Fantasy Baseball Sleepers for 2010

Speaking of topics that might be too “inside-baseball” for a blog post…

I really, really enjoy playing fantasy baseball. Baseball’s rich history of statistics, large selection of teams and players, and long season make it perfect for fantasy sports. I enjoy fantasy baseball so much that the other day I left a Planned Parenthood cocktails party/fundraiser event my roommate had organized in order to draft a fantasy baseball team, abandoning a swanky bar full of single, attractive, liberal women and a group of close friends, including one who was visiting from Brazil, so that I could steal internet from the Apple Store, create a pretend baseball team composed of Miguel Cabrera, Matt Kemp, and C.C. Sabathia, and subject myself to manically refreshing box scores all summer, praying for Carl Crawford to get just one more stolen base on a Sunday night.

Fantasy baseball isn’t won with players like Cabrera, Sabathia, or Crawford, however. The good teams are composed in part with All-Stars selected early on Draft Day, and in part with “sleeper picks” selected late in drafts and pick-ups throughout the season. The winning manager is the one who picked up Adrian Beltre during his torrid 2004 contract year, snagged Ryan Braun off waivers his rookie season en route to 34 home runs, or drafted Tommy Hanson last year to enjoy 14 wins and a terrific 2.51 ERA.

Now that I’ve drafted in both of my leagues (one for APDA, one for Tenafly), it’s safe to reveal some of my sleeper picks for this year:

Pitchers

1) Wade Davis, a young right-handed pitcher for the Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays.

According to FanGraphs.com, Wade Davis throws a solid 92 mph fastball, though he can dial it up to 94-96 mph when he needs to. His complete repertoire of pitches includes a changeup, a slider, a cutter, and a curveball. When called up last September, Davis recorded 2 wins and a 3.72 ERA in 6 starts. Nothing dazzling, but once you remove his horrible start against the Boston Red Sox, it shrinks to a 1.90 ERA. Not a terrific spring training, but I think a solid 3.50 ERA is within reach, and you’ll do well if you don’t start him against top offenses. Joe Niemann is another very interesting Rays pitcher to look at, with less dominance but better command.

2) Brett Anderson, left-handed ground-ball pitcher for the Oakland Athletics.

Brett’s average draft position (ADP) is 135.83 in CBS Sports fantasy leagues, but his numbers last year suggest he’ll do well. In the second half he posted a 3.02 ERA with an impressive 8.7 strikeout rate (K/9) and impeccable command (4.3 K/BB). I’m higher on Brett than Wade, and 15 wins with a 3.50 ERA is likely.

3) Neftali Feliz, a fireballing righty from the Texas Rangers.

Feliz is not lacking in skill, with a fastball that routinely tops 100 mph and a knee-buckling 78 mph curve. His ratios hold their own against Tim Lincecum’s. The only thing missing is a producing role–right now he doesn’t have a starting pitcher job. Frank Francisco is the Rangers’ closer (and a good draft pick as well), but if his health fails him as it has in the past, or if his fly-ball rate causes him to lose his job, Feliz is right there to replace him and managers should be ready to pick him up, or have him stashed away and helping with ERA, Ks, and WHIP in the meantime.

Hitters

1) Howie Kendrick. 2B, LA/Anaheim Angels.

I am high on Howie Kendrick, who was a top prospect in the Angels organization for many years, and batted .350 in the second half of last year. I’m a sucker for average, and he can easily hit over .300 with a dozen or more home runs and some decent speed. If he continues to meet his potential, a season .330 is possible, which isn’t bad for an oft-undrafted second-basemen. He’ll allow you to invest in other positions.

2) Jason Heyward. OF, Atlanta Braves.

At least one player in every fantasy league knows about Jason Heyward, the next coming of Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr., and/or Hank Aaron. Might as well make it you. He’s had a torrid spring training, with a 1.037 OPS (on-base plus slugging), and his homeruns have been leaving the park and destroying cars in the parking lot. Excellent plate discipline. You want him on your team when his bat starts destroying opposing pitchers’ ERAs. Moderate your high expectations for a 35 HR 100 RBI season–.280/22/80 is more reasonable, with huge upside–but prepare to enjoy watching him play as the Braves’ starting right fielder. Buy his rookie card and hope his first season in the bigs turns out better than that of uber-prospects Alex Gordon and Matt Wieters last year.

3) Chris Davis. 1B/3B, Texas.

