Monday, May 28, 2007

A Hyperactive Brown Dwarf

The following excerpt wants you to consider a brown dwarf that is spewing jets of material into space, much the same way as a hot young star, or even a black hole would do. Check it out:

A "failed star" with only 24 times the mass of Jupiter is the smallest known object to spout jets of matter from its poles, a phenomenon typically associated with much larger black holes and young stars.

The new finding, detailed in the current issue of Astrophysical Journal, confirms that a wide range of celestial objects is capable of generating such outflows.

"There are black holes that are 3 million solar masses spewing jets,
and there's this thing, which is 2 percent of a solar mass, doing the same thing," said study team member Ray Jayawardhana of the University of Toronto. The discovery also raises the possibility that large gas giant planets like Jupiter or Saturn might also have been gushers some time early in their history.

The new jet-spewing object is a previously identified brown dwarf-celestial objects with masses between 13 and 75 times that of the Jupiter, too massive to be a planet but too small to sustain the internal nuclear fires needed to become stars. For this reason, brown dwarfs are sometimes called failed stars.

Called 2M1207a, the spurting brown dwarf is ringed by gas and dust, similar to the protoplanetary disks from which planets form around young stars. Indeed, 2M1207a is known to harbor a 5-Jupiter-mass planetary companion.
Called 2M1207b, the gas giant was one of the first planets outside of our solar system to have its picture taken directly.

2M1207a's streaming jets were discovered using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT). The jets extend about 620 million miles (1 billion km) into space and are speeding away from the brown dwarf at a few kilometers per second.

"Preliminary results suggest that a brown-dwarf jet is just scaled down from what we see in a low mass star," said study leader Emma Whelan of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Physics in Ireland. In 2005, Whelan's team discovered the first jet-spewing brown dwarf, but that one was about 60 Jupiter masses.

Scientists are still not sure of the role jets play in star formation. O
ne idea is that by ejecting large amounts of material into space, the jets help determine the final size and mass of the star.

Another hypothesis is that jets actually play a major role in initiating star formation in the first place. Stars are thought to form from enormous, spinning clouds of gas and dust that somehow collapse and contract into blazing balls of fire. To do this, the clouds must get rid of a lot of spin energy, or "angular momentum."

"One of the best ways to get rid of that is to put it into a jet," Jayawardhana told "So these jets might actually be spinning and carrying out the angular momentum of the formed object."

The new gushing nature of 2M1207a could help shed light on how jets are formed and sustained.

Do we live in amazing times or what? It was just a few years ago that the notion of a brown dwarf was still a theory. The discoveries of these objects was one thing, to find them behaving this way is quite another.

The dumping of mass to slow, or eliminate angular momentum makes sense, as this is regularly observed behavior in young stars. Perhaps the key is that the cloud of matter out of which stars are born are too small in the case of a brown dwarf, and therefore, even when exhibiting the youthful matter ejection most stars display, the amount of mass ejected may be too much to ignite the process to make the brown dwarf shine as a true star.

It will be interesting to see what develops with this story, as I'm sure other brown dwarfs will be watched carefully to see if they behave in a manner similar to that of 2M1207a.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Endangered Species Protection Sought for Bigfoot

The following excerpt is from a opinion piece about a proposal to make Bigfoot a legally protected endangered species. See how much sense this makes to you:

Recently, Mike Lake, a Canadian member of parliament from Edmonton, Alberta, agreed to introduce a petition that called for Bigfoot to be protected under the Canadian version of the endangered species act.

Lake presented to the House of Commons a petition that stated, “The debate over (Bigfoot’s) existence is moot in the circumstance of their tenuous hold on merely existing. Therefore, the petitioners request the House of Commons to establish immediate, comprehensive legislation to affect immediate protection of Bigfoot.”

The man behind the petition was a Bigfoot enthusiast named Todd Standing, who claims to have definitive proof of Bigfoot but is withholding it until protection for the alleged animals is in place. “When I get species protection for them nationwide, I will make my findings public and I will take this out of the realm of mythology. Bigfoot is real,” Standing said.

