The Nub

October Surprises: the Giants and Super-Storm Sandy

(Posted: 10/30/12)

On Fox the other night, generic prescription Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were talking about the important role home-field advantage was playing in the Tigers-Giants Series. SF, illness we know, nurse broke fast before a supportive home crowd, and would have had the same uplifting support had they not swept the Series in four games. What Joe and Tim could have reminded viewers, but didn’t: Bud Selig’s 2002 decision to put the Series home field at stake in the All Star Games was unpopular at first, and still is among diehards. Many of us liked the idea, however, of making the game more than just a celebrity-player spectacle, making its outcome count. Games that count compel attention. That applies to contests in both fields.

The debates were a prime example in this year’s presidential playoff. One of the pastime’s top official scorers, National Journal’s Charlie Cook, says if Mitt Romney beats Skipper Obama, “blame the debate(s).” The match-ups counted to that extent. “This is a horse race, a very close one that can still go either way,” Cook writes in his NatJourn scorecard, “and that was not the case before the first debate. The debates…hit a reset button for Romney and put him back into this contest.”

What remains to be seen before next week’s contest producing the ultimate count: Whether hurricane Sandy has hit another reset button, one that sets in motion this reminder to undecided fans in the national ballpark: “Government is your enemy until you need a friend.”

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What They Said After Game 4

Jim Leyland: “They beat us; you have to tip your hat to them. I was flabbergasted when we beat the Yankees four straight, then flabbergasted when we got beaten four straight. Still, if you had told me last spring we would make the World Series, I would think ‘That would be a good season’.”

Phil Coke: “That stuff about the layoff hurting us is BS. They played at 110 percent, we played at maybe 95.”

Ryan Theriot (who played with the 2011 champion Cardinals, on the difference between the Cards and Giants): “We had big bangers over there; we did it here with small ball.”

Sean Casey (MLB-TV panelist): “The Giants were not the best players. They were the best team.”

Meddles of Dishonor: A common characteristic of this year’s playoff teams: GMs who operated free of owner and/or front-office execs’ meddling. Brian Sabean (Giants) and Dave Dombrowski (Tigers) are two obvious poster children. Two examples of teams at the opposite extreme in that regard: the Marlins (Jeffrey Loria) and Red Sox (Larry Lucchino, John Henry, et al)

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(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.)

Take Me Out to the Pastimes, Both of Them

(Posted:  10/27/12)

Baseball’s “National Anthem”-”God Bless America” problem resurfaced this week via an e-mail from Los Angeles.  Chris LaSalle, generic ask a Red Sox and Dodger fan, treat says the mournful Anthem and strident seventh-inning interrupter has to go.  In their place, he suggests a single lively alternative: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”  After playing musical pepper with him, we think it’s an idea that has possibilities as a blend of patriotism and appreciation of the sport.  Imagine a new MLB-wide pre-game routine that goes like this:

“Ladies and gentleman, before the first pitch, please join in a dual tribute to our nation and its national pastime”:

 “Take me out to the ball game

Take me out with the crowd…etc.”

The revised choral-opener has the advantage of being both lively and appropriate.  Singing it in the seventh inning, the Cubs’ tradition, makes little sense: the ballgame has long begun and is nearly over; the home team may be out of it. “If they don’t win it’s a shame” applies in that case, as Team Obama believes it does in our games abroad: “If we don’t win it’s a shame” is our stance towards “democratic” teams that don’t play ball: “If we don’t win it means trouble” is more accurate.  In the last debate, the Skipper described our game in no-nonsense terms as it plays out on one nominally sovereign diamond, Egypt:

Now that you have a democratically elected government in Egypt… they have to make sure that they take responsibility for protecting religious minorities. And we have put significant pressure on them to make sure they’re doing that; to recognize the rights of women…. They have to abide by their treaty with Israel…They have to make sure that they’re cooperating with us when it comes to counterterrorism.”  In other words, they can only be democratic in our eyes if they play the game our way.  It’s their country, but, to a large extent, we still run it.  So much for the rally that seemed so hopeful during the Arab Spring.

Follow-Up Question We Wish Bob Schieffer Had Asked:  “Isn’t it a contradiction, Mr. President, to call Egypt democratic, then to speak of pressuring it to do what we want, whether the Egyptians want it or not?  

