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

Two American Athletes Named ‘Ryan’ and the Blame Game

Why does Ryan Braun’s name come to mind amid the uproar caused by Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s night-out behavior in Brazil last week? Baseball fans know. The Ryan who plays for the Milwaukee Brewers, like the one who earned a gold medal at the Games, saddened the way we feel about ourselves.

Although Lochte’s drunken rampage, which he tried to blame on Brazilian police, made his country look bad before the world, Braun’s behavior in 2012 hit closer to home. His starring role with the Brewers made him a hero, not only in Milwaukee, but among fans across the Baseball universe. Braun’s failed attempt to conceal his illegal-drug usage was the lesser of his self-betrayals. What was unforgivable – and remains so with those of us who remember what happened – was his attempt to blame an innocent bystander for his exposure as a cheat. Jeff Passan, of Yahoo Sports, minced no words three years ago in telling the story:

“The call went to Major League Baseball…Ryan Braun was ready to deal. He wasn’t going to admit everything. Truth is, he didn’t really admit anything – no details about all the performance-enhancing drugs the league knew he had used, no straightforward admissions of guilt. He just wanted to end this 19-month charade, and if that meant bargaining for a suspension, so he would.

“Of the many things Ryan Braun is – a liar nonpareil, a serial doper, a raging narcissist – he is, above all, a self-preservationist. Never did he show that instinct more than when he publicly impugned Dino Laurenzi Jr., the innocent man who happened to collect a vial of Braun’s urine that started baseball down the sordid, tortuous path that found its first measure of closure Monday when Braun accepted a suspension (of): 65 games….What we know of Braun today is no different than what we knew of him before: He is a cockroach.”

Braun told reporters after the Laurenzi storm broke that he apologized to the man he had accused. “We’ve had some really good conversation,” Braun said. “We’ve made amends.”

Similarly, Lochte has apologized for his “behavior”, without admitting that he lied to – and about – local police who intervened. A Brazilian sports commentator summed up the situation without calling Lochte a cockroach. “He’s still portraying himself as a victim,” the commentator said. “So much arrogance.”

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More on Ryan B: The Brewers say they would be receptive to a trade now for Braun. He is batting .317, with 22 HRs in 103 games. He is 32, and signed through 2020 at $21 million per, which means he’ll probably stay put.

Wild Card Match-Ups (as of today): AL – Baltimore-Boston; NL – Cardinals – Giants

Notable Late Monday Scores: Seattle 7, Yankees 5; Cleveland 1, Oakland 0

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

Reasons for Red Sox, Dem Senate Candidates to Feel Positive

Stat City: If stats could speak, they would call out the name of a third dominant team to join the Cubs and Nationals as crunch-time approaches. The name would be the pride of the Red Sox Nation. Stats-wise, Boston may not match the Dodgers, the only team near the top in both pitching and fielding numbers. But the Sox have built a superior hitting machine. Consider their team BA of .286, far ahead of the second-place Rockies, the identical 286 BA of their timely scoring-position hits, and the unchallenged slugging pct. of .470. How can the Sox possibly miss the playoffs?   Well, they are among the lower half in pitching – 16th,, and only 10th in fielding. But, mighty mouse Mookie Betts – .316, 28 HRs – has become a serious MVP contender. And David Ortiz, at .317, also with 28 HRS can’t be forgotten. Between now and playoff-time the Sox, now only a half-game behind Toronto, should out-duel either or both the Orioles and Blue Jays. Anything can happen is our unpersuasive disclaimer.

Team GOP’s U.S. Senate candidates are hopeful something good will happen to calm their fears that Donald Trump’s downward poll-numbers spiral since the party’s Convention will impact their races. The polling-game scorers at FiveThirtyEight say those fears, so far, have been realized:.

“Democrats now lead in enough states to take back the Senate — so long as Clinton holds on to her large lead. If the favorites in the polls win, the Democrats would flip and pick up the seats in Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Republicans would pick up Nevada and hold onto Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.”

Naming Some Names: Real Clear Politics polling surveys indicate Dems Michael Bennet in Colorado, Evan Bayh in Indiana and Russ Feingold in Wisconsin have solid leads. Team GOP’s Marco Rubio in Florida, Chuck Grassley in Iowa and Rob Portman in Ohio are looking safe. If Dem challengers who are slightly ahead of incumbents in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire hold on, it could be the clincher.