A year ago I drafted Davis and Mark Reynolds, hoping for one of them to turn into a slightly better batting average version of Adam Dunn–high strikeouts, low batting average, but monster power numbers. Reynolds did that, belting 44 HRs last year while stealing 24 bases. This year Reynolds is too expensive for my taste, but Davis is still available thanks to a first half last year that hovered just above the Mendoza line. He was sent down, and when he came back up, he magically hit .298. This spring he’s got a batting average over .350. In 2008 he hit .294 with 36 homeruns, so owners should float a buck (or a late draft pick) on a sleeping giant who can potentially produce a 40 HR season and be this year’s Mark Reynolds–one year late. The tell-tale sign will be his successes (or lack thereof) against lefty pitchers.

Players who are ripe for a rebound

Don’t forget former aces, first-rounders, and/or top sleepers who experienced an injury or down year, who will slip down in the drafts,  if not the minds of some owners entirely! The ones who start the season injured can still help your team come playoff-time (like Alex Rodriguez last September). Check out Tim Hudson, Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, Francisco Liriano, Gavin Floyd, and Kevin Slowey for pitchers; and Carlos Beltran, Manny Ramirez, and Grady Sizemore for hitters.

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RW Part II — Better Options

As I was writing my Restaurant Week hate-post, I realized that the question of whether to go out during Restaurant Week is necessarily comparative: Restaurant Week might not be perfect, but are there better options if you want to try the nicest restaurants without needing to eat ramen for the rest of the week?

Yes. Upscale restaurants, particularly in this economy, offer great deals regularly if you know where to look. These deals typically take place during off-hours where business is slower, so the experience is more leisurely. The customers who use them are the ones who’re willing to sacrifice convenience (going out on weekends) for better value, so the clientèle is more discerning (and valuable to the restaurant), giving the owner an incentive to put out a great product. Finding these deals takes some effort, though not all that much. Check the websites of restaurants you like or have good things about; click around the menus (do they have a prix fixe on Tuesday nights?) or the events page. Try following favorite places on Twitter or Facebook (tons of restaurants have Twitter, and they’re always trying to publicize their special events to get people to come to the restaurant). Finally, try posting a question on a foodie website or blog; Chowhound’s great (depending on what city you’re in), but Yelp’ll probably work too.

Just to show you it’s not too difficult, here’re some great options in the Boston area:

Continue reading

David Does Not Know Rap

This might be a little inside-baseball for a blog post, but here’s an excerpt of a conversation I had with Stonesoup coauthor David Yin:

Josh: Another good example of a fat musician: The Notorious B.I.G.

David: Ah i did not know that! I didn’t even know what The Notorious BIG looked like. But now it makes sense.

Josh: Really? What the fuck, David?

David: Damn i am fucking slow on the uptake.

Josh: So i don’t mind that, but just the fact that you’ve never seen Biggie. . .

David: Biggie Smalls?

David: Same person?

Josh: Yes.

David: See, it’s contradictory. Does big pimpin’ imply fat?

Josh: No.

David: Right so maybe i thought he was. . . I dunno. a big personality. a dominant figure. . .

Restaurant Week’s odd prices.

Josh writes in a recent post:

Currently Boston is having Restaurant Week (which lasts, confusingly, for two weeks, till the 28th). For those of you who haven’t been exposed to the phenomena, it means cheap meals at fancy restaurants. Somewhere like No. 9 Park in Boston, where the three course prix fixe usually costs $65, will have a three course menu for $33.10 (don’t ask me what the $0.10 is about).

Boston isn’t the only city to have an odd, non-integer pricing scheme for Restaurant Week, where in addition to their strange dinner prix fixe price, RW lunch is $15.10 (2-course) or $20.10 (3-course). In New York this year, RW lunch is $24.07 and dinner is $35. In Washington DC, lunch and dinner were $20.10 and $35.10 respectively. What’s up with the weird prices–why charge an extra ten cents or seven cents? It can’t be taxes, because as any menu or RW ad will tell you, taxes and gratuity are not included in the Restaurant Week price. Are restaurants adjusting for inflation, and if so, why not simply round up a whole dollar? Whatever the reason, it’s not universal. LA, for example, has a confusing system of 6 different prices, ranging from $16-44, but each is a whole dollar amount.