The petition soon became an embarrassment for Lake, who later issued a press release stating that the proposal had been tabled. “I take seriously my responsibility to represent all of my constituents, regardless of whether or not I agree with their views. If a legitimate petition is brought forward by one of my constituents and deemed to be in order, I feel it is my duty to table it in the House,” Lake wrote.

There is some precedent for the proposal: Similar quasi-legal measures protecting unknown creatures have been suggested or passed, for example protecting the Canadian monsters Memphre” (of Quebec’s Lake Memphremagog) and “Caddy” (of British Columbia’s Cadboro Bay). “Champ,” the lake monster said to inhabit Lake Champlain, is “officially” protected by both the New York State Assembly and the Vermont Legislature.

A few years ago I dated a girl who lived in South Burlington, Vermont, not far from where "Champ" is a local celebrity. The impression I got from her, and from most of her friends, was that they didn't necessarily "believe" in the existence of Champ, but rather that they didn't see why there was so much interest in the alleged creature.

The area around Lake Champlain has dealt with researchers aplenty, some of whom want to prove the existence of the beast, and others who not only want to disprove its existence, but who also want to portray those residents who do believe the creature swims in those waters as deluded nutcases. As such, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold intelligent discussions about such matters.

As far as Bigfoot goes, the cause is still going strong in the Pacific Northwest, despite recent revelations that the most famous footage of the beast has been proven to be a fake. Is it possible that an undetected hominid lives in seclusion tantalizingly close to the cities of this area? Maybe, maybe not. It seems to me that if people like Mr. Standing really have the evidence that they say they have, then why not show it now? What difference could it possibly make to wait for a piece of legislation to be enacted into law to reveal what they know? Will the fate of the measure change their results? Besides, it also seems to me that such a measure is almost surely never going to be needed, given the lack of Bigfoot remains on record, and hurts the cause of legitimate research in this area.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cosmology, Physics and Philosophy

The following Yahoo News excerpt is from an article titled Physicists Predict the Death of Cosmology. Astronomy is a hobby of mine, and I handled my high school and college physics pretty well. Additionally, I understand most of the major concepts that cosmology puts forth. However, this article borders on Taoist philosophy on steroids. Check it out and see if your brain hurts as bad as mine did after you are finished:

Physicists are now foretelling the death of cosmology, or the study of our universe, as we know it. Thankfully, cosmologists won't be jobless for a couple trillion years.

The universe is rapidly expanding--perhaps not rapidly enough to rip to shreds, but enough that distant galaxies will eventually be moving away faster than the speed of light. This much has been known for decades.

Once all these galaxies blink out of existence,
scientists ask in an upcoming issue of The Journal of Relativity and Gravitation, how will future intelligent beings study space if the human race's knowledge is long gone? Will they be able to figure out if the Big Bang happened? Or rediscover relativity?

For the most part, said Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and co-author of the journal article, future observers will be out of luck.
"They'll be stuck in an endless black void," Krauss said, noting that any galaxies outside of our own cluster will disappear in about 100 billion years. "They'll feel very special after that happens, because our tiny cluster of galaxies will be the observable universe to them."

Without a cosmological frame of reference, Krauss explained, future observers will be clueless
that their universe is still expanding. "It will be a sort of twisted situation, where thinking returns to what it was at the turn of the 20th century," he said.

In other words, observers will think the universe is just a static--or non-expanding--cluster of galaxies just as scientists thought until the 1920s. "The static universe," as the journal article states, "will have returned with a vengeance."

An additional issue for future observers will be the disappearance of cosmic microwave background radiation--the fingerprint
of the Big Bang's occurrence--in about 250 billion years. Without it, Krauss said, observers can't be certain about how the universe was created, not to mention when.

The problem relates to the Doppler effect: When a speeding train approaches, the sound waves from its whistle are squished together to make a higher pitch. As it passes, the sound waves are stretched out like a slinky and become lower in pitch and fainter. Similarly, as the universe expands outward, the "pitch" of light will lengthen and fade away. "The wavelength of light will be so large it will eventually reach the size of our galaxy," Krauss said. "It will just be absorbed."