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“Done”: Panelists on MLB Now yesterday agreed that two would-be playoff contenders are “done” – the Mets and Astros. They offered this consolation for each underachieving team: 2017 could be a bounce-back year: thanks to Houston’s batch of good young players and the Mets’ reassembled starting rotation.

Notable Late Friday scores: Giants 8, Mets 1; Reds 9, Dodgers 2; Astros 15, Orioles 8; Yankees 7, Angels 0

Streakers: Cardinals + 5, Braves – 6; Brewers – 5

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

The Skipper Seeks Time-Out to Bench-Jockeying with Putin

Old summer: the climax of the hardball season in the minor leagues; and the end of sandlot league softball games in many parts of the country. The games have been fun until now, when tension creeps in at closing time. A new book by Jay McInerney captures some of what’s happening this way: a husband, intent on showing his stuff in a decisive sandlot game, makes a key error leading to defeat. “That was possibly the most mortifying moment of my adult life,” he tells his wife. “Oh, come on (she says), it’s just a game.”

“No, it’s not, (says he) it’s never just a game.”

Big league managers like Terry Collins of the Mets, and even John Farrell of the Red Sox, are feeling the stress of late-season contests that are much more than just games. Their jobs may well be in jeopardy because their teams are not doing as well as expected. (Nowhere near, in the Mets’ case.) When his once-touted club fell to .500 last week, Collins issued a warning to his players: “Starting tomorrow, we’re going to get after it. And those that don’t want to get after it, I’ll find somebody else who does.”

On the political field, vacationing Skipper Obama found VP Joe Biden to go after establishing a more peaceable U.S. stance with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, lest the two teams’ differing stances in Syria and the Ukraine become more than just games. Obama has not pushed to end U.S./Russian cross-purposes over support for Syrian President Assad. But the Skipper has asked bench coach Biden to calm Ukrainians amid their country’s renewed tension with Russia. Putin says Ukraine is trying to provoke a conflict over the Crimea, which Russia annexed two years ago. Obama has Biden (according to Reuters) urging the Ukrainian president to “do his part” to prevent the issue from escalating.

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What We Know (or think we do): Two of three top teams in the AL East – Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox – will make the playoffs. As mentioned earlier this month, the feeling in Red Sox Nation is that John Farrell will be gone if the Sox are the outlier. In two of the six divisions, we can confidently identify the winners: both are in the NL – the Nationals and Cubs. Giants and Dodgers will duke it out for first place in the NL West. The loser will likely earn a wild card (with either the Cardinals, Pirates, Marlins or Mets).

Notable Late Monday Scores: Pirates 8, Giants 5; Nationals 5, Rockies 4; D’backs 10, Mets 6; Marlins 6, Reds 3

Streaker: Angels – 11

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

The Illusion Informing the White Sox Fan in the White House

Do you know that the Angels, Dodgers and Yankees are three MLB teams without official mascots? Do you care? We don’t. But, amid the 27 mascot names provided by CBS Sports and Wikipedia, we do have a favorite: it’s “Dinger,” the diversion offered to fans of the Colorado Rockies. We have a soft spot, too, for “Mr. Met” and “Philly Phanatic, two familiar creations often visible in our neck of Baseball Nation.

Such trivia came to mind because of verbal pitches thrown by Trevor Noah, successor to Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. Noah is a bi-racial South African, son of a Caucasian mother and black father. He said, during an interview on Ezra Klein’s podcast, that Americans almost seemed to want their national skipper to be a “mascot” rather than a leader. That jibed with our sense that, outside of Obamacare, our White Sox fan in the White House has been an engaging presence, and more of an articulator than achiever. Indeed, we were reminded on Pacifica Radio a few days ago of a Skipper’s negative achievement: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange noted that Obama has had more whistle-blowers jailed than all previous presidents together. A leader would face strong opposition if he tried to get away with that. A mascot might elicit shrugs throughout the national ballpark..

But, it’s what Noah said about race in the U.S. after election of the first African-American president that made an impact.: “If you’re black in the United States,” he said, “even after two terms of President Obama, you still feel black.” Why is that such a disappointment? Because, says Noah, with Obama’s election “came the illusion that everything would change.”

