The Nub

The ‘Too-Trusting’ Mets Owner and Team USA Skipper

(Posted: 5/27/11, sales physician early holiday weekend)

 Let’s try to forget what Fred Wilpon taught us this week – that big money people are not necessarily bright. And let’s try to put aside his clumsy apologies after the backfiring of his ill-advised PR campaign. Baseball fans from Brooklyn – most of them, prostate anyway – had to like what they read in the New Yorker about him. The Mets owner, it turns out, is a Bensonhurst boy from a modest background, a rabid Dodger fan and the friend who nudged future Dodger icon Sandy Koufax into playing baseball.

Writer Jerome Toobin certainly found Wilpon likeable, just as the national media took to Barack Obama in 2007, the year after the Mets came within a game of making it to the World Series. Toobin’s article doesn’t mention the skipper, but the admiration for Wilpon he elicited in interviews – “tremendous respect”…”people listen to what he has to say” …”reputation is top tier”, etc. – could apply to Obama. Another, less admiring judgment about Wilpon – “too trusting” (former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau) may apply to the skipper as well.

We know that candidate Obama promised “hope we (could) believe in” – dramatic change in the way Team USA would be run: a truly progressive health care system, less adversarial foreign policy, revised approach to civil liberties, more equitable tax code, increased whistle-blower protection, etc. The promise of tighter oversight and more effective government was implicit after the laxity of Team Bush. But the skipper and his team overlooked rather than oversaw what was happening in the Minerals Management Service. That Fed farm team’s porous regulation led to the BP oil spill. The catastrophe unfolding on the Gulf with him on the dugout steps signaled that the skipper was too trusting of people outside his direct supervision; he clearly assumed the various delegated jobs would be done efficiently.

 Fans in left field have been making hopeful assumptions of their own: that lack of focus – owing to Obama’s many more pressing problems – is responsible for an ongoing fist-bump friendship with Wall Street, a persistent hit-to-right stance in left-leaning Latin America, and a reluctance to fight Team GOP on popular issues like the Bush tax cuts and the health care public option. Those fans wonder if the skipper, like Wilpon, said “I don’t know anything about these things,” as Fred did on many financial matters to friend Bernie Madoff . They suspect that the O-man left it to coaches Tim Geithner, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta to position his team on the finance and foreign policy fields when he was putting out fires in the DC dugout.

 Wilpon can never hope to douse the flames consuming the Mets franchise, which he fed with such stupidity. The demeaned Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are two reasons the team has a scintilla of hope going into each game. They are now surely dispirited. Fred began making crucial mistakes eight years ago, putting son Jeff, never known for baseball savvy, in charge of day-to-day operations. He left it to Jeff and Omar Minaya to try to buy a world championship by bringing in big names and letting the farm system wither. Fred could have intervened, but he preferred to see himself as a “real estate” man. He told Omar “You don’t know shit,” but let Minaya give Ollie Perez $36 million for three years and Luis Castillo $25 million for four.

 The imminent injection of minority-partner money notwithstanding, Wilpon has insured that CitiField will long be a desert devoid of stars and fans. He did that when he told SI’s Tom Verducci it was a “fair” assessment the Mets would not re-invest in the team the $64 million set to come off the books this year. His PR campaign may help his legal defense against the charge he knew, or should have known, that Madoff’s game was a scam. But it has added another group of victims to the Wilpon/Madoff saga: Mets fans who can either defect (if they haven’t already), or face several empty baseball summers.

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An Exit Prayer: The remote hope that financial pressure will ultimately prompt Wilpon to sell 100 percent of the Mets is given a boost by ESPN-NY’s Ian O’Connor, who calls Commissioner Bud Selig the key: “Selig can’t sit this one out. He needs to put his friendship with Wilpon on the bench, ignore his affection and respect for (Sandy) Alderson, and appoint a trustee to reign over the Mets. And then the commissioner needs to convince his friend Fred Wilpon that it’s time to sell the franchise for the good of the team, the city and the sport.”

