Why They Hate Us, Chapter XXXXVIX MCMLXIX(Presidents and Ballplayers Edition)


"The premise," writes Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times, "divide up all MLB history by presidential administrations, find the ballplayer from that era who is most similar to the president, and explain the comparisons…. The downside is that it runs the risk of becoming political. The point of this is to be fun, not to get people caught up in some damn debate. Still, I want to get the guys who I think are good comps."

Jaffe runs the risk of "becoming political" with all the dexterity of Prince Fielder and does indeed start the sort of conversation that may just never end. His first comparison:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-45)/Ernie Lombardi

In 1921, when he was an up-and-coming politician still in his late 30s, FDR came down with polio. It cost him the ability to walk. Through arduous physical therapy, he made a modest improvement. He could walk short distances, and even give a speech standing, provided he either clung to the podium for dear life or had an assistant standing next to him.

In other words, it's even money who would win a foot race between these two.

That's terrible, but Lombardi was the slowest player in baseball history. People tell tales about how he'd be thrown out at first on balls hit to left field.

Both these men helped make history in 1940. FDR became the first man to win a third presidential term, and Lombardi is the only Hall of Famer from the Reds' first world championship.

Willard Hershberger, Lombardi's backup became the first (and still only) baseball player to commit suicide mid-season in that campaign. A few years later, FDR installed James Forrestal in his cabinet. While serving as Secretary of Defense under Truman, Forrestal became the first and only cabinet member to commit suicide.

I'll only point out that the best thing about the above comparison between Roosevelt and "The Schnozz" is that FDR dinna like no Italians so much, whom he referred to as a "bunch of opera singers."

To whom does Jaffe compare Clinton? George W. Bush? Gerald Ford? Find out here.

And this seems like a good time to remind readers of the great corporate welfare scam that is taxpayer-financed stadiums:

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  1. Your numerals make no sense, Nick.
    “A” for effort, “F” for execution.
    May I suggest MCMLXIX?

  2. Ok this was priceless, for W:

    “I originally planned to make it Juan Gonzalez (both in Texas in the 1990s and very well-regarded, both have seen their value crumble in the new century, both rely very heavily on bombs)”

  3. whom he referred to as a “bunch of opera singers.”

    how can anyone not see that as a compliment?

  4. I’ll agree with the Jeter/Clinton comparison. “Everyone” loves Jeter, all the while a die hard few (such as myself) are driven mad by the fact that nobody seems to see that he is one of the worst shortstops (defensively) in baseball.

  5. Oh, plus he’s banged every starlet from New York to LA.

  6. he is one of the worst shortstops (defensively) in baseball.

    I haven’t watched baseball in over a decade, so I ask you naively and honestly: Is he another Ryan Sandberg? That guy got gold glove after gold glove because he didn’t commit many errors. Why didn’t he? Because you can’t boot what you can’t get to. His range was [where he was standing]+[1 step in any direction]. Even on a slow chopper.

  7. May I suggest MCMLXIX?

    That would be LBJ not FDR
    I suggest MCMXXXIII

  8. DOH!

    LBJ = RMN

  9. If you’re into Sabermetrics, Bill James did a nice investigation into his defensive ability:

    This is also a good study of shortstops that shows Jeter’s piss-poor performance:

    DER is Defense Efficiency Ratio which is the number of playable batted balls that the fielders successfully turned into outs.

    Finally, if you head over to and search for “Derek Jeter”, you’ll find plenty of examples of his crappiness.

  10. Oh, and that’s Ryne Sandberg.

  11. Legate Damar (or, should I say, Joe Morgan? Your pseudonym doesn’t fool me):

    I don’t know how often you got to watch Sandberg play, but empirical evidence suggests you’re wrong. Sandberg’s career range factor was 5.10 while the league average for second basemen is 4.47. According to, Sandberg “may have had the best range of any second baseman in the last 50 years.” Your confusion likely stems from the fact that Sandberg didn’t dive for balls. Of course, it’s debatable whether diving actually gets you to balls faster than not diving, and it sure makes it harder to throw guys out when moving to your right.

  12. I loved Sandberg but he did win some of those gold gloves with his bat…

    Check out 1989…Sandberg v. Oquendo
    Sandberg: Range Factor 4.90
    Oquendo: Range Factor 5.42

    Oquendo had 52 more putouts, 34 more assists and turned 26 more double plays while making only 5 errors…

    Deciding factor? Oquendo 1 Home Run…Sandberg 30…

  13. I loved Sandberg but he did win some of those gold gloves with his bat…

    Oh, I agree. Remember, a Gold Glove was awarded to Rafael Palmeiro in a year that he played a whopping 28 games in the field. But at least Ryno was still an excellent fielder when he won his hardware; Jeter, on the other hand, isn’t even close. If he played for any team other than the Yankees, he’d be the shortstop equivalent of Ray Durham.

  14. Agreed…and I’m not knocking Sandberg…best overall 2B of his era and deserving HOF’er. I just wish the guys handing out the awards would actually watch a few games and not just fill in the name of the guy that won it last year! (LOL on Palmeiro…I’d forgotten that!)

  15. Nixon = McLain. Sweet.

  16. This kind is clearly a Democrat who wrote this piece. Just look at his Reagan/Nolan Ryan comparison. In writing about both guys’ downsides he said Reagan’s economic polices caused deficits. He then pontificates that when America’s final history is written they will decide our inability to pay for things. Hey asshole, all president and congresses overspend. You don’t get things you can’t afford, that will be our undoing.

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