In the lengthy interview, Noah also offered this observation: “Ironically, what happens with every single black person is that black people are black people until they achieve a certain level of excellence, and then they become their name. I’ll give you an example — Will Smith. Is Will Smith black, or is he Will Smith? He’s Will Smith. Tiger Woods was Tiger Woods….

“I find it strange that the bad apples in the black community will be used to tarnish the black community as a whole, but then the stellar performers will be somehow given a name that is outside of race… So it’s almost like Barack Obama, yes, that man has become the first black president. But in terms of black people, in terms of the country as a whole, people felt like that would extend everywhere (which it hasn’t).”

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P.S. We remember in the mid-‘90s when Michael Jordan tried to make a career out of baseball with the White Sox. We were riding between cars on a suburban rail line. On the same outdoor platform, a group of white guys punctuated their noisy conversation about some local incident with reference to “Niggers.” Soon, the subject shifted to Jordan and his new challenge. The tone turned respectful: he was “Michael”, someone regarded with awe.

Notable Late Friday Scores: Orioles 5, Giants 2; Phillies 10, Dodgers 6; Texas 8, Detroit 5;

Wild Card Match-Ups (as of today): AL – Boston at Toronto; NL – Miami at Dodgers

Streakers: Angels – 8; Tigers – 5

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

On Spoilers and the Desperate in Different Fields

The post-non-waiver deadline period has left 15 teams within five games of wild card playoff possibility. Badly timed losing stretches experienced by the White Sox, Royals, and yes, the Yankees, consign them (by our measurement) to the remaining non-contending 15. Their departure means either the Tigers or Indians have an AL Central Division title within reach. The division-title contention breakdown elsewhere looks like this: Baltimore, Toronto, and Boston s in the AL East, Texas, Houston and Seattle in the West; Nationals, Marlins, Mets in the NL East; Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates in the Central; Giants, Dodgers, Rockies in the West.

While make-or-break tension will accompany every game the contending 15 play from now on, members of the other 15 have the fun: they can play loose as spoilers in most of their remaining games; in many ways it will be the best part of their season. On the political field, underdog supporters of Donald Trump don’t figure to spoil Hillary Clinton’s rally toward the White House. But the underdog-backing the widely perceived loser receives will have an impact, nevertheless. Vanity Fair columnist T.A. Frank detected that likelihood during the Convention: he found his fellow Democrats short on sympathy for the strugglers leaning in desperation toward Trump. He places part of the blame on Team USA’s Skipper:

“We are divided these days, badly so, and along more and more lines. Obama has not changed that. As fine as his intentions are…his efforts to broker agreement across our worst divides have often exacerbated them. We have a lot of ‘conversations’ about identity nowadays…but how often is a focus on irreconcilable differences the key to unity?… The old verities aren’t delivering the promised prosperity or dignity for everyone, and millions of Americans are ready to try something else.”

Elizabeth Warren touched on the Skipper’s undelivered promises, as well as one of his successes, in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek excerpted here:

How would you grade Obama’s presidency on reining in Wall Street, financial reform, and toughening enforcement of existing regulatory laws? “I always start with an A+ for how Obama fought for a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when a lot of his advisers wanted to throw it under the bus…But there have been disappointments.”

What would those be? “Mary Jo White and the SEC. They have failed to prosecute wrongdoers. Failed to put tough regulation in place. Failed to take up changes that they have the authority to make and that would restore more confidence in the fairness of operations on Wall Street. That really hurts.”

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Headache-Makers: The Mets have something akin to their own Yasiel Puig in fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes. Both are potential game-changing players whose erratic and/or unproductive streaks undrcut their value. Cespedes’ apparent golf-related trip to the disabled list is the latest headache he’s inflicted on his offense-hungry team. The Dodgers, meanwhile, hope that a stint back in the minors will encourage Puig to return to his early brilliance.

