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

Spenders and Strugglers: Together in the National Ballpark

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(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

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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

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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.)

Non-Partisan Letter to New Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred

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(Posted 11/15/14)

Dear Commissioner:

Congratulations on rallying to win your new office, and the chance it offers to transform major league baseball from a national pastime into a national symbol: a sport that glorifies civilian “sacrifice” in a country that cares. You surely know that, despite its long history of support for U.S. offensive play abroad, Team MLB has a fan base dedicated to peace. Polls confirm widespread fatigue with war-making even as we all acknowledge the battlefield valor of those honored on Veterans Day.

We suggest that you respond to fan yearnings for a different focus at the ballparks – switching from homage to the military to grateful recognition of those making America and the world more humane places. The men and women of Doctors Without Borders offer one example, the selfless members of the Salvation Army another. The hands-on people who aid the hungry, homeless, seriously ill, ex-offenders, etc. in all MLB areas have earned the applause of the millions of ballgame spectators watching in grandstands and on TV. You can make it happen.

We urge you to follow through on what could be a courageous break with a century-old linkage of Baseball with armed violence – a welcome initiative for which your stewardship would be long remembered.

The Nub

The Tradeoff: “Baseball has been profoundly affected by a ‘national pastime tradeoff,’ whereby in exchange for maintaining its status as the national game, it has pursued (pro-military) policies that have exacted a great price.” – Robert Elias, author “The Empire Strikes Out” (The New Press)

–       –       –

Panda Uncaged? On MLB-TV the other morning, Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds were guessing the destination of free agent Pablo (Panda) Sandoval. Vasgersian said he thought the Giants wouldn’t let him get away. Reynolds disagreed, noting that SF made it a point to sign people they wanted to keep – Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence – before they reached the open market. That hasn’t happened in Sandoval’s case, Reynolds noted. An encouraging point of view for Giants fans.

Reunion Ahead? When departure signs pile up, as in the case of Russell Martin, they can’t be ignored. The Pirates adding Francisco Cervelli to its corps of catchers this week was one of several indications free-agent Martin would move on from the Bucs. Then came word that both the Dodgers and Cubs, as well as the Blue Jays, were interested in signing Martin. The ex-Dodger, ex-Yankee backstop is expected to get a four-year deal from one of the interested parties. It’s no secret LA has the financial clout to reunite with Russell unless the team’s new boss Andrew Friedman has other ideas.

Devaluation: “This past postseason was a monument to how much the game has changed and how we need to readjust our traditional view of the importance of starting pitchers. San Francisco and Kansas City reached the World Series without asking their starting pitchers to win games – with Madison Bumgarner being the exception to every rule, of course. They simply asked their starters not to lose a game before they it could be handed over to a parade of relievers. Before Game 7, both managers — the Giants’’ Bruce Bochy and the Royals’’ Ned Yost — told me they would be content with a five-inning start, if not less, from starters Tim Hudson and Jeremy Guthrie, respectively. It turned out the two starters got just 15 outs combined.” – Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated

The Mets’ Most Likely: Jon Niese is the likeliest Mets pitcher to be traded this off-season. That was the case before Daily News columnist John Harper wrote about Niese’s “knucklehead” antics causing static between him and Skipper Terry Collins. Niese, has an affordable $10.5 million owed him over the next two years. That he’s a lefthander and only 28 make him attractive trade bait. The one question mark: Niese has had two mediocre, injury-marred seasons since peaking at 13-9 in 2012. He went 9-11 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.)

Rebuilding Ahead for Dem Team and Several Balllclubs

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(Posted 11/8/14)

What do the Yankees, Brewers and Braves have in common with the Dem team in this post-season, post-election period? About their also-ran status in respective races, all can say of their defeat(s): “At least, it wasn’t heartbreakingly close.” The ballclubs have the next few months to pick up their pieces and try to construct a 2015 winner. The Dem team faces two tough years of rebuilding. It’s new status: not just that of an also-ran, but of a doormat.

