The Nub

The Nub

"If you don't think life imitates sports, you're not reading The Nub”
                                                                                                             -  Bill Moyers

“Politics and baseball.  Interesting blog…called ‘The Nub’ on perfectpitcher.org.”
                                                                                                               - Boston Globe

The Pro-Peace Versus Anti-Terror Game

Leave a comment

We’ve long felt that the accolades Bud Selig received as Baseball commissioner were overblown. Now, the Yankees have prompted us to reconsider: Selig deserves credit for diminishing the sport’s economic inequality to the point that the Yanks are no longer thought of as the “Evil Empire.” Sure, the mega-rich Dodgers could become the MLB’s new dominant team, and Tampa Bay and Oakland may always have cash-flow problems. But Selig has left us – at least temporarily – with a team-by-team lineup featuring near-parity and peace.

By acting to normalize relations with Cuba, Skipper Obama has made a good start in a similar way toward teams in the international geopolitical league.. It’s a long shot, but we can hope he will follow up with friendly overtures – and possible prosperity as well as peace – to Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc. – clubs that don’t play the Yanqui – style of ball.

We know that Team Obama, like its predecessors, prefers to play the power game. The O-team takes pride in not yielding to adversaries. How it’s handling the hostage crisis posed by jihadists is revealing.   Where the French ransom captives and celebrate their survival and release, America remains defiant. We “courageously” sacrifice the lives of our countrymen, unwilling to pay to prevent beheadings. Then we express outrage at the inhumanity of those who tried to bargain with us.   A difficult stance for the world to appreciate; especially after publication of a scorecard detailing the torture that was our terrible response to anti-terrorism.                                                    –       –       –

San Diego Makeover: New Padres GM A.J. Preller has seized the off-season wheeler-dealer record in the last few days. Here are the prominent players he has added to his roster: outfielders Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Justin Upton (Braves), Will Myers (Rays); catcher Derek Norris (A’s), third baseman Will Middlebrooks (Red Sox). Preller gave up mostly prospects in the trades. The Yankees, meanwhile swapped Martin Prado and pitcher David Phelps to the Marlins for hard-throwing Nate Eovaldi and first baseman Garrett Jones. The Giants re-signed Jake Peavy to a two-year contract.

Basement Survey: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Oakland/Houston, Colorado/Arizona, Cincinnati: all possible division doormats accounted for, except in the NL East. Would you believe there it’s Atlanta, as dominant over much of the past two decades as the Yankees were in their peak periods?

Badmouth the Big Gamer? No Way: “(James)Shields had a 6.12 playoff ERA, fueled by two bad starts with the nation paying full attention — in the AL Wild Card game (five innings, four runs) and in Game 1 of the World Series (three innings, five runs)… (But)maybe the playoff record is just an arbitrary beginning and endpoint that happens to occur when we’re all paying close attention. If you’re hung up on those five starts, how about his three starts beginning Aug. 30? Facing the Indians, Yankees and Tigers, three teams involved in the pennant race, Shields gave up one run. One. Three starts, with the season on the line, working into the ninth inning twice, and giving up one run. That counts, too. If three starts with the season in the balance doesn’t do it for you, how about his last 16? From his start July 7 through the end of the regular season, his line looks like this: 16 starts, 110 innings pitched, 1.32 ERA. Maybe…I’m biased. But that looks like a ‘Big Game James’ to me.” – Brian Kenny, Sports on Earth

                                                                                                     -o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

 

‘Who We Are': Whether Yankees Or Team USA

Leave a comment

A scene at the close of Baseball’s Winter Meetings last Thursday:  Yankees GM Brian Cashman departing empty-handed, looking, in the words of MLB-TV’s Brian Kenny, like a “game, gritty underdog.”  Far from the usual way Pinstripe People are perceived.  The Yanks’ won-loss record at the meetings, 0-2; that’s zero and a big two.  They lost closer David Robertson to the White Sox and starter Brandon McCarthy to the Dodgers.  How could this happen?  How could the sport’s second richest team, with a $200 million-plus payroll, be outspent in competing for two key players.  “This is not who we are,” groan Yankee fans.  In this new era of expanding financial clout, that may no longer be the case.