Notable Late Friday Scores: Red Sox 9. Dodgers 0; Astros 5, Rangers 0; Blue Jays 4, Royals 3

Streaker: Cubs + 5

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

‘Anything-Can-Happen’-Time Unfolding on Both Fields

Who could have expected the playoff-hopeful Pirates to deal away closer Mark Melancon to the Nationals, or the still-in-contention Yankees to trade prize reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians for four prospects? Not many of us. The deadline deals we anticipated came in a rush yesterday, shortly before the 4 p.m. cutoff point. We list here the ones that, like the two mentioned above, will impact playoff-contending teams. The difference-makers, as we see them: Jonathan Lecroy and Carlos Beltran, from the Brewers and Yankees, to the Rangers; Matt Moore, from the Rays to the Giants, for Matt Duffy. Jay Bruce from the Reds to the Mets. Josh Reddick and Rich Hill, from the A’s to the Dodgers. Fernando Abad, from the Twins to the Red Sox. Ivan Nova, from the Yankees to the Pirates. Francisco Liriano, from the Pirates to the Blue Jays. Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce plus Wade Miley, from the Rays, Guyer to the Indians, the others to the Orioles. Lots of surprises: especially the decision of the Yankees to, in effect, give up on the current team and invest instead in a bumper crop of prospects.

Several days earlier, a friend in finance presciently warned about a world in which “anything can happen.” He was speaking in passing about baseball, but mostly about the investment outlook, including the profit-making implications of an upset on the political field. It’s a long-shot, we know: Donald Trump’s chances are far-fetched; he can’t win. But can Hillary Clinton lose? If enough progressive voters think the way Ralph Nader does, her defeat is at least a remote possibility. Nader was particularly incensed by what he called the Clinton “con” job when, at the party Convention, she accepted becoming the Dem team standard-bearer. Here is some of what she said that ticked him off:

She said she’d tax the wealthy for public necessities, but declined to mention a sales tax on Wall Street speculation… She opposed ‘unfair trade agreements,’ but remarkably omitted saying she was against the TPP (the notorious pending Trans Pacific Trade Agreement backed by Obama that is receiving wide left/right opposition). She paid lip service to a ‘living wage’ but avoided endorsing a $15 an hour minimum wage, which would help single moms and their children – people she wants us to believe have been her enduring cause. Few people know that it took until the spring of 2014 before candidate Clinton would come out for even a $10.10 minimum wage. News reports noted that Clinton…was wrestling with how to support $10.10 per hour without alienating her Wall Street friends.

“(On foreign policy) remember, as Secretary of State, Hillary fully backed war crimes, condemned by almost all countries in the world. On the stage in Philadelphia, she spoke of backing Israel’s security without any mention of Palestinian rights or the need to end Israel’s illegal occupation of the territories. It is true, as numerous speakers repeated, Clinton is ‘most qualified and experienced,’ but her record shows those qualities have led to belligerent, unlawful military actions that are now boomeranging…”- (excerpted from Common Dreams) 

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Non-Waiver Deadline Winners: Indians, Rangers

Newly Confirmed (it says here)Playoff Teams: Cubs, Giants, Indians, Nationals, Rangers

.Late Monday Scores: Red Sox 2, Mariners 1; Nationals 14, D’backs 1; Twins 12, Indians 5; Cubs 3, Marlins 0

Streaker: Tigers + 6

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

Deadline Deals Obscured by Team USA’s Would-Be New Skipper

Baseball’s insiders believe that, before Monday’s non-waiver deadline, the Dodgers will have added one of the two prize “Chris” starters – Sale of the White Sox or Archer of the Rays – and/or, ace reliever Wade Davis of the KC Royals. The Marlins and Giants have been the biggest pre-deadline upgraders so far, Miami dealing for Padres starter Andrew Cashner and Pods’back-of-rotation newcomer Colin Rea, the Giants snagging Twins All-Star – and former Yankee – infielder Eduardo Nunez. Skipper Bruce Bochy called the addition of Nunez a “depth” deal.   The big reinforcement deals by big-market teams are presumably yet to come.

Vox birddog Dylan Matthews sees candidate for Team USA Skipper Hillary Clinton as the equivalent of Baseball’s prize purchase on the political field. And he identifies a supportive President Obama – who turned hawkish at times, while staying on good terms with Wall Street – as the key to making it happen:

“Obama was elected in large part on a promise to tack away from the liberal hawk tradition exemplified by Clinton and her advisers. In some sense, he has done that… But… the dovish wing of the Democratic Party (never) fe(lt) like the battle was won. American robots were still raining death from the skies — and a liberal president, a president elected because he opposed the Iraq War when it counted, whipped up the legal rationales to support that appalling practice…(So progressives’) anger is understandable… It’s especially understandable as he and the entire Democratic Party prepare to fight for the election of someone who promises a markedly more militaristic approach to the Middle East…Even if doves accept Clinton as the lesser of two evils, this is a regrettable situation if you consider reducing American violence abroad a crucial goal.”