Money, we know, will keep the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers relevant, as will the solid groundwork that gave the Giants their third Series title in five years. (Mets fans are still asking themselves “How did the SF front office know that Angel Pagan was worth $40 million for four years?”) Leading the Dems back into contention will take the hard work of overcoming (a) a much better financed opponent, and (b) disinterested spectators in the national ballpark.

Speaking to Bill Moyers on the Moyers & Company PBS show, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said the only way kindred fans in the grandstand could contend with big corporate money was to “rally millions and millions of people” around a left-of-center stance, demanding a livable minimum wage, reform of the college loan program, etc. As to how that rally can be triggered, however – in the face of Fox News and political comment on radio being “95 percent conservative” – Sanders was far from sanguine: “I have no magic solutions,” he said.

Sanders did note, in a positive vein, the recent history of progress on social issues: “If I had said to you 20 years ago that we would soon elect an African-American president, you would have thought me crazy. If I had said 10 years ago that gay rights would soon win legal support in Washington, same thing.” Two squibs of hope that will have to sustain the Dem team for at least the next two years.

–     –       –

Siege: “The trend this off-season is very dangerous for the small market teams. Andrew Friedman has gone to Los Angeles and is putting together…a dream team organization. Getting Farhan Zaidi from Oakland as his General Manager is incredible, to have Josh Byrnes there… and hearing some of his other potential hires is scary. The same goes with what Theo Epstein is assembling with the Cubs, beyond bringing in Joe Maddon. In many ways, the same applies to the Red Sox being able to go get Chili Davis and pay him three times what they could have paid in Oakland.” – (An NL executive quoted by Peter Gammons, Gammons Daily)

Home Boy: Anyone other than Joe Maddon’s bench coach for seven years will be a surprise choice to succeed Maddon as Rays skipper. The coach in question: Dave Martinez, who not only knows the Maddon system, but, with his family, is a long-time resident of Tampa Bay.

Splash-Time? The consensus buzz on where two key free agents will wind up: Jon Lester with the Cubs, owing to his Red Sox connection to Theo Epstein; Pablo Sandoval with the Red Sox, because, following their last-season selloff, they need a quality third baseman and a chance to make a splash for their fans.

Bum Deal: Madison Bumgarner (signed a) five-year extension… with the Giants prior to the 2012 season. (It) includes an $11.5 million salary for 2017, what would have been his first year of free agency. It also includes two club options, for 2018 and ’19, at $12 million apiece. So, for $35.5 million, the Giants could have a frontline starter for three years in the prime of his career. If Bumgarner remains healthy, it’ll be the best bargain in baseball. If he misses time with injuries, the Giants haven’t spent a quarter of their payroll on him.”(Barry Svrluga, Washington Post)                                                        

-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.)

Baseball, ‘Yes-Yes-Yes'; Politics, ‘Not Today’

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(Posted 11/4/14)

At a victory rally in San Francisco last Thursday, Giants’ right fielder-cheerleader Hunter Pence led fans in a “Yes, Yes, Yes” chant: “Madison Bumgarner, Yes-Yes-Yes”, “Buster Posey, Yes-Yes-Yes,” etc. We waited. At last, Pence called out “Re-sign Pablo, Yes-Yes-Yes!” What will the Giants do about their dynamic third baseman Pablo Sandoval? He has entered free agency, we know, and can be lost to a team that bids high (the Red Sox?) for his services. Sandoval is one of well over a dozen “name” players “in play” on the MLB market. Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields are three premium pitchers on the list; Nelson Cruz, Victor Martinez and Hanley Ramirez, as well as Sandoval, four of the platinum position players..

Although the post-season is Baseball’s annual down-time, the hot stove schedule fires up no sooner than the World Series ends. Signings over the next several weeks can shift the balance in competitive – nearly all six – divisions. The Dodgers and Yankees, we know, can afford to sign and/or retain coveted performers they crave to include on their 2015 rosters. The grapevine says , the Yankees could go after Ramirez as Derek Jeter’s successor at shortstop, and the well-heeled Red Sox could lure Sandoval to fill their third base hole.