, however, is confident that someone (presumably human in form) will be the next Einstein and rediscover general relativity.
He's also hopeful that future observers will be able to explain the creation of the solar system by studying stars within the galaxy.

Can I get a WOW?!? Mr. Krauss is throwing some serious heat with these fastballs. I have three quick thoughts about this discussion:

One, yes, general relativity does stipulate that it is theoretically possible for expansion to proceed until some objects exceed the speed of light, but the proportion of mass per cubic parsec (mostly populated by dark matter) is supposed to help slow the expansion down. Recent observations show that this is happening, so Mr. Krauss's statement seems to be a bit of hyperbole.

Two, even if dark matter wasn't slowing expansion down, eventually everything in the universe would be moving faster than the speed of light. Under that scenario, Mr. Krauss's statement about future observers thinking that they would be alone in the local cluster of galaxies would not seem to work.

Three, even if the cluster of galaxies in which we reside manages to stay somewhat intact, that does not mean that future observers cannot glean the phenomenon of expansion. There are at least two dozen galaxies in the association of which our Milky Way is a member. Some are retreating, some are approaching. If the astronomers of the future have eyes like ours and instruments similar to ours, then it stands to reason that they will work out what a redshift or blueshift means as far as objects retreating or approaching is concerned.

I don't have advanced degrees in astrophysics or cosmology. Since I don't, I realize that there could easily be something I have overlooked. Still, this is a fascinating topic, and I hope that there are followup articles to expand on the ideas presented here.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Two Strange New Exoplanets to Consider

I have found some interesting stories about new newly discovered exoplanets that are among the strangest worlds we have discovered. The first is about a hot-water, Neptune-sized planet that orbits close to a Red Dwarf. excerpt:

A Neptune-sized world in a distant solar system orbits very close to its star and might be covered with exotic forms of water not naturally found on Earth, scientists say. The bizarre world is being called a "hot ice planet."

The finding, to be detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, marks the first time relatively small planets similar to the ice giants Uranus and Neptune in our solar system have been found orbiting very close to their stars.

Prior to this discovery, only gaseous giants known as "hot Jupiters"
were known to inhabit such close stellar quarters.

First discovered in 2004, the planet, called GJ 436 b, is about 22 times more massive than Earth. It orbits a diminutive red dwarf star 30 light-years away from us. New observations of the planet as it transited,
or passed in front of, its parent star allowed scientists to measure its size and mass. GJ 436 b is the closest, and smallest, transiting planet to be measured in this way.

The measurements, made using a telescope at the Observatoire Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (OFXB) in Saint-Luc, Switzerland, revealed GJ 436 b has a diameter of about 30,000 miles (50,000 kilometers)-four times that of Earth.

Based on its size and mass, scientists think the planet is composed mostly of water. If the planet were a gas giant like Jupiter or Saturn and contained mostly hydrogen and helium, it would be much larger, and if it was made up of rock and iron like Earth and Mars, it would be much smaller, the scientists say.

The water world could be enveloped by a thin atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, like Neptune and Uranus, or could be surrounded entirely by water, like Saturn's moon Enceladus.

GJ 436 b orbits its star from a distance of only about 2.5 million miles (4 million km)-about 14 times closer than Mercury's average distance from the Sun. At such close quarters, scientists think its surface temperature is at least 600 degrees Fahrenheit (300 C) and any water on its atmosphere would be in the form of steam.

Okay, so now we have a liquid planet roughly the size of Neptune orbiting close to a Red Dwarf. The universe is getting stranger every single day with the announcements of these findings. Of course, we have just scratched the surface here since the number of exoplanets we have found is miniscule when compared to the size of the entire galaxy.

Full Hot Liquid Exoplanet Story

But wait, there's more! A more distant star in the constellation Hercules hosts the hottest planet yet discovered. Yahoo News excerpt:

The hottest planet ever discovered is charcoal black and makes even some stars seem cool. Scientists think the exoplanet absorbs nearly all the starlight that reaches its surface and then reradiates it back out into space as heat.