Different Kind of Trouble: Money is not the problem in Minnesota, where the Twins are having such a hard time winning that scapegoat-seekers are frustrated enough to single out sore-legged Joe Mauer. Here’s Exhibit A from the Minny Star-Trib’s Patrick Reusse: “This is beyond frightful, watching a ballclub that won 94 games transform itself at alarming speed into a team that’s going to lose 94 games (or more) a season later…The Twins front office seems more concerned about not hurting anyone’s feelings than it does about making people accountable…

“We should start by mentioning the team’s cowardly behavior in the case of Joe Mauer, the $184 million invisible man…What we have is an employee salaried at $23 million being allowed to work the slowest program in the history of rehab. And he’s doing so with no apparent pressure from his employer to get back in the lineup, even as the fans’ honeymoon with Target Field dissipates faster than a Larry King marriage.”

Giant Loss: Buster Posey had a 13-game hitting streak before the crash at home plate Wednesday night that ended his season. The Marlins’ Scott Cousins rammed into Posey, who was blocking the plate in the 12th inning of a game Florida won, 7-6. Posey suffered a broken ankle. The bright side of an otherwise bleak Giants’ outlook: The NL West has no dominant team, at least for the time being. The once-formidable Rockies have slipped into something of a free-fall, and are now a game under .500, a game-and-a-half behind the D-backs, to whom they lost last night.. 

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to dickstar( are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

Hit-and-Run a Strategic Part of Team Obama’s Mideast Game

(Posted: 5/23/11, sildenafil ed mid-afternoon)

Johnny Damon in left field. Runner on third with one out. Fly ball to medium left. Does runner tag up and head home? You bet. Potentially tie-breaking run on second, discount there first base open, with two out. Miguel Cabrera coming to bat. Walk him? You bet. Both baseball decisions are what we know as “playing the percentages.” Damon does not have a strong arm; Cabrera is an RBI machine. The decisions make strategic sense.

There’s a similar game under way on the political field in the Middle East. Team Obama is playing the percentages, pitching and going to bat for the spread of democracy in Libya and (cautiously in) Syria, as it did, however belatedly, in Tunisia and Egypt. The skipper and his coaches sensed that pro-democracy rallies had winning momentum. If the U.S. team wanted to be permitted to play on those fields in the future, it had better play the popular game now.

Until now, all U.S. teams had a consistent game plan in the region, based on playing “by the book.” The book presented a simple rationale: we play with one central aim – advancing “strategic interests.” More than a half-century ago, then-Skipper Dwight Eisenhower identified our core strategic interest: oil. He called it “one of the greatest material prizes in world history,” and, therefore, “a stupendous source of strategic power.”

Since then, our intermittent pitches for democracy have clearly been focused on that prize, and more on power and control than on popular choice. The CIA helped overthrow the democratically elected skipper in oil-rich Iran a year after Eisenhower became president. And, just five years ago, Team Bush punished the Palestinians for electing Hamas in a democratic vote.

Fans keeping score can see the wariness with which Team Obama is facing the different challenges on the volatile Mideast playing field. In Tunisia, the O-team was caught in a pickoff play and got out of the way. In Egypt, a delayed safety squeeze has kept the U.S. in the ballgame. The O-team has played hit-and-run in Libya, while giving Bahrein and Yemen an intentional pass. It has pitched around Syria’s skipper while complaining to the umpires about his tough tactics, and is continuing to play with Israel under protest.

Team Obama hopes the percentages and by-the-book juggling will pay off with, at worst, minimal loss of clout in the region. That clout depends on friendly skippers, players and front offices, not on the people making noise in the various ballparks. The U.S. doesn’t want much, just assurances of order, control, power, and, if appropriate, access to oil. 

Any wonder that Team USA has long been, and is booed by Mideastern people. A Brookings Institute poll found not long ago that 90 percent of Egyptians consider U.S. not only not a friend but the major enemy in the region. That’s hardly new. Back in 1958, a U.S Security Council survey found “there was a perception among a majority of Arabs that the US was seeking to protect its oil interests by supporting the status quo and opposing political or economic progress.” Same old ballgame.

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Inter-league Tidbits:  AL had a 22-20 edge in weekend games. Indians and Mariners were two AL sweepers (over Reds and Padres). NL’s Giants and D-backs swept the A’s and Twins. Adrian Gonzalez went 10 for 15 in three games against the Cubs. When dust cleared, only two games separated first and last in AL West, only four games in AL East. Yankees, Rays and Red Sox bunched around the top. The White Sox, who’ve won 11 of 16 after beating the Dodgers in two of three, have taken 15 straight inter-league series.