The excitement over what’s at stake next spring should increase as winter approaches. The stir in off-season Baseball contrasts sharply to the apathy felt around the country on this Election Day. Vox commentator Ezra Klein provides the background to why that’s so:

“Washington hasn’t solved all America’s problems, or anything even close to it. But now it’s stopped even trying. That isn’t to say nothing will get done…or to deny the possibility of terrible events forcing emergency actions….But both parties know that, barring the truly unexpected, they can’t get anything big done for at least the next few years — and the American people have caught on, too. If there’s anything extraordinary about Washington today, it’s the levels of polarization and gridlock. This is the least productive Congress since we began keeping records, and one of the most unpopular, too.  After an era of extraordinary action, we’re now entering an era of extraordinary inaction.”

                                                                  –         –         –

Bomber-Talk: The Yankees have reportedly ruled out signing any of the premium free agent pitchers and Sandoval. One name they have not turned their back on (so far): shortstop Ramirez. As expected, they’ve made a one-year qualifying offer to closer David Robertson.

Robby’s Added Value: The Yankees’ radio play-by-play man John Sterling used to say “It’s Cano, doncha know,” when Robinson Cano – now a Mariner – would make big hits while a member of the home team. Bill Chuck, super stat-keeping teammate of The Globe’s Nick Cafardo, recently cited a little recognized positive of Cano’s offensive game: he’s the unique regular to have struck out fewer than 100 times over each of the past 10 seasons among players with at least 400 at-bats.

A Small but Impressive Sample: Chuck also identifies perhaps the only active player who considers Madison Bumgarner a patsy: he’s Oakland’s Jonny Gomes, who’s hitting .750, six-for-eight, against the Giants’ ace.

Why Not? NYC Nubbite Keith Weber suggests a new verb for “held hitless” – the batter was “Bumgarnered.”              

                                                           – 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.)

 

Disgust and Dismay on Different Sides of Electoral Ballpark

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(Posted 11/1/14)

Raise your hands, East Coast fans, if you stayed up to the end of the seven World Series games. Until game 7, we made it once – game 1 – waiting for the type of Royals comeback that characterized their play throughout the playoffs. After that we joined the diaspora – the millions of fans who opted for sleep, and others who defected to competing NFL football games, or entertainment fluff like “The Big Bang Theory.”

Let’s face it: Baseball, like most of the print media and all the major religions, is losing its fan base. In all three categories, it is mainly young people who have drifted away. The internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc. have replaced newspapers and magazines; aging clerics and hoary-sounding moralisms are causing once-responsive teenagers to flee. Baseball is just too stately – all right, slow – for the young and their fast-paced lives. Most of all, however, it is money that has pushed aside what once was the national pastime. The three-figure cost of attending the average game is one aspect of the problem; the determined drive of TV networks to recoup their investments by attracting prime-time audiences is another. For many observers, this accessibility factor is the key.

Prof. Stephen Greyson, Harvard Business School specialist in sports management, presents the case simply: “If the premier part of your product starts after 8 Eastern time and it’s during the week, it’s really hard to develop young fans.”

The impact of money on U.S. politics has been lamented for years; never more so than in this election when the 2010 Citizens United decision is being felt more broadly today than ever before. Under the heading, “The Disgust Election,” Lefty pitcher Timothy Egan, delivering for the NY Times, says Citizens United has generated “a sense that average people have lost control of one of the last things citizens should be able to control – the election itself.”   The feeling is understandable, given the billion-dollar outlay by the Koch brothers and other outside groups to buy the support of Congressional candidates in battleground states. Then there is the court approval allowing voter suppression in nearly half the states; in some of which (like Texas), Egan notes, “you can vote with a concealed handgun ID, but not one from a four-year college.”

