The Nub

Celebrating Careers of Two California Standouts

(Posted: 12/30/11; e-mail update 12/31)

Let’s trade Bronx cheers for end-of-year celebration, discount look saluting the good fortune of fans in California’s Oakland-Sacramento bailiwick: they have been blessed with both baseball and political leadership. A’s GM Billy Beane and state Skipper Jerry Brown have spent careers playing catch-up games, relishing the challenge and keeping the ball in play. Beane has been guiding Oakland’s underfinanced AL franchise since 1997, while Brown, in Sacramento, has led California’s oft- underfinanced government for nine years – two terms in the 1975-83, and one year of a belated third term, now in 2011. 

Beane replaced current Mets GM Sandy Alderson, who had already started the “MoneyBall” approach to running a team – emphasizing on-base-percentage – which Billy implemented stunningly. By 2000, Beane, and the system, got the A’s into the playoffs, the first of five such successes over seven years. When “MoneyBall” appeared in 2003, bench wisdom said Beane would regret giving his secrets to competitors. There was no longer anything to give, said Beane later: The market was moving already … The teams that wanted to do it were going to do it anyway, so no book was going to make any difference. My view is the only effect of the book was to give them [the A’s] the credit. If no book had been written, Theo (Epstein) would have been branded the man who reinvented baseball.”

Beane was proving himself a premium high school prospect in the San Diego area when Brown was serving the final year of his first term as skipper. The year: 1978, when an anti-tax rally led to voter passage of ballot Proposition 13, which, among other things, said only a two-thirds legislative vote could impose future taxes. Time magazine described the fallout: Beholden to a tax-averse electorate, the state’s liberals and moderates (were handcuffed by) Proposition 13 while (trying) to provide the state services Californians expect — freeways, higher education, prisons, assistance to needy families and… funding to local government and school districts that (all but) vanished after the antitax measure passed. Now, however (with the recession) that balancing act (is) no longer possible.”

Brown has had to deliver heavy hits to higher education as well as those other services that helped make California’s broad-based good life a national model. Since he can’t get enough members of the Legislature to vote new taxes, he’s going to bat to get Team GOP permission to let the voters themselves do the job on the ballot next November. It won’t be easy to swing, because, as Brown has said of his most recent political education: “I(‘ve) learned that the Republicans can’t vote for a tax.”

Beane has learned it’s hard to be competitive in a small market with an unattractive ballpark. He’s rooting for completion of a plan to move the A’s to new stadium in San Jose. His other learning experience came when the Red Sox hired him for a substantial raise in salary – or thought they had – as GM in 2002. He opted to stay in Oakland at the last minute. Why? “I made one decision based on money in my life – when I signed with the Mets (in ’80) rather than go to Stanford – and I promised I’d never do it again.”

 Beane’s contract ends this coming year. For the moment, he’s at peace with his decision to stay in Oakland; he even likes trips to Sacramento to watch the A’s triple-A team. Brown, who served as mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007, has a similar stance. “I like(d) being in Oakland,” he says. “(And) I can’t tell you how much I like (Sacramento and) being governor of California.”

– – –

High Rating for Ryan: If Andrew Bailey, the new Red Sox closer, is as good at talent evaluation as at ninth-inning shutdowns, his take on fellow trade-ee Ryan Sweeney should make Ben Cherington happy. The Sox GM got outfielder Sweeney as an add-on in the five-player deal that sent Josh Reddick and two prospects to Oakland. The 27-year-old Sweeney is supposed to be an outer-garden reserve, but Bailey says his old/new teammate should not be underestimated: “He is one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball.”

Post-Heartbreak Time: Until the Bailey deal, the two teams that missed making the playoffs in heartbreaking, 11th-hour fashion, were unexpectedly quiet in the post-season. The Braves, who lost out with the Red Sox on the season’s last day, traded Derek Lowe to Cleveland for a minor league pitcher early in the fall. Since then they’ve done little.; Boston picked up Mark Melancon from the Astros after losing Jonathan Papelbon to the Phillies, but that was about it until the trade with the A’s.. More activity from both teams can be counted on as spring-training time approaches.