Called HD149026b, the feverish world emits so much infrared heat that it glows slightly. "It would look like an ember in space, absorbing all incoming light but glowing a dull red," said study leader Joseph Harrington of the University of Central Florida.

Located 279 light-years away in the constellation Hercules, HD 149026b is a so-called hot Jupiter,
a giant gas planet that orbits very close to its star. It is a scorching 3,700 degrees Fahrenheit (2,040 degrees Celsius), three times hotter than Mercury and hotter than the coolest stars.

Until very recently, HD 149026b was also the densest planet known. It contains higher levels of heavy elements --those other than hydrogen and helium-than all of the planets in our solar system combined, and its core might have up to 90 times the mass of the Earth.

"HD 149026b is simply the most exotic, bizarre planet," Harrington said. "It's pretty small, really dense, and now we find that it's extremely hot."

How HD 149026b got to be so hot is a mystery. "We've actually done a lot of work to try and answer that question, but the more we think about it, the worse it gets," Harrington said.

One idea, proposed by Jonathan Fortney at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, is that the planet is so hot that metals such as titanium and vanadium can exist in their gaseous forms in the planet's atmosphere. Such metals are "very, very, very strong visible [light] absorbers," said Fortney, who was not involved in the new study.

Fortney also pointed out HD 149026b orbits a very metal-rich star, which could explain why the planet is so abundant in heavy elements. The planet's "atmosphere is probably enhanced in metals compared to most other planets, so it's probably more efficient at absorbing stellar light than other hot Jupiter planets," Fortney said.

Fortney thinks HD 149026b could be the first of a new subgroup of hot Jupiters. "I think what we'll eventually find is that hot Jupiters may end up falling into two classes," he said. One class, Fortney said, would consist of relatively "cool" hot planets, in the range of about 1,300 to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (700 to 1,000 degrees C), and the other would have planets with temperatures of 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,700 degrees C) or higher.

So just when you think the universe can't get any more bizarre, along comes a story to top the previous one. It reminds me of the Larry Niven short story Flatlander, in which his character Beowulf Shaeffer got dragged along by a rich friend named Elephant who wanted to find the most unusual planet inside Niven's setting of the Known Space series of stories he wrote in the 1960s and 70s. The pair find an antimatter planet, but don't realize it until it is almost too late. These worlds aren't antimatter planets, but they certainly rank as two of the most unusual objects that have yet been found.

And you've got to love the way Mr. Fortney and his colleagues are ready to begin reclassifying the objects they detect as the differences between one planet and another emerge. I wish them luck, because, as I previously stated, we've just scratched the surface here. I have a feeling that the really interesting stories are yet to come.

Full Hot Gas Giant Story

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell Dead at 73. Because of Him, Three Republican Candidates Deny Evolution.

Jerry Falwell passed away today at the age of 73. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

LYNCHBURG, Va. - The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the folksy, small-town preacher who used the power of television to found the Moral Majority and turn the Christian right into a mighty force in American politics during the Reagan years, died Tuesday at 73.

Falwell was discovered without a pulse in his office at Liberty University and pronounced dead at a hospital an hour later. Dr. Carl Moore, Falwell's physician, said he had a heart condition and presumably died of a heart rhythm abnormality.

Driven into politics by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established the right to an abortion, Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979. One of the conservative lobbying group's greatest triumphs came just a year later, when
Ronald Reagan
was elected president.

Falwell credited the Moral Majority with getting millions of conservative voters registered, aiding in Reagan's victory and giving Republicans control of the Senate. "I shudder to think where the country would be right now if the religious right had not evolved," he said when he stepped down as Moral Majority president in 1987.

We might have a cure for AIDS, Alzheimer's Disease, Cancer, and a host of other diseases that people like Falwell like to claim are God's collective curse on mankind.