Surely aware of the anti-war sentiment expressed at the Convention, Hillary wisely devoted little of her acceptance speech to promising further foreign interventions.

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Snap Quiz: Name the two closest division races? Answer: Orioles-Blue Jays (AL East), half-game apart. Giants-Dodgers (NL West) one-game separation.

Unexpected Advice: NY Times columnist Tyler Kepner on why the Yankees should seek an alternative to vying for a playoff spot in the ALWest: “Clawing their way to contention is entertaining, but unless the Yankees have a real shot at the World Series, it is ultimately hollow. The (Aroldis) Chapman trade was a start. Now the Yankees must keep building.”

Late Friday Scores: Nationals 4, Giants 1; Dodgers 9, D’backs 7; Red Sox 6, Angels 2; Rangers 8, Royals 3; Twins 2, White Sox 1

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

‘Be Very Afraid’ Week Playing Out on Both Fields

The week of the Baseball season we deplore: a familiar complaint to attentive fans. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives Sunday; with it, this message to supporters of mid-market teams: Be afraid, be very afraid. The Dodgers can add White Sox ace Chris Sale, the Cubs have already dealt for Yankees star closer Aroldis Chapman, etc. By next Monday, several seemingly playoff-bound teams could be far from secure. The modestly financed Orioles, Royals and Pirates are three vulnerable clubs. And won’t it be a shame if the White Sox concede their promise by becoming sellers?

It’s still too early to know which of the wealthier teams, besides the sure-bet Dodgers, will enrich their rosters, turning pleasant surprises into false springs for a few deserving clubs. Love or hate this week, we’ll all be watching as the unfair deal-making proceeds. A similar focus – and fear – attends the Dem team’s political campaign kickoff series in Philadelphia this week. Despite conciliatory speeches by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, a steely segment of Bernie supporters resist joining the Clinton bandwagon, and do it in noisy fashion. Meanwhile, Hillary’s people – abetted by the media – work to distract public attention from the WiKi Leaks disclosure of the Dem team’s efforts to sabotage the Sanders campaign during the primary. Meddling by the Russians is the unconfirmed story they are peddling.

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On Cut-Up Chris Sale and His Uniform-Scissoring Caper: “Sale (will likely) apologize before Thursday’s scheduled start against the Cubs and move on, preferably with the Sox, where the best bargain in baseball hopefully remains the rest of his career. Keep in perspective that Sale broke no laws and (beyond damaging vintage uniforms) did no harm to anything but his reputation, which hardly affects how hard he throws a baseball. Forgiveness will come quickly with the next quality start. Forgetting will be easy, too, once Sale channels all that rage into a 97-mph fastball. – Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh

Late Monday Scores: Reds 7, Giants 5; Rangers 7, A’s 6; Angels 6, Royals 2; Yankees 2, Astros 1

Streakers: Orioles +5, Braves – 5

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(More of The Nub, a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey, can be found at perfectpitcher.org)

The Doubt and Worry Game in Both Fields

The playoff races are far from over, but once-optimistic Yankees and Mets fans have reason to worry about their teams’ prospects. Behind growing doubts – resentment that respective front offices couldn’t see and remedy obvious shortcomings: injury-prone veterans on the AL team, a shortage of hitting on the NL club. And the most telling lack in both places: minimal minor league depth ready to serve as useful reinforcements in case of key injuries.

Fans of the two NY teams aren’t alone in their frustration. The Orioles clearly need starting pitching, and the White Sox and Mariners are two examples of teams whose inconsistent play makes them ever-longer shots as the homestretch approaches.