Stat City: After the weekend, the Cardinals continued to lead both leagues in hitting – at a .282 clip. The Yankees are far ahead in HRs – 71 in 45 games. Cincinnati is runner-up with 54 in 47. Oakland leads in pitching with 2.87 ERA; Phillies are second with a 3.01. The Phils are tops in fielding – .991 pct. They’ve made only 16 errors in 46 games. That’s much less than half the 39 miscues committed by the Astros and Padres.

Another Cliff Note: SI’s Tom Verducci has minimally diminished the mystique surrounding the Phillies’ Cliff Lee. He points out that, over the past two-and-a-quarter seasons, Lee has pitched on a par – or almost – with the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez. Both are 32, but Lee makes $24 million a season, Rodriguez $11 million. Here are their comparative stats from 2009 to the present: Lee, 29-26 (W-L), 444 Ks in 72 games; Rodriguez, 28-27, 424 in 75. 

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to dickstar( are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

Bonds, DSK and Our Justice System’s Bush-League Play

(Posted: 5/20/11; update 5/21)

Neither Barry Bonds nor Dominique Strauss-Kahn sounds like the type you’d want for a personal teammate. Bonds is apparently arrogant, abusive and selfish, ambulance DSK haughty, ambulance self-important and possessing a strong sense of entitlement. Each may well have done what they were – and are – accused of: taking illegal drugs, in Bonds’ case, and sexually assaulting a hotel maid in DSK’s.

But…after nearly eight years of trial warm-up, a jury could not even convict Bonds of a lesser than drugs charge, perjury, only of the still lesser one, obstruction of justice. What will happen to DSK, who spent most of the week in Riker’s Island, remains to be seen. The French are resentful of the way he has been treated. (Justifiably so, says NYCLU skipper Donna Lieberman, deploring the “way…the police…try their case in the press.”) Bonds has received some support from fans in the Bay Area, but very little from people in the national ballpark.

The situation in both cases points up the one-sided game that is our criminal justice system: the match between prosecution and defense teams is no-contest. The prosecutors are free to play hardball, batting out allegedly incriminating details the media love, details that have long-ball appeal to the public. The defense can try to stop the other side from putting together a propaganda score with tight execution. But nifty defense is no match for aggressive offense as seen from the public grandstand and, possibly, by the 12 umpires who will ultimately make the call from their jury box (the slap-verdict on Bonds notwithstanding). 

That Bonds was, and DSK is presumed innocent should be an equalizer in the pre-trial batting and fielding practice. But the media seldom gave Bonds that benefit of the doubt then, and DSK is getting even less of it. No prestigious American front-office type charged with similar conduct would have been “perp-walked” in a disheveled state, exposed to media cameras in a courtroom, then sent to the Tombs. Lawyers summoned right away to his side would have seen to that. As an unusual display of our “equal justice for all” stance it was bush-league. (Media ambushes of accused foreign spies were a staple of the cold war, the group-pounce before lawyers could arrive arranged by the authorities.) A judge’s refusal to allow DSK bail early in the week made no sense unless one truly believed that (a) police could not keep track of his whereabouts 24/7; (b) he’d be willing to face the disgrace that fugitive status would bring to his international standing. That bail was finally granted confirms DSK’s mistreatment on that score.

We could blame the loose law-enforcement play on the corrupting habits of self-forgiving anti-terrorism or a know-nothing anti-French bias. Either way, what has happened was a bad error. DSK may well be convicted as Bonds might be in a re-trial. But if the integrity of our system matters, a new ballgame on a more even media-dominated playing field is in order.

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Favoritism: How, you ask, are four of our favorite ex-NY players doing these days? We’re talking a about former Yankees Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera (with the Rays and Royals, respectively) and former Mets Jeff Francoeur and J.J. Putz (Royals and D-backs). Going into the weekend, Damon was hitting .265, with seven HRs and 26 RBIs in 40 games; Cabrera’s numbers were .276, five, 26, 41 games; Francoeur’s 294, eight, 27, 42 games. Putz was a perfect 10 of 10 saves as D-backs closer. He’s averaged a strikeout an inning (17) in the 16 games in which he’s appeared. Nice going, boys.