Fellow TV evangelist Pat Robertson, himself a one-time GOP candidate for president, declared Falwell "a tower of strength on many of the moral issues which have confronted our nation."

The rise of Christian conservatism — and the Moral Majority's full-throated condemnation of homosexuality, abortion and pornography — made Falwell perhaps the most recognizable figure on the evangelical right, and one of the most controversial ones, too.

Not that I "believe", but wouldn't it be a nice irony if Saint Peter denied Falwell entry into the Heavenly Kingdom on the basis of his silly characterization of Tinky Winky?

Over the years, Falwell waged a landmark libel case against Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt over a raunchy parody ad, and created a furor in 1999 when one of his publications suggested that the purse-carrying "Teletubbies" character Tinky Winky was gay.

Matt Foreman, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, extended condolences to those close to Falwell, but added: "Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America's anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation's appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS
epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation."

The 1980s marked the religious conservative movement's high-water mark. In more recent years, Falwell had become a problematic figure for the GOP. His remarks a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, essentially blaming feminists, gays and liberals for bringing on the terrorist attacks drew a rebuke from the White House, and he apologized.

Jerry Falwell, as you may be able to guess from the content of much of this blog, is someone I will not miss. He was a man who misused his ability to influence people. He, Pat Robertson, and others of their ilk, are divisive forces in this country. Their narrow viewpoints harm the cause of true scientific progress, and the damage they have inflicted since they began interfering in politics has weakened this nation.

Don't believe me? The dolt in the White House is the inevitable result of mixing religion and politics. The idea that a "folksy" rube with simple, Christian values, yet absolutely no curiosity of the wonders of the natural world, could lead this nation found lots of appeal with the intellectually challenged in this country, and the entire world has been paying a terrible price for our collective lack of judgement these past six years.

Separation of church and state is the most important notion that the founding fathers devised. Until the birth of the United States, every nation on earth had its politics and religious beliefs intertwined. I hope that we will soon embrace Thomas Jefferson's lofty ideals and become a nation that is no longer guided by silly superstitions.

Full Jerry Falwell Memorial Article

On a similar note, are you as disturbed as I am that three Republican presidential candidates, in front of a live televised audience, denied that evolution is real? Check out the following New York Times debate recap excerpt:

There were revealing moments that went past the well-rehearsed lines by all the candidates. Three of the candidates — Mike Huckabee (former Arizona Governor), Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado — raised their hands to signal that they did not believe in evolution.

The now late Mr. Falwell did his work well with these men. I just wonder how many of the other candidates actually hold similar notions, but were too smart to say so in this forum. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that these men have taken such a ridiculous position. Huckabee and Tancredo are simply crazy, and Brownback is both crazy and is playing up to the anti-evolution constituency of his state. To say that their insane views on evolution should automatically disqualify them from serving the public in any official capacity, let alone that of President of the United States, is an exercise in understatement.

I certainly hope enough smart people out there vote to keep these clowns out of our affairs for good.

Full GOP Debate Recap Article

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Massive Star's Explosion Triggers Renewed Interest in Stellar Lifecycles

A super-massive star that exploded into a supernova last September is giving astronomers and astrophysicists some new insights into stellar evolution. Yahoo News Reuters excerpt:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A gargantuan explosion ripped apart a star perhaps 150 times more massive than our sun in a relatively nearby galaxy in the most powerful and brightest supernova ever observed, astronomers said on Monday. And there is one such star in our own Milky Way galaxy that appears to be on the brink of dying in just such a supernova.

The exploding star's dramatic death may have come in a rare type of supernova reserved for "freakishly massive" stars that astronomers had speculated about but never previously witnessed. The supernova, designated as SN 2006gy, occurred 240 million light years away in a galaxy called NGC 1260, and was studied using observations from NASA's orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory as well as earthbound optical telescopes.

The supernova was discovered in September 2006, and stands as far and away the most powerful and brightest ever observed, Smith said. "In fact, even after the better part of a year, well after 200 days, it has faded somewhat but it's still about as bright as a normal supernova at its peak," Smith said.

