The Nub

Team Obama, the Yankees, and the Stability Game

Posted: 11/28/11; e-mail update 11/29)      

Brian Cashman keeps a steady post-season stance as Yankees GM, troche with a singular target for his team: stability. The re-signings of CC Sabathia and Freddy Garcia reflect the stance, malady part of a pinstripe tradition much noted in the late ‘90’s. The team then used its ample budget to hold on to its big-ticket core of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

Team USA’s obsession with stability spread in the last century far afield from its home ballpark.  Like that of the Yankees, the U.S. team’s ample budget has been used to keep useful players in key dugouts around the world.  That strategy, which often contradicts our team’s play-hard-but-clean game plan, has worked, we know, until now.  Our support of clubs notable for shabby treatment of marginal team members and spectators has put us at the center of widespread reaction in the Muslim league.  Choosing stability over social justice, both Team Obama and press box observers looked the other way when outbursts occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrein, Yemen and Syria.  The O-team’s strategy now is to jaw on behalf of the mass of marginals while jockeying to contain the bench-clearing damage that results from the melees.

Team Obama plays a tougher game with teams in the region that refuse to play ball on its terms.  Iran is a prime example, but the O-team’s aggressiveness has extended beyond  Tehran and provoked other fans and front offices (even “friendly” ones, like Pakistan) throughout the region.  Salon scorekeeper Glenn Greenwald blames the media – targeting one member, in particular – for not presenting a true picture of the source of tension in that part of the world:

“The very suggestion that the United States of America might have done anything to provoke rational hatred against it and thus helped cause 9/11 is like poison to (people like CBS’s) Bob Schieffer… Similarly, the very suggestion that the U.S. is the aggressor when it comes to Iran — rather than the other way around — is heresy to him (the idea that the U.S. seeks war with Iran will be slanderous to Schieffer up until the minute the first U.S. fighter jet drops a bomb, at which point the war will instantly become necessary and just). That’s because — and this relates to the prior point — their ultimate political allegiance is to the U.S. political establishment (the same one over which they claim to act as Watchdogs), and they cannot abide any arguments that that establishment engages in bad acts: it can periodically make ‘mistakes’ or exercise ‘poor judgment’ (almost always totally understandable and driven by good motives: they over-reacted to 9/11 out of a noble desire to keep us safe), but never engage in truly bad acts.  Bad acts are only what America’s enemies do, not America’s political leaders.”

From the Record Book:  “The newspapers, after their fashion, reflected and emphasized the prevailing opinions.”  – Winston Churchill, “Memoirs of the Second World War.”

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RE Bobby V – a Caveat:  It’s fair to say Bobby Valentine left a bad taste in Flushing at the end of his stint as Mets manager in 2002, a six-year-plus stint that included winning an NL championship in 2000.  Why?  He seemed to lose interest in the team after it lost the World Series to the Yankees.  The memory of Bobby V in 2001-02 is of his spending more time bickering with the front office – mainly GM Steve Phillips – than of managing.  It’s also undeniable that Bobby kept things interesting while Mets skipper.   

 Speculation Time: The Guess-ensus is that three of the four top free agents – Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson – will play for new teams next season.  MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez sees Fielder going 90 miles south, from the Brewers to the Cubs; Reyes moving far south, from Metsland to Miami and the Marlins, and Wilson winding up a Texas émigré as part of the Yankees’ unstable rotation.  Almost everybody expects Albert Pujols to stay home in St.Louis.

After the Fall (League):  The prospect most talked about when the Arizona Fall League ended a week ago: The Rockies’ Nolan Arenado, a 20-year-old third baseman who was voted league MVP.  He batted .388, with 33 RBIs in 29 games.  The Rockies put Arenado on a fast track after he drove in 122 runs for Modesto (Class A-Advanced) in the California League last season.  Despite his limited experience, Arenado may be the prime competitor this spring for Colorado’s returning third baseman Ian Stewart.    

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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 addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Is Our Security Team Playing an Ominous Game?

(Posted: 11/21/11; e-mail update 11/22/11)

A baseball fan watching a live webcast of the Occupy Wall Street rally last Thursday saw something similar to a remembered Yankee Stadium incident.  A young OWS supporter tried in vain to go to the bathroom in a bar.  The bar was locked, sale and as apparently were all ground-floor businesses in the Foley Square area.  Security precautions were clearly in place.  The man had to go blocks away to relieve his discomfort.  At the Stadium four summers ago, a man who tried to go to the rest room during a “God Bless America” (seventh-inning) break in the action.  When told by a policeman he had to wait until completion of the song, he insisted that he couldn’t wait; he had to go.  The man never found relief at the ballpark; he was ejected and told by one officer to “get the hell out of my country, if you don’t like it.”