Praiseworthy, Nevertheless: The Mets and their fans may well remember Friday, May 20 as a 2011 season milestone: at the start of play that day, they’ll recall fondly (perhaps) the team was only one game under .500 (21-22) and only five games behind the Phillies in the NL East. That it is a likely high-water mark does not reflect badly on a team that, given its adversities, has overachieved. The future is less than promising because, as injury-caused absences persist (David Wright, Ike Davis, Chris Young, to mention only three), the schedule gets tougher, beginning with the Yankees this weekend, followed by three with the Cubs at Wrigley, then a series next weekend with the Phillies at home.. 

A Wildly Early Game: Who were the wild cards, as of May 20 (let’s check for fun, since this is the last year there will be only two)? Yankees and Marlins. That could be at least a 50-percent accurate prediction of the final WC winners.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to dickstar( are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

Soiled Truths Beneath the Surfact of Both Fields

(Posted: 5/16/11;update 5/17)

Question: You are a baseball fan with a marginal interest in pro basketball. Have you followed the NBA playoffs? A “yes” answer would be surprising. We marginal fans know why non-watching is the norm: too many teams, tadalafil shop too many games, sildenafil medical too long a post-season. More than half the 28 teams – 16 – make the playoffs. It’s a nightmare keeping track of the endless number of series leading to the championship, it all happening over two long months. How much better baseball’s simpler post-season format involving only eight of 30 teams and less than a month of play. No cheap qualifiers, no dragged-out series of games (well, not overly so). We should enjoy the format with particular appreciation this post-season because it’s the last before baseball catches the first stage of the NBA sickness.

Bud Selig has decreed (it’s still not official, but “inevitable,” he says) that, as of 2012, the MLB playoff format will be expanded from eight to 10 teams. The plan is to add a second wild card team in each league, and have mini-playoffs involving the four before the post-season begins in earnest. Selig says the idea is to give a wider number of fans a chance to stay interested in the latter part of the season. We know the real reason: money. The extra games – a one-and-out or best-of-three arrangement is still to be decided upon – will add big bucks to baseball’s coffers. That the extra TV revenue is needed because the sport has fallen on hard times (threatened bankruptcies, down attendance, etc.) is the real story behind this first step toward an ever-expanding number of teams in playoff contention and scheduling.

On the political field, there is a seemingly straightforward public announcement that signals no change in a would-be Mideast peace schedule. Team Obama’s main birddog in the region George Mitchell has sent himself to the showers after almost two-and-a-half years of pitching for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mitchell said he had committed to staying on the field for two years, and it was past time to leave. The real reason for his departure is clear: a feeling of futility. Despite the dramatic movement elsewhere in the area, there is no prospect of positive change in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Two major reasons: Israel’s expansion of settlements into territory claimed by the Palestinians, and Hamas’s refusal to renounce its resolve never to recognize the Jewish state.

Former Mideast negotiator Aaron David Miller (quoted by the National Journal’s Michael Hirsh) said the news about Mitchell only…”underlines the dashed hopes of the Obama administration at a moment of relative triumph. ‘In appointing…(a) high-profile, talented negotiator…this president came out louder, harder, and faster than any of his predecessors. But (the administration) allowed their rhetoric, commitments, and intentions to get way out ahead of reality’. ”

What makes the prospects for peace particularly bleak: the main challenge to the Palestinians – to agree to recognize Israel – can be met with a few conciliatory words; the challenge to Israel entails the dismantling of expanded settlements and the dislocation of families who now call the disputed land home.

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What We Know…after the weekend: The seven-game surge of the Tigers and the Red Sox’s sweep of the Yanks (and let’s not forget another sweeper, the Reds) tells us high-expectation teams are rising to their appointed level. The Sox, we’ve seen, have superior starting pitching compared to the Yankees, and they can match the Pinstripers’ offense. Brian Cashman is surely looking for a trading partner and reinforcements. Fans of Jim Leyland have to be as happy for him that his Tigers are roaring as they are about Ron Gardenhire’s Twins sputtering so badly.

Reds and Scott Rollin’: Newly back from the DL, Scott Rolen helped the Reds sprint a game-and-a-half past the Cardinals into the NL Central lead by Sunday night. Rolen went seven for 11 against St.Louis pitching, including a home run. The bad news: lately erratic Aroldis Chapman walked four and allowed four earned runs in a third of an inning Sunday.