Similar words were spoken by the nation’s Skipper and others in DC after disclosure of the Senate report on torture.  What we did, Obama said, was “contrary to who we are.” In Atlantic on-Line, author and CUNY Professor Peter Beinart, says the Skipper has taken a wild swing, and missed on the facts. Beinart provides details from the record book:

“In times of fear, war, and stress, Americans have always done things like this. In the 19th century, American slavery relied on torture. At the turn of the 20th, when America began assembling its empire overseas, the U.S. army waterboarded Filipinos during the Spanish-American War. As part of the Phoenix Program, an effort to gain intelligence during the Vietnam War, CIA-trained interrogators delivered electric shocks to the genitals of some Vietnamese communists, and raped, starved, and beat others. America has tortured throughout its history. And every time it has, some Americans have justified the brutality as necessary to protect the country from a savage enemy… After 9/11, while George W. Bush was announcing that God had deputized America to spread liberty around the world, his government was shredding the domestic and international restraints against torture built up over decades, and injecting food into inmates’ rectums. Those actions were not ‘contrary to who we are.’  They were a manifestation of who we are. And the more we acknowledge that, the better our chances of becoming something different in the years to come.”

A shameful Team USA tradition we prefer to overlook.                                        

–       –       –

Head Count:  With the White Sox’s signings of Melky Cabrera, Chase Headley and Jed Lowrie, roughly two-thirds  of what are generally considered the 35 “name” free agents are off the board.  The still-available dozen or so include:: Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo,  Ryan Vogelsong, Edinson Volquez, Asdrubal Cabrera, Nori Aoki, Michael Morse, Stephen Drew,  Ichiro Suzuki, Dan Uggla.

Lesson of the Matt Kemp Trade:  Every player can be traded, no matter who he is. Now that long-tenured (Derek) Jeter and (Paul) Konerko have retired, and Jimmy Rollins is on the cusp of being dealt — coincidentally — to the Dodgers, baseball’s longest-tenured players with one team are Chase Utley and David Ortiz, who debuted with, respectively, the Phillies and the Red Sox in 2003. After just 12 years, Utley (36) is likely not long for Philadelphia, and Ortiz, at 39, is likely not long for baseball.  Had Kemp played out his contract in Los Angeles, he would have been a Dodger for 14 years, but his trade represents a reminder that players who remain with one team for anywhere approaching that length of time are significant outliers. The business of baseball has changed.” – Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated

                                                                             – o –

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

‘Do Something!’ Say Baseball and Political Fans

Leave a comment

(Posted 12/9/14)

Until late last week, the complaint heard among Yankee fans included the word “dithering.” Their team was too passive a part of the post-season upgrading process. The signing of coveted reliever Andrew Miller quieted the restiveness, as did the trade for the possible Derek Jeter successor, Didi Gregorius. Now, fans in Ohio, of both the Reds and the Indians, in Texas, of both the Rangers and Astros, and in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, among other cities, can feel similarly impatient. Four of seven top-of-the-market free agents have been signed – Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez by the Red Sox, Victor Martinez by the Tigers, and Nelson Cruz by the Mariners. Mega-ace pitchers Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, as well as (among others) lesser-level starter Justin Masterson, and position players Melky Cabrera and Chase Headley, are still up for grabs. “Do something!,” say the fans.

The leading , and – for now – the Dem team’s only presidential prospect, is taking similar hits from the media. The prodding of Hillary Clinton is the inevitable brush-back to her aura of inevitability. The impatience centers on her refusal, despite her dominant stance, to go to bat on any burning issue that might elicit boos. The Politico’s Roger Simon addresses Clinton’s play-it-safe game and urges her to change it:

Americans want to hear what you intend to achieve and how you intend achieve it. They want to know where you will take the country and the world. They want from (their) Hillary what Hillary doesn’t want to give them: the ‘vision’ thing that she finds… embarrassing…(Instead) Hillary… will soon begin a ‘listening tour,’ the same shopworn stunt she used in 1999 when running for the U.S. Senate from New York…(Her listening) so far has moved her to silence.”

The scorebook Simon has assembled notes Clinton’s unwillingness to comment on the events in Ferguson, or the proposed Keystone pipeline. It also shows her polling numbers have hit their lowest point since she left Team Obama.

Pending emergence of a credible competitor, Hillary’s slide is calamitous news for the Dems, signaling, as it does, a potential 2016 walkoff win for Team GOP.

–     –     –

Guessin’ Game: That the Yankees let David Robertson go to the White Sox is a signal Brian Cashman will go for broke in signing Chase Headley. That’s the guess here, anyway.

You May Not Have Heard This One: Most speculation at yesterday’s start of the Winter Meetings we’ve heard before – Jon Lester will sign with the Red Sox, Cubs or Dodgers, Chase Headley nearing deal with the Giants, etc LA Times birddog Bill Shaikin offers a new possibility – the Dodgers to deal for Jimmy Rollins, perhaps their “best hope” as fill-in shortstop in 2015.