One More Musical Thought:  A singable patriotic companion piece to “Take Me Out”, and one whose lyrics should resonate these days: Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land.”

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Why Baseball Says ‘Vive Venezuela’:  Team Obama may not like him, but ball fan Hugo Chavez likes our World Series.  He is beaming over the splash Venezuelans Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro and Gregor Blanco are making with the Giants; they’re just three of the team’s five Venezuelans –  reliever Jose Mijares and catcher Hector Sanchez are the others.  Miguel Cabrera’s bat has yet to explode for the Tigers, but the triple crown winner is the acknowledged king of baseball in his country (along with Seattle’s “King” Felix Hernandez).  “Miguel makes us all proud,” says teammate and fellow countryman Omar Infante.  Pitcher Anibal Sanchez and rookie outfielder Avisail Garcia round out Detroit’s Venezuelan contingent.  The nine players would be the basis of a formidable team, with Cabrera at first and Sandoval at third.

Why Guillen Was A-Goner: ChiTrib’s Phil Rogers, who covered Ozzie Guillen as White Sox skipper, was unsurprised that volatile Ozzie didn’t last, working for Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria: Loria has (rarely)… show(n) loyalty to his employees, and Guillen probably talked his way out of Miami when he said Loria should “look  in the mirror’’ at the end of the turbulent 2012 season.  There was speculation about a change in the team’s front office but instead it appears the owner decided to merely change managers.”  Somebody has to go when a touted, big-ticket team finishes last in its division.

Rare Cheer for a First-Base Coach:  When Angel Pagan made it to second base Wednesday night on an infield hit that bounced off the third-base bag and into left field, Tim McCarver credited Giants coach Roberto Kelly.  “He saw what happened and pointed to second when Pagan was racing to cross first.”  McCarver was less alert later, when eventual winning pitcher Barry Zito left the game.  “A crowd here hasn’t cheered a “Barry” in many years,” said Joe Buck.  “Not since (singer) Barry Manilow,” said McCarver, before being reminded of the SF fan-support given Barry Bonds.

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(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.)

Presidential Debates: Their Possible Lessons for Baseball

(Posted: 10/23/12)

Two days after Joe Girardi urged expansion of the use of video replays to confirm or correct close umpiring calls, see the political equivalent of a corrective replay set off an electoral rhubarb. CNN’s Candy Crowley, pilule who umpired the second presidential debate a week ago, drugstore stopped the action after a verbal play by Team GOP’s Mitt Romney. Romney said it took Skipper Obama two weeks to disclose that terrorists were responsible for the fatal raid on the U.S. team in Benghazi, Libya September 11. Obama had said he made that disclosure the day after the raid. 

“I want to be sure we get that for the record,” said Romney, “because it took the president 14 days.” Crowley ruled on the play right away: “(Obama) did call it an act of terror (the day after),” she said. She added that it did take two weeks for Team Obama to speak with one voice on what had happened. Team GOP yelled “foul!” about Crowley’s clarifying call, although it did not foil Romney’s gamesmanship in putting Obama on the defensive.

Politics and baseball connect in another way through the debates. On the home turf of wild card “play-in” losers Atlanta and Texas and elsewhere, many fans, players and execs boo the single-game “win-or-go-home” format: “Two out of three would be fairer,” they say. The three presidential debate match-ups this year avoided that hassle. And last night, fans around the national ballpark saw a winner emerge (although they may not have agreed on who it was). 

In a left-leaning post-debates effort to be bi-partisan, we present here a late campaign pitch for Romney that appeared in the NY Observer, followed by a Daniel Ellsberg default delivery on behalf of the Skipper (material largely unmentioned by either side in last night’s debate):

“Mitt Romney stands out because—unlike so many candidates in the past—he understands how to build businesses, create efficiencies, make tough deals and carefully consider divergent viewpoints. America needs a strong leader, a practical leader. Mr. Romney knows full well that it would be a tragic mistake to simply assume that the United States will continue to be the world’s economic powerhouse simply because that’s what we’ve been for decades. America earned its global prominence because of the nation’s culture of work and individual freedom… In today’s competitive economy, the country needs competitors, not class-war crybabies.” – The Editors