Kimbrel the K-Man: Ron Darling (on TBS) on Atlanta’s 22-year-old closer Craig Kimbrel: “When he gets ahead of a batter, he may be the best in either league.” Darling credits the emergence of the Braves’ crack late-innings trio, Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Kimbrel, to the team’s closer last year, Billy Wagner: “He gave them an advanced tutorial in how to be an effective reliever.” Kimbrel has saved 10 of 13, with a zingy 32 strikeouts in 19.2 innings.

A Rite That’s Wrong: You gotta love ESPN’s Sunday night color man Orel Hersheiser. He tells us stuff we’ve never thought about, like how stressful back-to-back two-game series can be to players. The tight schedule forces them to pack, unpack, and pack again, leaving little time to relax. At the same time, you gotta hate ESPN’S giving extended face-time to Yankee Stadium’s raucous bleacher creatures and their ritual requiring of a gestured response from each Yankee on the field at game-time. It’s bad enough the players feel no choice but to defer to the demanding chants. Giving the offensive rite TV exposure encourages the creatures and cheapens ESPN’s product.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to dickstar( are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

Political Right Playing With Pedroia-Like Spirit

(Posted: 5/13/11;update 5/14)

For a crucial, sale non-baseball reason, sale tadalafil let’s look at the pantheon of players whose professional lives have taught us something beyond the sport. To name the most obvious instructors, purchase there’s Jackie Robinson and his lesson of unflinching courage, Lou Gehrig’s valor, Roberto Clemente’s heroic generosity, Curt Flood’s self-sacrifice, and (perhaps) Derek Jeter’s dignity. Over the past five years, a new icon has forced his way into the lineup: Dustin Pedroia. What have we learned from him? An opposing player identified his essence admiringly (or maybe not): “Dustin Pedroia,” he said, “wakes up every morning…gets out of bed, and looks for someone’s ass to kick.”

Pedroia’s spirit was epitomized in pictures last summer of him taking ground balls on his knees with a cast on his broken left foot. That persistence is visible every time he comes to bat, with each eyes-blazing swing he takes. It’s a focused determination found on the political field, too, but only on the right side of the diamond. The contest over immigration, which affects many Latino players at all baseball levels, exemplifies what’s happening. Polls show most spectators believe immigrants in the U.S. should have access to eventual citizenship. But political players on the right and left duck away from that pitch, considering it a hot potato. Pedroia-like spirit has had an impact on them, from one side of the field but not the other. National Journal scorekeeper Ronald Brownstein is keeping track of how the immigration game is being played:

“In the latest Pew survey, nearly four-fifths of Democrats and almost three-fourths of independents supported a pathway to legalization—as did more than three-fifths of both Republicans and self-indentified conservatives. Given the breadth—and persistence—of those findings, why do many politicians consider legalization a political third rail?

“The answer (he says, quoting more than one pollster) is intensity. The people who are opposed to some of these initiatives are loud and vigorous and intense, and not shy about sharing their feelings. The people who are in favor of some sort of path to earned citizenship are passive, almost in a shoulder-shrug category. The only people legislators hear from are those that are intensely opposed.”

It’s a situation familiar in the anti-war bailiwick, and in the left-field grandstand generally. Where are the progressives prepared the play the political game the way Pedroia plays baseball?

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From ‘Jack Robinson’ to ‘Jackie’: In advance of baseball’s current staging of a civil rights weekend in Atlanta, Jesse Jackson spoke of Jackie Robinson becoming a “cultural frame of reference.” One example: the “many children…named after Jackie Robinson. In every barber shop, every beauty shop, every church.” Also to be honored: former Brave Hank Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth’s career HR record, and Cubs legend Ernie Banks, he of : “It’s a beautiful day for baseball. Let’s play two, let’s play three!”

Giant Charge: To say the defending champion Giants have had a good run for much of the month is to understate: going into the weekend, they’ve moved into first place in the NL West, winning six straight, eight of nine and pushing their record in one-run games to a remarkable 12-3. At the same time, the runner-up Rockies dropped eight of 10, losing successive series to the struggling D-backs and Mets.

Met Setbacks: While the Giants were surging, the Mets lost a top-of-rotation starter, Chris Young, for the season, and their most productive hitter, Ike Davis, for at least two weeks. Young faces repeat surgery on his injury-prone right shoulder, Davis on the DL, waiting for an ankle sprain and bone bruise to heal. Daily News beat-man Andy Martino says the situation has no silver lining: “For a team that was troubled before the injuries…the future is more frightening even than the recent past.”