– o –

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

The Challenge of Attracting Fans with the Fire Gone

(Posted: 12’23/11; e-mail update 12/24)

 Snap Quiz: What do the Mets and the Democratic Party have in common? Answer: loss of their sparkplug. The Mets, generic buy we know, sales decease allowed the man who gave them fire, recipe Jose Reyes, to get away to Miami. The Dem team has held on to Skipper Obama, but saw his early spark die, and watched him become an ordinary political player.

Mets fans can console themselves – while staying away from CitiField – with the thought that even the presence of Reyes could not have ignited the talent-light 2012 team into NL East contention. The Dems are assuring themselves that, given the disarray of the GOP would-be presidential team, even their spark-less skipper is safe from defeat next November.

The Mets front office must brace for a further falloff of attendance that went down dramatically last season; dropped off despite a comparatively respectable lineup that often included marquee players Reyes and Carlos Beltran, and, for awhile, Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez. None of the holes they’ve left, we know, has been filled. And what lies in store for the Dem team? A fall-off in support, certainly. But, if Team GOP cannot field a strong Obama opponent, the bench wisdom insists, what is there to worry about? At a meeting of Democrats in Manhattan last week, a prominent former NY office-holder had a cautionary answer. He warned that the current Republican sideshow will be long forgotten when the one-on-one political world series begins. Team GOP’s surviving starter – whether it be Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich or even Jed Bush – will have unlimited media money (thank you, Citizens United) with which to bash Skipper Barack for the still-soft economy.

The latest scouting report of National Journal’s polling team identifies the skipper’s overall vulnerabilities. Team observer Ron Brownstein suggests that they could give his opponent a decisive offensive edge: “The share of non-college white men and women, and whites aged 45-64, who said Obama’s policies had diminished their opportunities was more than double the portion that said his agenda had increased their chances. Given that each of those groups voted heavily for McCain in 2008…it would hardly be surprising if they oppose Obama in even larger numbers next time.

“Obama faces an even more negative judgment on the impact of his agenda from whites in the prime child-rearing years (between 30 and 44) as well only slightly more favorable reactions from college-educated white men and women and all families earning at least $100,000 annually…Taken together, all of these patterns suggest that if Obama wins a second term, he is more likely to receive a lifeline from the white upper-middle class than their working-class counterparts, whose economic discontent and pessimism is hardening.”

Turnout will thus be decisive. Only this time (as noted), with the spark gone, Team Obama cannot expect to draw nearly as many voting fans as it did in 2008. And Team GOP is a sure bet to add to its numbers. Not a sparkling early-innings picture for the skipper. 

Furthermore”The ‘Occupy Iowa Caucus’ campaign is urging Democrats to reject the compromise-prone president and back a slate that is committed to pressing for more progressive policies than those adopted by Obama and his administration.” – John Nichols, The Nation

– – –

Beltran a Redbird: Carlos Beltran fans in the East – many of them, anyway – were surely hoping that he would wind up with reported AL East suitors, the Red Sox and Blue Jays. It would have meant seeing him dozens of times on regional TV games. Instead, Beltran will try to help the Cardinals recover from the loss of Albert Pujols. Money saved when Pujols jumped to the Angels made possible the $26 million, two-year contract that lured Carlos to St.Louis. Meanwhile, the Nationals, by dealing for talented A’s starter Gio Gonzales, have become the first NL East team to respond to the bulking up of the Miami Marlins

Curbing an Eager Cubbie: Theo Epstein apparently has been too avid in raiding the Red Sox for off-field talent. ESPN’s Gordon Edes reported on this repercussion: Epstein, who this week hired an area scout from the Red Sox, Matt Corey, and promoted him to national cross-checker, will be prohibited from adding anyone else from the Red Sox for a period of three years.”

Exodus: “This is a beautiful ballpark. And I can’t wait to get out of here.”  MLB-TV’s Mitch Williams, imagining what Minnesota’s Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel said about Target Field before signing with the Rockies and D-backs, respectively. Both recognized, said Williams, the unfriendliness of the Twins’ new field to home run hitters.