“Progressives (must) persuade enough people in swing states to vote for Obama: not stay home, or vote for someone else. And that has to include…progressives…who are at this moment inclined not to vote (because like me they’ve been… enraged by much of what Obama has done in the last four years – (decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together) and will probably keep doing. A Romney/Ryan administration…would be much worse… on a number of other important issues: attacking Iran, Supreme Court appointments, the economy, women’s reproductive rights, health coverage, safety net, climate change, green energy, the environment...” – Common Dreams

Debate Winner (from where we sat): Israel (22 supportive hits to 0)

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On Marco Scutaro: Even before last night’s game, in which he got three hits, bringing his NLCS average to .500 (14 for 28), the series MVP was the subject of free-agent speculation. “Do you think the Giants will re-sign Scutaro?” an MLB-TV panel was asked. “They’ll try,” said veteran White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, “but they’ll have a lot of competition. It’s going to be that kind of busy winter. And I’m glad, because I’m going to be a free agent, too.”

On Ryan Vogelsong…The 35-year-old much-traveled consensus MVP of the League Championship Series (until last night) whom the Giants only called up last year: “We just caught lightning in a bottle to be quite frank.” – pitching coach Dave Righetti. “Giants GM Brian Sabean has a gift for signing players just as they’ve matured; Vogelsong is one example, Angel Pagan another.” – Tim McCarver, Fox Sports Vogelsong on his struggle in the minors and abroad before getting his shot: “This just isn’t me…(It) isn’t what I’m supposed to do, because if I was supposed to do this, I’d be doing better.” – KNBR Radio interview

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(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.)

Where Are Once-Key ‘Deciders” in Baseball and Politics

(Posted: 10/20/12)

With Carlos Beltran a leading Cardinal, sildenafil search and Angel Pagan/Marco Scutaro one/two in the Giants batting order, discount stuff the lowly Mets can point to former-player prominence in the NLCS.  To be sure, pharm such reminders of better days provide cold comfort to fans living a persistent baseball nightmare.  But amid the latest bleak season, the remnant fans could identify a couple of blessings, excluding the hyped status-quo efforts to sign David Wright and R.A. Dickey long-term.  Short-term celebration is in order because of the virtual disappearance of two men: the ones mainly responsible for the team’s downward spiral over most of the last decade – principal owner Fred Wilpon and successor-apparent, son Jeff.

 Mets fans know the team will not experience a turnaround while the Wilpons remain in charge.  By their financial and operational blunders, they should have forfeited their positions.  There is little doubt the Wilpons would be gone were it not for the crony support of Commissioner Bud Selig.  But in arranging to keep the pair out of sight, GM Sandy Alderson pulled off his most impressive 2012 transaction.  Now, if to rescue the franchise he can persuade Selig to jettison the Wilpons, Alderson will earn the eternal gratitude of despondent and defecting fans.

 There’s a similar absence in the national political ballpark: Mitt Romney and Team GOP have moved former baseball exec George W. Bush from a remote coaching position to the anonymity of the farm.  When “the decider’s” name was invoked as part of a question to Romney at Hofstra Tuesday night, Mitt was quick to say he and Bush were “different people, and these are different times.” What that stance clearly said: “Don’t connect me with him.”

 The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart says Romney has a good historical reason to distance himself from Bush.  The record book shows that previous elections in a given era influence the “public perception” of the two major parties; now those vote stats will “frame” the 2012 election   The Bush legacy is part of that picture:

By (Bill) Clinton’s second term, when asked which party they felt more favorable toward,  Americans gave Democrats a double-digit advantage.  Then George W. Bush was elected, presided over catastrophes in Iraq, the financial system, and the Gulf Coast—and the GOP’s public image nosedived.  Democrats haven’t maintained all the good will they racked up in the Clinton era… But neither have Republicans rebounded much from their Bush-era collapse.  And the result is a Democratic advantage, especially among rising demographic groups like Hispanics and the young.