Missing Mauer:  Joe Mauer hasn’t played in a month – a leg-weakness injury sidelined him after April 12. – and the Twins have been hurting as much as he has. Minnesota has won only eight of 25 games since then, and, as of the start of the three-game weekend, is farther behind in its division – 10-and-a-half games – than any of the other teams in theirs. The worst part for manager Ron Gardenhire and Twins fans is that Mauer still doesn’t know when he’ll return. The first estimate was a month on the DL, now maybe it will be two, by which time the Twins could have too much ground to hope to make up.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to dickstar( are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

‘Revenue Problems’ Bedevil Team USA and Ballclubs Like the Mets

(Posted: 5/9/11;update 5/12)

During the Dodgers-Mets weekend series, salve a formerly rabid LA-based fan e-mailed a message to show how he empathized with stay-at-home Mets supporters: I have not gone to see a game, buy ” he said. “I’m distracted and disheartened by the shenanigans.”
(C.Lasalle, E. Los Angeles) 

Attendance is down at Dodgers Stadium and CitiField because financial “shenanigans” have wounded both franchises, affecting the on-the-field product (especially in NY). Owners Frank McCourt and Fred Wilpon have costly divorce and post-Madoff lawsuits, respectively, to cause them to lose focus on their teams. Economizing in LA has been evident, among other things, in the stadium parking lot’s inadequate security. We know that Wilpon has drastically cut the Mets’ budget while girding for a major court contest that could cost his business billions. 

 As the Mets try to peddle as much as 49 percent of the team, it is clear that buyers would be more receptive if the team were more presentable and CitiField not a ghostly venue for most games. Mets fans (and Dodgers’ too) are entitled to suspect that attractive-team-generating ticket sales would alleviate, if not eliminate, the problem in both cities. The pertinent theme in the national political ballpark is that Team USA has a “revenue problem” rather than one involving the deficit. The ticket-sales equivalent, money, is not coming in because our federal taxes are among the lowest among the 31 so-called “first-world” nations (we finish 27th, ahead of Mexico, Turkey, Japan and South Korea).

 Polls show that more than half the population feels their taxes are fair. There is a great reluctance to having them go higher, however. People, like reluctant Mets ticket-buyers, don’t think they’re getting enough for their money. And, in a sense, they’re right: low taxes, along with remote expenses, have rendered many public programs and services invisible. Andrew Fieldhouse of the Economic Policy team talked about those far-away expenditures when he delivered this explanation to McClatchy news:

 “I think people see a real disconnect between what they pay in and what they get out. We pay a lot for defense, yet we don’t have a tangible sense of what we actually spend in Afghanistan or Iraq. Almost half of unemployment insurance recipients say they’ve never benefited from a government program.” 

There is reason to believe, says Globe columnist James Carroll, that fans watching the deficit-vs-revenue contest in Washington will tilt their support to paying more rather than spending much less. 

“We may dislike the tax bite, but we loathe the destruction of civic pillars and the deliberate unraveling of safety nets. Citizens long for leaders who will remind us that (taxation) has nobility in it. And if we have to do more of it — pay higher taxes — so that teachers and librarians, and those they serve, are not humiliated but enriched, we will.”

A hope-generated pitch likely to be batted away by political players: the less taxing game of spending cuts is the one preferred in D.C., for re-election’s sake.

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Captain-Watching: Derek Jeter is a constant source of fascination to many of us: he leaves fans either horrified, as he did this season through Saturday, or exultant over his breakout five-for-six, two-HRs day this past Sunday. Captain Derek added 20 points to his BA in the rubber match against the Rangers. He’s batting .276 at the start of a home stand beginning tomorrow with three games against Kansas City followed by a weekend series with the Red Sox.

 An early-season hooray…for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle: his team has won five of seven this month (ahead of tonight’s game with the Dodgers). With a .500 record (17-17), the Bucs were only two-and-a-half games off the NL Central pace at the end of the weekend. And lets not forget the Rays’ Joe Maddon, whose team has won 20 of the last 28 following a sweep of the Orioles.

 Candor: Mets GM Sandy Alderson, on replacing the shoulder-disabled Chris Young in the rotation with Dillon Gee: “The negative is there’s not much behind Dillon.” The Mets had next to nothing in reserve (on farm or bench) during the last few years, but it went unacknowledged by either Omar Minaya or Jeff Wilpon.

