ticket, has the president in the first or second paragraph of every press release and fundraising appeal.

2014 would be challenging even if the Democrats were somewhat competitive.

Davis and her advisers have to weigh all of that. The party elders, if they are still talking to each other, have to figure out how to get candidates on the ballot who can actually get some public attention and keep the argument going — even if they lose their elections.

It would be better for Davis to get this sort of acclaim from Democrats at a time when Democrats had a decent shot at office in Texas. It’s her bad luck that she’s the fastest runner on a team that can’t seem to find its way to the track.

Some observations of my own:  I wouldn’t pretend to know a scintilla of what Ross Ramsey knows about Texas politics.  But I would argue that Barack Obama’s unpopularity in the sate is less a cause but rather a symptom of why a Democrat would face an uphill battle to be elected governor.  Those would include:  The long-term, three-decade long trending of the state to red over decades (although some predict the state turning increasingly purple).  The outsized influence of the Texas Association of Business (TAB) and other interest groups that fund Perry and other conservative Republican candidates.  Tom Delay’s successful and illegal scheme to take over the state legislature, which in turn also allowed the legislature to reapportion the state U.S. House seats, consolidating power further for conservatives.  (After engaging in money laundering and illegally accepting corporate money to fund the scheme,  Republicans gained control of the Texas House of Representatives for the first time in 130 years.  The legislature then  redrew he state’s congressional districts in 2003 in such a way that Texas Republicans gained five more Republicans seats in Congress in 2004.  Not much understood about that effort was not just that it led to a Republican take over a and consolidation of power of the legislature, but that Delay, the TAB, and others involved eased out more moderate Republicans for much more conservative state legislators.   Texas’ politics have never been the same since.)  And Rick Perry’s formidable fundraising advantage– further enhanced by the alleged propensity by Perry and his top aides to cut ethical corners to raise campaign funds, as demonstrated by this story I wrote with Peter Henderson for Reuters.

By even running for governor and losing, Davis would enhance her profile, both state-wide and nationally, even more a reason she might just run.  But earlier today and tonight, I either spoke or emailed with three former or current legislators who knows Davis, and two state legislative staffers who either know her or have worked with her.  The majority view– or near consensus– is that Davis loves being a legislator.  They don’t think she would too easily give that up.

Update (7/2/13)– What if she were to run again Perry in 2014?

According to Politico:

Despite spending a week in the national news for her high-profile filibuster, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis faces an uphill battle if she were to run against Gov. Rick Perry in 2014, a new poll finds.

Voters prefer Perry over the Democrat in a gubernatorial matchup next year 53 percent to 39 percent, according to Democratic firm Public Policy Polling’s survey.

Perry would also best Democratic San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, 50-43; Houston mayor Annise Parker, 52-35; and Bill White, Perry’s last general-election opponent, 50-40…

Perry has not said whether he plans to run for reelection. His decision was expected by July 1, but he said it would be delayed after he called the state Legislature back into a special session. If he does not run, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is considered a likely nominee by many in Austin.

Those Democrats would not fare much better in a match-up with Abbott for governor next year, the poll says. Voters would prefer Abbott to Davis, 48-40; Castro, 48-34; Parker, 50-31; and White, 48-36.

Perry to say on Monday whether he is running for re-election.

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Ecuador: Edward Snowden’s new home censors, jails reporters; closes newspapers

From an old story on Global Post on Ecuador granting Julian Assange assylum:

[A]ccording to numerous international and Ecuadorean human rights and press freedom groups, that is exactly the scenario now unfolding in the tiny South American nation whose support the 41-year-old Australian was eulogizing.

They accuse President Rafael Correa, who last week granted asylum to Assange, of a campaign of intimidation and harassment against any media that have dared to criticize his administration.

The attacks have included the closure of radio stations and magazines, lawsuits resulting in jail terms, and constant verbal broadsides against journalists.

Correa’s detractors claim these have created a climate of fear and self-censorship — and even put lives in danger.

“The government is clearly inciting violence against journalists,” Juan Carlos Calderon, editor of investigative news magazine Vanguardia, told GlobalPost. “And there is a fear of being sued by the government. Bear in mind that the government totally controls the judiciary. Correa uses the courts like a whip. Many media have decided to just survive, and are not doing investigative journalism.”

