Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

March 26th, 2006:

Bagwell to DL

If the end of the line for Jeff Bagwell isn’t here, it’s getting really close.

Conceding that it might take “a miracle” for him to play again, Houston Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell went on the disabled list Saturday in a move that could signal the end of his major-league career.

The franchise’s all-time leader in home runs and RBIs is considering surgery to remove the bone spurs in his shoulder in a last-ditch effort to salvage his career, and the Astros will start a season without him on the roster for the first time in 16 years.

“I said I wasn’t going to embarrass myself,” said Bagwell, 37. “I felt like this was a joke. I couldn’t throw it to the infield. I could not get the ball to the infielders, and they were on the grass. And God bless my teammates. I mean, even (when I had to throw the ball back to the pitcher), they come to get the ball from me. It’s amazing how great they’ve been through this.

“I just could not get it to them. I said, ‘This is not what I want. I’m not going to continue to do this.’ We’re defending our National League championship this year. … And I’m not going to be this kind of distraction and this broken-down first baseman over here that can’t throw it to the infielders. I said, ‘That’s enough, and I have to go in a different direction.’ ”

We all understand now why the Astros tried to collect on that insurance policy by claiming he was physically unable to play, right?

Bagwell was a great player and a class act. He’ll be the first career Astro to enter the Hall of Fame, and he’ll deserve all the plaudits he’ll get for that. I’m sure this wasn’t how he wanted to go, but sometimes there’s no choice in the matter. Kudos to him for recognizing the inevitable.

Whatever happens from here, I say Thank You to Jeff Bagwell for everything. The team, this city, and fans everywhere will miss seeing you on the field. Good luck and godspeed to you.

Who needs health care, anyway

Women struggling with cuts to clinics.

Through her divorce and the struggles of raising three girls on her salary at the Sonic Drive-In, there was one thing in Tanya Wilson’s life that came easy.

Every three months, Wilson drove to the Planned Parenthood in her Panhandle hometown to get a birth control shot for free, most times with little or no wait. It was a great relief for a 34-year-old woman who didn’t want any more children but lacked money for a tubal ligation.

Suddenly in January, her relief turned to stress. Wilson was among hundreds of patients across 17 counties who learned that the clinic they relied on for birth control, annual exams, Pap tests, breast cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease tests and other services was closing because of funding cuts triggered by two little-known provisions tucked into the state’s budget last session.

She’s been pleading with the town’s only remaining family planning clinic, which has been picking up other patients, to see her. She’s one of many who hasn’t had a Pap test in the past year because it would require driving an hour to the Amarillo Planned Parenthood.

She doesn’t know how she’d get there. Besides the job and the kids, her 1992 Honda Accord smokes, leaks oil and probably couldn’t make the trip.

“I work, and I’ve got three girls already. I don’t need no more kids,” said Wilson, who is being abstinent with her live-in boyfriend because she’s a month late on her shot. “I don’t understand why they would close (the clinic). It’s just caused a lot of grief for a lot of women.”

Women are facing similar scenarios across Texas, as traditional family planning providers such as Planned Parenthood cut hours, staff and programs, even close doors, in response to new provisions that siphoned off tens of millions of family planning dollars for other programs and providers.

How bad is this situation? This bad:

One of the House’s most conservative Republicans, veteran Panhandle Rep. Warren Chisum, who helped pass the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and longs to outlaw abortion in Texas, joined efforts to thwart the provisions before they passed. He’s still hoping Panhandle funding will be restored.

“I’m not for abortion. I’m pro-life. But I’m not anti-women’s health,” Chisum said. ”You have your mixed emotions about it, but actually, in the Texas Panhandle, they don’t perform abortions, so it’s unfortunate that they’re one of the ones that got their funds cut.”

When Warren freaking Chisum says you’ve gone too far, you’ve really really gone too far.

Yet Republican Senate Finance Chairman Bill Ogden is skeptical of the outcries, saying the complaints seem more about “turf protection and employee protection” than denying women services.

“There is not a single piece of evidence that anybody has offered to suggest that those changes have hurt an individual out there,” said Ogden, of Bryan. “I would argue that it could have conceivably helped.”

Here’s Senator Ogden’s official state webpage, which has a contact form on it, and here’s his campaign webpage. I can’t find an email address on either, but there’s plenty of phone numbers to call if you want to ask him if he’s read this article. (His name is Steve, by the way, not Bill.) Do feel free to enlighten him.