This inclusion of $0.07 and $0.10 may seem odd, not only because we’re accustomed to seeing $0.95 or $0.99 if cents are used, but because nicer restaurants in recent years have gravitated away from decimal points (and cents) completely. This is after studies showed that consumers spent more money when restaurants eliminated pricing cues like the dollar-sign and cents from their menus. Restaurant consultant Gregg Rapp tells clients to “omit dollar signs, decimal points, and cents… It’s not that customers can’t check prices, but most will follow whatever subtle cues are provided.” So why deviate from accepted smart menu practice for Restaurant Week?

From Boston Chef’s Inc.

Aquavit Menu

In Boston, they just try and make the price somehow relevant to the current year and as inexpensive as possible while still realistic for the restaurants.

From DestinationDC:

I can’t speak for the other cities, but Washington restaurant prices are the year (2010) for lunch ($20.10) and more for dinner.  How much more (this January, it was $15.00 more) is decided by a committee representing the participating members of the Restaurant Association.

And an interesting and thorough answer from NYC & Company:

NYC Restaurant Week is the original and oldest program of its kind.  To welcome the DNC in 1992, the program was created to offer delegates the chance to dine out and with a prix-fix price of $19.92 to represent the year. Every year it went up one penny to reflect the calendar.  In 2003, we introduced dinner and prices were set as lunch for $20.03 and dinner for $30.03.

In 2005 and 2006, we were working to bring the 2012 Olympics to NYC. So prices were set for lunch as $20.12 (to reflect the bid year) and dinner for $35 (this was simply to set an easy number). NYC came in third overall in the bid and look forward to the summer games in London.

Starting in 2007, we set a standard price system that could be used year over year so consumers could easily remember. Today lunch is set for $24.07 (to reflect the City that never sleeps, we are open 24/7) and dinner remains at $35.

While I cannot confirm for other Restaurant Week cities, I suspect the $20.10 represents the year 2010. It would be best to reach out to each city for the official answer.

With the answer in hand, it now seems obvious that $0.10 may have represented 2010, though the 24/7 reference still seems somewhat difficult to figure out. The bigger question is whether the meaning of the prices is commonly understood and appreciated by RW patrons, or if it is an esoteric inside joke mainly for the RW organizers?

Well, welcome to the inside.

Viacom’s shenanigans on YouTube.

If true, this is pretty damning:

For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.

Viacom’s efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself…

…Viacom’s brief misconstrues isolated lines from a handful of emails produced in this case to try to show that YouTube was founded with bad intentions, and asks the judge to believe that, even though Viacom tried repeatedly to buy YouTube, YouTube is like Napster or Grokster…

–Zahavah Levine, YouTube Chief Counsel

(HT@ EmilyLu)

A brief history of Supreme Court battles with the President.

I’ve had a conscious skepticism of Jeffrey Rosen’s facts and opinions ever since his shockingly poorly-researched Sonia Sotomayor hitjob last summer that was roundly criticized and described as “a model of shoddy, irresponsible, and (ironically enough) intellectually shallow ‘journalism.'”

His most recent article in The New Republic does nothing to change my mind. He discusses an apparent “battle” between Obama and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) after his public criticism of their Citizens United decision during the State of the Union–the remark Justice Alito grimaced at. In his article POTUS v. SCOTUS, Rosen writes:

That is, Roberts seems to have joined the battle with Obama because he thinks the Court can win it.

As a matter of history, this argument is wrong: In battles between a popular president and an anti-majoritarian Court, it’s almost always the president who prevails. Using the Court as a punching bag puts Obama in the company of his greatest predecessors, Jefferson, Lincoln, and both Roosevelts–all of whom bashed the Court for thwarting the will of the people. As long as he plays his cards carefully, Obama has much to gain from challenging John Roberts, and the Roberts Court has much to lose.

“It’s almost always the president who prevails.” Really? Let’s see if this is true, taking Rosen’s own examples. I won’t even get into Jackson after Worcester v. Georgia, or Truman during Youngstown v. Sawyer

Jefferson v. Chase/Marshall

In 1804, Thomas Jefferson was re-elected to the presidency by a huge landslide, capturing 162 out of 176 electoral votes. His party, the Democratic Republicans, controlled Congress with 73 of 105 House members and 25 of of 34 Senators. One month after Marbury v. Madison was announced–the case that famously established the Supreme Court’s supreme power of judicial review, allowing the Court to declare unconstitutional and invalidate Congressional legislation–Jefferson had his party impeach a[n admittedly alcoholic and senile] Federalist circuit court judge named Pickering. One month after Pickering’s successful conviction, and just over one year after Marbury was decided, Jefferson turned to target Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase; the motion to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate garnered every Republican vote in the House, and would require only two-thirds of the Senate to convict–23 votes. Many thought impeachment and conviction were certain, and that Chief Justice John Marshall would be next, a man Republicans reviled as the “subtly calculating enemy of the people”; Marshall himself loathed Jefferson as well, and had written that Jefferson’s election would “sap the fundamental principles of the government.”

