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

‘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.)

 

The Money Game Skewing Both Fields

Our favorite moment during the All-Star Game festivities came when Joe Buck asked AL manager Ned Yost whether he was playing to win or to give everyone on his team a chance to play: “Playing to win,” Yost said with a semi-snarl, adding he wouldn’t feel bad for the players who would have to sit out. He didn’t say it would be “for a good cause,” but that was his message. He knows from recent experience how important home-field advantage is in the Series, if nothing else, as a confidence-booster..

We enjoyed less the performance of Commissioner Rob Manfred. He has a wants-to-be-liked manner, with a hint of nervousness to his near-constant smile. Although we welcome his support for Bud Selig’s innovations -All Star Games that count and the World Baseball Classic – we regret his seeming lack of interest in carrying out his predecessor’s efforts to even the sport’s financial playing field. Manfred’s unwillingness to address the edge wealthy teams have this time of year suggests he sees nothing wrong with their using their abundant cash to outspend less-well-heeled competitive teams. Thus do they solidify playoff status before the non-waiver trade deadline, leaving the others to languish. (Case in point: the Red Sox and their deal this week for All-Star Padres pitcher Drew Pomeranz.)

It’s no secret there was languishing on the political field when would-be 2016 Dem presidential candidates not named Hillary Clinton were discouraged from running against her. The party’s idea early was that Hillary alone had the money (as well as the name) to match-up against whoever the Team GOP candidate turned out to be. Bernie Sanders, we know, refused to languish; his impressive fund-raising effort almost foiled the support-Hillary plan, denying Clinton an early coronation.

The pro-Hillary strategy did, however, keep her fellow Dem opposition limited to Sanders and three fringe candidates. Lots of other good people couldn’t take on the financial burden to compete. The party has an option to open its part of the presidential field in future years: insist that all Dem candidates agree to participate in the public campaign funding program; that is, risk an even primary battle before one of them takes on the big money that business interests will make available to Team GOP candidates.

There’s just a chance that the public has had enough of billions instead of savvy deciding who will dominate the race for Team USA leadership.

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Consensus Wisdom: How they do over the next two weeks will determine whether teams flirting with .500 can be taken seriously in August and September. Those teams: Yankees, White Sox, Royals, Mariners, Cardinals, Pirates.

Candor: Pirates GM Neal Huntington risked hurting the feelings of one of his starters earlier this week: He said he probably made a mistake in exchanging players in a pre-season deal with the Mets. Huntington traded second baseman Neil Walker to the Mets for lefty starting pitcher Jonathon Niese, who has been something of a disappointment, despite respectable 7-6, 5:13 stats. “We should have asked for minor leaguers instead,” he said, in a moment of rare GM candor.

Notable Late Friday Night Scores: Padres 4, Giants 1; Dodgers 13, D-backs 7; Astros 7, Mariners 3; Oakland 8, Toronto 7;

Streakers: Red Sox +5, D-backs – 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.)

Bases That Should Be Cleared on Both Fields

As the end-of-July non-waiver trade deadline approaches, we remember a few seasons ago hearing a Baseball insider make this comment on TV: “This is the most exciting period of the season.” What a stupid thing to say, we thought: non-waiver time is when tight pennant races built up over four months can be shattered. The perpetrators: teams wealthy enough to add prime players unloaded by clubs no longer in contention. Exciting, yes, as long as still-competitive, modestly financed teams are not about to be knocked out of the playoff race. By whom? big-spending clubs, of course, like the Dodgers, Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees, et al.

Comissioner Rob Manfred should restrict roster moves to waiver deals, whereby the weakest teams get first shot at useful players marketed by the stronger clubs. No more non-waiver trades and the threat to early-season competitive balance. Manfred should also follow-through on a plan to scale back another competition-skewing arrangement: the September 1 roster-expansion period, with its glut of extra players and game-slowing lineup changes.

Baseball has the cash-clout to insure that press accounts of how the game is run will be favorable. The other day, MLB Now host Brian Kenny worried on air that teammate Joe Magrane’s calling Coors Beer bad-tasting and “watery” would trigger an explosive front-office reaction. Positive stories are, unsurprisingly, the sport’s preferred diet.