Follow-Up: Fans who would like to take part in a campaign to end the seventh-inning “God Bless America” ceremonial, and similar patriotic by-play at games, should write to: The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, Allan H. (Bud) Selig, Commissioner,: 245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor, New York, State: NY Zip Code: 10167, 212-931-7800, Fax: 212-949-5654. (Thank you, Gary Maltz, for the nudge.)

– o –

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Commentsto are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

The Police-State Dilemma in the National Ballpark

(Posted: 12/19/11; e-mail update 12/20)

Baseball fans, physician made aware of our security state during regular patriotic displays at MLB games, cheap have a recent reminder in the case of Bradley Manning. Manning is the army private accused of leaking government secrets to the world through WikiLeaks. His future depends, click not on whether he broke the rules of the military game, he did, but whether what he did caused provable harm.

Because Manning helped expose governmental deceit and casual killing of civilians by our military, he is considered a hero by many in the national ballpark, a traitor to others. The differing views are similar to those expressed when a Yankee fan tried to go to the Stadium rest room four years ago during the “God Bless America” interlude. His objection to being stopped by a guard was hailed by some, denounced as unpatriotic by others.

The connection of both cases to 9/11 is obvious: Team USA’s anti-terrorism defensive alignment has been both expansionary and effective. Though an understandable response to a real danger, on one level, it can be dangerously intrusive to the lives of spectators everywhere, on another. The government’s curbs on domestic rights and liberties and its repudiations of international law multiply as post-9/11 seasons go by. Billy clubs and pepper spray, we know, were part of the police arsenal when, with Homeland Security guidance, they challenged the protests of several Occupy Wall Street teams.

 Still, most of us welcome the security as much as we deplore the police excess. Some may join public outcries against the increasing use of police-state tactics in the traditional home-base of freedom of expression. Ball fans have a more modest approach at their disposal: ask Bud Selig, as well as local teams, to shut down the practice of seventh-inning flag-waving. We can argue that now, more than 10 years after 9/11, it is time…particularly since the military-tinged displays are as unpopular with fans as the police-state aura they impose. After that we can see about sending the pre-game “Star Spangled Banner” to the showers.

– – –

Farewell Time for Familiar Names? J.D. Drew, Magglio Ordonez, and Jorge Posada are three unsigned “fading stars” the Sporting News says have likely ended their oft-brilliant major league careers. SI’s Cliff Corcoran lists 23 non-tendered players (including Eli Whiteside re-signed by the Giants) who should sign major- or minor-league contracts before spring training. The Orioles’ Luke Scott and the Giants’ Jeff Keppinger are two of the other comparatively notable names on the list. Former Met and recent Ranger Endy Chavez is not listed – nor is Jason Varitek – but Endy agreed to a one-year contract with the Orioles over the weekend.

Love Affair: New Cardinals manager (and ex-catcher) Mike Matheny on why Buster Posey is surely underwhelmed at the suggestion he play some first base for the Giants next season: “Once you fall in love with the position of catcher, it’s hard to play anywhere else.”

– o –

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Patience, the ‘Right Way’ in Baseball and Pressure Politics

(Posted: 12/16/11; e-mail update 12/17)

 New Cubs president Theo Epstein has a one-word request for the team’s fans: “Patience.” He and GM Jed Hoyer are going to put together a winning team, sale buy he promises, buy “but we want to do it the right way.” That’s the way he did it in Boston, the way Brian Cashman is doing with the Yankees, the way Sandy Alderson hopes to do it with the Mets: giving priority to developing players within the system, filling holes, either through trades of home-grown prospects, or the signing of free agents. (In truth, most MLB teams, many following the MoneyBall lead of Oakland’s Billy Beane, are playing the patient, right-way game.)

Political players in NY state who pitched against Skipper Andrew Cuomo’s decision to let a millionaires’ tax expire had no choice but to be patient during most of the 2011 season. But their persistence during the waiting game finally paid off last week when Cuomo delivered a tax-reform bill that gave the adversarial team a partial victory. Upper-level millionaires (making more than $2 mil) will now be paying around 50-percent more in taxes than they would have had the surcharge on their earnings been allowed to leave the field with no change in rates. Of course, the truly wealthy will be saving tens of thousands, while the ultra-high-“middle class” – $300,000 to $2 million – will be pocketing thousands in saved tax dollars.

