(Posted: 10/31/11; e-mail update 11/1)
All is forgiven, sildenafil baseball. The dramatics on the last day of the regular season (September 28) and the sixth game of the World Series (October 27) redeemed what seemed to be a disastrous year: nearly all races over in late August. (Raise your hand if you had any doubt the Phillies would make it to the Series.) Fans will long remember how the Cardinals and Rays slipped into the playoffs, aided by the collapsing Braves and Red Sox. And even non-Cardinal fans will be hard put to forget the heroics of last Thursday night.
So, despite the persistent rich/poor-team problem, the prevalent bad “human error” calls, and the fan-betrayal sellout to TV scheduling, baseball has reason to celebrate. 2012 will be remembered as a terrific year for the sport. What about Team USA? What have its followers had to cheer about? Well, as with baseball, the big political Team could point to two crowd-pleasing dates, October 20 and May 1. Two weeks ago, we heard about the lead-from-behind success in Libya. In his announcement, Skipper Obama was careful not to exult in the way it played out with Moammar Gaddafi’s backroom execution: “We can definitively say that the Gaddafi regime has come to an end… one of the world’s longest-serving dictators is no more.” (One reason for the skipper’s soft pitch may have been to distance himself from coach Hillary Clinton’s harsh delivery in Tripoli prior to Gaddafi’s death: “We hope he can be captured or killed soon so (Libyans) don’t have to fear him any longer.”)
The president’s May 1 report of the death of Osama bin Laden had almost a gleeful, we’re-number-one tone. It’s an at-bat we like to think he now regrets. Salon’s hardball-playing Glenn Greenwald has a stinging reminder of how the skipper styled his political grand slam:
“When President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden…he said something which I found striking… : ’Tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.’ That sentiment of national pride had in the past been triggered by putting a man on the moon, or discovering cures for diseases… or correcting America’s own entrenched injustices. Yet here was President Obama proclaiming that… our national greatness was (related to) our ability to hunt someone down, pump bullets into his skull, and then dump his corpse into the ocean. And indeed, outside the White House and elsewhere, hordes of Americans were soon raucously celebrating the killing with “USA! USA!” chants as though their sports team had just won a major championship.”
Team Obama gets points for honesty, however unwelcome: it did acknowledge a game plan calling for assassination of enemies. The success of that plan in Osama’s case reached millions during an ESPN broadcast of a Mets-Phillies game. The news was greeted with patriotic chants that resonated through Citizens Bank Park and beyond. A bad night for both pastimes.
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Primer on Theo Epstein’s Cubs and the role of sabermetrics: “(Computer analysis is) a tool of the new reality at Wrigley Field, where WAR does not stand for Waveland Avenue Reclamation, but Wins Above Replacement. Beyond Matt Garza (5.0 WAR), Starlin Castro (3.4) and Darwin Barney (2.2), the Cubs are in trouble… Alfonso Soriano still is owed $57 million (his WAR: only 1.3). Now, it could surprise some critics, but two potential Cubs free agents actually score well in WAR, Aramis Ramirez (3.6) and Carlos Pena (2.6).
”WAR is just one of myriad statistics worth analyzing. But there’s also OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages), RC (runs created)… and UZR (a formula to find a defensive player’s range). And that’s just scratching the surface… Sabermetrics savants love walks and hate sacrifice bunts and stolen bases…”
Epstein (Channeling Billy Beane) on What He Looks For: “I think a big part…revolves around the box right around home plate both for pitchers and hitters. So … the hitter’s job is to know the strike zone … not so you can walk. That’s sort of a happy symptom of the approach, not the end-all. Probably the most important thing to do (for a hitter) is not make an out… (Seeing more pitches) has an effect that builds. … It leads to scoring runs. Scoring runs leads to wins.” – Dave van Dyck, Chicago Tribune
P.S. The MLB leader in taking pitches last season: Curtis Granderson of the Yankees (4.4 per plate appearance.)
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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.)