A supernova marks a star's death in a spectacular explosion. Scientists say these events play a crucial role in creating heavy elements through nuclear fusion and synthesis and then expelling them into space, seeding the cosmos with metals. The scientists ruled out a possible alternative explanation that what they were witnessing was the explosion of a white dwarf star with a mass only a bit more than the sun.

Astrophysicist Mario Livio said the supernova may have resulted from a type of explosion mechanism that had existed only in theoretical calculations. He said the first generation of stars in the universe may have died in such a manner.

In a normal supernova, the core of a star collapses when it exhausts its fuel, and forms either a neutron star or a black hole, with scant heavy elements blown into space. But this supernova appears to be the result of the core not collapsing but being obliterated in an explosion blasting all its material into space, the scientists said.

Dave Pooley of the University of California at Berkeley said this star appears similar to Eta Carinae, a star perhaps 100 to 120 times the mass of the sun located 7,500 light years away within the Milky Way. There has not been a supernova in our galaxy in more than 400 years, Pooley said.

If Eta Carinae were to burst into a supernova, Pooley said, "It would be so bright that you would see it during the day, and you could even read a book by its light at night."

Livio said Eta Carinae had an incredible eruption during the 19th century that left it in an hourglass shape. He said it could explode at any time. "This could happen tomorrow, it could happen 1,000 years from now," Livio said. "Is there a risk to life on Earth as a result of this explosion? Well, not very likely." Livio said Earth could be affected if there were a gamma ray burst that potentially could harm the atmosphere and life, but the chances of this aiming directly at Earth are slim.

My opening about this star having exploded last September is obviously incorrect. This star exploded 240 million years ago, and it's light is just now reaching our eyes. Light travels 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) every second. It therefore travels roughly 5.86 trillion miles (about 9.44 trillion kilometers) in a year. That works out to about 1.41 x 10 to the 21st power miles (2.265 x 10 to the 21st power kilometers). If I've done my math correctly, that means it would take one about 7.11 x 10 to the 15th power years to reach this dead star at the rate of 55 miles per hour.

All kidding aside, any information we get from these observations is important because, as the excerpt details, we have a similarly large and unstable monster of a star in our own galaxy. Eta Carinae, which lies embedded in the plane of the southern Milky Way (alas too far to glimpse from the latitude where I sit typing this post, although I did get more than one glance at that region of the sky when I visited Australia in January and February of 2005) has fascinated astronomers for decades, and the readings gleaned from these observations will only enhance that fascination as astronomers and astrophysicists attempt to predict what will happen to this huge star.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

William the Mercenary Lands Back in the Bronx

William Roger Clemens has, for the second time in two years (and the fourth year since he first retired from the Yankees), decided to un-retire and pitch the final four months of the season for his beloved Yankees. In a humourous article titled "Can Rocket rescue Yankee season?" William is exalted as the missing piece to the Yankee puzzle that the 2007 season has been. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

The Yankees will pay about $26 million in salary and luxury tax for the Rocket, more than $1 million per win for a soon-to-be 45-year-old pitcher likely to make about 22 starts in the regular season. Then again, it's value shopping when compared with Carl Pavano — as far as the Yankees are concerned, his $39.95 million, four-year contract surpassed the 1997 Dunbar Armored heist ($18.9 million) as the largest cash robbery in U.S. history.

Pavano has more injuries (six) than wins (five) in a little more than two seasons, and he might have elbow surgery that could sideline him for the remainder of his agreement. New York spent even more on Kei Igawa — $46 million including his contract and the posting fee. He has two wins, a 7.63 ERA and might wind up in the minor leagues soon.

News Flash: Igawa HAS been sent to the minors. It just happened. Also, thank goodness the Sox didn't bid anywhere near as high as the Yankees did for Pavano after his nutty 18-win 2004 season. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make...

While the Yankees sputtered to a 14-15 start, sending pitchers to the disabled list with the regularity of an assembly line, the Boston Red Sox spurted to an AL-best 20-10 record. Clemens is viewed as a savior.

