The Nub

The Nub

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

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                                                                                                               - Boston Globe

The ‘Relentless’ Game and the Sometimes Need to Challenge It

“They have won 200 regular-season games in two years and now three playoff series. Had they known it wasn’t so hard, they might have done it earlier”: that was LA Daily News columnist Mark Whicker’s comment on the Cubs after their clinching victory over the Dodgers Saturday night. “I wish we could have played cleaner; but that’s a great team…they’re relentless,” was Dave Roberts’ tribute.

“Relentless” is an apt one-word summary of the way Hillary Clinton and the U.S. media have been hammering Vladimir Putin and his official Russian team for hacking into our presidential race. Various home-based experts have been cited in support of the charge without a hint of a challenge to the contrary. That’s no longer the case, thanks to the BBC. British journalists looked into U.S. fear-based accusations, finding them credible to an extent, but far from ironclad. This is how the BBC reported on the finding:

“US intelligence said th(e hacking) may have originated from servers operated by a Russian company but it said it was not in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian government…The Kremlin has rejected the accusations, describing them as ‘nonsense’.”

Reason for fair-minded fans to treat with caution what can turn out to be unverified claims leveled from our side of the field,

Another way or applying the blind-acceptance point to the presidential game is this friendly jab at Vox’s Ezra Klein from The Atlantic’s Molly Ball: “I think it’s adorable that you continue to evaluate the candidates based on the plans they post in their websites. It’s really quaint.”

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Cubs in…Anybody out there think the Indians have a shot? We don’t. Yet home-field-advantage teams have won eight of 11 Series since Bud Selig ruled the All-Star game winner would get a home-edge reward. That should count for something. One reason it probably doesn’t this time: the Cubs will likely add Kyle Schwarber, a potential pinch-hit menace, to their already loaded roster. The Indians have a potentially key addition of their own – the return of mid-rotation pitcher Danny Salazar, who can start or relieve..

Asked to choose the manager who influenced him most over his early years on various team staffs, Cubs Skipper Joe Maddon named Gene Mauch, who led the Phillies, Expos, Twins and Angels over a 27-period (until 1987): “He could walk into a room, and with your head turned the other way, feel that he was there.”


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


Cubs, Clinton Taking Charge as Contests Near Finish Line

Dave Roberts stuck to his refusal to use Clayton Kershaw in Thursday night’s crucial game-five loss to the Cubs. Many insider-observers thought Roberts would bring in his not-so-secret weapon if a narrow lead had to be protected, as had happened in game two. The Cubs made sure that wouldn’t be the case in a five-run eighth inning. So a rested Kershaw will start game six tonight, and if his team wins, he will likely be ready for a late call in an elimination game Sunday.

Kershaw’s willingness to spare the Dodgers another crushing playoff defeat is what political-field progressives think their loyal support for Hillary Clinton has earned them, if she wins; the reward: Clinton will move her administration leftward. Barack Obama’s resistance to catering to the left disabled his skipperdom in their eyes, as they move into position to influence his successor. “The president appoints people,” said Bernie Sanders in a recent New York magazine interview. He made a “big mistake,” Sanders added, in giving powerful appointments to conservatives.

Liberal Senators like Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown will be among legislators reminding Clinton of the debt she owes the left. Sanders seems primed to press the progressive case: “In 2008, (Obama) ran one of the great campaigns in the history of the United States,“ said Sanders in the New York interview. “Brilliant campaign. Did he mobilize th(at) energy and coalition…into a powerful political force which would have helped him fight for the change this country needed? The answer is no.”