Also this:

The president routinely refers to journalists in general as “liars,” “corrupt,” “mediocre” and, most creative of all, “ink murderers.” In recent months, he has taken to targeting individual reporters on TV, brandishing their photos, Ricaurte said.

Predictably perhaps, there have been a series of unresolved threats and attacks on journalists, including the slaying of photographer Byron Baldeon last month, the first killing of a journalist in Ecuador in years.

The murder appears to be the work of organized crime, angry at being exposed by Baldeon. Nevertheless, Ricaurte believes the killers may have been emboldened by the government’s hostile rhetoric.

Separately, the Correa administration has come out with a raft of laws making it all but impossible for independent journalists to carry out their work.

One bans electoral coverage “in favor of, or against” a candidate, party or political philosophy. Another prevents anyone owning 6 percent or more of a news outlet from having other economic interests, throttling the flow of private investment to journalism here.

More from Buzzfeed:

Last Friday, Ecuador legislature passed a restrictive media law by a 108-26 margin that was heralded by the country’s President Rafael Correa.

The bill contained 119 articles, according to a report from the Associated Press, one of which outlawed so-called “media lynching” which the law stated was having negative effect on person or institutions image without sufficient evidence. Criminal charges can be brought against journalists who violate the law.

And more about that new law:

Creating official media overseers, imposing sanctions for smearing “people’s good name” and limiting private media to one third of radio and TV licenses, Ecuador’s congress on Friday passed a restrictive new media law championed by President Rafael Correa.

The country’s privately owned media, which is largely in opposition hands, joined press freedom groups in calling the bill an authoritarian measure to control dissent.

It passed by a 108-26 margin in the Correa-controlled congress.

Its sponsor, lawmaker Mauro Andino, said the proposal would protect freedom of speech, but “with a focus on everybody’s rights, not just for a group of the privileged.”

Carlos Lauria, Americas director of the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists, said the legislation “could severely limited freedom of expression” by giving the government ample discretion to sanction dissenters and thus “opens the door to government censorship of the press.”

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Just How Good is Ben Revere?

Just how good is Ben Revere?  If you don’t already know, watch this:

watch?v=L4Wt9xwbRno

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4Wt9xwbRno

The Phillies have had a tradition of strong defense up the middle and especially in center field that has been the core of their success.  They have had two of the best defensive center fielders in modern baseball history: Former Secretary of Defense Gary Maddux and the recently departed Shane Victorino.  While watching Rever’s highlight reel, he reminds one of watching Mike Trout, Victorino– and when he goes back on the ball– does one dear say?– Willy Mays.  He even engages in some Ozzie Smith type acrobatics from time to time which one does not see in outfielders.

That all being said, the Phillies gave up a king’s ransom to get Revere– something not addressed at all by any sportswriter or Phillies blogger that I read.  More soon.

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Video for my recent Boston Globe story

Uploaded on this post is video for my recent Boston Globe story:

It seemed like a minor adjustment. To comply with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in 2003, the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics said it needed to revise its birth certificate forms for babies born to same-sex couples. The box for “father” would be relabeled “father or second parent,’’ reflecting the new law.

But to then-Governor Mitt Romney, who opposed child-rearing by gay couples, the proposal symbolized unacceptable changes in traditional family structures.

He rejected the Registry of Vital Records plan and insisted that his top legal staff individually review the circumstances of every birth to same-sex parents. Only after winning approval from Romney’s lawyers could hospital officials and town clerks across the state be permitted to cross out by hand the word “father’’ on individual birth certificates, and then write in “second parent,’’ in ink…

More:

The practice of requiring high-level legal review continued for the rest of Romney’s term, despite a warning from a Department of Public Health lawyer who said such a system placed the children of same-sex parents at an unfair disadvantage.

Crossouts and handwritten alterations constituted “violations of existing statutes’’ and harmed “the integrity of the vital record-keeping system,’’ the deputy general counsel of the department, Peggy Wiesenberg, warned in a confidential Dec. 13, 2004, memo to Mark Nielsen, Romney’s general counsel.