"This is a huge statement," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in the interview room in the bowels of Yankees Stadium. "Don't count us out, because we want to be in it for the long haul."

Pitching is prized above all in baseball, more important than power, more coveted than fancy fielding or super speed. Just last Friday, the Yankees scored 11 runs and lost to Seattle, wasted an 8-6 lead by allowing eight consecutive batters to reach.

In October, especially, the Yankees have flopped on the mound following Clemens' 2003 departure, with Kevin Brown, Javy Vazquez and Randy Johnson battered as if they were BP pitchers. But at the rate Yankees pitchers were allowing runs, New York wasn't going to reach October without a drastic move.

Mike Mussina (38) and Andy Pettitte (35 in June) figure to miss starts here and there. Phil Hughes, the 20-year-old knocked out by a hamstring injury in mid-no-hitter last week, figures to learn a lot from Clemens, as do Darrell Rasner, Jeffrey Karstens, Chase Wright, DeSalvo and maybe even Igawa, too.

Clemens described his mission as part educational, a Stanley Kaplan finishing school for the pitching set. He's part professor, part drill instructor, with 348 wins and 4,604 strikeouts. "There's a lot of young pitchers here now trying to achieve their dreams and goals," he said. "I look forward to talking to them and bringing them some experience."

What a bunch of complete and utter bullshit. If William the Arrogant really wanted to talk to young pitchers and bring them some experience, then why isn't he doing so right now? The answer is simple. It's because he's a selfish SOB who wants nothing more than for the world to bow to his every whim.

Is Clemens a great pitcher? Absolutely. He's a lock to be elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. Is he a good guy? Not from where I sit. He mailed in his 1993-6 seasons with the Red Sox. He went 40-39, including his only sub-.500 seasons, 1993 and 1996. He gained weight and lost a yard off his fastball which prompted Dan Duquette to utter the famous "twilight of his career" remark that signalled the end of the Clemens era in Boston. Armed with hurt pride, William then got back into shape, developed a split-finger pitch and won back-to-back Cy Young awards for the Toronto Blue Jays before stabbing them in the back and forcing a trade to the Yankees where he stunk up the Stadium for two years until 2001 when he won his sixth Cy Young (He won three in Boston, 1986, 1987 and 1991). He then "retired" after the 2003 season only to un-retire and resurface with the Astros, where he only had to go to home games.

What kills me is that this boob likely cost the Astros a crack at last year's post-season. By sitting on the sidelines and playing the Astros against the Yankees, William waited too long to help his team. The Astros finished 82-80 last year, a mere one-and-a-half games behind the NL Central Division and eventual World Series Champion St, Louis Cardinals. William made 19 starts and went 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA. Is it likely that if he had returned a month earlier that in the six or starts he'd have made that he could have turned three or four Astro losses into wins? I think it is, but we will never know that. I just wonder if that thought has ever occurred to him. Somehow I doubt it.

Last night, on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, Orel Hershiser said that he expects William to make 24 starts and that he expects the Yankees to win 14 of those, and that William's ERA would be at 4.00 or over -- nearly double what is was last year. In the National League, pitchers hit. Not so in the American League. We have and Papi, Manny. The Blue Jays have Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas, Troy Glaus and Alex Rios. The Orioles have Miguel Tejada, Ramon Hernandez, Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons. Even the Devil Rays have Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, BJ Upton and Delmon Young, and those guys certainly beat the pants off the Pinstripes a few weeks ago. And these are just the Yanks inter-divisional rivals. Look at the other sluggers in the AL Central and West. Guys like Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, Richie Sexson, Eric Chavez and Nick Swisher. All those guys are dead fastball hitters.

Oh, and let's not forget the prospect of injury. William turns 45 in August, and it is not reasonable to expect him to feel retard strong every time Joe Torre tells him he must start a game. Still, it's the Yankees and one cannot help but get a creepy feeling about this move.

I'll sum up this post by hoping that this season plays out as last season did, and that William will have waited to long to make a difference, and that he, and his team miss the post-season.

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