Monday, October 10, 2005

Grasping For A Harriet Miers Analogy

To help you fully understand my position on George W. Bush’s nomination of his personal legal counsel Harriet Miers to a seat on the Supreme Court, I have to take a paragraph or two to discuss a game called Strat-O-Matic Baseball.

Strat-O-Matic, or Strato, is a simulated baseball game using one red die, two white dice, charts for fielding and baserunning, and individual cards that reflect each player’s statistics for the previous year. There are three columns on each card: The hitters’ columns are numbered 1, 2, and 3; the pitchers’ 4, 5, and 6. Under each column is a list of 11 possible baseball results (strikeout, single, groundout, etc) numbered 2-12. Let’s say Bob Gibson is pitching to Carl Yastrzemski, and you roll a 4 on your red die and a total of 7 on the two white dice. You look under Gibson’s 4 column, find the 7, and note that Yaz has struck out.

That’s Strato in a nutshell. Every year you can buy all the major league teams from the previous year, replay the whole season or part of it, trade players between teams without hurting anyone’s feelings, and jot it all down in a notebook—or, if you played as much as I did, in dozens of notebooks.

Basically, playing Strato is how I spent a great deal of my time from eighth grade on through college. I was the manager of 24 big-league teams, and even though I had unlimited power to throw games, make lopsided trades, or shred the cards of players I didn’t like, I maintained the integrity of the game by keeping it as realistic as possible. There were no light-hitting shortstops batting cleanup in my leagues, no iron-horse pitchers throwing all four games of a series.

It was a clean game, by golly. I wouldn’t let myself play favorites.

But usually, somewhere late in the season, I’d get the urge to do something a little strange—and usually it involved giving some lame middle reliever a spot start, even though he had a horrendous ERA, an embarrassing strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a tendency to give up a couple of home runs every time he pitched. We’ll call this incredibly luckless pitcher Harry Myers.

Harry would spend most of the season in the bullpen, only coming in to get some mop-up work in games his team was leading or trailing by ten runs or so. I wouldn’t put him in a close game because it’d look like I was throwing the game to the other side. He was just there to fill out the 25-man roster.

But then once in a blue moon, just to see what would happen, I’d let Harry Myers start a game. The imaginary fans would go berserk: What’s Myers doing in there? What’s the manager thinking? Who in their freaking right mind thinks this weenie-armed righthander deserves a start?!

At no time did Harry Myers ever reward my confidence—he always got shelled. There was a possibility, of course, that the dice could have fallen the right way every time and he could have defied the odds by twirling a three-hit shutout. But he never did. In the whole league, there were dozens of middle relievers who would have performed better in a spot start—but in my more impish moments, I decided to start the worst possible pitcher.

So I don’t know if Harriet Miers would be a good Supreme Court justice or not. She’s been quoted as saying George W. Bush is the smartest man she’s ever met, which would seem to indicate she’s not that bright herself (that or she’s carrying one hell of a torch). All I know is that this nomination is the work of a complete dingleberry, a guy who’s just screwing around, a guy who won’t put out the slightest mental effort to do the right thing. From Iraq to the Supreme Court, he’s like a kid who starts playing with a chemistry set without reading the instructions: “Let’s see what I happens when I do this!”

You think there might be a handful of brilliant, experienced jurists with slightly better qualifications than Harriet Miers? Two or three, maybe? It doesn’t matter to this president. At least when I started a goofball pitcher in a game of Strato, it had no effect on the other 250 million Americans.

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