Rosen writes:

Marshall was so spooked by the Chase impeachment that he anxiously suggested in a letter to Chase that Congress should be allowed to reverse Supreme Court decisions it considered “unsound.” And he fell over himself to accommodate Chase’s accusers when called to testify at the impeachment. Marshall had diffused the crisis, and Chase was acquitted. There was, however, no doubt that Jefferson had accomplished his mission: Marshall acknowledged that he never fought battles that he knew he couldn’t win.

So according to Rosen, Marshall accommodated Chase’s accusers… and Chase was acquitted? And Jefferson won, because of that? Something about this narrative doesn’t make sense.

It’s true that Marshall was spooked. He wrote in a letter to Chase, as Rosen referenced, “I think the modern doctrine of impeachment should yield to an appellate jurisdiction in the legislature. A reversal of those legal opinions deemed unsound by the legislature would certainly better comport with the mildness of our character than the removal of the Judge who has rendered them unknowing of his fault.” Yet despite Marshall’s fears, we still have judicial review today, and Congress does not have appellate jurisdiction, precisely because Jefferson did not accomplish his mission. With foreign ambassadors from European monarchies in the galleries, curious to see how our new nation, an experiment in democracy, would respond to the beginnings of judicial independence, Chase’s lawyers gave impassioned speeches appealing to the Senators’ pity for an “aged patriot” who was being “hunted from place to place, to find indiscretions, which may be exaggerated into crimes.” They also appealed to the principles of the Senators who were aware that their own body–elected by state legislatures and representing state units, not population size–was designed to protect the minority from a tyranny of the majority. Even Aaron Burr, the scoundrel from New York, recognized the gravity of the moment, and as his last political act presided over the trial of Salmon Chase with such impartiality that Federalist said “I could almost forgive Burr for any less crime than the blood of Hamilton.”

The first Republican vote on the first article of impeachment, from Senator Stephen Bradley of Vermont, set the tone for the rest of the trial: “nay.” Ten other Republicans joined him against conviction, Samuel Chase was found not guilty on the rest of the articles, and the judiciary was saved. Perhaps some, and maybe Rosen, might argue that this trial alone was sufficient to accomplish Jefferson’s intention of silencing the partisan speeches from SCOTUS Justices, but I would say, considering the primary consensus-thought goal of reversing judicial review, that Jefferson failed in his confrontation. And John Marshall would be free to continue to guide his court’s Federalist decisions that cemented the Court as the ultimate oracle of the Constitution and expanded federal power in landmark cases such as Cohens v. Virginia, Gibbons v. Ogden, McCulloch, Dartmouth College, Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, etc.

SCOTUS 1. POTUS 0.

Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt v. SCOTUS

As a loyal classical Republican, I can’t criticize Lincoln, especially when he was against the worst court in U.S. history–the Taney Court. Rosen acknowledges that while Lincoln catapulted to the presidency by rightly denouncing the Dred Scott decision, he refused to bow to extreme members of his party and pack the court or abolish the Taney court entirely. While it’s true that he shoved a suspension of habeas corpus down the throats of the Court and the nation, it’s hard to say that was Lincoln’s proudest moment. He was a great president, the best president, but his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus will never be hailed as one of his great achievements, merely something to be tolerated in a time of national peril. I should note that constitutionally, the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended in times of rebellion, which the Civil War probably qualified as, and I think the real question was in regards to the procedure, and whether the executive could do it unilaterally. Lincoln was successful in getting what he wanted despite the objections of the Taney Court, but history doesn’t show a clear “moral victory” for Lincoln on this issue. I’ll call this even. +0.5 SCOTUS. +0.5 POTUS.