Righthanders are unhappy about the upcoming election, too. But, unsurprisingly, their dismay has nothing to do with Citizens United and/suppression of young and/or powerless voters. The Wall Street Journal’s Janet Hook gives this view from the right-field stands:

“The GOP’s advantage springs more from intense anti- Obama feelings than from a wave of voters who believe Republicans will transform Washington. Indeed, disillusionment with politics may help explain why Republicans’ edge isn’t wider at a time when job approval ratings of the Democratic president have slid into the 40% range. The backdrop of this fall’s voting is a mood of voter anger over the status quo, polls suggest. (Days) before the Nov. 4 election, it isn’t even clear what exactly the midterm contests are about. No single issue dominates, except unhappiness with the established order.”

Dem disgust versus vague Team GOP unhappiness: it adds up to nervous scoreboard-watching on the left side of the national ballpark.

–       –       –

Nerve-less: In the sixth inning of the tingly seventh game, a Fox camera caught Madison Bumgarner yawning in the dugout as he awaited returning to the mound for what should have been a tension-filled second inning of relief.

The Belabor Game: It was hard to believe Royals’ third-base coach Mike Jirschele didn’t wave Alex Gordon home as he scurried from first with two outs in the ninth. The only way KC was going to tie the score – we were convinced – was through an (admittedly unlikely) off-target relay from SF shortstop Brandon Crawford. As it was, even with the Royals having an out still left and a man on third, realistic fans knew the Series was over.

Fast-Forgotten File: The head-hunting verbal pitches thrown by anonymous sources and quoted in the media, aimed at Joe Maddon: Why? His agreeing to take the skipper’s job with the Cubs held by Rick Renteria, and therefore not vacant. Maddon therefore allegedly broke an unwritten rule designed to protect sitting managers from ambush. In reality, it was the Cubs,’ Theo Epstein, not Maddon, who undercut Renteria, deciding to remove him to make room for the ex-Rays skipper.

-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.)

 

 

For Fans of Phillies and Labor Unions: Unwelcome Realism

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(Posted 10/28/14)

How rare is a public figure who challenges the corporate or party line to which he is committed? Non-existent comes to mind.   But there is an example in Baseball of such a challenger. Looking ahead to 2015, Phillies senior adviser and interim CEO Pat Gillick dispensed with the usual “we-have-a-shot” pep talk. Instead, he told fans the other day not to expect a competitive team either this coming season or for three or four more years. Gillick acknowledged in a broadcast interview that the veteran core of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, etc. can no longer carry the team. “It’s hard to ask the fans,” he said,“ (to accept), that we’re more into rebuilding than reloading.” But rebuilding, he said, was what’s in store the next few seasons. Plain speaking that won’t, but should be appreciated by Phillie fans.

Unexpected straight talk is causing pain outside Baseball to a larger fan base, supporters of the beleaguered labor movement. David Rolf, Team Labor’s top union organizer, says, despite successes he has skippered – in LA, bringing 74,000 home care workers into the fold, in Seattle, organizing fast-food workers and helping establish a $15 minimum wage, he has no illusions: Rolf believes the American labor movement, as we know it, is on its deathbed,” writes The American Prospect’s Harold Meyerson, “and that labor should focus its remaining energies on… start-up projects(outside its baseline) that may find more effective ways to advance workers’ interests than … unions can.”…’If you’re a union leader in Seattle or New York or L.A., you can think things are OK,’ Rolf says. ’But there goes Wisconsin; there goes Indiana. If right-to-work passing in Michigan isn’t Lenin’s statue coming down in Red Square, I don’t know what is’.”

Meyerson notes that such things as lax federal regulation of union-busting, the off-shoring and outsourcing of millions of jobs, have made it almost impossible to organize private-sector workers. The percentage of such workers in unions is down to 6.7 pct., about what it was a century ago. Rolf, the Service Employees Union’s local president, in Seattle, is, thus, an unwelcome realist in labor’s dwindling league.