Returnee: He’s not Lester, but the Cubs are happy to have re-signed 32-year-old righthander Jason Hammel, whom they dealt to Oakland last summer. Hammel went 8-5, .298, with the Cubs last season

-o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

 

 

Strategic Choices: Swinging for the Fences or Playing It Safe

Leave a comment

(Posted 12/6/14)

How to explain why Billy Beane traded his best player, Josh Donaldson, to Toronto for oft-injured Brett Lawrie and two prospects?   It’s a mystery because, even though he gave away a lot to rent Jon Lester and (presumably), Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel last season, Beane had enough pitching and, with Donaldson, enough hitting, to be competitive again in 2015. Could it have been the humiliation of those failed 2014 deals that inspired the current shakeup? “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis may have hit upon the answer when he wrote this about Beane more than a decade ago:

“Neither his trad(es)…nor the other moves he made had the flavor of a careful lab experiment. It felt more as if the scientist, infuriated that the results of a careful lab experiment (had failed), waded into his lab and began busting test tubes.”

Our pinch-hitter Lewis made another decade-old clarifying point about the way Beane operates: “Billy worried that this year good enough might not be good enough. ‘We can in 90 games and have a nice little season. But sometimes you have to say ‘fuck it’ and swing for the fences’.”

The attitudinal contrast between Oakland’s skipper and ours, the White Sox’s most prominent fan, is striking. The first half of Skipper Obama’s second term has been as disastrous politically as Beane’s was in Baseball last season. Fans of the Skipper in the White House dugout thought they saw signs he would be swinging for the fences himself once the 2014 electoral playoffs were behind him. It seemed in his term’s late innings that he had nothing to lose by being more Beane-like, and going yard.

Obama’s response to both the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the choke-hold death of Eric Garner in New York City, showed he was still the familiar play-it-safe leader. Acknowledging in both cases the distrust between many police departments and black communities, he took a bunting stance. National Journal scorekeeper George Condon logged the Skipper’s initial tentative offerings at the plate this way: “He was cautious about the use of surplus military equipment by domestic police forces, promising (a study of the practice). He was cautious on police behavior, promising to work with Congress to pay for more body cameras to be worn by cops on the street. He was cautious about the Justice Department’s role, announcing that the outgoing attorney general will (address the challenge on a nationwide basis).   And he was cautious in falling back on that most familiar of Washington responses—a task force to further study the situation.”

The Skipper’s restrained pep-talk was a reminder of a similar one he made more than a year ago, pitching a need for “debate” on his national security policies, a debate that never took the field.

–       –       –

Busy Bombers: The Yankees’ signing of Andrew Miller – $36 million for four years – smacks of the KC Royals’ influence: shorten the game to six innings with shutdown seven-eight-nine relievers. If they re-sign closer David Robertson – at least a 50-50 possibility – the Yanks will have Miller, Dellin Betances and Robertson to follow KC’s Word-Series –attaining formula. The almost simultaneous three-way deal which saw NYY send pitcher Shane Greene to Detroit and receive shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Diamondbacks – while Arizona gained pitcher Robbie Ray and a prospect from the Tigers – shores up their infield defense

Why the Big Bucks: SI’s Tom Verducci, on Nelson Cruz’s surprising (to some) four-year, $57 million deal with the Mariners: “The days are over when you can confidently project a minor league prospect to hit in the majors or a confidently expect an underachieving journeyman to fill an important spot in your lineup. It’s not that hitting has become so bad; it’s that pitching has become so good. We all know strikeouts keep going up — nine straight years now. And we all know how deeper, harder-throwing bullpens are shutting down offense late in games. But an overlooked aspect to this era of pitching dominance is that…bases on balls have decreased 16 percent just since 2009. The game has changed dramatically in a short period.”

The ‘Not-a-Disaster’ Deal: “In (Nick) Markakis, the Braves have signed a player who failed to outhit (Jason) Heyward in either of the last two seasons and is markedly inferior in the field. That’s a huge step backward even before you factor back in Markakis’ age. For a team that finished 29th in the majors in runs scored in 2014, which the Braves did, any step backwards on offense could be crippling. It may be unlikely that the 31-year-old Markakis will outproduce the 25-year-old Heyward in 2015, but Markakis will clearly have a negative impact on the team’s overall run differential relative to Heyward…As for the contract, $11 million per season is not big money in this market, and the contract only goes through Markakis’ age-34 season, so it’s not a disaster.” – Cliff Corocoran, SI