The changes also would impair law enforcement and security efforts in a post-9/11 world, she said, and children with altered certificates would be likely to “encounter [difficulties] later in life . . . as they try to register for school, or apply for a passport or a driver’s license, or enlist in the military, or register to vote.”

The video I am now putting up is for this portion of the story:

The next month, Romney delivered remarks before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington in which he decried the state Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling and its effect on child-rearing. He outlined his misgivings about the request from the Registry of Vital Records.

“The children of America have the right to have a father and a mother,’’ Romney said in his prepared remarks. “What should be the ideal for raising a child? Not a village, not ‘parent A’ and ‘parent B,’ but a mother and a father.’’

Romney also warned about the societal impact of gay parents raising children. “Scientific studies of children raised by same-sex couples are almost nonexistent,’’ he said. “It may affect the development of children and thereby future society as a whole.’’

Romney expressed similar beliefs during a speech in 2005 to socially conservative voters in South Carolina, as he was beginning to be viewed as a serious candidate for president.

“Some gays are actually having children born to them,’’ he declared. “It’s not right on paper. It’s not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and father.’’

Video of Romney’s remarks in Spartanburg, South Carolina and his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee can be found here:

A truncated video clip of Romney’s remarks in South Carolina is here:

Earlier, also in the Boston Globe, “No mention of ‘Bisexual’, “Transgender’ Under Romney,” June 12, 2012.

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Unspeakably Sad…

From the NYT:

“Anthony Shadid, a gifted foreign correspondent whose graceful dispatches for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Associated Press covered nearly two decades of Middle East conflict and turmoil, died, apparently of an asthma attack, on Thursday while on a reporting assignment in Syria. Tyler Hicks, a Times photographer who was with Mr. Shadid, carried his body across the border to Turkey.

Mr. Shadid, 43, had been reporting inside Syria for a week, gathering information on the Free Syrian Army and other armed elements of the resistance to the government of President Bashar al-Assad, whose military forces have been engaged in a harsh repression of the political opposition in a conflict that is now nearly a year old.

The Syrian government, which tightly controls foreign journalists’ activities in the country, had not been informed of his assignment by The Times.

The exact circumstances of Mr. Shadid’s death and his precise location inside Syria when it happened were not immediately clear.

But Mr. Hicks said that Mr. Shadid, who had asthma and had carried medication with him, began to show symptoms as both of them were preparing to leave Syria on Thursday, and the symptoms escalated into what became a fatal attack. Mr. Hicks telephoned his editors at The Times, and a few hours later he was able to take Mr. Shadid’s body into Turkey.

Jill Abramson, the executive editor, informed the newspaper’s staff Thursday evening in an e-mail. “Anthony died as he lived — determined to bear witness to the transformation sweeping the Middle East and to testify to the suffering of people caught between government oppression and opposition forces,” she wrote…”

His obit in the Times.

Steve Coll in the New Yorker:  “The foreboding and ambivalence that the characters he wrote about expressed was striking at the time, but as the years have passed and Iraq’s initial crisis has yielded to the ambiguous mess we know today, it is evident that the middle-class, unofficial, urban Iraqis he chronicled had envisioned their own future very accurately. As in so many other cases, Shadid was willing to sit still, away from the main story, and listen.”

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/02/postscript-anthony-shadid-1968-2012.html#ixzz1me3QdNtn

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New Reuters Story: Obama, Politicians Refuse to Give Back Allen Stanford donations

Have a new story out on Reuters:

(Reuters) – National fundraising committees for the Democratic and Republican parties, President Barack Obama, and other major politicians have declined to return campaign donations totaling $1.8 million from Houston financier R. Allen Stanford, now on trial for allegedly masterminding a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

The court-appointed receiver charged with returning money to Stanford investors obtained a federal court order last June against five Democratic and Republican campaigns. But they haven’t returned the money. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee received $950,500; the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), $238,500; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, $200,000; the Republican National Committee $128,500, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) $83,345.

The contributions to the campaign committees and candidates were given by Stanford himself, Stanford executives, and a political action committee associated with the financier.

The receiver, Ralph Janvey, is also trying to claw back money Stanford donated to individual politicians. The list of his recipients reads like a who’s who of Washington, including President Obama – who received $4,600 from Stanford in his 2008 election campaign – Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), the chairman of the NRCC, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. Janvey is seeking these funds informally, and has not filed lawsuits.