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A Unanimous 2-for-2: On MLB-TV, after game 5, Al Leiter agreed with earlier prediction of network teammate Eric Bynes – that the Series will go seven games. Leiter foresees Madison Bumgarner, if needed, coming in as a reliever in game 7’s middle innings.

Difference-Maker? First, the Royals have to win game 6; the media consensus: that DH Billy Butler, who owns Jake Peavy (14 for 33, .424), could be the difference.

Rebound: Although Game 5 was a painful loss for the Royals, it turned out to be a crucial vindication for ace James Shields. He gave up two runs in six innings, striking out four and walking only one. It was crucial because, after a couple of flops, the performance re-burnished his credentials going into free agency. It probably added a few million a year to the contract he’ll command.

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(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.)

Hits, Errors Noted in Skipper’s Record Book

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(Posted 10/26/14)

Skipper Obama may have given us a clue as to which of the World Series teams he prefers. He told the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin that, in competing abroad, he’s satisfied to hit “singles and doubles”, rather than swing for the fences. On that basis, the Royals are his team. They out-singled the Giants in the regular season, 1046 to 971, and out-doubled them, 286-257. The Skipper also said he’s keen to “avoid errors.” The Giants won that battle, but only by a little, making four fewer miscues than KC, 100 to 104. A possible complication: SF is from a blue state, KC from a purple one. Perhaps decisive is that, as a regular-season White Sox fan, Obama could be expected to lean from the start toward whichever AL entry makes it to the Series.

The division among Obama’s fans as to how he’s performed as Skipper – singles, doubles, errors, allegiances, etc. – is deep. We’ll see that now in excerpts from opposing-view scorecards kept by Times columnist Paul Krugman and Thomas (“What’s the Matter with Kansas?”) Frank. Krugman recorded his positive take in Rolling Stone magazine: Despite bitter opposition,” he wrote… “Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy… I don’t care about the fact that Obama hasn’t lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot.”

Frank hit back in Slate’s on-line magazine: “If we want to believe that Obama has been a consequential and a great president, then (you have to blame) his right-wing opposition. He didn’t get the king-sized stimulus we needed, liberals often say, because the right wouldn’t give it to him. He didn’t break up the banks or prosecute the banksters because the Tea Party wouldn’t let him. He didn’t get single payer or the public option because Republicans wouldn’t go along with that… However… there is another factor to be taken into consideration here: Obama didn’t do these things because he or his advisors didn’t want to do themAs president, (Obama) couldn’t seem to see what is obvious to everyone… That … facing down the Republicans… on the stimulus, on the banks, on inequality—would have made him…consequential and successful. It might even have spared him the electoral comeuppance he received in 2010, and whose second installment seems likely… a few weeks from now.”

Among extra-base hits missing from either scorecard: the Skipper’s successful roster additions (after the Senate’s filibuster reform) of several key members of the upper-level judiciary. Among alarming errors unmentioned: Team Obama’s all-too-transparent war on whistleblowers.

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Key to the Title: Looks as though the Series will come down to which side penetrates the other’s impregnable barrier: SF must solve KC’s 7-8-9 relievers, the Royals must reach Madison Bumgarner in games 4 and (possibly) 7. Edge for the moment (obviously): KC, with its 2-1 lead.

 Say It Ain’t So, Joe: Within a week of saying this – “I want to stay a Ray. I mean that sincerely. I want to be part of a World Series winner wth the Rays” – Joe Maddon says no one can blame him for opting out of his 2014 contract and going for big bucks elsewhere. No “blame” here, Joe; just disappointment.

 Which Team? “The heart of a lion, the will of a warrior, whatever cliché you want to use. These guys are champions inside.”  Raul Ibanez on the Royals (quoted by Vahe Gregorian, KC Star).