Double-Edged Weapon: “Billy (Beane) has a gift of making people like him. It’s a dangerous gift to have.” – Sandy Alderson (who hired Beane to be GM in Oakland)

                                                                                                                       -o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

The Numbers Game from Two 2014 Pastimes

Leave a comment

(Posted 12/2/14)

 December: when the 2014 post-season evolves into the pre-2015 hot stove period. Before that switch, let’s recall key regular season performances overlooked once the playoffs started. The Dodgers led both leagues in runners-in-scoring position (RISP) hitting average, batting .286 as a team. The Cardinals’ Matt Holliday was individual leader, with a .361 risp; ex-Pirate, new Blue Jay Russell Martin finished right behind, with a .360. Another Cardinal, catcher Yadier Molina, turned in the top caught-stealing mark; he threw out just under half of would-be base thieves, 47.7 percent. In the AL, Orioles reserve catcher Caleb Joseph rang up 40.4 percent of runners who tried stealing on him. The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig led NL outfielders with 15 assists. That was second overall, however, to Yoenis Cespedes, who threw out 16 while playing left field for Oakland, then Boston. Who knew Cuban players were such strong-armed guys?

There are significant, but little-noticed stats on the political field as well. Just a little over a third of eligible voters went to the polls in November, 36 percent. Whites accounted for 75 percent of those who went to bat; only 12 percent of blacks went to the balloting plate, down from the mid-teen rate when Skipper Obama was running.   WashPost’s official scorer Chris Cillizza assembled the following additional numbers from Election Day exit polls: the Dems beat Team GOP in the women’s-vote race by four percentage points. They had a 13-point margin in the 2008 presidential race and won by 11 points in 2012. The latest single-digit stat is clearly not a good sign for the Dems. White voters gave Team GOP a 22-point margin over the Dems. That’s a big win, but it loses clout because it’s slightly down from what it was four years ago. Possibly more significant, however, is this stat: Latinos voted at a 34-percent rate for Team GOP, up two points from what it was four years ago.

The outlook for the Dems in state houses is even bleaker than that at the federal level. Vox’s Ezra Klein runs down the post-election numbers: “ Democrats control the state legislatures in only 11 states, while Republicans control 30 (the remainder have one chamber held by Democrats and another by Republicans). Similarly, Republicans hold 31 governorships to the Democrats’ 18. Democrats don’t have enough traction in the states for it to be a powerful engine of policy innovation. Their bench is weak.”

-        -           -

Shock-Time: The trade of Oakland’s Josh Donaldson to Toronto for Brett Lawrie and three prospects is a Billy Beane-engineered shocker, the off-season’s major mystery. It’s also a genuine heart-breaker for Donaldson, who expressed his disappointment feelingly: The guys in that clubhouse are my brothers, the coaches are my father figures.” (quoted by SF Chronicle’s Susan Slusser)

Upgrade: Why the Blue Jays now think they’re the class in the AL East: “Toronto’s No. 3-4-5 of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Donaldson is as good as any in the game. They combined to hit 98 home runs last season, and with Jose Reyes in the leadoff spot, the Blue Jays will put pitchers in high-leverage situations from the first inning on. This ultimately could mean wearing down starters early…and changing the dynamics of a game.” — MLB.com’s Richard Justice

Upgrade 2: The Mariners can now claim to be competitive with the Angels at the top of the AL East: the signing of Nelson Cruz for four years and $57 million (close to twice X four his one-year 2014 salary with the Orioles) says Seattle is ready to be reckoned with.

Looking for Relief: Let’s call it a purse-off: the Yankees and Dodgers vying to add Andrew Miller to their relief corps. The Yanks, meanwhile, have lots of competition for their closer David Robertson; he, like Miller is likely to command a four-year deal from whomever.

-o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

The No-Thanks Side of the Holiday Game

Leave a comment

(Posted 11/29/14)

On post-Thankful Saturday, our thoughts turn to fans with little to celebrate on the holiday: those SF rooters who lost their pet Panda. Giants fans have reason to feel betrayed, both by Pablo Sandoval and the team’s front office. “I need a new challenge,” Pablo said when asked why he chose the Red Sox’s five-year, $98 million offer over a similar one tendered by his former team. The SF brass may have nudged Sandoval out of town by not re-signing him before free-agency, as they did Hunter Pence. We know how the feeling of insult can spur an “I’ll-show-you” response.