 “Mitt Romney is not a great candidate…But without the Bush legacy, Romney would be leading this race. His problem is that except among staunch conservatives, Bush has so hurt the GOP’s brand that Romney doesn’t look like the fresh economic fix-it man that Republicans want to portray him as.  Instead, it’s all too easy for Democrats to paint him as George W. Bush the 3rd, just as they painted John McCain as George W. Bush the 2nd.  Romney has tried to handle the Bush legacy the same way McCain did: by ignoring it.”

 The Dems are nevertheless nervous as Team GOP insists that, despite the legacy problem, Romney’s Bush-lite game plan will produce a winning final score.

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Gladiators:  Barry Zito pitched the post-season game of his life last night to send the Cardinals-Giants NLCS back to San Francisco and a sixth game.  “Two heavyweights” was the way MLB-TV’s Sean Casey described the match-up the other night.  It would almost be a shame if a Cardinal victory tomorrow deprived us of a title bout Monday.

Go, You Tiger:  “The Tigers sprayed faux champagne, out of courtesy to star Miguel Cabrera, who has undergone alcohol counseling. But the team itself is the real deal. Their starting pitchers are rolling like few staffs in recent history, and that’s why they should be World Series favorites.  These guys just turned the Yankees into a $200 million corpse.  New York was beaten so badly that by Game 4, I wondered if Joe Girardi would make up his lineup card or fill out a police report.”  – Michael Rosenberg, Sports Illustrated

Looking Beyond the Bombing:  First pressbox reaction to Yankee-shock, overheard on WCBS Radio while game 4 was still in progress: “The front office should see now that having a home

run-hitting team may work during the season, but not in the playoffs.  Home runs don’t come easy in the post-season.  The team has to be reassembled with that in mind.”

Concurrence:  The Yankees hit two hundred and forty-five home runs this year, leading all teams, but imparting a hovering, summer-long unease about their offense with this veteran fan, since moving up base runners and delivering the productive double to the wall is not only a more reliable tactic but the aesthetic heart of the game.”  – Roger Angell, New Yorker

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(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.)

Post-Season Playoffs Packed with Political Omens

(Posted: 10/16/12)

For lefty baseball fans interested in politics, playoff-time is packed with omens. When the Giants rallied to beat the Reds in the NLDS, ampoule it was a good sign for the Skipper: SF and California are solidly Democratic and left-leaning, click the Reds are owned by a big Romney contributor.  The lean and scrambling Cardinals (from a purplish-blue city) overcame the bi-partisan DC Nationals, surely another encouraging signal.

Then came early Sunday morning.  We’ve long identified Derek Jeter as baseball’s Obama-like player.  But a few innings after Barack disappeared in his debate with Mitt Romney, Jeter left an injury-caused void in the Yankees’ infield and batting order. On the political field, polls confirm the debate results changed the campaign game, narrowing the Skipper’s lead on the pre-vote scoreboard.

But just as the Derek-less Yankees are hopeful their team can’t be counted out (“We’re not going out like this.”- Nick Swisher)  respected press box observers like the National Observer’s Charlie Cook say Team Obama has reason to believe in a rally of its own: 

The economy is improving…that millstone around the president’s neck is at least getting a little lighter…(Although) the debate was a game changer; the questions we still don’t have the answers to are whether it changed the game enough and whether there will be more game changers benefiting either candidate.

Tonight, both the Skipper and the Yankees will be under the pressure of facing opponents on a roll. Obama must deal with Mitt Romney, still benefiting from the momentum generated in their previous debate.  The president has something to prove and is going to have to work to meet that challenge.  Romney needs only to neutralize Obama’s expected offensive with effective counter-attacks to deny his opponent anything better than a draw.  The Yanks must face the AL strikeout king Justin Verlander, who is fresh from a complete-game shutout of Oakland in the ALDS.  If he pitches true to form, the Tigers could well be one game away from the AL title by night’s end.  In the understated words of Alex Rodriguez, “It is definitely not an ideal situation.”

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Hard or dirty?  Some of us can’t tell which it is when a slide into second to foil a double play upends the fielder.  Tim McCarver clarified the matter last night after Matt Holliday barreled into Marco Scutaro.  The slide was “dirty,” McCarver said, because Holliday went behind the bag to hit the second baseman.  “Had Scutaro been standing in front of the bag,” said McCarver, “Holliday would have had every right to do what he did.” Although outraged, the Giants agreed that Holliday didn’t mean to hurt Scutaro; furthermore, they noted, the play gave them added incentive to win, which they did, 7-1.