Money has already been returned by House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. John McCain, among others. But the roughly $154,000 recovered from elected officials is a fraction of the $1.8 million still outstanding.

The $4,600 Janvey is seeking from the Obama campaign reflects only direct contributions from Allen Stanford himself. The total may be as high $31,000 when Stanford’s contributions to Obama’s other campaign committees are included, along with money from senior Stanford executives, and the Stanford Financial Group’s now defunct PAC, according to campaign finance records and an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

“ROBS THE STORE”

The Obama campaign donated the $4,600 contribution to charity on February 18, 2009, just days after Stanford’s alleged fraud came to light. The Obama campaign officially has no comment on the matter, but a source familiar with the campaign’s thinking told Reuters that it does not intend to return the money to the receiver or Stanford investors.

Read the rest of the story here.  Read my last story on Stanford here.  Also Slate, Daily Beast, and Daily Caller.

Other Reuters Stories by Murray Waas:

Murray Waas, “Obama, Politicians Decline to Return Campaign Contributions,” Reuters, Feb. 13, 2012.

Murray Waas, “How Allen Stanford Kept the SEC at Bay,” Reuters, Jan. 26, 2012.

Murray Waas(with editing by Claudia Parsons), “Disgraced John Ensign Back in Legal Jeopardy,” Reuters, May 26, 2011.

Murray Waas, “Tea Party Candidates Only a Democrat Could Love,” Reuters, Oct. 27, 2010.

Nick Carey and Murray Waas, “Virginia Veteran Report Shows High Depression Rate,” Reuters, Sept. 27, 2010.

Murray Waas (with editing by Jim Impoco), “Wellpoint Routinely Treats Breast Cancer Patients,” Reuters, April 24, 2010.

Murray Waas (with Lewis Krauskopf), “Insurer Targeted HIV Patients to Drop Coverage,” Reuters, March 17, 2010.

Murray Waas, “Insurer Targeted HIV Patients to Drop Coverage,” Reuters, March 17, 2010.

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Fired Bush-Era U.S. Attorneys Have Interesting New Assignments

Paul Charlton, the former U.S. Attorney for Arizona, fired by the Bush administration,  according to the Arizona Daily Star, has an interesting new gig:

The family of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry has retained former Arizona U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton to determine if there is any legal action to take in connection with his slaying.

Charlton, Arizona U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2007, said the Terry family asked him to review the facts surrounding the events that led to Brian Terry being killed on Dec. 14 in a shootout with suspected border bandits near Rio Rico.

Two Romanian-made assault rifles were recovered at the scene that are believed to have been sold to straw buyers in Phoenix and tracked into Mexico under a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Mexican gun-smuggling investigation, according to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., have led an inquiry into the ATF operation, called “Fast and Furious,” leading to a June 15 hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

At that hearing, ATF special agent John Dodson told members of Congress on Wednesday that ATF agents in Arizona regularly allowed guns to be bought that they knew would be delivered to Mexican cartel members.

Charlton said he will be reviewing all the facts surrounding the events of Terry’s death, including which weapons were used in the shootout and where they came from.

“How those weapons got there are obviously going to be very important to us,” said Charlton, who is now a lawyer with the Gallagher & Kennedy law firm in Phoenix.


Meanwhile, Todd Graves, the fired U.S. Attorney from Kansas City, Missouri,  and who I profiled shortly after his firing became known, also has a new assignment, according to the Kansas City Star:

After enduring three weeks of criticism over its response to sex crimes allegations, the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese on Thursday appointed a former U.S. attorney to investigate how it handled such cases.

Bishop Robert W. Finn said the appointment was one of five points in a sweeping plan to deal with recent alleged sexual misconduct in the diocese.

Todd Graves, who was U.S. attorney for western Missouri, has been named to conduct an independent investigation of issues related to a priest charged with possessing child pornography.

In addition, Graves will lead a review of the diocesan ethical code of conduct and sexual misconduct policies.