It is clear that Team Obama’s offense coach, Chuck Hagel, did not leave his thankless job voluntarily. He was saddled as Defense Secretary with a Syrian policy that had the O-team aiding rebels in their fight against the Assad regime; at the same time, that regime was aiding the U.S. in its war against ISIS. Hagel’s lack of team spirit for the colliding alignment was obvious. The tension it caused among the Skipper’s close advisers, made him a target for unconditional release.

The Politico’s Glenn Thrush described the game’s walkoff point this way: After reports began surfacing of White House dissatisfaction with his performance in the past few months…(Hagel) dashed off an uncharacteristically sharp memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice slamming the administration’s Syria policy as rudderless and ill-defined.”

Hagel’s forced departure set off groans, right and left, on the annual long weekend of gratitude.

–       –       –

More Woe: While sharing the transitory pain with Giants fans, we might – yes, again – spare more profound sympathy with what’s left of the Mets fan base. Alone, perhaps, with the Padres, the Mets’ future is bleak, and will remain so as long as current ownership – Fred Wilpon and heir Jeff – remains in place. They have demonstrated their incapacity to run a big-market club in competitive fashion. A sad, post-Thanksgiving saga, dating back (with one exceptional season eight years ago) to 2002.

Whither Lester? Here are the vibes we sense surrounding Jon Lester’s future: The team willing to commit $150 million for six years (The Globe’s Nick Cafardo puts Boston’s offer so far at $120 million and the Cubs at $135m, each for six years) will get him. The Dodgers and Yankees must be considered threats to pounce, even though neither has taken part in the competition. We wouldn’t bet against any of the four in the Lester sweepstakes.

On More Likely Destinations…of Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, as theorized by MLB.com’s Phil Rogers: Greg Maddux had five cracks at free agency, the first when he was 26, the last at age 40. He used that leverage to change teams three times, but he never changed leagues. The Yankees and other American League teams tried to persuade Maddux to leave the National League but never succeeded. Maddux knew a good thing when he saw it. ‘”Do I look like an idiot?’ Maddux said at the end of his career…Veteran pitchers gravitate toward the NL, the last refuge from the designated-hitter rule. Earned run averages are lower, life expectancy seemingly longer.”

-o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

The ‘Rat’ Treatment’ Biting at Whistleblowers on Two Fields

Leave a comment

(Posted 11/25/14)

What happened to the player who set off Baseball’s crackdown on steroid use? Almost forgotten and once shunned for his role as a “rat,” Jose Canseco, now 50, is enjoying his belated vindication. He disclosed the widespread practice of players taking performance-enhancing drugs in his 2005 book “Juiced.” And he named names, big ones – Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi, with whom he played in Oakland, and Rafael Palmeiro, a sometimes training-partner. Later, after his revelations helped trigger the findings contained in the 2007 report overseen by George Mitchell, Canseco followed up with another book, “Vindicated.” In it he added Alex Rodriguez’s name to his list of accused users.

What’s striking about the Canseco saga is the outcast he became soon after his disclosures. Since he was both an avowed cheater himself, and was cashing in on identifying others who cheated as he had, critics dismissed Canseco as undeserving of attention. That dismissal endures despite the touted clean-up reforms for which he is, to a large extent, responsible. The media agree that blemished celebrities like Canseco, or unknowns like Carmen Segarra, who bring down public icons, forfeit prominent coverage. Segarra was an obscure bank examiner who exposed the coziness of NY’s Federal Reserve branch with the bank it was supposed to be monitoring, Goldman Sachs. Her secretly taped revelations, reported by ProPublica and broadcast on NPR’s This American Life, were largely ignored for several days by the corporate media (The NY Times shelved the story for six days.) At the time, whistle-blowing Segarra was jobless, having been fired by the Fed.

When the story finally squibbed out, Senate investigators ordered hearings, held last Thursday and Friday, and the Fed itself, bracing for possible punishment, announced a plan to tighten regulation of banks it supervises. At the Friday hearing, NY Fed president William Dudley talked of seeking bank “safety and soundness” rather than serving “like a cop on the (banking) beat.” “Fix it,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said of the overly protective approach, “or we’ll find somebody who will.” Segarra, who didn’t get to testify, was further vindicated. She is still, however, unemployed.

–     –       –

Since Our Guess (Like Yours) Is as Good as Any…We believe the Red Sox will come to regret the five-year signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Ramirez, now 31, is temperamental and injury-prone, and the 28-year-old Sandoval’s value is based largely on what he can do, if and when the Sox make the playoffs. A big IF, as of now. We believe, too, that Cardinals GM John Mozeliak got the better of the four-player deal with the Braves and new GM John Hart. There’s an erratic streak in the make-up of Atlanta’s new starter Shelby Miller, while his prominent opposite number, outfielder Jason Heyward, has displayed a consistent, thoroughbred quality over the past five years – composite BA of .262, average HRs and RBIs 20 and 69. Hart may win the economizing game over the next few years, but Mozeliak can get instant results in 2015.

