(Posted: 8/29/11l update 8/30)
Let’s take time to shed crocodile tears for baseball: only two of 16 NL teams are still in a playoff race, sales sale and only four of 14 (two barely) remain in an AL race. All that, diagnosis with a whole month left in the regular season. Then there is the likelihood that one of the three richest franchises will win the World Series, and oh, yes, attendance is down drastically, especially for the NL’s LA and NY teams, both saddled with bad ownership.
One more thing: Joe Torre, now a Bud Selig deputy, reminds us of MLB’s ridiculous rationale for limiting replays of disputed calls. Despite recent cases of an umpire admitting he missed a decisive call in an extra-inning game, and a re-play showing belatedly that a key HR call in another game was mistaken, Torre says he’s against “wholesale replay”. Why? Joe recited the party line to an SI reporter: “We’re always going to have the human element in the game,” he said. Why we have to accept human error along with the element he never addressed, nor has his boss.
Baseball’s unwillingness to acknowledge its self-imposed deficiencies is trivial next to what’s happening to Team USA in foreign affairs. Skipper Obama and Congressional players on both Dem and GOP teams are delusional in thinking the Arab Spring will strengthen our game in the Middle East. That’s the grim assessment of the Europe-based Herald-Trib’s William Pfaff, who has a clear field to the action:
“There is a dilemma in Middle Eastern affairs which…for domestic political reasons it is impossible for any administration to acknowledge. Washington’s total allegiance to Israel and to Israeli’s expansion and domination of legally Palestinian territories, renders impossible any close, impartial, disinterested or candid relationship with an Arab government.
”Washington’s previous ‘alliances’ with Egypt and Tunisia, and its present relations with Yemen and Bahrain — the countries that have experienced the Arab ’Awakening’ of 2011…have always been constructed upon money, intimidation or blackmail. Washington will do whatever it can to manipulate the internal politics of the new governments that emerge in the region. It has no alternative…
“The Arab Awakening movements… have been spontaneous. That makes it impossible for the United States to deal with them (from an advantageous position)… American relations with new…governments will grow worse, assuming these are…representative governments. America is now more hated in Egypt – and in Afghanistan and Pakistan – than ever before. A Palestinian demand next month for full UN membership will undoubtedly worsen the situation, since Washington may be expected unconditionally to oppose this initiative. The outcome could be still more violence and hatred.”
Baseball’s pathetic initiative to deal with lack of smaller-market competitiveness at this time of year – adding a second wild card team in each league – will goose regular-season attendance a bit, but serve only to debase the playoffs.
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Rays of Hope for Tampa Bay: The Chi-Trib’s Phil Rogers identifies a fringe benefit of the second wild card while talking about the future of Rays’ GM Andrew Friedman: “What I’ve been saying about Friedman from the start (is this): He’d be a great guy for the Cubs or any organization but there’s a genuine bond between the top guys in Tampa Bay. Plus MLB is about to throw the Rays a bone with a second wild card.”
Stat City: Baseball’s team leader in pitching and fielding: the Phillies, with a 3:09 ERA and by far the fewest hits yielded – 427, compared to 471 for the second-place SF staff; the Phils’ top fielding percentage, .988, includes fewest errors, 57 in 129 games. The Red Sox lead the majors in hitting, with a .279 average, compared to the runner-up Rangers’ .276. With a fourth-best fielding percentage, Boston finishes second to the dominating Phillies in the composite hitting/pitching/fielding categories. Tampa Bay, second in fielding and sixth in pitching, has produced the third-best overall performance among the three-category top-ten-performing teams.
Which Way Jose? With an assist from the media, the Mets have an added dynamic in the return of team dynamo Jose Reyes. Ruben “Tejada Is Turning Heads and Securing Future” said an NY Times headline Sunday. Tejada, only 21, filled in for Reyes since Jose re-pulled a hamstring on August 7. As of pre-game(s) Monday, Tejada had fielded well and batted .379, with seven doubles and two stolen bases. The team’s not-so-subliminal message to its fans and to Reyes himself: We have a capable replacement should Reyes reject our post-season offer. How generous the Mets make that offer will depend on Jose’s performance, and durability, over the next month. Reyes knows Sandy Alderson et al need him if the team hopes to begin to win back its fan base. If Reyes plays with the same dynamism he displayed until his second DL stint, he’ll almost certainly be re-signed. If his performance slacks off, the Mets might well decide to take the more feasible financial route and turn to Tejada, waiting in the wings.
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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)