As for the average $50-100,000 earner, he or she will save about $40. Ron Deutsch, of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness (quoted by Syracuse Post-Standard’s Teri Weaver) puts it this way: “The average taxpayer will get a night out…It’s not exactly the middle-class tax relief everyone is talking about.” Still, the deal will net the state $2.4 billion additional dollars and reduce the taxes of 4.4 million people. That’s a political win for Skipper Andrew as well as for the patient opposition leader, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver. Occupy Wall Street gets an assist, too. When the OWS team in Albany began labeling the skipper “Governor One Percent”, it got his attention.

– – –

Reason for Hope: News that the under-funded NY team took out a $40 million bridge loan to help meet its obligations has gotten the attention of Mets fans. Particularly intriguing is the possibility that some would-be minority-stake investors will not be in place next spring. Then, says the NY Times, “(Fred) Wilpon and (Saul) Katz might have to confront the possibility of selling the team entirely.”

Red Sox in the Red? The chatter on MLB-TV the other night was the reluctance of usually big-spending Boston to spring for elite free agents. The suggested reason: Team owner John Henry’s $481 million investment in the Liverpool soccer club of Britain’s Premier League. Panelists concluded that the outlay, purportedly from a separate funding source, has had an impact on the team, nevertheless. Said one: “When they tell you, in answer to whether they have an interest in Carlos Beltran, ‘yeah, for‘$3 million for one year’, “you know money is tight.”

A.J. to Stay? The equally quiet Yankees are waiting until just before spring training, team insiders say, to do some major wheeling and dealing. They say A.J. Burnett will probably not figure in the envisaged transactions. The amount of his salary they’d have to eat has so far proven too big an obstacle.

– o –

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

The Red Sox Connection to a Crucial Political Game

(Posted: 12/12/11; e-mail update 12/13)     

 Baseball and politics.  The record book shows them connecting at a distance, drugstore as is happening now in Red Sox Nation, where control of the U.S. Senate could hinge, thumb however remotely, on a candidate’s baseball knowledge.

First, a look back: A Team GOP player who hit to left, John Lindsay, was re-elected NYC mayor in 1969 shortly after the “Miracle Mets” won the World Series.  Lindsay won without his party’s support, and despite the Dem team holding a three-to-one registration advantage.  The media suggested that the Mets’ upset victory over the Orioles had made the city “feel good about itself” setting the stage for Lindsay’s upset electoral win. 

 Yankee fan Rudy Giuliani’s eight years as NYC mayor (1994 – 2001) coincided with the team’s six-playoff-five-World Series appearances, and four world championships.  His TV-reinforced identity as the city’s number one Yankee fan helped keep him popular for most of his two terms.  Projected Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (her status won’t be official until September), although not considered a rabid fan, knows as much about the Red Sox as an average Bay Stater.  But a slip-up about the team’s history at a recent public forum caused a rhubarb that normally wouldn’t hurt her chances.  Still, since baseball is involved, you never know.

Here’s what happened: The moderator at a forum of five Dem Senatorial candidates asked them to name the years in which the Sox won the World Series in this century.  Warren answered “2004 and 2008.”  A minor mistake (we know she should’ve said 2004 and 2007), except to some press box observers.  Said ABC News political editor Rick Klein:  “If (incumbent GOPer) Scott Brown wins a full term, this (s)lip will be the opening anecdote on how.”

Bizarre bounces can occur in bluest-of-blue Massachusetts: Unruffled Team GOP righthander Scott Brown was elected to succeed the late feisty southpaw Ted Kennedy.  And polls say line-drive lefty Warren is losing fans that put her ahead because of her support for Occupy Wall Street.  Voter reaction to the Sox-related error has not been tested.  The main test will pit Warren’s left-of-center swing against Karl Rove-financed TV pitches on behalf of Brown. They depict her as pro-banker instead of the fiery pro-consumer slugger that made her too politically hot for the White House front office to keep on its team.   It will be a classic match-up of a monied moderate GOPer – Brown – versus an economic populist whose timing should be right.