The Chase Heating Up: The Yankees seemed to have a clear field toward re-signing Chase Headley. No longer; the Pablo-less Giants are reportedly in the mix for a replacement at third base. Headley is a West Coast boy. Kyle Seager. another coveted third baseman, has been locked up by his team, the Mariners. Seattle is giving him a $100 million, seven-year contract.

In Demand: The most desired free agent on the market? The Globe’s Nick Cafardo suspects it is back-end lefty reliever Andrew Miller; he has received more than 20 feelers, including one from his last team, the Orioles. Miller recorded 103 strikeouts in 62 innings with the Red Sox and Baltimore last season. He’ll be 30 in May, and is reportedly seeking a four-year contract at close to five times the $1.9 million he made in 2014.

-o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

Spenders and Strugglers: Together in the National Ballpark

Leave a comment

(Posted 11/22/14)

“You can always spend money,” said Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, talking (on MLB-TV) about the trade of starter Shelby Miller and reliever prospect Tyrell Jenkins for Braves’ right fielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden. The trade saved Mozeliak from spending the kind of money – $52 million (for four years) – he invested last year in another “impact” player, shortstop free agent Jhonny Peralta. Heyward, the elite player of the four involved in the exchange, is 25, and will earn $7.8 million in his “walk” free-agent season. The Cardinals may wind up having to pay Heyward twice as much as he’ll receive in 2015, and for several years, if they hope to keep him around. “That we’ll have to take day-to-day,” said Mozeliak, “and see what happens.”

We know it’s one thing to take life day-to-day when you have MLB-type money to spend – the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton getting $325 million for 13 years, Russell Martin due to receive $82 million from the Blue Jays over the next five years. It’s another for the millions struggling who can’t afford to see a movie, much less a ballgame live from bleacher seats. Baseball and its media cheerleaders have seduced fans into dwelling on the big money top players earn. Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees fans revel in their vicarious (“It’s not our money”) wealth when their teams spring for elite free agents. We’re all prone to feel respect, even awe, for the fabulously rich. Those struggling at the bottom end of our 99-percent society seldom get media attention or the public compassion they deserve.

William Finnegan documented the hardships of one segment of those playing along the poverty baseline in a recent New Yorker article. They were workers at McDonald’s in the Washington Heights section of New York City:

“Most of the workers here make minimum wage, which is eight dollars an hour in New York City, and receive no benefits. Rosa Rivera, a grandmother of four who has worked at McDonald’s for fourteen years, makes eight dollars and fifty cents. Exacerbating the problem of low pay in an expensive city, nearly everyone is effectively part time, getting fewer than forty hours of work a week. And none of the employees seem to know, from week to week, when, exactly, they will work…The coming week’s schedule is posted on Saturday evenings…

“Arisleyda Tapia…a single mother with a five-year-old daughter…has been working here for eight years, and makes eight dollars and thirty-five cents an hour…’I need to get Internet,’ she said. We were in her apartment, and she pointed out an old Dell desktop wedged among other appliances on the dresser she shares with daughter Ashley. Internet access is about twenty dollars a month. Something would have to give. It could not be her unlimited-ride MetroCard. That was a hundred and twelve dollars a month—a giant bite out of her paycheck… If she got a raise to fifteen dollars an hour, she could buy new work shoes, help her mother (in Santo Domingo), get Ashley a good winter coat. Even so, fifteen dollars an hour is not considered adequate for a basic household budget…. Not in New York City, anyway. A recent study found that, assuming you get forty hours a week,… it might be enough for a single person living in Montana.. I didn’t mention th(at) to Tapia. We were sitting in her tiny railroad kitchen, talking in whispers, because the other renters might be asleep.”

Something for all of us to consider next time we hear about the determined-but-fitful natiowide rallies on behalf of fast-food workers, like those at McDonald’s.

–       –         –

Speaking of Money: The White Sox came from nowhere to sign first baseman Adam LaRoche for $25 million in a two-year deal. The Marlins were thought to have an inside track on the ex-National, LaRoche hit 26 HRs last season.