Tribute…to velocity-challenged Pat Burrell at tag-up time, from Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery: “He looks at you and says, ‘Send me.’ You know he’s committed from the first moment. That’s all that matters.”
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The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Commentsto dickstar( are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

Baseball’s Game: Patriotism Edges Politics

(Posted: 5/6/11;update 5/7)

Letting the Osama endgame go into extra innings, sales sick we can’t help thinking: Where was Carlos Delgado when we needed him? Why Delgado, the Puerto Rican ex-Blue Jay, Marlin and Met? Because he would have been the perfect major leaguer to separate baseball from the “frat boys” reaction to Bin Laden’s death prevalent at ballparks and in too many places around the U.S.

Let’s face it: Asking baseball to share the field with politics works only if we consider patriotic pitches political. Thus, the media’s prompting players to go to bat on the Osama takeout this week produced soft verbal swings about “justice”, “relief”, “finality.” Delgado, who took a public anti-war stance every day at ballparks (refusing to stand for “God Bless America”) in 2004 and 2005, could have delivered a different, stronger response. After acknowledging that Bin Laden had gotten what was coming, he might well have spoken of the wider impact of the event the way he did of the 9/11 deaths and their aftermath. 

The Osama-caused bombings were a “terrible thing”, Delgado said some years ago, but so were “what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq.” He said he felt for all “the relatives and loved ones” lost on 9/11 and in what he thought were the “stupidest war(s) ever.” While those wars continue today, Delgado, sidelined for most of 2009 by a hip injury and failing in a comeback attempt in 2010, officially retired himself (and his political voice) from baseball three months ago.

Before the Bin Laden-related final out is made, here are two like-minded pinch-hitters for Delgado:

(1) “ It’s been a long time since Americans felt this good and strong about themselves — nothing like putting bullets in someone’s skull and dumping their corpse into an ocean to rejuvenate that can-do American sense of optimism.”  – Glenn Greenwald, Salon

(2) “I watched (on 9/11) as a nation drank deep from that very dark elixir of American nationalism … the flip side of nationalism is always racism, it’s about self-exaltation and the denigration of the other. And it’s about forgetting that terrorism is a tactic. You can’t make war on terror…We responded exactly as these terrorist organizations wanted us to respond. They wanted us to speak the language of violence.

“These groups learned to speak the language we taught them. And our response was to speak in kind…The tragedy of the Middle East is one where we proved incapable of communicating in any other language than the brute and brutal force of empire.” – Chris Hedges, TruthDig

The spoken language of the 21st Century “empire” is English, which we impose with our occupation. Pentagon Papers pitcher Daniel Ellsberg noted that, during the Vietnam War Americans knew they didn’t know the country’s main language, vietnamese. In Afghanistan, he said, “We don’t know what we don’t know” (that the main languages are pashto and dan).

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Slippage: Roughly five weeks into the season, let’s establish five games behind as the border separating still-in-contention teams from those who have slipped out of it. Going into the three-game weekend, only five of 30 teams were on the wrong side and in danger of being given no meaningful chance by their fans: the White Sox, Mets. Nats, Padres and Astros. The White Sox, farthest of the group behind (11 games in the volatile AL Central), is believed to have the most realistic chance of making it back among contenders by summer. We’ll check from time to time to see how this random evaluation holds up in the coming weeks.

Not Pretty: It took Daily News-man Andy Martino one sentence to paint a true picture of the Mets: “(They) are just drifting, formless, winning a few and losing a few more.” Martino used to cover the Phillies. Can you imagine how he feels on the Mets beat?

A.J. Burned: We thought David Cone was being hard on A.J. Burnett awhile ago when he said on YES that A.J. “lacks toughness late in the game.” But we remembered the rap in the bottom of the seventh of a 2-2 Yanks-Tigers game Thursday. When he had to be tough, Burnett allowed a single to Victor Martinez for starters, then walked Magglio Ordonez and hit Ryan Raburn, setting up what turned out to be a clinching three-run Detroit rally. The Tigers’ third straight win marked the Yanks’ first three-straight losses of the season. A.J. seems to be okay when he’s safely ahead, not in the crunch.