I know very little about Theodore Roosevelt’s problem with the Supreme Court, but I don’t need to. I imagine they have to deal with the Lochner era’s famously bad decisions striking down labor protections and working conditions protections. Instead, I’ll quote Jeffrey Rosen:

As president, Theodore Roosevelt called the Court “a menace to the welfare of the nation,” when it challenged his economic reform agenda. But, as a presidential candidate in 1912, he went beyond rhetorical fusillades and, in a progressive fury, proposed the popular recall of judicial decisions through referenda. He also argued for other state and federal laws that would allow voters to repudiate Supreme Court decisions that challenged the people’s ability to be “the ultimate makers of their own Constitution.” Only Colorado adopted proposals along these lines. And, of course, Roosevelt’s Bull Moose candidacy went down in defeat.

Still, history judges the Lochner court to be in the wrong. +0.5 SCOTUS. +0.5 POTUS.

SCOTUS 2. POTUS 1.

Franklin Roosevelt v. SCOTUS

The last example is FDR’s famous campaign to pack the Supreme Court after it invalidated several of his New Deal schemes, including the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Recovery Act, and the Agricultural Adjustment Act, on the basis of their according too much legislative power to the majority. 9th Circuit Judge Richard Posner takes a somewhat sympathetic view to Roosevelt’s frustration. In his The New Republic article on Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme, he writes: “Given the potential for political instability and social unrest if the entire New Deal program was killed, Roosevelt was right to strike at the Court, especially as he had a more sensible conception of the Constitution than that of the conservative justices then…” The Court stood in opposition was composed of “three factions: a liberal faction of Brandeis, Cardozo, and Stone; an extreme conservative faction of Butler, McReynolds, Sutherland, and Van Devanter; and a moderately conservative faction of Hughes (the chief justice) and Roberts.” Roosevelt’s plan would have raised the maximum size of the court to 15 justices, and would have shifted the court from the 6-3 conservative majority to a 9-6 liberal majority in the worst case scenario, and up to a 14-1 liberal supermajority if all of the septuagenarians retired.

Both Rosen and Posner attribute the court packing plan’s defeat to the Court’s capitulation to New Deal legislation. Posner writes, “What finally killed the plan was an unbroken string of surprising victories for the New Deal in the Supreme Court–twelve in all, with no defeats–while the Court-packing plan was being debated, coupled with the sudden retirement of Justice Van Devanter, one of the four extreme conservatives (who accelerated his retirement in order to help defeat the plan), and topped off by the sudden death of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Robinson.” This is echoed by Rosen: “But, although his Court-packing plan failed in the Senate, it may have cowed the Court into upholding the New Deal. Legal historians, such as Barry Friedman of New York University, persuasively contend that, if the swing justice on the Hughes Court, Owen Roberts, hadn’t changed his mind about the New Deal, Roosevelt would have prevailed in mobilizing public support for disciplining the justices.”

The Court may have been, as John Marshall was, scared into falling in line (or maybe they did it purposely to cleverly scuttle Roosevelt’s plan), but Roosevelt’s court-packing scheme was doomed from the start. Roosevelt did not consult Congress when he summoned his party’s leaders to the White House and presented his plan, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back–Congress’ frustration at this arrogant and authoritarian president’s excesses finally boiled over. Vice President Garner expressed his sentiments on the bill to his former colleagues in Congress by holding his nose with one hand, while making a Roman thumbs-down gesture with the other: kill the bill. Hatton Sumners, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, remarked to his fellow Congressmen on the way back to the Capitol, “Boys, here’s where I cash in my chips.” He then “refused to endorse the bill, actively chopping it up within his committee in order to block the bill’s chief effect of Supreme Court expansion.” Sumner’s refusal to let the measure pass through his committee ensured that the House could not hear it first, and that it would have to first be considered by the Senate, preventing Roosevelt from enticing Representatives, who had to be reelected every two years, with his coattails, or coercing them with his bully pulpit.

Despite Roosevelt’s speeches and fireside chat campaign denouncing the judiciary as undemocratic, the Senate effectively slowed and chilled, as it was designed to do. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Ashburn of Arizona, promised to allow unlimited debate and ensured that the hearings would last more than two months. The time also gave senators the opportunity to stump and tour the country. Robert Caro wrote, “Their speeches were reported in depth in newspapers, and heard on the radio; the airwaves were filled each night with the oratory of both sides in a remarkable public debate. And as America heard the arguments, America’s initial enthusiasm for the President’s proposal began to diminish.” Senators also began to change their minds. Joseph O’Mahoney, who depended on FDR’s allies for political patronage and whose state depended on New Deal pork, switched sides to join the senators opposing the bill.