Easy to Say:: “If the Giants allow (Pablo) Sandoval to leave, they should be ashamed of themselves. Especially if this is about money. Because money should not be an issue for the Giants. Ever.” – Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News

Dodgers/Yankees Watch: Only one of the MLB’s two wealthiest teams – the Dodgers – have added a veteran major leaguer to their roster so far: he is righty reliever Joel Peralta, obtained from the Rays, as part of a trade involving three other minor leaguers. LA has also picked up minor league outfielder Kyle Jensen from the Marlins for a player to be named. The Yanks added Pirates lefty reliever Justin Wilson, who has played two-plus seasons with the Bucs. His combined W-L is 9-5, with an ERA of just under 3.00. The observer consensus is that both the NYY’s Brian Cashman and the LAD’s Andrew Friedman will eventually pounce into the elite market, signing or dealing for big-ticket reinforcements.

Movability: In movable outfield walls the Mets trust. Standing against the right-center-field fence..(at) CitiField, GM Sandy Alderson unveiled the team’s latest attempt to win more games than it loses. At season’s end, the team’s analysts carefully studied home run trajectories and decided to move in this fence by as much as 11 feet… Did I mention that the Mets moved in the fences after the 2011 season, when they won 77 games and lost 85? The next year they were 74-88…(Perhaps instead) the Mets should examine their spending habits. They keep up the pretense of being a small-market team that happens to play in the biggest market in the United States. In fact, they are spending $15 million to $16 million per annum on (Curtis) Granderson, $8.5 million on (Michael) Cuddyer in 2015 and, last year, spent $7.25 million on Chris Young, who hit not at all for the Mets. Put those contracts together and you end up with more than $30 million per year, which would allow you to purchase a terrific outfielder.” – Michael Powell, NY Times

-o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

 

The Propaganda Game in Both Pastimes

Leave a comment

We were puzzled last week when the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer to a two-year $21 million contract, giving up a first-round draft pick as part of the deal. Cuddyer will be 36 next season. Injury-plagued, he hit .332 and 10 HRs in only 49 games with the Rockies this year. His signing sounds like a close replay of the $7.5 million deal in which the Mets added Chris Young for 2014, only to release him in August. Here’s what Joe Sheehan said the of the signing on Gammons Daily: “Cuddyer can still be a contributor at the plate when he’s healthy, but he’s a bat-only player and a fragile, aging one at that. He’s not worth giving up even a second-round pick.” On the other hand, GM Sandy Alderson calls Cuddyer “terrific hitter” who is “versatile defensively” and the corner outfielder the Mets need to push them into playoff contention.

We know which assessment is the more realistic: MLB GMs, like most corporate execs, are prone to hype additions to their teams while often badmouthing subtractions. (Check how, in the last off-season, the Mets justified releasing Justin Turner, who went on to bat .340 with the 2014 Dodgers.) The dismaying aspect of this predictable game is the slavish way much of the sporting media transmits the puffery without challenge.

On the political field, the unbalanced media buildup is called propaganda. Misguidedly patriotic, it applies to the version American fans are pitched concerning blame for the Ukraine crisis. Because Team USA pledged years ago that NATO would not trespass on Russia’s swath of the international ballpark, Team Obama shares the blame with European clubs for breaking that promise; thus, the dangerous game playing out in eastern Ukraine. Russia and Vladimir Putin are not guilt-free in the match-up, but their side of the game is seldom reported in the U.S. media. Furthermore, although Putin played nice with us on Syria and in early innings of the Iran nuclear-limitation talks, we shouldn’t be surprised when the press box people call him out, if, as feared, the Iranian talks founder.

“News is something someone wants to suppress,” goes a journalistic axiom, “the rest is advertising.” Our media are inclined to advertise Team Obama’s good intentions, suppressing the O-team’s pushy errors of judgment. Through accounts based on government handouts with home-field scoring, the press tradition of fair calls on decisive plays has all but disappeared. It’s a checked-swing change that should provoke jeers in the national grandstand.

–           –             –

Deal Day: The Braves’ new GM John Hart didn’t stay inactive for long. On Monday afternoon, he dealt right fielder Jason Heyward and relief pitcher Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for starter Shelby Miller and reliever prospect Tyrell Jenkins  Heyward could become a free agent after next season and might command more money than the Braves can afford. The fact that Giancarlo Stanton reportedly will sign a 13-year contract for $325 million later in the week enhances the dollar-value potential of young, defensively strong outfielders like Heyward.