The saddest aspect of the political propaganda we Americans must ingest in the mainstream news media is this: we’ve become numb to its one-sidedness. One of the latest examples that should elicit an outcry, but doesn’t, is the fable concerning NATO and Russia. In 1989, some of us remember, NATO, led by Team USA, made this promise to the new Soviet-free Russian republic: after adding East Germany to its team, NATO would never expand its military mini-empire farther east. Despite the promise, NATO has since added 12 countries, moved up to the Russian border, and is talking of addiing the Ukraine and Georgia to the club. (One way it could be described in financial terms: the military/industrial team on the move.)

“More than a half-century later,” says “Women for Peace” co-founder Media Benjamin, “the time has come to spread the word about the dangerous mischief NATO is causing on Russia’s border… With the UK (leaving) the European Union, there may be a new opening for change…Germany and France (reportedly) are now recommending a less aggressive posture for NATO. America too, could do its share to make good on the UN promise to ’end the scourge of war’ by ratcheting down the hostilities towards Russia and working for the abolition of NATO…(The situation is clear): it is time to rethink NATO.” (Common Dreams)

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Second-Half Outlook: The Red Sox, we know, have the finances and the deep farm system to earn favorite status in the AL East, despite the sidelining of closer Craig Kimbrel. The Yanks’ taking three of four from the Indians suggests the AL Central is a crap-shoot. Cleveland needs Michael Brantley to get healthy in a hurry, and a late-inning relief corps to match that of the Yankees. The Tigers can – and probably will – spend to upgrade their way into the homestretch picture. But no one, we’ve learned, should count the defending champion Royals out. If the Astros had gone 17-7 in April instead of the reverse, they’d be 11-and-a-half games ahead of the Rangers in the AL West. We wouldn’t bet against Houston now, although Yu Darvish is scheduled to join Cole Hamels at the top of the Rangers rotation in a week or so. Meanwhile, the over-.500 Mariners remain in the AL playoff mix.

The NL picture is simplified by the Nats, Cubs and Giants being all but set to win their divisions. The injuries-decimated Mets reduce the league’s probable playoff competitors to the Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates, and the soon-to-be Dee Gordon-reinforced Marlins. The Baseball world will be watching to see if the Giants win their fourth straight alternate-year World Series. Their record at the moment – best in the two leagues – says it very well could happen.

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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 Skewed Match-Up: Baseball and Patriotism

With the season’s halfway point behind us, only two of the six MLB divisions have four-team races: the AL East and Central. The Central remains the most uniquely competitive: all four contenders above .500. The East is close behind – only seven-and-a-half games separating the first-place Orioles and fourth-place Yankees. The league’s most intriguing team: the West’s Houston Astros; they went 7-17 in April and are now 47-40, and only six-and-a-half games behind the front-running Rangers. The Astros have gone 18-6 since June 11. In the NL, the Cubs’ surprising 5-14 tailspin has pushed the Giants to the best record in the MLB, and a six-and-a-half game lead over the Dodgers. SF and the Cubs look to be the league’s sure division winners, the Nats, Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals, Pirates and Marlins high in the playoff scramble.

While watching the White Sox bash the Yankees on pre-Independence Day, a group of us tried to avoid bashing our home team (USA) and to get into the spirit of the cap-and uniform-spangled occasion. Someone suggested a round-table survey of how each of us – male and female – felt about the patriotic outpouring; that is, our personal pride, or lack thereof, in America’s place in the world.. After predictable expressions of gratitude for the near-unique “freedom” that underlies our national playing field, the focus shifted to the way Baseball makes militarism the center of the celebration. “It’s wrong to celebrate what is a bullying willingness to intervene with force abroad,” said a Sox fan. The group agreed that togetherness on the home field – a peaceful melting pot – would be a more appropriate focus: “This Land Is Your Land,” instead of the “Home of the Brave”, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” instead of “God Bless America.”

The headlines a few days later about Hillary Clinton’s “negligent” use of sensitive e-mails as Secretary of State served as a doubly uninvited reminder: first, of her support for boots-on-the-ground belligerence in Libya, and, secondly, her earlier lockstep backing of George W. Bush’s misguided war in Iraq. While Clinton’s missteps are unlikely to hand the presidency to her equally hawkish opponent, they will buttress his number of supporters: voters who deeply dislike her, and move to Donald Trump out of what the New Yorker calls “a misplaced form of hope.”