The Absent Captain:  Jim Leyland, on the the loss of Jeter:  “When I think of the post-season, I think of Reggie Jackson, the Braves’ making the playoffs 14 straight years, and Derek Jeter.”

Sorry, Davey: Dusty Baker, who, like Davey Johnson, watched his team blow a fifth-game lead and suffer elimination from the playoffs, has dodged a bullet.  The Reds re-upped the 63-year-od Baker for two years, despite his heart condition.  Johnson, 69, will probably be re-signed as well because GM Mike Rizzo shut down Johnson’s ace Stephen Strasburg weeks before the playoffs.  But after observing Johnson’s deer-in-the-headlights response to his team’s implosion, we would think twice about having him back.  Johnson had one impressive year as manager, of the 1986 Mets.  He seemed to lose focus after that championship year; signs of the condition recurring were visible in the last three games of the series against the Giants.

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Carlos the Decider:  Chances are fans of Carlos Beltran who were watching the fifth-game climax of the Cardinals-Nationals NLDS – knew his AB at the top of the ninth inning would be decisive.  Beltran was leading off with his team behind, 7-5.  “If he makes out the game’s over,” we thought, deep in post-midnight grogginess.  Beltran drove a double up the right-center alley that primed the miraculous winning four-run rally.  Those of us who’ve watched him with home teams in Kansas City, Houston, New York and San Francisco (as well as St. Louis) have learned to expect near-certain positive drama when Carlos is involved.  In St.Louis, the Cards gained Beltran after losing Albert Pujols to the Angels.  That Carlos is still playing – and hitting with his usual post-season eclat – while Albert has gone home, suggests how great a deal it was for the Cardinals.  

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(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.)

Miggy and Hugo: Two Hard-to-Stop Venezuelans

(Posted:  10/9/12)

“How did Miggy do?”  

The baseball fan knows whom the question is about.  It’s equivalent to “How many did Michael score?”in the days when Michael Jordan dominated the NBA.  Michael’s basketball feats made him race-less, generic ampoule just as Miguel Cabrera’s batting prowess elevates him beyond his national identity.

 That prowess has made Miggy a dominant force in the ALDS against Oakland, generic sildenafil even though he hasn’t gone deep once or driven in a single run.  His stats are respectable, buy nevertheless: BA .375, and two doubles among his three hits. Play-by-Play announcers for TBS and MLB-TV repeatedly warned on Saturday and Sunday what A’s manager Bob Melvin already knew: that game-changing trouble lay ahead when Detroit’s batting order had Miggy coming up soon.  The Athletics, now two games down, face the daunting task of stopping Cabrera if they’re to halt the Tigers the rest of the way.

 One way of stopping Cabrera off the field is to ask him a political question.  Though he expresses a native-born affection for his Venezuelan homeland, he says nothing about the country’s baseball-fan Skipper Hugo Chavez, who is booed daily by Team USA and its supportive corporate media.  In a report of the Venezuela’s’s presidential election, for example, yesterday’s NY Times called Chavez “an ailing and politically weakened winner…(whose country) is mired in problems…violent crime…crumbling roads…power blackouts.”  Chavez’s sotic focus on helping the poor was linked to a “phenomenal rise in oil prices.” 

The coverage, typical of mainstream media’s content and tone, bespeaks slavish support for a dubious stance by Team Obama – opposing democratic countries, like Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, as well as Venezuela, that refuse to play ball on its pro-corporate terms.  The UK Independent, not part of our lockstep-with-the-O-team media, offered a corrective in this pre-election view of the Venezuelan election:

The opposition will probably lose this election…but because the living standards of the majority of Venezuelans have dramatically improved under Chávez.  Since 2004, when the government gained control over the oil industry… poverty has been cut in half and extreme poverty by 70%… Millions have access to healthcare for the first time, and college enrollment has doubled…”  – Mark Weisbrot

As for Team Obama’s stance that Chavez does not lead a true democracy, the UK Independent article offers a simple rejoinder:  “In Washington, democracy has a simple definition: does a government do what the state department wants it to do?”