The OWS protesters received the equivalent of that Yankee Stadium treatment, and worse, as part of what may have been part of a Homeland Security-coordinated shutdown of the rallies in 18 cities.  Team Home-Sec denies any coordination, but does acknowledge flashing signs to local clubs around the national ballpark faced with opponents challenging the established game plan.  The explosive potential of the hundreds of millions of dollars of clout and personnel that can be unleashed on any small-market team mounting a rally against big-power opposition is obvious: the Home-Sec offense can put a hurt on any team anywhere, batting with billy clubs reinforced by pepper spray.

The one-sided power game between the well-equipped – and salaried – players, and the hardscrabble teams of “99 percenters” has a more ominous backdrop.  A double-play combination in Europe – American William Pfaff and Brit Martin Wolf – made this troublesome connection, as laid out by Pfaff in the International Herald Tribune:

“Financial Times commentator…Wolf  observes that it was not the hyperinflation Germany experienced after the first world war. It was the brutal and seemingly interminable… unemployment that followed the Crash that created the conditions in which German democracy collapsed.  Its successor, National Som, ended the Depression, and put the German economy back on its feet.  In case anyone has forgotten.”

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Bummed in Boston: Red Sox Nation has several reasons to be depressed at this point in the off-season.  The Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy lists this as number one: “Why didn’t the Sox hold out for Matt Garza before letting Theo (Epstein)  go? The Cubs had to have Theo after all the hype.  Now they have their man and the Sox have lost all leverage. The Sox are like a guy who “sells’’ his house, and lets the new owner move in before closing.  The played “seller’’ has to go to court to evict, or make the new owner pay.  It’s a joke.  Epstein had tremendous value and the Sox let him walk and now they are begging.” Pathetic.

Praise from the Analytical Pinnacle:  A few years ago, the guru of baseball analysts Bill James was asked which player he would recommend building a team around.  David Wright was his answer then.  Asked the same question the other night on MLB-TV, James gave this reply: “Ben Zobrist (of the Rays). He can play almost any position, and well.  At the same time, he’s a dangerous hitter.”

Success Stories:  AL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon on a key to his team unpredictably making the playoffs this year: “Kyle Farnsworth turned out to be a solid closer.  Our bullpen was a question mark at the start.  He gave it definition.”  NL Manager of the Year Kirk Gibson on what led to the D-backs’ bounce-back season:  “In spring training, I said we had to earn respect.  That meant changing our approach.  ‘Don’t take it personal,’ I said.”  (Both interviewed on MLB-TV)

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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 addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Team Venezuela and the Tilted Playing Field

(Posted: 11/18/11; e-mail update 11/19)     

A former sandlot pitcher from the land of Miguel Cabrera, buy check Felix Hernandez and Johan Santana recently threw a high, click hard one straight out of the repertoire of American lefthanders:

“Why is the United States the only country that fills the planet with military bases? Why does it allocate such a staggering budget for increasing its military power? Why has it unleashed so many wars, sovaldi violating the sovereignty of other nations which have the same rights to their own fates?”

Skipper Hugo Chavez of Team Venezuela posed those questions before the UN in September,  If you missed his brush-back performance, you had company: our pressbox observers dismiss the democratically elected leader as dangerously lacking in control.  The kidnapping of Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos gave the yanqui media a chance to focus on Hugo’s country – to play up Venezuela’s crime and gun-violence problems, which are in the same league with ours.  At the same time, Team Chavez’s shift of a third of the country’s oil profits to improve the living standards of the poor are either ignored or criticized as a waste of resources. (While at least one search-engine, Google, is blocking a source of positive stories about that and other social programs, rare dispatches like this – from the AP – are typical: “Venezuela’s booming oil wealth is bankrolling its most ambitious effort in decades to help the poor, an integral part of President Hugo Chavez’s ‘social revolution’… Critics say Chavez is ruining Venezuela’s oil industry and squandering the proceeds of high oil prices on programs that won’t do away with poverty in the long run.”)