For the moment, Hillary’s less-than-enthusiastic fans can console themselves with this thought, provided by the NY Times’ Gail Collins: “She can win without doing anything,” (but will thereby risk winding up) “the lesser of two evils.”

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Outlook Doubtful: Couple of seasons ago, Mets broadcaster and sometime-ace starter Ron Darling, said that, in his prime, he would have traded his successful career (136-116, 13 seasons), even-up, to have ahead of him the future greatness that awaited Matt Harvey. That was before Harvey succumbed to Tommy John surgery, bounced back for awhile, and now…faces an uncertain future. The NY Post traced the careers of 10 pitchers who, over the last few years, had their careers interrupted by the thoracic condition Havey is experiencing. In nearly every case, they never returned to pre-thoracic form.

His Game: Early this week, against the Cubs, the Reds’ Billy Hamilton scored from second on a passed ball straight to the backstop, topping out at 22.8 miles per hour as he ran. Later, he doubled on a pop fly that landed just beyond the glove of the second baseman…“I look back at (my wild running) sometimes, and I’m like, ‘I’m stupid’,” Hamilton said. “It’s stupid, but it’s my game.” – quoted by Zach Buchanan, Cincinnati Enquirer

Notable Late Friday Night Scores: Giants 6, D’backs 2; Dodgers 10, Padres 6; Mariners 3, Royals 2

Streaker: Blue Jays +7

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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.)

 

Baseball and Brexit: the Aversion to Reaching Beyond Home Base

Semi-stunned by last week’s seismic Brexit vote in Britain, let’s call Baseball’s own little shock “Plexit.” That’s short for the best U.S. players electing to remain clear of their sport’s involvement with outsider ballclubs in the competition called the World Baseball Classic. The fourth renewal of the quadrennial event, bringing together teams from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North, Central and South America, will be held next March. Japan won the first two tournaments, the Dominican Republic the most recent one, in 2013.

Fourth place in 2009 was the closest U.S. teams have come to winning the Classic. In general, Team USA has been a disappointment because the country’s best players – its Clayton Kershaws, Mike Trouts, Buster Poseys, etc, – decline to compete. Risk of injury during the spring training season that coincides with the Classic is the main reason for demurrals. Unlike the Yanquis, Dominican, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican and Asian Big League players are willing to take the risk. (The 2013 MVP was the Dominican team’s Robinson Cano.) NY Post birddog Joel Sherman tries to give reluctant U.S. players the benefit of the doubt in this recent report, during which he, nevertheless, describes their reticence as regrettable:

“I understand the concerns of players, agents and teams to the downside of undertaking a high-stress tournament in March, before bodies — especially pitching arms — might be ready. But one of the most important reasons the Commissioner’s Office and Players Association united for this event was to sell the game worldwide, and within this context, the United States has been the biggest slacker. In the third WBC in 2013, the American club was light on star power. Just as an example, the starting pitchers were Ross Detwiler, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Derek Holland and Ryan Vogelsong. And, trust me, the relievers were just as uninspiring and the positional group was hardly the best of the best.”

The team’s newly named GM Joe Torre and manager Jim Leyland are talking hopefully of putting together a “dream team” this time around. Chances are, however, that the Plexit vote will be as disappointing to U.S. fans as Brexit was to many Brits.

Brexit’s below-the-radar impact on many of us political fans is given serious attention by the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson:

“The Brexit results are a strong warning for anyone complacent about Donald Trump. Brexit didn’t happen because people in Europe listened to him; but he is a voice in a call-and-response chorus that is not going to simply dissipate…There are structural economic issues that have left both Leave sympathizers and Trump voters with real grievances…The political institutions are very different…Brussels bureaucrats don’t quite have super pacs. But the word ‘rigged,’ or its local variations, is probably the key one on both sides of the Atlantic…The European Union is a great idealistic project, and it is a tragedy that it might be torn down now. A lesson for Americans is that fortified idealistic structures can be torn down, by means of some of the same wrecking tools Trump has been willing to deploy.”

