(Posted: 9/30/11; update 10/1/11)
Heresy Ahead? Maybe: As we long ago owned up to our regular-season support for the low-budget Rays, discount sale we’re now ready to come clean about a possible change of playoff-time heart: a real (if conflicted) rooting interest in NYC’s playoff visitors, the Tigers. Why? For symbolic financial reasons connected with the team’s home city Detroit. (NB: Not about the $100 million difference in payrolls between the Tigers and Yankees.)
Detroit is the only MLB city on a census bureau list of highest-poverty-rate locales. Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Valverde, et al, could bring needed cheer in the form of a World Series appearance, including infusion of visitor dollars during the ALCS as well as the Series). Sure, such on-field success would only provide temporary relief to Motor City residents experiencing the community’s plight, but a welcome diversion it would be. Detroit’s depressing troubles include cuts in public spending that have hit city schools and trimmed the local safety net, affecting the jobless, homeless, sick and elderly.
Super-lefty author Noam Chomsky went to bat against the type of cuts made in Detroit, focusing on where they start, at the national level. Speaking on a“Democracy Now” broadcast, he singled out a Congressional pitch for one such cut, scaling back Social Security, as the equivalent of a bean ball that would tumble a sensible Team USA stance maintained for more than half a century:
“Social Security is based…on the principle that you care about other people. You care whether the widow across town, a disabled widow, is going to be able to have food to eat. And that’s a notion you have to drive out of people’s heads. The idea of solidarity, sympathy, mutual support, that’s doctrinally dangerous. The preferred doctrines are just care about yourself, don’t care about anyone else. That’s a very good way to trap and control people. And the very idea that we’re in it together, that we care about each other, that we have responsibility for one another, that’s sort of frightening to those who want a society which is dominated by power, authority, wealth, in which people are passive and obedient.”
There have been faint signs – the activist occupation of Wall Street, for one – that populist passivity to the power of wealth has ended. In Detroit, where the unemployment rate has been as high as 30 percent, renewal for the moment centers on Verlander. He’s been called a human “rallying cry.” It’s a role that makes him uncomfortable: “I’d rather not be a bright spot for a down city,” he told the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch. “I wish the city was flourishing. But it’s not…(So) if I can…give people a reprieve every now and again, that’s great.” The summer reprieve Verlander provided was a long one – from mid-July to the end of September he went undefeated. He finished the season at 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 strikeouts in 251 innings; stats that make him a serious candidate for AL MVP.
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Getting to Know Him: Jim Leyland, on Fister, whom the Tigers obtained from the Mariners just before the end of July trade deadline: “I don’t really know him all that well…so I’m not going to say (that much)… “He’s a good athlete, as you can see. He does all the little things. He’s a talented guy. At this point we’ve caught lightning in a bottle.” How miraculous a catch was it? Fister was 3-12 at Seattle; he’s 8-1 as a Tiger, the number 2 starter behind Verlander.
Pre-Playoffs Postscript: Three impressions gleaned from viewing the three competitive wild-card-deciding games: (1) The most enduring image – Carl Crawford, sprawled at the end of a lunge to catch the Orioles’ winning hit, the ball barely visible on the ground, inches away. A snapshot of what went wrong this season for him and the pitching-challenged Sox. (2) Admiration growing every extra inning for Charlie Manuel, who kept his nothing-to-prove Phillies playing at top gear against the Braves for the entire series. (3) The sense that Manuel’s no-nonsense approach was preferable to Joe Girardi’s. As Michael Kay noted on YES, Girardi was too cavalier in replacing regulars when the Yanks took big early leads over the Rays Wednesday. The consequence: He had few usable first stringers and only call-up pitcher Scott Proctor left when the game went to extra innings. (3A) “Comes to play” describes no one more than Dustin Pedroia. Laid-back-looking Evan Longoria is next in line.
If only…Jose Reyes had Pedroia’s class, he would not have made the self-cheapening decision of taking himself out of the season’s last game to protect his NL-leading BA. He’ll find, we suspect, that he undercut rather than enhanced his free-agent bargaining power with such an uncharacteristic, timorous move. Mets fans won’t feel quite so bad now if Reyes signs elsewhere.
Diplomacy: Two versions of an answer Mets GM Sandy Alderson gave Newsday’s Ken Davidoff, who asked how he was getting along with Jeff Wilpon. (1) What he said: “It’s been fine. He’s responsible for the whole operation. I understand where that authority lies.” (2) What he would have said if he could: “It’s been fine. He’s responsible for the whole operation, and up to now he’s left me alone. He’s the boss’s son, so I know well enough where that authority lies.”
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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to dickstar(@aol.com are welcome, and only they can be addressedby the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)