At stake: a vital Senate seat (one of three the Dems need to add to regain command in that chamber); and, as the contest unfolds, it will provide a grandstand weathervane of how strongly fans feel about the way the pro-Wall Street political game has been played in recent years.     

                                                       –     –     –

Designated Impact:  How do teams feel about the “all-or-nothing” designated-hitter plan, whereby, as of 2013, the DH will be used in both leagues or none?  The Tigers’ Jim Leyland doesn’t care which way the decision goes.  Mets people have not weighed in, but the plan surely impacts on the value of position-less Daniel Murphy.  Teams wanting to beef up their offense have inquired about Murphy’s availability.  Defensively, Larry Bowa (on MLB-TV) calls Murphy’s play at second base “scary.”  Murphy has already proven he can’t play the outfield.  If the solid lefty hitter has a future with the Mets, it clearly depends on baseball bringing the DH to the NL. 

Nothing’s the Matter With Kansas:  Betcha don’t know how well the Royals have been doing these past few years.  Sure, they haven’t won anything yet.  But Slate’s Greg Fehrman has a little noticed progress report that is eye-opening: “The Royals invested $45.2 million in draft bonuses from 2007 to 2011, an outlay that ranked third in baseball (and remains impressive even after you adjust for their consistently high draft order). But the strategy paid off. This year, Baseball America declared the Royals’ farm system the best in the game—the best, in fact, of the last two decades.  The team’s prospects, by one rough measure, project to be worth $245 million.”

Rarin’ in Chicago:  Theo Epstein, on fans of his new team, the Cubs: “They’re ready…they’re not interested in tearing the team down.”  What he implied, but didn’t add: “Not like in Boston, where the team’s success has made fans beyond-ready and hyper-critical.”

                                                        – o –

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Deficit Heat Affecting Deals in Dallas and DC

(Posted: 12/9/11; e-mail update 12/10)      

 More than ever this year, best buy hot stove season is deficit-spending time in baseball.  Even the Yankees and Red Sox are talking about the $178 million limit after which the 18 percent luxury tax kicks in.  The Mets are having a particularly painful struggle dealing with the deficit challenge.  And we know how the deficit-reduction game is tying up Team USA.

Skipper Obama’s effort has been stalled by player differences as to the proper strategy. He wants to spend more rather than cut to create jobs and get money flowing.  Players who swing from the right say that’s the wrong way to go and won’t go along.  We have to choke up, sale they say, and learn to play little ball.  The Mets have opted, so far, for that cautious approach.  They let their expensive (almost $20 million a year) star Jose Reyes leave, and declined to offer $5 million-per pitcher Chris Capuano more than a year’s contract; so he, too, left.  

The dilemma the Mets now face parallels perfectly what could happen if little ball becomes the ultimate USA game plan.  GM Sandy Alderson says the Mets lost $70 million last year and need increased ticket sales to get the team back in the black. But Reyes was a big reason people bought tickets.  How can you hope to fill the CitiField seats without him?  You trust that David Wright, Ike Davis and Jason Bay will benefit from moved-in fences and that newly added relievers Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco and Ramon Ramirez will provide an improved bullpen.  Even if everything clicks, the 2012 Mets are clearly destined to be at or near the bottom of their division.  You don’t draw fans competing at that level.

As the Mets need ticket-buyers, Team USA needs increased consumer activity.  Neither can get a rally started because, in the words of Paul Krugman, “Short-run deficits aren’t a problem; lack of demand is.”  Krugman concedes that the deficit could become a serious long-term problem; a jobs-creating, demand-building stimulus now, he says, can help obviate that possibility. A lot depends on whether the divided USA team comes together to make such a rally happen.

                                                       –     –     –

Southern Splurge:  The Marlins, 28th on the list of 2011 club payrolls – $57 million – have already committed $41 million – to their three star additions, Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle.  Their 10-year $275 million offer to Albert Pujols, had it been accepted, would have meant allotting close to $90 million of the 2012 payroll to four players.  The Marlins – reportedly now pursuing Prince Fielder – are determined to make a $pectacular $plash as they move into their new ballpark.