99 Red Balloons on the wall, 99 Red Balloons

There’s such a thing as liking a song a little too much.

VH1 Classic will present a full hour of the English and German music videos for the 1984 hit 99 Luftballons, aka 99 Red Balloons, by German rock group Nena.

The music video presentation, to air Sunday (1 p.m. CST), caps off the cable channel’s “Pay to Play for Hurricane Katrina Relief,” which raised over $200,000 for Mercy Corps, a humanitarian relief organization.

Viewers could request one video to be played on VH1 Classic for every $25 donation. For a $35,000 donation, they could select an hour’s worth of music videos from the 1960s through the early 1990s.

However, one viewer chose something different for his allotted hour, requesting continuous playing of 99 Luftballons, said VH1 spokeswoman Maura Wozniak.

Well, if you ever wanted to be able to sing along with the original German version when it comes on the radio, here’s your chance to really practice and get those lyrics down pat. I think I’ll be watching some basketball.

More Russian love for DeLay

You may recall this story from late last year about a Russian oil company funnelling $1 million to a phony “grassroots” group with deep ties to Tom DeLay for the alleged purpose of influencing his vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy. That story was the basis for the notorious anti-DeLay ad that the cowardly local TV stations refused at first to run.

Anyway, there are new developments on the Russian money for DeLay front. Read about it all here, and remember again that DeLay has bigger problems looming than what’s going on in Austin.

Stockman is in it to win it

Via Greg in TX22 comes this Congressional Quarterly piece that explains wingnut Steve Stockman’s intended entry into the CD22 race as an independent. Executive summary: He aims to win.

Though Stockman says he is running to win, most observers are watching him more for his potential as a “spoiler.” Most votes for Stockman presumably would come from DeLay’s traditional conservative base, eroding the incumbent’s structural advantage in a district that typically leans strongly Republican.


Stockman said the reaction to his campaign is “mixed,” but that many voters appear receptive to having an alternative to turmoil-plagued DeLay and Democrat Lampson. “While some Republicans are upset, some Democrats are upset, there are some people who are happy they have an option,” Stockman said.


Said Robert Stein, a political scientist at Rice University in Houston: “I think Steve Stockman, if he’s collecting signatures, believes that either one, the congressman is going to be convicted and therefore unable to hold office, or two, that [DeLay] is weak enough in the electorate that [Stockman] might actually sneak in there in a three-way race.”

Stockman said it was “whistling past the grave a little bit” and “not prudent” for Republicans to rally behind DeLay as their standard-bearer when the congressman has yet to go on trial on the state campaign finance charges.

Well, this makes more sense than the idea that he was running to help DeLay by acting as an anti-Lampson pit bull. Not that that was hard to do, because the running-to-help-DeLay made no sense at all. At least the concept of this idea makes sense, but only the concept. Stockman doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell if DeLay is on the ballot, and his odds are only slightly better in a two-way matchup. I say this because unlike Carole Strayhorn or Kinky Friedman, Stockman has no chance of peeling away any Democratic support, which means he’d have to take enough votes from DeLay to top the baseline Dem vote, which is about 37% going by 2004 results. Given that I fully expect Lampson to do better than Richard Morrison’s 41%, and that this would mean Stockman would require at least two thirds of the rest of the vote, you can see why I’m skeptical.

There’s also still the question of where Stockman is going to get the money to get his message out. Both Lampson and DeLay will have a barrage of ads on TV and radio, including ads run on their behalf by third parties, so unless Stockman can raise over a million dollars, I can’t see how he competes with that. Mailers ain’t gonna cut it.

Even if DeLay drops out, Stockman will need to work at getting the votes that the Hammer would have had, because he won’t get any straight-ticket GOP votes. With Strayhorn and Friedman likely to be on the ballot, this is as good a year as any for candidates to benefit from non-straight party voting, but it strikes me as a risk to depend on people doing things that they don’t normally do.

Finally, Stockman isn’t all that popular with the GOP establishment these days. Yes, as Greg notes, he did well in Fort Bend in the 1998 GOP primary for Railroad Commissioner, but since then he was involved in a nasty primary fight against Rep. John Culberson. I’m willing to bet there’s a lot of Republicans with long memories about that, especially in Harris County.

My assessment of Stockman hasn’t changed. I think he pulls about five percent, maybe a bit more if he can raise a few funds. Every vote he does get comes straight from Tom DeLay’s hide, so I certainly don’t mind if he does better than that. Under no circumstances do I see him as having a realistic chance to win this race.