The complaint about some teams’ lack of sufficient preparation for the playoffs-seeking grind has a familiar ring – similar to what Team GOP is hearing about its presidential convention. “Inexcusably disorganized” was the verdict of many delegates and media people. And too many speakers spent more time berating their candidate’s opponent than cheering their own choice. On the other side of the field, the Dem team has its own “insufficiently prepared” problem. At least one respected poll shows Hillary Clinton losing ground with voters over what is perceived as transparent deviousness. The Atlantic’s Ron Fournier cites “trust” as the key issue:

“The number of Americans who say they trust her steadily declined and hit a low point with (last week’s) New York Times poll. Sixty-seven percent of voters said she is not honest and trustworthy, more than the 62 percent who said the same of Trump. Just 28 percent of voters said they had a positive view of Clinton, according to the Times, compared with 33 percent last month. Asked if her email practices were illegal, 46 percent of voters said yes, compared with 23 percent who said using a private server was improper but not illegal. An ABC/Washington Post survey suggests a majority of voters think Clinton should have been charged with a crime. The collapse of her credibility was totally predictable, and totally avoidable. That makes Clinton’s actions particularly galling to Americans like me, who would never vote for Trump but who don’t want to condone her conduct… Clinton is still more likely than not to be the next president. But it didn’t have to be this close.”

A Clinton victory can be less close if she wins over disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters; that effort – if there is to be one – got off to a slow start last night when she chose Senator Tim Kaine, a banker-friendly Virginian as her running mate.

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Brandon Crawford on Sabermetrics: I don’t know how they calculate…I don’t know what to do better. Like I know if my average is low, to get more hits. It’s a pretty simple fix…you know what you have to do. With defensive runs saved and all the sabermetric stats, I don’t know, I just want to make the plays.” – quoted by Tyler Kepner, New York Times

Notable Late Friday Scores: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 3; Seattle 2, Toronto 1; Kansas City 3, Texas 1; Houston 2, Angels 1

Streakers: Cardinals + 5, Giants – 6

 

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Key Numbers in Both Fields for Placement in Scorebook

Stat City: Well into the season’s second half, it’s time to comb through the numbers to identify – confirm, in many cases – the genuine playoff-likely teams. Of the six division leaders – Orioles, Indians, Rangers in the AL, Nationals, Cubs, Giants in the NL – only one, the Giants, have finished in close to all MLB’s statistical top 10 teams in hitting, pitching and fielding. SF is sixth overall in pitching, ninth in fielding and 11th in hitting. The Nationals, first in both pitching and fielding, are 19th in hitting, giving them a composite 21 points, second best among the six.

Surprise: The statistical best is a surprise team, finishing with 18 points – second in hitting, fifth in fielding and 11th in pitching. It’s the Marlins, who have joined the NL wild card race with the Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals and Pirates. In the AL, the Blue Jays, with best statistical balance, are the unsurprising threat to either win their East division or earn a wild card. Lots of excitement ahead involving 19 of the 30 teams: Baltimore, Boston, Toronto, the Yankees, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, the White Sox, Rangers, Astros and Mariners in the AL, Nationals, Marlins, Mets, Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Giants and Dodgers in the NL. There could be shrinkage and possibly even an all-but-pre-clinching burst of wins and deals between now and the end of the month.

Iffy-ness:The outlook on the political field in the crucial competition for control of the U.S. Senate is sized up this way by usually reliable Charlie Cook, skipper of the Cook Political Report: the Dem team, defending 10 seats, can be expected to hold on to nine of them (the race for the Nevada seat, which Harry Reid is vacating, is seen as a toss-up).   Team GOP seems set to keep 17 of 24 seats they now hold (with seven toss-ups). If the eight total GOP/Dem toss-ups are split, the Republican team would lose three seats, which would leave them with 51, a one-seat majority in the new 2017 session. The political prognosis is clearly iffy, but Cook’s scorecard is the most coherent available. Note that, if Cook’s card is off by one and the new Senate score comes in at 50-50, control of that chamber will go to the team whose candidate is elected National Skipper.

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Test-Time in DC: Every couple of years, at least one of the teams that makes it to a league championship series says, ‘Things didn’t go the way we figured at all. How did we get here?’ That’s when clubs talk about destiny and magic…Are the Nationals, who have been so resilient so far, one of those teams? You never have to wait long for the next examination — this time, here come the Dodgers.” – Tom Boswell, Washington Post

The Sport’s Least Attractive Slot?: Buck Showalter never got called up to the majors as a player. He then managed in Triple-A for four years. “Managing at that level,” he told author John Feinstein, “is the worst job in baseball. Why? Because no one wants to be there.”

Notable Late Monday Scores: Oakland 7, Astros 4; Mariners 4, White Sox 3; Angels 9, Rangers 5; Kansas City 7, Cleveland 3

Streaker: White Sox – 5

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)