Craving Change:  On MLB-TV Tuesday night, five of six craving-for-news panelists at the GM meetings in Dallas – Peter Gammons, Tom Verducci, Larry Bowa, Dan Plesac, and Matt Vasgersian said they thought Pujols would sign with the Marlins.  The lone dissenter: Kevin Millar, who correctly thought the Marlins offer wasn’t generous enough, and that the Cardinals would re-sign their franchise player.  Millar was right about one thing – the money – but not about Pujols’ eventual team: the Angels (who now have three first basement – Albert, Mark Trumbo and Kendry Morales).

Carlos in the Cold:  With the additions of Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, the Giants – his most likely destination – seem to have lost interest in re-signing Carlos Beltran.  Considered the number 5 most coveted free agent at the start of the signing season – after Pujols, Fielder, Reyes and A.J. Wilson – Beltran will still attract big bucks from one of the wealthier teams, but at a lesser level than he surely hoped.   His age (35 this April) and injury-prone legs have compromised his value, at least until now.

                                                  – o –

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Spotlight Playing on ‘Know-It-All’s’ in Both Pastimes

(Posted: 12/6/11; e-mail update 12/7)        

You have to love the double-play: two “know-it-all’s” – Bobby Valentine and Newt Gingrich – emerging as baseball and political headliners these past few weeks.  Both were outsiders as candidates for managerial jobs and a presidential nomination.  Valentine wasn’t even in the lineup in Boston when bosses John Henry and Larry Lucchino blindsided new GM Ben Cherington by choosing Bobby over Gene Lamont.  Gingrich, diagnosis talking a good game, built up his numbers as a backup in the GOP primary series.  As Valentine’s arrival stunned most of Boston, so Newt’s sudden surge surely surprised pace-setting Mitt Romney and his team.  Mitt had gained leadership confidence, fending off early rallies by Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry and Matt Cain. 

The Red Sox clearly brought in Valentine, in part, for his larger-than-life persona.  They had lost celebrity GM Theo Epstein after the dismaying 2011 season and needed a savvy showman to fill the gap and help Red Sox Nation forget the past.  GOP fans might be filling a similar need with Gingrich.  They’ve seen him flip-flopping all over the field on hot-potato issues like immigration, environment and lobbying ethics.  But they know he is seldom dull.  And the record book shows he was as leader of the “contract with America” GOP Congressional victory in the 1994.  He proved then to be a formidably bright competitor. 

Wash-Post’s true-believing righthander Charles Krauthammer says that fans are readier to forgive Newt’s bobbles than they are the many back-and-forth-ings by Romney:

Gingrich’s apostasies are seen as deviations from his conservative core — while Romney’s flip-flops are seen as deviations from … nothing.  Romney has no signature achievement, legislation or manifesto that identifies him as a core conservative.”

 Krauthammer suggests that, should Newt-preferring GOP voters pick Romney over Gingrich, it will be because they believe Mitt can attract more swing votes than their man.     

There are doubts in Boston, too, about Valentine’s ability to win the support of his players.  Much remembered is an interview he gave while Mets manager in which he said this about his team members: “You’re not dealing with real professionals in the clubhouse. You’re not dealing with real intelligent guys for the most part.  A lot can swim, but most of them just float along, looking for something to hold on to.” 

But Bobby hasn’t been hired to be a back-patter.  He’s been hired to win, and keep the fans happily distracted while doing it.  The Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy put it this way:

“He’s a guy who’ll wear eye-black in the dugout.  He’ll refer to himself in the third person.  He’ll have an opinion on everything and he’ll make opponents try harder to beat the Red Sox.  He will never be boring.”

                                                           –     –     –

Envoi:  The loss of Jose Reyes was surely not a shock to Mets fans, only a deep wound.  The departure to Miami of their franchise player has literally left very many of them disenfranchised.  Our hearts go out to those paid to be at CitiField this summer – stadium employees, media people, etc.  It will be lonely place, except, perhaps, when Jose and the Marlins come to town.