Martin Going Home: Russell Martin fell $8 million short of the five-year salary marker set by Hunter Pence when he re-signed with the Giants earlier this fall. But Martin, who made $17 million for two years with the Pirates, will earn $82 million through 2019 with the Blue Jays. The deal, completed Monday, was a surprise. The Cubs and Dodgers, as well as the Pirates, were thought to be closer to signing Martin than other teams. As it is, the 31-year-old catcher will be returning to his native Canada

AFL Addenda: The Yankees, Reds and Astros had prospects register top performances in the just-completed Arizona Fall League. Yankee farmhand first baseman Greg Byrd won the league’s MVP, leading the AFL with six HRs (tied with Padres outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe), batting .313 with 21 RBIs. Reds up-and-coming outfielder Jesse Winker won the league’s batting title with a .338 and earned runner-up spots in on-base percentage (.440) and slugging (.559). Houston’s Mark Appel was acknowledged best pitcher, compiling a 24/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in seven outings and a league-high 31 innings.

-o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

The Propaganda Game in Both Pastimes

Leave a comment

We were puzzled last week when the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer to a two-year $21 million contract, giving up a first-round draft pick as part of the deal. Cuddyer will be 36 next season. Injury-plagued, he hit .332 and 10 HRs in only 49 games with the Rockies this year. His signing sounds like a close replay of the $7.5 million deal in which the Mets added Chris Young for 2014, only to release him in August. Here’s what Joe Sheehan said the of the signing on Gammons Daily: “Cuddyer can still be a contributor at the plate when he’s healthy, but he’s a bat-only player and a fragile, aging one at that. He’s not worth giving up even a second-round pick.” On the other hand, GM Sandy Alderson calls Cuddyer “terrific hitter” who is “versatile defensively” and the corner outfielder the Mets need to push them into playoff contention.

We know which assessment is the more realistic: MLB GMs, like most corporate execs, are prone to hype additions to their teams while often badmouthing subtractions. (Check how, in the last off-season, the Mets justified releasing Justin Turner, who went on to bat .340 with the 2014 Dodgers.) The dismaying aspect of this predictable game is the slavish way much of the sporting media transmits the puffery without challenge.

On the political field, the unbalanced media buildup is called propaganda. Misguidedly patriotic, it applies to the version American fans are pitched concerning blame for the Ukraine crisis. Because Team USA pledged years ago that NATO would not trespass on Russia’s swath of the international ballpark, Team Obama shares the blame with European clubs for breaking that promise; thus, the dangerous game playing out in eastern Ukraine. Russia and Vladimir Putin are not guilt-free in the match-up, but their side of the game is seldom reported in the U.S. media. Furthermore, although Putin played nice with us on Syria and in early innings of the Iran nuclear-limitation talks, we shouldn’t be surprised when the press box people call him out, if, as feared, the Iranian talks founder.

“News is something someone wants to suppress,” goes a journalistic axiom, “the rest is advertising.” Our media are inclined to advertise Team Obama’s good intentions, suppressing the O-team’s pushy errors of judgment. Through accounts based on government handouts with home-field scoring, the press tradition of fair calls on decisive plays has all but disappeared. It’s a checked-swing change that should provoke jeers in the national grandstand.

–           –             –

Deal Day: The Braves’ new GM John Hart didn’t stay inactive for long. On Monday afternoon, he dealt right fielder Jason Heyward and relief pitcher Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for starter Shelby Miller and reliever prospect Tyrell Jenkins  Heyward could become a free agent after next season and might command more money than the Braves can afford. The fact that Giancarlo Stanton reportedly will sign a 13-year contract for $325 million later in the week enhances the dollar-value potential of young, defensively strong outfielders like Heyward.

Martin Going Home: Russell Martin fell $8 million short of the five-year salary marker set by Hunter Pence when he re-signed with the Giants earlier this fall. But Martin, who made $17 million for two years with the Pirates, will earn $82 million through 2019 with the Blue Jays. The deal, completed Monday, was a surprise. The Cubs and Dodgers, as well as the Pirates, were thought to be closer to signing Martin than other teams. As it is, the 31-year-old catcher will be returning to his native Canada

AFL Addenda: The Yankees, Reds and Astros had prospects register top performances in the just-completed Arizona Fall League. Yankee farmhand first baseman Greg Byrd won the league’s MVP, leading the AFL with six HRs (tied with Padres outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe), batting .313 with 21 RBIs. Reds up-and-coming outfielder Jesse Winker won the league’s batting title with a .338 and earned runner-up spots in on-base percentage (.440) and slugging (.559). Houston’s Mark Appel was acknowledged best pitcher, compiling a 24/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in seven outings and a league-high 31 innings.

-o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)