The record book contains an explanation for the selective reportage.  Since Chavez became skipper in 1999, Venezuela has had to play on a field tilted in deference to its mega-opponent to the north.  US Embassy cables, made public this year by WikiLeaks, (and all but ignored by our press) stressed the importance of carrying out a propaganda rally against Team Chavez.  The success of that rally can be measured, not only by the near-total absence of balanced stories about Venezuela, but also by lack of mention of  Team USA’s funding of Chavez’s political opponents who sit in that country’s corporate boxes.  (Or of the provocative presence of U.S. air bases in neighboring Colombia and our naval warships patrolling nearby waters.)

An unnamed US player, who, perhaps, did not want to be identified as a rally-killer, gave Fox Sports this favorable take on Venezuelan baseball and the national background:  Let me say that the incident with Wilson Ramos hasn’t changed my opinion of the people, the team, the league, or the country.  The people are fantastic, very accommodating. The (league) is great.  The baseball is awesome, and the fans are the most passionate in the world.  If I (could) come back again, I would not think twice about it.”

Here in our national ballpark, fans and press people don’t think twice about looking away from a Chavez delivery (also before the UN)  that is on the black“We (sh)ould understand that the empire has awarded itself the role of judge of the world, without being granted this responsibility by anyone.”

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Cubs Swipe Sveum: The breezy buzz in Chicago was that the Cubs would hire either Mike Maddux of Terry Francona as new manager.  The buzz was wrong.  Dale Sveum, who as interim manager in 2008 guided the Brewers into the playoffs (with a 7-5 record), got the nod.  Rangers pitching coach Maddux allegedly removed himself from consideration because he didn’t want to leave the Dallas area.  Francona pulled himself out of managerial contention when he wasn’t chosen over Mike Matheny to be Cardinals skipper.  Sveum was said to be close to getting the Red Sox job vacated by Francona.  Now a cold wind from Boston says Bobby Valentine is newly in the running for that job.

First Impression:  The MLB realignment into two 15-team leagues will (in 2013) close, at last, the cheap path to the playoffs – that of finishing first in a four-team (AL West) division.  That path remains for one more season, still objectionable mainly because a six-team race is required of NL Central clubs.  We have consistently wondered here why the Houston shift didn’t occur long ago.

Maddon’s Possible Move:  The contract of AL manager of the year Joe Maddon runs through next season but the Tampa Rays are afraid they’ll lose him a year from now. St.Petersburg Times-man John Romano explains why: “(Although) Maddon has said, repeatedly and passionately, that he wishes to remain in Tampa Bay… every so often, a caveat shows up…He is not unaware of ownership’s concerns about the future of th(e local) market, nor his own growing stature in other baseball towns.”  Maddon is expected to command twice his TB salary ($1.3 million) in late 2012.  That’s more than the Rays can afford.  Will Maddon stay put out of loyalty, or go where he will be better paid?  It’s one of sunny Florida’s burning questions.

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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 addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Baseball and War-Making: Why the Traditional Link?

(Posted: 11/14/11; e-mail update 11/15)     

Back in baseball’s pre-infancy, sales a prominent Brit writer called tradition the “gum” that “Providence furnishes the limpest personality.”  Baseball, we know, has clung to that gum in justifying, among other things, dependence on the error-prone “human element” in umpiring, rather than the indisputable judgment provided by the latest technology.  

Three weeks ago, a well-remembered egregiously blown call by first-base umpire Ron Kulpa occurred in the third game of the World Series.  It gave the hometown St.Louis Cardinals an opening to score four runs on their way to a come-from-behind victory over the Rangers. The overnight demand for greater use of instant replays was overwhelming.  That Kulpa happened to be from the St.Louis area made the blown call even more embarrassing.  NY Post-man Joel Sherman saw it this way: 

On (that) night, America knew within a minute what Ron Kulpa didn’t  — (Matt) Holliday was out at first.  Why does this sport want, to keep risking the potential humiliation of a championship-altering missed call?  The human element? No, the human element is the hitter vs. the pitcher.  Not whether Ron Kulpa is being influenced by where he grew up.”