It is also not clear that Roosevelt even had public opinion firmly on his side. Gregory Caldeira writes on polls taken during the period, concluding that:

“Over the entire period, support averaged about 39%. Opposition to Court packing ranged from a low of 41% on 24 March [1937] to a high of 49% on 3 March. On average, about 46% of each sample indicated opposition to President Roosevelt’s proposed legislation. And it is clear that, after a surge from an early push by FDR, the public support for restructuring the Court rapidly melted.”

Caldeira also shows that the Court was instrumental, through its decisions, in changing public opinion, and he suggests that the Court did so intentionally and on its own terms to defeat court-packing and save the judiciary, and not that it was forced or strategically manipulated into doing so by FDR. FDR certainly still pushed for court-packing after the Court started approving New Deal bills, and his end goal was an increase in executive power, not just a few pieces of legislation (he didn’t, after all, give up on court-packing after the court started approving his legislation). I should also note that public opinion is somewhat irrelevant to the passing of the bill since the ultimate decision rested with Congressional opposition, specifically in the Senate, but still relevant to FDR’s final “moral victory” tally.

With the death of Senate Majority Leader Robinson (to whom had been promised the first opening on the Court), court-packing was finished. The Senate voted 70–20 to send the judicial-reform measure back to committee, where the controversial language was stripped, and when they realized that the Court would be safe, the Senate floor resounded with cheers. Though some scholars, including the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, noted that Roosevelt lost the battle but won the war, both because his New Deal legislation eventually passed, and because he ended up appointing eight justices thanks to his long tenure as President, I don’t think his choice to battle the Court was necessarily a wise one (and certainly didn’t cause him to win control of the court through his normal appointments). For one, it sapped his popular opinion. For another, it had unified Republicans in Congress with Democrats uneasy with Roosevelt’s sweeping powers and demands. The court-packing loss represented a change in Roosevelt’s presidency and ended the custom of rubber-stamping every one of Roosevelt’s New Deal bills. This new, powerful conservative Republican-Democrat coalition rejected a package of Roosevelt’s “must” bills in November 1937 and “During the remaining seven years of Roosevelt’s Administration,” writes Caro, “Congress blocked every major new domestic law he proposed.” In 1938’s elections, Roosevelt attempted to oust three conservative Senate Democrats (George of Georgia, Tydings of Maryland, and Smith of S.C.), members of his own party, even traveling to their home states to campaign against them, and still failed on all three counts.

Roosevelt’s efforts to pack the court backfired and cost him politically. The fact that the Court liberalized afterward could be attributed to the natural retirements, and the liberalization during the court-packing debates may even have been designed by Justices to thwart Roosevelt’s campaign to forever change the courts. He lost by creating a political coalition he could not overcome. And he lost in the eyes of history: few citizens today would look favorably upon his efforts to pack the Court, and no one remembers what grave offenses the Court committed (striking down bad economic legislation that slowed recovery?) to justify Roosevelt’s abuses on the third branch of government. His enduring legacy is positive, like Lincoln’s and Jefferson’s, in spite of his assault on the Court, not because of it. And now, just as Jefferson’s failure to impeach Chase set high the bar for impeaching federal judges, Roosevelt’s failure to pack the courts will ensure no future president will have an easy time doing it either. +1 SCOTUS. +0.5 POTUS (to be generous, since the we now accept Roosevelt’s interpretation of the commerce clause).

SCOTUS 3. POTUS 1.5.

SCOTUS wins. I’m not saying that Citizens United was a great decision, and I’ve written critically of the policy implications. And I’m also not saying that Barack Obama can’t disagree with the decision, and try to circumvent it through clever statutory regulation. But Rosen’s central thesis that Obama will certainly win in a battle against the Court (whatever that battle would be, if it in fact exists) because history said so is completely untrue, disproven by his own examples. History does not fondly remember presidential policies bullying the Court because the Court represents, for all of its mortal flaws, the U.S. Constitution. Do us a favor, Obama. If you want to mitigate the potential negative impacts of Citizens United, pass a new law without pissing on the Court, and your legacy.

(Hat Tip: Much of the history I got from Robert Caro’s excellent biography of LBJ, Master of the Senate. I also cited liberally from Wikipedia articles, which I linked to. Also, thank you to all of you who are still reading this.)