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February 27th, 2003:

The Veterans Committee

Well, the reconstituted Veterans’ Committee failed to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame. While I think there were a couple of worthy candidates, I’d rather get this outcome than the enshrinement of a “who’s that?” by the former committee, which was a bigger bastion of cronyism and closed-room politics than anything Tammany Hall or Mayor Daley ever conceived of. Jayson Stark also approves of this, and Rob Neyer predicted the outcome when the new Committee was first formed, though given his usual crankiness about the Hall I’m more than a little surprised at how many guys he stumped for.

Personally, I’d have voted for Ron Santo (the only player enshrined by Internet voters), Marvin Miller, and Billy Martin. Yes, Billy Martin, whose record as a manager is criminally overlooked. Anyone who can take four different teams to the postseason is worth consideration, but Joe Torre will get in before Martin ever does (not that Torre’s record is anything to sneeze at, especially if you overlook his early years with the Mets).

Finally, I can’t believe that people are still stumping for Roger Maris. Look, he had a couple of great seasons, but his career record doesn’t come close to Hall standards. For cripes’ sake, the players whose career stats are closest to his are as follows:

Bob Allison (946)
Hank Sauer (939)
Jay Buhner (922)
Jesse Barfield (918)
Tony Armas (914)
Dean Palmer (912)
Eric Davis (907)
Danny Tartabull (905)
Bill Nicholson (902)
Raul Mondesi (896)

If there’s a Hall of Famer in that bunch, I’m the queen of Romania. Maris was a great guy, but he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. Sorry.

Yet another budget in distress

The Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority is $20 million poorer than it expected to be due to missed financial projections.

By this time, after the Christmas shopping season, Metro officials expected the transit agency’s 1-cent sales tax to have generated $175.3 million.

But only $156 million has been collected for this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1. That’s $19.3 million or 11 percent less than what Metro predicted in its 2003 budget.

Despite the numbers, which Metro President Shirley DeLibero called “disappointing,” officials insist there will be no cuts in service. And if necessary, the agency can fall back on $246 million in reserves.

At least they have reserves, which should avoid any nasty cutbacks. Of course, this sort of thing is a clarion call for political opportunists.

[In November,] Metro will ask voters to approve a multibillion-dollar plan to improve mobility that will include rail and other projects.

Financial problems and faulty budget projections could become fodder for transit agency critics long before voters go to the polls. For example, Metro forecast that sales tax revenue would jump 6.1 percent in 2003 — a prediction made in June, well after the economy started its nose dive.

“This was outrageously overforecasted,” said Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt. “There is simply no guess or estimate like this, post-Sept. 11 and during this economic slump, that could be made in good conscience. … I was shocked at the amount of the increase Metro forecasted, and these numbers show there is simply no basis in financial reality for them.”

Bettencourt, a Republican who will decide whether to openly oppose Metro’s plan once it’s released, said the flawed projections will definitely be an issue with voters.

Such miscalculations could be used to argue that Metro is not a good steward of public money, said Bettencourt, who estimated that Metro’s sales tax revenue shortfall could reach $40 million this year.

Hey, Paul, where were you when our state Comptroller fessed up to bigger deficits than she’d originally forecast, forecasts that were derived by wildly optimistic revenue projections? Oh, wait, our Comptroller is a fellow Republican, so no blame attaches there. Move along, nothing to see here.

DeLibero dismisses such talk and said Metro can easily show voters it has been responsible with public money.

DeLibero said she has run the agency like a business. There has been zero-based budgeting every year, costs have been held down and officials have spent about $40 million less than budgeted during the past two fiscal years.

“I think the folks out there ought to have seen that,” she said. “I feel very confident (voters and any potential critics) should feel comfortable with the way Metro operates and how we look at our fiscal year and how we operate our budget.”

To address the sales tax revenue shortfall, DeLibero said the agency will cut administrative costs, such as employee training and enrichment programs and travel. DeLibero has also told administrators to look for other ways to cut their budgets.

Don’t forget to stroke Bettencourt’s ego while you’re at it.

Slay no more

I thought it was pretty clear from the plotline, but just in case there was any doubt, Sarah Michelle Gellar says that this is the last season for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Well, in its present form, anyway:

But the show may come back to life in some form: Its creator, Joss Whedon, is planning a spin-off that may include some “Buffy” cast members. It will be pitched first to UPN, “Buffy’s” home for the past two seasons; for five seasons before that, it was on the WB.

All I can say is that I sincerely hope they don’t give us something that resembles After M*A*S*H. Eww.

RIP, Mister Rogers

It’s a sad day in the neighborhood:

PITTSBURGH – Fred Rogers, who gently invited millions of children to be his neighbor as host of the public television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” for more than 30 years, died of cancer early Thursday. He was 74.

Rogers died at his Pittsburgh home, said family spokesman David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on the show. Rogers had been diagnosed with stomach cancer sometime after the holidays, Newell said.


Rogers’ gentle manner was the butt of some comedian’s jokes. Eddie Murphy (news) parodied him on “Saturday Night Live (news – Y! TV)” in the 80’s with his “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood,” a routine Rogers found funny and affectionate.

All of your Mister Rogers-related questions are answered here. He enjoyed the parodies of himself:

And, all you basketball fans, he doesn’t mind at all that San Antonio Spurs star David Robinson is doing his thing in that “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood” Nike ad. “I’m so impressed with David Robinson’s spirituality,” he said. Mister Rogers even had a kind word for Eddie Murphy, who spoofed him on Saturday Night Live. “When I met him, finally, he was so affectionate and gentle,” he said.

I recall reading that Eddie Murphy went into total fanboy mode when he met Fred Rogers, which seems right to me.

Lastly, Salon did a nice retrospective of his career in 1998, to mark the 30th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. USA Today had an equally nice retrospective in 2001 when Mister Rogers hung up his sweater for the last time on the show.

Rest in peace, Mister Rogers.

UPDATE: Sam Heldman notes that Mister Rogers had an impact on a Supreme Court case as well. As one would expect, he was on the right side of the issue.