From Derek to Buster: Who will replace Derek Jeter has baseball’s active-player icon. On ESPN Radio Tuesday night, Aaron Boone made a logical suggestion: “I think the new face of baseball will be Buster Posey: he’s earned it.”

Impatience: Joe Buck, reacting last night to his two rookie Fox teammates talking too long about the impact of defensive shifts: “It’s official: time for a new topic.”

From His Lips: Before game 2, Eric Byrnes, our favorite MLB-TV team-member, made this Series prediction: “If the Giants win, they’ll sweep. If the Royals win, it will go to seven.”

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(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.)

 

 

 

Does Sign-Stealing Game Have Anything to Do with Us?

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(Posted 10/21/14)

It was all-star humorist and fan Dave Barry who figured out how to deal with a ball-team that was letting him down: “It has nothing to do with me,” he wrote, after the team went into a terminal tailspin. It’s a phrase Mets fans use to comfort themselves when “meaningful games” become a mid-season memory. Rockies and Rangers fans also had that experience this year. Most will succumb to their annual re-commitment in 2015, at least until their teams don’t measure up again.

We’re often quick to try to distance ourselves from connections that yield long losing streaks.  We’ll do it even faster if the defeats have devastating consequences. When Edward Snowden exposed the loss of privacy owing to signal-stealing surveillance in America, the picture of a police state playing big brother left many of us numbed.

Most fans remain so today, despite media reminders of what’s happened often unclear as to which side they are on. When the story broke nearly two years ago, we noted that most fans in the national ballpark didn’t seem to care about the invasive game being played under the name of national security. It took a German director named Christoph Hochhausler to pinpoint the reason for the apparent apathy. Invited by filmmaker Laura Poitras to attend an early screening of her documentary (“Citizenfour”) about the Snowden saga, Hochhausler said Poitras needed to establish the “gravity” of the situation. Why? “Because most of the people think Yes, but it won’t happen to me and, anyway, I have nothing to hide.”(quoted by George Packer in last week’s New Yorker).

Anticipating this“ It has nothing to do”- like response, Snowden wrote of his fear to Poitras and other teammate, journalist-lawyer Glenn Greenwald: “While I pray… (for)…reform,” he said,  “bear in mind that the policies of men change in time, and even the Constitution is subverted when the appetites of power demand it.”                      

The power game in all its effectiveness on display before distracted fans.

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 The Alternate DH Angle: On MLB-TV Sunday night, Eric Byrnes discussed a potential pitfall in the Royals’ 4-3 Series home-field advantage: “The Giants will have Michael Morse as DH for the games in Kansas City. They’re a much stronger offensive team with Morse in the lineup. That the Royals will lose Billy Butler as DH in San Francisco will help the Giants, too.”

Here’s a Surprise: “I think it’s important for us to embrace the financial advantages that we have. We’re not going to shy away from it.” – New LA Dodger exec and former Rays GM Andrew Friedman

Budgetary Big League: The Dodgers’ total payroll expenses for 2014 were approximately equal to the Rays’ combined payrolls for the past four seasons. – Bill Plunkett, Orange County, CA Register

Feel-Good Tale: When the cell phone recently rang as Eric Cooper and his wife motored along a West Des Moines, Iowa, roadway, he glanced down and saw a 212 area code. Cooper, a baseball umpire since 1999, knew the call originated from New York — the home of Major League Baseball. His heart began to race. “I picked it up and he said, ‘Hey, Coop, it’s Joe Torre. How are you?’ ” Cooper said Friday of Torre, the executive vice president for baseball operations. “I said, ‘Well, I just about wrecked the car when I saw the area code.’ Mr. Torre said to pull the car over and put it into park. He said, ‘How would you like to work the World Series this year?'” Cooper, 47, was selected for his first Fall Classic. “It’s one of those two or three phone calls you’re always going to remember in your career,” Cooper said. “Outside of the birth of a child, marriage, kids graduating and those things, it’s a humbling call.” – Bryce Miller, USA Today

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(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.)