So far, Hillary has showed signs of heeding the progressive team, and avoiding Obama’s domestic-policy errors. How she’ll do on the foreign policy field we’ll only know after she leaves the on-deck circle. For the moment – for some of us – her hawkishness is worrisome,

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Puzzlement: The invaluable Hall-of-Famer John Smoltz launched a barrage of negative shots at the Dodger brain trust on FS1 Thursday night. It started with the Cubs ahead 1-0 and LA leadoff man KiKi Hernandez working a walk in the bottom of the first. Hernandez, then dared the pickoff-reluctant Jon Lester to throw over as he edged halfway to second. “It’s no use if he doesn’t steal,” said Smoltz. “He HAS to steal,” Smoltz added,,“if the Dodgers want to tie the score.” Hernandez made it to second on a Corey Seager single. “He could have made it to third and scored if he had been on second,” Smoltz groaned. Hernandez was stuck on third when the inning ended. “Getting the first run early is important,” said Smoltz, refusing to move on from what he had seen.


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


Snapshot: Latinos Making a Mark on Both Fields

How many fans saw Jason Kipnis chase a laughing Francisco Lindor off the field last night after the young Cleveland shortstop nudged his infield partner aside to take a ground ball? Those who were watching may have understood why the Indians are just a game from the AL pennant: they’re not only good, they’re having fun – a sure sign of a team that’s clicking.

Lindor and the Cubs second baseman Javier Baez – both Puerto Rican-born, by the way, have almost overshadowed pitching stars Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and Andrew Miller. They’ve certainly attracted as much playoff excitement. And why not? Both relative newcomers, still in their early 20s, have dazzled both at bat and in the field. Here is what they’ve done in the two current series so far: Baez stole home and made an eye-popping “viper-like slap tag” (thank you Times-man Billy Witz) in game 1 with the Dodgers, then hit the nearest thing to a home run against Kershaw in game 2; Before last night, Lindor hit the game-winning homer in game 1 over the Blue Jays, then knocked in the deciding run in game 2.

Both are undeclared members of the Latino voting bloc that could make a difference in this year’s election. The Latino population, now at 27 million, has been energized by what many consider to be Donald Trump’s unfriendly attitude toward the community. Pew Research Center’s Latino specialist Jens Krogstadt says Florida, Nevada and Colorado are three of five heavily Latino-populated states where the Hispanic vote could tip the Hillary Clinton.. (Baez hails from Jacksonville, FL, Lindor calls Cleveland, where he lives with his mother, home.)

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Today’s Schedule: Indians – Blue Jays (game 4) 4p, TBS; Cubs-Dodgers (game 2) 8p, FS1.


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


Rendezvous-Time Enlivening the National Ballpark

Game 5 Win-or-Go Home Snapshot: Daniel Murphy at the plate for the Nationals; two men on with one out in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers just one run (4-3) ahead. We’re thinking Skipper Dave Roberts will be sorry if he doesn’t call in ace Clayton Kershaw for this pivotal moment. That’s what he does. Dodger pitchers haven’t gotten by the hitting machine up to now: after a first-bat single, Murphy’s been walked intentionally three times.

We’ve been watching the televised game sound-free. Focusing on the action in the silence, we see the tension of each taut moment through Roberts’ changing expressions. Sunglasses shield much of how Nats’ Skipper Dusty Baker is responding; that is, until Kershaw delivers to Murphy, no walk on purpose this time. Murph’s level, left-handed swing comes right away. He connects, as usual, but this time one can almost hear a “pop” instead of a “thwack.” Murphy’s and Baker’s bowed heads confirm that the ball hangs over the infield and is catchable. Also that the Dodgers will soon have today’s rendezvous with the Cubs.

And On the Other Field: The media-dispensed wisdom is that Hillary, not Donald, has a post-election rendezvous with a new political base, the White House. We know, however, that a lot of on-field action remains over the next three-and-a-half weeks. Press box observers remain intrigued by what they see keeping the Trump game viable: his fans’ anger over unhelpful (to them) steady-as-she-goes politics coupled with an embrace of simplified solutions to what they see as wrong. Clinton’s lead, meanwhile, stems, we know, less from her elusive promises than from Donald’s counter-productive bench-jockeying.

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Shocker: A shut out of the Blue Jays was a rare event during the regular season. So the Indians’ 2-0 victory last night suggests that Terry Francona’s team could take Toronto in seven or less, and match up with the Cubs for this year’s championship. That’s unless the Dodgers have a surprise of their own to spring, beginning tonight at Wrigley.