As I have reported at length at this blog, and for the Atlantic, as best that I know,  none of the careers of the nine has suffered because of the firings.  In fact, most of the fired have had their reputations enhanced– with the exception perhaps of Kevin Ryan, of San Francisco, who was actually fried for good reason.
One of the fired nine, Dan Bogden, actually got reappointed to his old job by the Obama administration, as I first wrote for the Atlantic.
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The Phillies need to trade for Ryan Ludwick NOW

I am not sure why the management of the Philadelphia Phillies have not been taking my advice on this.  True, they have one of the best foursome of starting pitchers ever in the history of baseball– albeit, Roy Oswalt might be seriously hurt.  But Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Holladay, are a trio for the history books.  They will win a lot of games without much offense and  the team right now has the best record in baseball.

But their offense this season is pitiful.  You can’t have a great team where your corner outfielders are not producing.  Raul Ibanez is way past his prime, Bren Francisco is not cutting it, and Dominic Brown might light fire, but that is far from clear.  Had the team been smart in the preseason, they might have been able to have gotten Hunter Pence, Carlos Quentin, or Lance Berkman, and be ten games ahead of any other team in the majors.  Those players are not available, but Ryan Ludwick still is… and he is the perfect fit for the Phillies.

Let’s start with his spectacular defense.  Shane Victorino in center field is one of the great defensive outfielders in the game.  And Werth, before he defected, was far above average.  But Raul Ibanez, in left, is only getting older each day and is currently ranked one of the worst fielding left fielders in the game:  He doesn’t make a lot of errors, but his range is now poor.  And even if were hitting— which is he not– he should be relegated to part time or platoon work for his defensive work alone.

The Phillies are one of the best defensive teams in baseball:  Short stop Jimmy Rollins is a former gold glover and still one of the premier defensive short stops in the game, Polanco at third is great, Utley is way above average, and Ruiz is one of the great defensive catchers in the game.  Add Ludwick to Victorino in outfield and you have one of the best fielding teams in baseball, if not the best.

Opposing batters put the ball in play less than players facing any other teams— Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Madson, Bastardo, and Stutes strike out about one batter, or even more, for every inning they pitch..  Therefore, when defensive wizzards like Victorino and Ruiz and Rollins do their thing they have fewer runners on base to contend with. That is, I believe at the core, of the Phillies’ success. Erase Ibabez in left field, and add Ludwick, and you are helping the team exponentially with their defense.

Offensivley, Ludwick is at a minimum going to hit .260 or .270 with 15 to 20 homeruns. That is such an upgrad over Raul Ibanez or Ben Francisco that it seems insane that the Phillies already don’t have Ludwick.  Bite the bullet– give up a prospect or two.  And the Phillies won’t have to give up a top flight prospect because Ludwick’s contract is over this year and without being able to keep him beyond this season, no team is going to give the Paders that much.  Supposedly, the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds are in the hunt too, but it is hard to believe they would give up all that much for Ludwick.

But consider this: In 2008, not that long ago, Ludwick hit .299, 37 HR, and 113 RBI, along with 40 doubles to go to boot.  That might have been an outlier season.  But is it similar to Jayson Werth’s best season. The difference is that the Phillies lost Werth to the Nationals who now pay the former Philie $22 million a year, while Ludwick would cost the Phillies the equivalent of about half of the five million to six million is still owed over the course of the rest of this season.  (Ludwick’s contract is over at the end of this season.)  And if Ludwick were to simply have an average season, belting 15-18 home runs, while playing his stellar defense, the Phillies investment in him is well deserved.  If the Phillies like how Ludwick plays, they could try and sign him to a long term contract during the season or sign him as a free agent in the off season. On thing is not in doubt:  In the meantime, he will helped the Phillies win a pennant– and maybe even a World Series.

But even if Ludwick has even a mediocre season, he is going to win a lot of ballgames for the Phillies.

And one last thing to consider:   Ryan Howard is faltering with anyone substantial hitting behind him. Ibanez and Francisco do nothing to intimidate opposing pitchers to throw strikes to Howard  Ludwick would.

Finally, there is some talk about the Phillies get Josh Willingham or Mike Cuddeyer.   Willingham is a bad idea… more on that later. Cuddyer might fit, but in terms of value, he has far less for the Phillies than Ludwick.

For more information, see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Was a DOJ probe of an allegedly corrupt Congressman compromised? New story in the Hill.

Just out. Long piece I wrote, in this morning’s Hill Continue reading

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