Another dubious tradition – of patriotic displays at ballparks – was established during World War II.  Baseball’s slavish support of our wars has been consistent since then.  Why is it that we need wars, an early president asked, to give us a sense of national pride?  “What horrid creatures we are, that we cannot be virtuous without murdering one another? “  

Snap Quiz:  Who was (a) the “gummy” 19th-century Brit writer?  And (b) which president saw the “horrid” side of war-making?   (Answers below)

The End of a Traditional Safeguard? America’s political deadlock, as summed up from abroad: “Control over the government has passed all but completely into the hands of business corporations. The country has become a plutocracy. This has occurred because corporations are the principal supplier of funds essential to the election of federal officials – the president and the members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, and through them, the members of the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary, all of whom are nominated and confirmed by the elected officials…What has never before happened has been seizure of power in all three of the constitutional branches of power by a single outside interest group.  That has happened now. Corporate business, notably the banking and financial industry…effectively controls the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as ownership of the national news media whose main preoccupations are national politics and the national economy.” – William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune

Quiz answers: (a) George Eliot (in “Middlemarch”); (b) John Adams (quoted by David McCullough in his biography of our second president)                                                                        

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Message to Mets Fans – More Patience Required:  One thing about Mets GM Sandy Alderson – he is no con-man.  For 2012, his team will likely have lost at least half of its veteran 2011 offensive nucleus of Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes and David Wright.  Does Alderson say to Mets fans, “Don’t give up on us.”?  No, here’s the straight answer he gave interviewer Matt Cerrone about what lies ahead for the team: “For us to approach a break-even proposition, we have to keep our payroll at a lower range than it has been in the last few years.  Now, as the team performs better and the revenues increase, there will be the opportunity to increase payroll.”  The obvious follow-up question Cerrone did not get to ask: “How can an undermanned team minus two impact players be expected to “perform better” enough to attract fans and the needed additional revenue?  The obvious unstated answer: The Mets are looking beyond 2012 to 2013.

 All About Money: Some of the names and numbers will surely change this winter, but, for the moment, here is the list of annual salaries among the 10 best paid players: 1) Alex Rodriguez, $27.5 million; 2) Ryan Howard, $25m; 3) CC Sabathia, $24.4m; 4) Cliff Lee, $24m; 5) Joe Mauer, $23m; 6) Johan Santana, $22.9m; 7) Mark Teixeira, $22.5m; 8) Adrian Gonzalez, $22m; 9) Carl Braun, $21m; 10) Carl Crawford, $20.3 mil.   (Per Cot’s Contracts) It is almost a sure thing that five of the 10 will earn their money.  The five, three of whom have injury problems, who may not: Howard, Mauer, Santana, and A-Rod and Crawford.                                                                      

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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 addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Baseball Prospects and Young Activists Causing a Stir

(Posted: 11/11/11; e-mail update 11/12)     

Baseball’s bigs want to cap – or “slot” – the amount top players can make in the amateur draft.  Why should school-age kids, for sale they say, recipe command hundreds of thousands of dollars to sign with a major league club?  It’s excessive.  Most fans, sale struggling to make ends meet, agree.  Except, that’s how capitalism works:  If someone’s willing to pay an exorbitant amount for your services – what he thinks you’re worth –  you should not be barred from taking his cash.

We know that if shareholders are willing to set the worth of corporate execs in the millions, where do we have a right to be resentful?   The truth progressives must face is that they are mistaken in targeting the corporations.  The Occupy Wall Street movement has established what is only a symbolic base of operations.  It knows that an enabling government – Team Obama, and the complicit Congressional and Judicial squads – is the main opposition.     

After a Manhattan “End to End” march in support of OWS last Monday that (briefly) included local elected officials, a TV reporter wondered if the movement was now becoming political.  An OWS player said his team would not go to bat for any officeholder but would accept support from anyone, regardless of party.  “It’s not ‘Will your people support me?’ he said, in effect. “’It’s ‘Will you support us?’” 

Nobel Prize Winner Joseph Stiglitz notes that OWS is an expression of frustration, first, with the electoral process, then with the damage that corrupted process has done to our vaunted market democracy:  Markets work the way they should only when they operate within a framework of appropriate government regulations; and that framework can be erected only in a democracy that reflects the general interest – not the interests of the 1%.  The best government that money can buy is no longer good enough.”

“No longer good enough” is the OWS rallying cry resounding throughout the country and the world.  If it accomplishes nothing else, says The Nation’s Katha Pollitt,  that is reason enough for us to be grateful:  “Maybe OWS will vanish with the lovely fall weather…or break down in fights and factions.  But already it has accomplished more than anything put forward by organized progressives since Obama took office.”

It’s twenty-something men and women who have helped OWS catch fire, just as it was college-age young people who led the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era (when the military draft loomed).  Bud Selig may not like it, but the appeal of promising young players makes his slot policy unrealistic: team owners are willing to invest whatever it takes to bring well-scouted, fresh talent into their organizations.  As Oakland GM Billy Beane has pointed out, it wasn’t that way a decade ago when he launched his MoneyBall strategy: the A’s were almost alone with their high-pressure pipeline of prospects to the majors.  