‘Paradigm’ is becoming a popular word among baseball pundits since Francona took to using would-be closer Andrew Miller at tight moments mid-game. On MLB Now yesterday, panelists agreed that the trend became solidified when Dodger Skipper inserted closer Kenley Jansen in the seventh inning of the climactic game with the Nationals.


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

Excitement Ahead in Both Roiled Fields

(Posted : 10/1/16)

Excitement Still Ahead in Both Roiled Fields

A short while before the second Clinton-Trump debate Sunday night, we watched a pre-third-game interview with Rangers Skipper Jeff Banister in Toronto.   His team was facing a three-and-out defeat at the hands of the home-field Blue Jays. How did he feel, Banister was asked, to be possibly standing on the season’s brink. “I think how nice it will be to get some sleep,” he said (to our surprise). “I don’t sleep much during the season.” He added, as if anticipating the worst – which we know happened – “You can’t let yourself dwell on the past.”

Donald Trump made like Banister Sunday night in the debate with regard to one unsavory part of his past: his dated sexually insulting remarks about women that surfaced over the weekend; they were only “locker room banter,” he said. He’d like them to be forgotten, as he’d like other eye-opening statements made during the debate, such as his plan to put Hillary “in jail” if he’s elected. Since most observers thought Trump held his own with Clinton in the second debate, the diversion he’s offering potential supporters shouldn’t work (or could it?), allowing most of us to “get some sleep,” at last.

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Bye, Bye Boston: We thought this when Dustin Pedroia came to bat in the ninth with a man on base and the Sox trailing the Indians by a run: “Petey” will bail the home team out; he’ll never let Sox Nation down. When he walked, however, we suspected Boston’s season was over. Amid the gloom in Fenway after the final out, many Sox fans had to be happy for Tito Francona and his earned satisfaction in beating his old team.

Not Yet Over in SF: We admit it: after Jake Arrieta hit a three-run homer in the second inning off Madison Bumgarner, we turned out the lights on the Giants’ season. Mistake. SF clawed back to send the game into extras. And in the 13th, NY boy Joe Panic hit a game-winning double. Bruce Bochy’s squad could still be an alternate-year team of destiny.

Cloud Over LA: Falling behind the Nationals, 2-1, in games with only Clayton Kershaw standing in the way of elimination can’t be a comfort to Dodger fans. Not with Washington’s ace Max Scherzer waiting in the fifth-game wings. But it’s been a surprising post-season so far…

Today’s Schedule: Nationals-Dodgers, 5p; Cubs-Giants, 8:30p. Both games on FS1.

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Thoughts on Playoffs in Both Fields

Where are we? All the division series are under way. How do the eight teams size up at this early point? We still like the team-of-destiny Giants in NL, despite the tough 1-0 loss to the Cubs last night. We find it hard to imagine the Blue Jays blowing their two-game lead over the Rangers in the AL, needing only one more at home to advance to the league pennant series. The Red Sox, two games behind the Indians, will be playing the next pair in Fenway, meaning they can’t be counted out. The Dodgers, facing no worse than a split with the Nationals away from home, look to have the edge there. Bottom line: the only sure thing looks to be the Jays over the Rangers.

Where we are in the presidential playoff is described by veteran scout Ron Brownstein, who made his calling-t-like-it-is rep with the LA Times and now birddogs for The Atlantic:

“Clinton is comfortably ahead in Virginia, leading in both Colorado and Florida, and running essentially in a dead heat in North Carolina and Nevada. These dynamics were underscored by a flurry of swing state polls released Monday that showed Clinton leading comfortably in Colorado, holding five percentage point advantages in Florida and Pennsylvania, and maintaining razor thin leads in North Carolina-while still trailing narrowly in Ohio.