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A Vote for the Tribe: “If you were to ask what American League team would best match up with the Giants or Cubs in the World Series,” said one American League manager, “I think the majority of us…would say the Indians. They have the great starting pitching, and that starting pitching is really deep.” – quoted in Gammons Daily, by Peter Gammons.”f

A Red Sox Reminiscence: Actor Paul Giamatti, son of former Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett (Bart) Giamatti, says he “had to” root for the Red Sox while growing up in New Haven, Connecticut.  Asked by the NY Times what he recalled about the heartbreaking 1986 World Series with the Mets, the actor said this: “I watching…when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs in a room full of Mets fans. Bob Stanley was pitching to Mookie Wilson, and I remember…thinking, ‘the Red Sox are going to lose.’ (Stanley)was a good relief pitcher, but he screwed up a lot. I never blamed Bill Buckner, I always blamed Bob Stanley…Certain things like that still rankle.” the opposing dugout would say the Indians. They have the great starting pitching, and that starting pitching is really deep.

Streakers: Indians + 10, Orioles + 5

 Notable Late Monday Night Scores: Oakland 8, Giants 3; Rockies 9, Blue Jays 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.)

 

A Couple of Quick Numerical Pitches

Saturday A.M. Stat City Leaders Update: Hitting: (BA) David Murphy, Nationals, and Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox, .349; RBI: David Ortiz, Red Sox, 60. HRs: Nolan Arenado, Rockies, 21. Pitching: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 11-1, 1.57. Fielding: (Team) Nationals, .990. Team Hitting: Red Sox, .289. Team Hitting with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) Cardinals, .306. Team Pitching: Cubs, ERA 2.72.

These Stats on the other field, in the Senate League: Eight of the 10 seats most likely to change parties next year are held by Team GOP; the Dem team, therefore, has a solid chance to regain control of the Senate following the 2016 elections. If Clinton wins the presidency, Dems will need to win just four of the top-ten matchups. One apparent sure thing: in Wisconsin, Russ Feingold returning to the upper chamber with a victory over incumbent Don Johnson.                                                  –     –     –

Three Largest Division Leads: Cubs 10 games ahead of Cardinals (NLC), Rangers nine ahead of Astros (AL West), Giants seven ahead of Dodgers (NLW)

Two Examples of Why Playing Ball Isn’t All Play: “Hitting with two strikes is hard to do,” says home run leader, the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado (quoted on MLB.com). The Rockies are a respectable fifth among teams scoring men with two outs (behind the Cardinals, Tigers, Red Sox and Mariners), but Skipper Walt Weiss thinks they can do better when batting with two strikes. Weiss believes they adjust their stroke and allow tension to take hold.

John Smoltz says when a pitcher gives up a run with two out, “It’s like getting kicked in the gut.” He doesn’t have to emphasize the hurt when the two-out damage occurs after getting ahead with two strikes: a double dividend for the team at bat – a late run or two, and a hyper-frustrated pitcher.

Notable Late Friday Night Scores: Red Sox 8, Rangers 7; Mariners 4, Cardinals 3; Giants 5, Phillies 4

Streakers: Indians + 7, Astros + 6, Rays – 8, Nationals – 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.)

 

Fans on Both Fields Taking What We’re Told

The thought occurred in the home seventh of the televised Pirates- Cub game at Wrigley Field last Saturday: former Cub Jose Cardenal led the packed crowd in a rollicking chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” A contrast came to mind: Why, during the seventh inning of Yankee games at the Stadium are fans forced to endure the unwelcome interruption of long-deceased Kate Smith singing “God Bless America”?

Baseball’s role of patriotic cheerleader – one that many of us find excessive, especially when war-making is involved – should have been sent to the showers long ago. It’s something Commissioner Rob Manfred ought to consider. A recommendation that “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” replace flag-waving delays would surely be a cause for celebration at many stadiums; the many with less enlightened seventh-inning diversions than the one that makes Wrigley Field so special.

The reason for minimal fan outcry about patriotic policy is also familiar on the political scene: blind acceptance of the guidance received from government and the media. The scorecard shows a narrative that depicts the Dem team as the party of “working people”. It’s something that’s true, but only when contrasted to Team GOP and its concern for the wealthier classes. Bernie Sanders wants the Dems to become a genuine “party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors.” That, we know, regrettably, is unlikely to happen, once election-year excitement ends.

New Yorker scorekeeper Benjamin Wallace-Wells offers this credible look at what lies ahead of the Dem team and its fortunately-positioned, Sanders-lite leader: “The basic arguments for Clinton have been defensive. Against the madness of Trump, against Republican efforts to reverse the gains of the Obama Administration, she offers the assurance of another four years of liberal federal judges and civil servants…”

A less-than-rallying way to scratch out a win, but so much better than a walkoff loss.