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And Then There Were (Possibly) Two:  Reports from Chicago suggest that the Cubs’ new manager will either be Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux or Terry (Tito) Francona.  Pressbox consensus is that Maddux will get the job if Theo Epstein and his cohort decide to choose a candidate without major league managerial experience.  Otherwise, well, this is how ChiTrib’s Dave van Dyck puts the situation: “As the interview process (ends), the question is whether it all has been a window dressing precursor to naming Francona.  Or whether Francona will be left on the outside looking in.”   The candidates besides Maddux who were interviewed: veteran coaches Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum and, as of Friday, Sandy Alomar, Jr.  Epstein has said a meeting with Francona, should he be seriously considered, would not be necessary.  Francona has been interviewed to become Cardinals’ skipper.

Ranging Arizona:  Prospects belonging to the Rangers, Padres and Rockies excelled during the Arizona Fall League, whose championship will be played a week from Sunday (11/20).  Texas’s 23-year-old Dominican lefthander Miguel De Los Santos led the league in wins, four, (with White Sox farmhand Terry Doyle) and strikeouts, 30 in 22 innings.  Another possibly future Ranger, third baseman Mike Holt, hit nine HRs, most in the league.  The Padres’ Jedd Gyorko, also a third baseman, registered the highest BA, .420 in 17 games.  Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, still another third baseman, knocked in league-high 33 RBIs in 23 games.  The two most publicized players – the Angels’ Mike Trout, and the Nationals’ Bryce Harper – performed only respectably. Trout batting .264, with two homers, in 21 games, Harper, .308, with six HRs in 20 games.      

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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 addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Pinch-Hitters Play the Reflections Game on Two Fields

(Posted: 11/7/11; e-mail update 11/8)        

“There is something of twilight in the game, sales sales something sadder and more lyrical than one can quite express. It even ends in the twilight of the year: All its many stories culminate in one last, sale capsule prolonged struggle in the gathering darkness, from which one team alone emerges briefly victorious, after so long a journey; and then everything lapses into wintry stillness…”         – David B. Hart

At the end of twilight time and of endless replays of World Series moments, there is a feeling of empty-stadium nostalgia that transcends baseball.  A message in the e-mailbag recalls the progressives’ lost leader while commenting on Occupy Wall Street: 

“I don’t think most of the occupiers believe change is possible through traditional politics, or at least they do not want to get involved in traditional politics.  They are just pissed off at the world, but until now they have not looked to participating in politics. Three and a half years ago,  many of them may have been interested in politics, because Obama promised hope.  But it did not work.  No real belief in hope now.“ – James O’Hare, Richmond Hill, Queens

With nostalgia comes regret over missed opportunity: “Team Obama didn’t want progressive groups to put people in the streets back when he was powerful and prestigious enough that such protests could have given him a commanding position in the center of American politics.  Instead, the mass movement has arisen at a time when the president looks weak, mildly unpopular, etc. That’s no coincidence. But the same process that’s taken the shine off Obama has hurt progressive issues across the board and will make it much harder to make tangible progress on anything.”  – Matt Yglesias, Think Progress

We’ll See: “The Occupy movement could turn out to be the most significant moment in American  history.” – Noam Chomsky     

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Unrequited Love:  Former Indians GM John Hart, replying (on MLB-TV) as to whether,  as a GM today, he would seek to sign Jose Reyes for six or more years:  “I would not.  I love Reyes, would love to have him on my team; he plays a key position, and can do so many things.  But his health history makes me cautious.  If I am paying someone a big salary, I want to be confident of his playing 150-155 games.” 

In four of his eight seasons as a full-time Met, Reyes played in more than 150 games. In his last three seasons, however, he averaged only 98 games.

Books and Baseball …”each have formal chapters.  There are wonderful beginnings that don’t stand up and boring beginnings that are great in the end. You just don’t know.  They’re both, baseball and reading, for people who aren’t afraid of being bored.”

   – Roger Angell

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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 addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

It’s a Highly Hopeful Season Across the Board

(Posted: 11/4/11; e-mail update 11/5)

With the re-signing of CC Sabathia, try the Yankees have taken an early lead in the Hot Stove league competition. But CC’s return to pinstripes changes the picture only a little. We are entering the short season when fans of all 30 teams can feel “You never know.” Much is made at spring training time of teams starting on an equal footing. But, tadalafil try to a large extent, the dye is cast by then: deals made during the winter have tilted the pre-season playing field. 