“That new geographic pattern is rooted in the race’s defining demographic trends. In the six major national polls released just before last week’s first presidential debate, Trump led among white voters without a college education by resounding margins of 20 to 32 percentage points. But he confronted deficits of 40-50 points among non-white voters, and was facing resistance among college-educated whites: five of the six surveys showed him trailing among them by margins of two-to-eleven percentage points (while he managed only to run even in the sixth.) The race is on track to produce the widest gap ever between the preferences of college-and non-college whites, while Trump may reach record lows among voters of color.”

It’s clear that performing well in tomorrow night’s second debate playoff with Clinton is as crucial to Trump as game 3 with the Indians will be for the Red Sox.

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What We Heard: The two most impressive playoff broadcast teams: TBS’ Brian Anderson, Dennis Eckersley and Joe Simpson, doing the Toronto-Texas series; Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling and Cal Ripken, also of TBS, handling Red Sox-Indians.

Today’s Sked: 4p – Dodgers-Nationals, on FS1; 8p – Giants-Cubs, MLB.


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

Leaders, at the Plate and on the Stump

Stat City: We know that, in theory, the DH-abetted AL fields a more formidable lineup of hitters. Yet, the MLB’s six of top seven BA’s for the season belong to NL players, in this order: D.J. Lemahieu, Rockies, .348; Daniel Murphy, Nationals, .347; Joey Votto, Reds, .326; Charlie Blackman, Rockies, .324; Jose Segura, D-backs, .319. The AL’s one interloper – and leading hitter for average – Jose Altuve, Astros, .338. The MLB’s home run leader: the Orioles’ Mark Trumbo, with 47 HRs. NL HR leaders: Nolan Arenado, Rockies, Chris Carter. Brewers , both 41.

Pol City Just as the Blue Jays gained an edge in the wild card playoff with Baltimore by winning home field in tonight’s game, so did Hillary Clinton solidify her polling edge over Donald Trump in their first debate. That outcome suggests her likely success on Election Day, which, in turn, means just a four-member gain by the Dem team will give it control of the 2017 Senate. Most expert observers believe – at least for the moment – that it is do-able. (Over the weekend, Clinton added to her polling margins in Pennsylvania Florida, North Carolina and Colorado, but continued to trail – by five points – in Ohio.)

Clinton still has a formidable handicap to get over before the path to home plate is clear. It involves attracting young fans. Vox’s Ezra Klein describes the challenge this way:

“Clinton…is resigned to the system we have, and she invites young voters to share that resignation. They want a political revolution, and she sympathizes, but then she says: ‘I think we should all be really understanding of that and should try to do the best we can not to be, you know, a wet blanket on idealism. We want people to be idealistic. We want them to set big goals. But to take what we can achieve now and try to present them as bigger goals’.

”At a time when what we can achieve now is far from what voters wish was achievable, this is a realistic vision of American politics — it’s a vision that might even get some good things done — but it is not an inspiring one.”

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Only one playoff team made the season’s top 10 RISP list: the Red Sox, who finished second to Colorado.  Next were the Indians, who finished 12th.

MLB playoff team that finished last in in RISP: the Mets

Outfield assist leaders: AL – Adam Eaton, White Sox; NL – Starling Marte, Pirates

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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.)

Where Contenders Stand on Both Fields: an Update

Tentative Post-Season Outlook on Baseball’s Last Regular-Season Weekend: AL – Baltimore//Toronto vs. Rangers; Cleveland-Boston. NL – Mets/Giants vs. Cubs; Dodgers-Nationals. AL Wild Card game:- Toronto at Baltimore (this Tuesday night); NL Wild Card game: Giants at Mets (Wednesday night) Still in Wild Card race: Cardinals, a game behind Giants. Tigers, Mariners, a half- and full game behind Toronto, respectively.

