Wednesday, September 14

9/14/05 — Wells vs. Half the Man Wells Is

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

Baseball has emerged as the predominant metaphor in the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts.

Roberts began the analogies by comparing judges to umpires who call balls and strikes rather than pitching and hitting. Jose is not sure whether this is a commentary on his judicial philosophy or the woeful state of the Supreme Court softball team.

Senator Joe Biden of Delaware then continued the metaphor by pointing out that the strike zone is defined as from the elbows to the knees by Rule Two of the baseball rulebook and that umpires may not change it, and can only judge whether the ball is in or out of it. Apparently, Biden doesn’t watch much baseball these days or he would know that much like the Constitution, the strike zone is a living thing constantly changing from era to era, umpire to umpire and, in some cases, from inning to inning.

Biden went on to compare questioning Roberts to pitching to Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. To be honest, Jose has no idea what this analogy means, but he assumes that it means that Roberts will get off to a brilliant start as Chief Justice, be compared regularly to John Marshall, and then, after signing a deal to become Chief Justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court, will miss the better part of most sessions with injuries while still occasionally showing his old brilliance.

Since it doesn’t appear that the evasive nominee will be answering any non-baseball questions, perhaps Senators should take Biden’s lead and ask questions only in baseball terms. (Note: Though this isn’t really that bad. Jose went to a State House hearing yesterday that involved lengthy discussion of where to get the best hot dogs and fried clams in Massachusetts. Really. Even worse, Jose may try a few of these places out this weekend.)

Jose has transcribed this portion of today’s hearing.

Q: Judge Roberts, in the 1999 American League Championship Series umpired Tim Tschida ruled Jose Offerman out even though Chuck Knoblauch clearly failed to tag him. If you had been the chief of that umpiring crew, would you have overturned that call?

Roberts: Senator, on the one hand, I think that decision was a misinterpretation of the facts of the case. On the other hand, I have enormous respect for precedent.

Q: And what precedent would that be?

Roberts: The precedent of the Yankees getting all the calls in big series. If would refer you to the case of Baltimore v. Jeffrey Maier.

Q: So then when two calls, a home run call, and the infamous “slap” call were reversed during the 2004 American League Championship Series to harm the Yankees, you would say that the umpires ignored precedent in reversing those calls and were therefore mistaken?

Roberts: Not necessarily. On the one hand, this call did depart from past rulings. On the other hand, as the top umpiring crew in baseball they have the authority to reinterpret precedent.

Q: So, in your opinion, did the umpiring crew rule correctly in the 2004 case.

Roberts: As it is quite possible that the Red Sox and Yankees may meet in post season play again during my tenure, and in that event it is highly likely that Alex Rodriguez will slap some one again, it would be prejudicial for me to answer this question.

For today's complete KEYS visit

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