The Murk of Metrics:  The mystery surrounding Derek Jeter is why he looks good as ever at shortstop while the equally mysterious metrics say his play is sub-par.  The official measure of “defensive runs saved” this year has Jeter last at his position, having scored a minus-18.  Brett Gardner tied for first among all fielders with a plus-22.  Tigers’ center fielder Austin Jackson and Giants’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval had the same rating.  That Sandoval finished so high while Jeter was rated so low only deepens the mystery. 

Mariano WHIPPED:  It would have been no surprise had Mariano Rivera registered the best WHIP ratio – walks plus hits per innings pitched – over the past three years.  But he had to settle for second.  The winner: Mike Adams, of the Padres and Rangers, with an 0.852 score compared to Mariano’s 0.879.

                                                         – o –

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Team Obama Nemesis Is the Verlander of Australia

(Posted: 12/2/11; e-mail update 12/3)        

 Join the belated cheers for baseball’s man of the year Justin Verlander.  Cheer him, canada ampoule not just because he won both AL MVP and Cy Young awards (first to do it since Roger Clemens in 1986), store but because of the way he responded to the honors.  Verlander said he was glad he won them, mainly, for hard-hit Detroit, which needed its morale raised.

It is doubtful Verlander will be hailed on the cover of news magazines at the end of the year.  Protesters in Tahrir Square or Zuccotti Park are likely to be graphically remembered for the political game-changing they contributed here and in the Mideast.

The winner of the political equivalent of our player-of-the-year award in Australia holds a prominent place on Team Obama’s enemies list: he’s Julian Assange, founder of WiKi Leaks, the outfit that embarrassed high-power clubs by letting the world know what their game was.  The Pulitzer-like award Assange earned was for excellence in journalism.  The down-under panel honored him and his team, citing their “courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency.”

In a line-drive reproach to the O-team’s bean-balling of Assange and its bruitish, bush-league treatment of the imprisoned Bradley Manning, the Australian awarders paid this tribute to the honorees – and, indirectly, to its government, which has distanced itself from our defense of secrecy: “By designing…a means to encourage whistleblowers, WikiLeaks and…Assange took a brave, determined and independent  stand for freedom of speech and transparency that has empowered people all over the world.”

Attentive fans in Skipper Obama’s ballpark seem to be indifferent rather than empowered.  Appropriate boos have been slow in coming. 

                                                   –     –     –

Straight-Talking Skipper:  A lot will be said about Bobby Valentine, now that he is Boston’s new skipper.  Bobby is known, among other things, as a “know-it-all.”  From a baseball standpoint, that may be a close-to-accurate description.  During an ESPN Sunday night broadcast of a Rangers game, last season, he said Texas center fielder Julio Borbon wasn’t very good, and didn’t belong in the lineup.   That struck at least one viewer as an unusually blunt assessment.  To the untrained eye, Borbon didn’t seem all that bad.  Within a short time, however, he was back in the minors.  Bobby could tell where he belonged.                                         

Wishful Thinking in Metsville:  After running down several other possible destinations – Miami, Washington, Detroit, etc. – SI’s Joe Sheehan concludes that Jose Reyes could wind up back home with the Mets.  That seems unlikely…unless Sandy Alderson, et al, remain comparatively quiescent during hot-stove season.  With no big- or medium-ticket signings, the Mets would have enough to keep their franchise player with the franchise.  The Marlins’ signing of Heath Bell makes them a bit less likely competitors for Reyes’ services in the NL East.  

Readying Rockies:  No team is salivating so openly about next season’s debut of a second wild card than the Rockies.  Colorado made roster and payroll room late last month by sending utility infielder Ty Wigginton to the Phillies.  The Rox then reinforced their rotation by getting Tyler Chatwood, just 22 this month, from the Angels for catcher Chris Iannetta.  To replace Iannetta they signed ex-Reds free agent Ramon Hernandez.  A team quickly putting together the pieces of a wild card-seeking puzzle.                                              

                                                   – o –

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to are welcome, and only they can be addressedby the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)