Stat City: Although, entering the weekend, the Angels’ Jared Weaver led the majors in strikeouts – 56 in 38 innings, Atlanta’s closer Craig Kimbrel was proving to be a more compelling K-artist. Combining what he did last season – 40 strikeouts in 20.2 innings with what he’d done so far this, 19 in 13.2 – Kimbrel’s pace was not far off two Ks an inning.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Commentsto dickstar( are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

God Blessing Team USA? Doubtful

(Posted: 5/2/11; update 5/3)         

Ordered to stand, decease hatless, and listen to “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium the other night, we had two thoughts:  Why do the Yanks persist with this redundant seventh-inning ritual – we’ve already stood itchily at game time for the National Anthem? And, it’s doubtful God wants anything to do with so much happening in America these days. (It says here the cheering – “U-S-A! “U-S-A” – over the killing, no matter how welcome his permanent removal, of any human being, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, whomever – is a misguided expression of Team USA-spirit.  It suggests a cavalier, “kill-the-umpire” attitude toward a sobering act.)

On the question of blessedness, a recent poll found that 58 percent of Americans agree “God has granted America a special role in human history.”  According to another (Harris) poll, fans of Team USA see its role today as connecting with a familiar baseball practice: celebrating “freedom.”  The feeling of “patriotism” also scored high, while the idea of caring for others barely made the stats (batting .004).

The tone when talk turns to freedom and patriotism takes on a superiority, a sense that God, indeed, made our team exceptional.  And presumptuous God-given exceptionalism can justify the kind of injustice we are meting out in Guantanamo.  Our self-justifying inhumanity recalls a slogan popular in pre-WWII Germany “Gott Mit Uns” (God is with us).  The veteran Europe-based American fireballer William Pfaff links Guantanamo to the arbitrary-imprisonment game played under Hitler then:

“Th(e Guantanamo) situation (is) obviously a phenomenon of totalitarian character, emulating, no doubt wittingly, the destruction of judicial constraint in the Nazi system by…methods generalized in Gestapo and SS practice, and in Stalinist Russia by its secret police and forced labor camps.  In the last, bizarrely enough, a system of known (or knowable) sentences existed in places – a system of cause and effect – which has never existed at Guantánamo.” – (International Herald Tribune)

The likelihood we are “wittingly” playing the same game as the Nazis is seldom mentioned by home-based people in the press box and, of course, never by Team Obama.     

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The Upside-Down Division: The three consensus pre-season favorites in the AL Central – the Tigers, White Sox and Twins – are in the division’s bottom three-four-five positions and all well under .500.  Amid their many notably disappointing performers is Detroit’s set-up man Joaquin Benoit.  He has already given up more runs – 11 in 11 innings – than he did all of last year (with Tampa Bay) – 10 in 60 innings.  The Twins have MLB’s worst record, 9-18, and team pitching stats; they are 28th of 30 in team hitting.  And, oh, yes, they’re in the midst of a six-game losing streak.  Already 10 games out of first, Ron Gardenhire’s defending division champions have a big hill to climb.

Now Wonder…the Cardinals are surprising leaders of the NL Central (where the Reds and Brewers were – are – favorites): the league’s two top hitters after the weekend are Cards Matt Holliday, .418 and Lance Berkman, .398.  Berkman is third in NL HRs with eight, and third in RBIs with 23 (tied with Ryan Braun).  St.Louis leads the majors in team hitting with a .295 average.  That’s 21 points higher than the number 2 team, the Royals.

Harper a Harsh Marker:  How do you think Derek Jeter is doing?  He’s not looking as good as we hoped he would, but we rate him OK overall.  Not as clutch or with as much range as he once had, but, given the passage of years, his game is more than respectable.  Daily News-man John Harper disagrees, at least in part: The truth is, it’s getting painful to watch him at the plate these days, as he continues to get beat by the same fastballs he once slashed every which way.  Jeter has managed to keep his batting average respectable, thanks in part to a bunch of infield singles… but if you are watching with an objective eye, you know how old he has looked with the bat.”

 The Intimidator:  The AL’s scariest batsman?  No contest, according to Indians Skipper Manny Acta: “To me, (Detroit’s) Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in the American League, hands down.  I’m not afraid to say I fear him. I’m petrified of the guy.  We fear Miggy and we’re not afraid to say it.”

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(The  Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar( are welcome, as are subscription requests.  Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)