Right now, the field, full of free agents and tradable impact players, is a place of opportunity for everyone –from the big-money Yanks, Red Sox, and Phillies to the low-budget Rays and Marlins. Some teams will skew the tentative balance with the quick addition of incoming game-changers like Cecil Fielder, Jose Reyes and, however unlikely, Albert Pujols. But it will take several weeks for most of the important signings to occur.

So let’s enjoy the fanciful rumors of change – like the Cubs swapping Alfonso Soriano for the Angels’ David Wells – while the hottest part of the stove season lasts. Experience tells us most of the 11 teams around as the 2011 season climaxed – the eight that made the playoffs plus the unmade Braves and Red Sox, and the late-fading defending champion Giants – will be the ones to beat again. But, for the moment, there’s legitimate hope everywhere.

An unexpectedly hopeful political season arrived with the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Its success is even a longer shot than that of the Astros or Mets, but the 99-to-1 numbers OWS put up on the national scoreboard has started a rally by formerly quiescent underdogs. Wash Post-man E.J. Dionne recaps what the surge of offense has accomplished: 

“Growing inequalities of wealth and income — which should have been a central issue in American politics for at least a decade — are now finally at the heart of our discourse. We are, at last, discussing the social and economic costs of concentrating ever more resources in the hands of the top sliver of our society.”

Unlike their baseball brethren, OWS fans face uncertainty rather than enjoyment over the next several weeks. Author Phyllis Bennis of the Institute of Policy Studies put together a lineup of challenges that must be met: Will the encampments figure out how to survive the encroaching winter? Can the iconic center, at Occupy Wall Street’s Zuccotti Park, remain the symbolic heart of the national, indeed global movement?…Will the Occupy movement figure out how to… creat(e) new democratic norms…while simultaneously figuring out how to escalate (its) challenge to power?”

That leads to what New Yorker mag’s political ace Hendrik Hertzberg sees as the crucial question: “Inevitably, the route to real change has to run through politics…The Tea Partiers know that. Do the Occupiers?” (Our hope: Team OWS takes a small-ball approach, playing to make a gradual, non-partisan impact on the game and its broad swath of spectators nationwide.)

Wall Street is confident there will be no change because the movement will wither. “It’s mostly tourists taking pictures,” one Street exec told us (inaccurately) last week. “Anyway, residents who live near Zuccotti Park are getting fed up with the noise and the mess. If the cold weather doesn’t clear those people out, the city eventually will.”

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Speculation Starter: For what it’s worth, SI’s plausible list of top 10 free agents contains five players whose “best fit” is with teams other than their present one: Cecil Fielder (2), Jose Reyes (3), CJ Wilson (4), Aramis Ramirez (9), and Jimmy Rollins (10). List-maker Ben Reiter points Fielder from the Brewers to the Cubs, Reyes from the Mets to the Nats, Wilson from the Rangers to the Angels, Ramirez from the Cubs to the Marlins, and Rollins, from the Phillies to the Giants. Albert Pujols (1), Jonathan Papelbon (5), Heath Bell (6), Carlos Beltran (7) and David Ortiz (8) are thought to fit best where they are – with the Cardinals, Red Sox, Padres, Giants and Red Sox, respectively.

Overdue Oquendo: Tony La Russa’s third base coach Jose Oquendo probably doesn’t have the inside track on replacing his longtime Cardinals boss, but MLB-TV’s Peter Gammons suggests that he deserves the skipper’s job in St.Louis. Why? The Cardinals in the past didn’t allow AL teams to interview Oquendo for managerial slots because they said he was next in line after La Russa.

Say It Isn’t So, Sandy: Response from a typical fan to a Mets-related story Tuesday, quoting the team’s chief of operations: “Can it be that Jeff Wilpon has resurfaced? Uh, oh.” During a news conference, Wilpon indirectly fingered GM Sandy Alderson’s predecessor Omar Minaya for giving CitiField spacious, HR-killing dimensions: “Omar spoke about pitching, speed and defense all the time.” Wilpon added that he “signed off on it…if you want to blame anyone, blame me.” The boss’s son will only be low-bridged here, if he involves himself in on-field personnel and player development decisions. He had seven years to show he was not up to the job.

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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 addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)