Tentative Post-Election Results – Presidential/Senate: Hillary Clinton, new U.S. Skipper; Team GOP still in control of upper Legislative house. Senate result based on assorted polls showing Republican candidates outscoring Dem team players. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s explanation: Dem electoral campaign has focused on showing Donald Trump to be an ill-equipped outlier. It has thus permitted Team GOP, says Reich, to distance the party – and its candidates – from everything Trump represents. The remaining challenge of Dem supporters and strategists: to tie all major Republican candidates to their erratic teammate seeking the presidency.

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Notable Friday Wild Card-connected Results: Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3; Orioles 8, Yankees 1; Tigers 6, Braves 2; Mariners 5, Oakland 1; Mets 5, Phillies 1; Giants 9, Dodgers 3; Cardinals 7, Pirates 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.)


Prepping for the ‘Win-or-Go-Home’ Games

Ask Yankee as well as Mets’ fans whom they would like to see in the wild card games, our guess is most would chooses these match-ups: Orioles vs. Blue Jays in the AL game, Cardinals-Giants in the NL. We see an eastern bias at play in a probable preference for Baltimore-Toronto, fair-mindedness the basis for the choice of Cards-SF in place of the Mets against either. MLB-TV panelists, quoted here awhile ago, gave the NL card to the Cards because of Yadi Molina, Adam Wainwright and, most of all, “pedigree.” We agree, and see the Giants as equally deserving because of (most recently) their World Series titles in three of the last five post-seasons. The Mets are at least as patched-up as their two post-season-striving opponents. And minus their once-proud (and healthy) pitching, they surely have less chance to get far into the playoffs if they somehow make it beyond the win-or-go-home test.

So, that settles the Baseball side of the pre-playoffs prediction game, What did we learn from last night’s pre-presidential political playoff? Here’s what we caught on the fly: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said at game’s end that Hillary Clinton had “thrown a shut-out” over Donald Trump. Not quite, as we saw it: she pitched well on the need for gun safety and the need to lessen inequality through raising taxes on the wealthy. But she backed away from her apparent non-support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and, displaying her hawkish cred, cheered Nato’s – that is, George W. Bush’s – intervention in Afghanistan. She also talked repeatedly of unelaborated “plans” and “programs” ready in her on-deck circle. Her opponent stepped away from his affection for Vladimir Putin but came on strong for business tax cuts to help rally the country after “disastrous” Obama years. The would-be GOP Skipper’s constant sniffling indicated he wasn’t prepared to take the field.

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Wild Card Outlook after Last Night: Tigers and Mariners two games behind Orioles for AL’s second wild card (Toronto holds first) entering season/s last week; Giants a half, Cardinals one-and-a-half behind Mets in the NL.

Streakers: Red Sox + 11, Dodgers + 5


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


Challenging the ‘Who Will Win?” Consensus

If, as of today, the average baseball fan was asked to predict which of the following teams – Cubs, Nationals, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Rangers, – will wind up 2016 world champions, Theo Epstein’s/Joe Maddon’s teddy bears would be the overwhelming choice. And why not? The Cubs have far and away the best W-L record in either league, dominant hitting, and the most impressive overall pitching stats: we wouldn’t bet against them.

If we had any second thoughts – which we wouldn’t – fellow press box observer Glenn Greenwald (The Intercept) reminds us of why we should hesitate, particularly on the political field. Greenwald, a non-baseball fan, likes to challenge the faulty consensus on that field in which his teammates are often involved:

“I think as a journalist it’s my role to constantly push back against unity of thought… you can sit on Twitter all day… and you’re going to have this incredible homogeneity of opinion. And it builds on itself, and it…leads to places that I think are unhealthy, even if the cause is justified. One of the roles I want to perform — that I think is necessary — is to just push back against that, asking questions of it, and finding ways that consensus is poorly thought through or wrong.”

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Wild Card Match-Ups (as of today): Giants at Mets; Tigers at Blue Jays

Still in the Running: NL – Cardinals; AL – Orioles, Mariners, Astros

Notable Late Friday Scores: Padres 7, Giants 2; Tigers 8, Kansas City 3; Angels 10, Astros 6

Streakers: Red Sox + 9, Braves + 7, 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.)