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Pity the Pirates: They’ve lost 10 of 12, fallen three games below .500 and 15 games behind in the NL Central. That’s not all: they’ve just been swept by one of the league’s dominant teams, the Cubs, and, although they won last night, are now dealing with the Giants, who have won nine of 11.

Worryin’Time:When a manager says, game-after-game, “We’ve got to do better,” as the Mets’ Terry Collins has been repeating about his inoffensive lineup lately, he’s sending a two-word message to the front office: “Help me.” Injuries to key players – David Wright, Lucas Duda, etc. – mean Collins’s job is not on the line. But it may be time for once-celebrated hitting coach Kevin Long to start to worry.

Notable Late Monday Night Scores: Dodgers 4, Nationals 1; Tigers 8, Mariners 7; Rangers 4, Orioles 3; Cardinals 3, Cubs 2.

Streakers: Rangers + 7, Phillies – 7, Rays – 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.)

 

Upbeat About One Pastime, Less So About Another

Responses received here to the recent piece on John Smoltz’s campaign for a U.S.-World All-Star game have been generally favorable. But Patrick Shields of Manhattan makes a practical point: recruiting star players from across the globe and melding them into a team would be too time-consuming a challenge.   Shields suggests a more scaled-down “regional” approach. For Smoltz (as we understand it) the “world” players would be limited to those competing in the MLB. The world team would, thus, be mostly Latino and Asian: in other words, a scaled-back global version.

If nothing else, the conversation is a reminder of how the sport has grown through the years. Another positive reminder was provided this week from an unlikely athletic pastime; one that competes in popularity with Baseball during the spring and early summer: pro basketball. The NBA gave fans reason to doubt its integrity this week. Two days after the Golden State Warriors took a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the best-of-seven championship, league officials acted, in the eyes of many fans, to help insure the series would not end with game 5. They retroactively suspended Warrior co-star Draymond Green from playing in what could have been the clincher because of a foul he committed in the previous game.

The decision, cleanly arrived at or not, helped make game 6 – and now game 7 – possible; it assured the NBA of multi-millions in additional TV-and-attendance money that would have been lost had the Warriors won game 5. The arrangement couldn’t help but smell bad. For comparison purposes, it’s interesting to note that in nine of 16 World Series since 2000, Baseball’s best-of-seven championship ended 4-0 or 4-1; only four times did the Series stretch into a revenue-expanding seven games.

Whatever influenced the NBA decision, it was perfectly legal, just as was Hillary Clinton’s pre-primary effort to gain the support of 33 of her party’s state committees. As reported in ‘Counterpunch’ earlier this spring, here is how the deal was put together: “In August 2015, at the Democratic Party convention in Minneapolis, 33 democratic state parties made deals with the Hillary Clinton campaign and a joint fundraising entity called The Hillary Victory Fund. The deal allowed many of her core billionaire and inner circle individual donors to run the maximum amounts of money allowed through those state parties to the Hillary Victory Fund in New York and the DNC in Washington.A Citizens United-like Supreme Court decision in 2014 opened the financial field gates that enabled Clinton’s game to pay off. We can hope that money will have less clout in presidential politics not too long after a new, at least moderately progressive Skipper is elected.

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Yes, it’s still early…but objective fans, watching for playoff teams to emerge, can’t help but focus on two of six MLB divisions: the AL East and Central. Only six-and-a-half games separate the first and last teams in the East; in the Central, the margin is only three-and-a-half between first-place Cleveland and fourth-place White Sox. In the four other divisions, a total of only 10 teams can be considered playoff-competitive, if we count the leading Texans, Nationals, Cubs and Giants, and six pursuers – the Mariners, Mets, Marlins, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies – all but the Cardinals (10.5) fewer than double-digits behind.

The Return: Ex-Giants wonder boy Tim Lincecum, now 32, is scheduled to return to a major league mound this afternoon in Oakland, pitching for the LA Angels. The Angels are 13-and-a-half games behind the Rangers is the AL West, the A’s 14-and-a-half arrears..

Notable Late Friday Night Scores: Nationals 7, Padres 5; Dodgers 3, Brewers 2; Rangers 1, Cardinals 0; Indians 3, White Sox 2; Royals 10, Tigers 3

Streakers: Giants + 6

-o-

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