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LDS Overview:  Playing at home, Oakland beat the Rangers three straight to end the season.  The A’s could do the same to the Tigers beginning tonight, couldn’t they?  Two main reasons why that’s doubtful?  Miggy and Justin Verlander.  A similar challenge awaits the other Cinderella team: The Orioles will need mythic magic to eliminate the Yankees, a powerful team playing at the top of its game, and at home. 

The Giants’ regular-season run has been slowed by Reds, who seem to have solved SF’s pitching.  Cincinnati could end that series at home tonight, then take on the winner of the only truly competitive LDS, Cardinals-Nationals. The Nats have superior talent, the Cards more experience.  Who would bet against the defending champions?

Insights:  John Smoltz, doing color on TBS last night:  “Joe Girardi can go deep with his starters; he trusts C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.  Buck Showalter has to be careful with his untried pitchers.”  “Pitchers hate rain delays.  It disrupts their preparation.  It bothered me because of my eating pattern.  I’d sometimes have to sneak a burger out of fear of getting hungry during the game.”  Cal Ripken, Jr, Smoltz’s co-color man: “I like to watch the game through the shortstop’s eyes.  He sees the whole changing picture and is always adjusting.”

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(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.)



Hard Hitting, Soft Pitching Seize Spotlight in Both Fields

(Posted: 10/6/12)

 Short Hops:  Skipper Obama, buy pharm a White Sox fan, remedy may have been depressed on debate  night because his ball team folded in late September.  Whatever the reason, purchase he lost command early and gave Mitt Romney a series of free rhetorical passes.  Credit to Mitt for a smooth swing and delivery, and to his coaches for preparing him well.  Sure, his game was details-free, but most fans were too numbed from the barrage of conflicting economic stats to notice.

 It would be hard not to notice that baseball has its first triple-crown winner in 45 years.  What may surprise some: Miguel Cabrera is from Venezuela, depicted by our corporate media – and Team Obama – as a dangerous sandlot to the south.  Cabrera lives with wife and three children in the small town where he was born, is proud of his country and grateful for its love of baseball – “bigger even than soccer,” he says.  

Stat CityMost of us know that .330, 44 and 139 represent Cabrera’s BA, HR and RBI triple-crown credentials.  Some will recognize 99 percent as the number that rallied Occupy Wall Street a year ago.  Had the skipper mentioned 47 percent in the debate, it would have reminded fans of Romney’s months-ago reference:  “47 percent of Americans pay no income tax…so my job is not to worry about those people.”

Obama chose not to cite Mitt’s revealing phrase, chose not to be combative.  That’s the game he plays: intensely competitive, but unwilling to head-hunt his opponent(s).  Before the debate, Cal Berkeley Prof. George Lakoff delivered a key stat on the role-of-government for a pitcher he thought willing to throw the high, hard one:

“96% of all Americans make use of what other citizens provide through our government: 96 percent of us have received tax deductions for mortgages, education, and dependent children, business subsidies, unemployment insurance, veterans’ benefits,(which) we give and have given each other.  This applies to almost all Americans, rich or not, Republican or Democrat.  If your work contributed, or will contribute, to our country, you have earned, or will earn, whatever you have gotten. You are the 96 deserving percent.  The other 4 percent are too young to have benefitted yet, but they will inevitably join the 96 percent soon… Commitment to our country, not just to oneself…is the central issue in this election.  It is a moral issue. Who are we as Americans? Are we citizens who join together to form a great nation? Or are we isolated individuals, with no commitments to each other…” (quoted on Common Dreams)

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Wild Impressions: The enduring images of last night’s play-ins:  Chipper Jones, crestfallen after a throwing error that let the Cardinals take control of the last game of his career.  Before the game he had said he didn’t like the one-game arrangement: “Baseball is about series; the regular season is series, the playoffs are series.”  There would be no second chances for Chipper and the Braves this year.  Buck Showalter, standing in front of the dugout in Arlington, watching his team celebrate.  The stern father allowing himself a paternal smile for boys who had earned his indulgence.

On MLB-TV before the game, panelists had talked of the advantage the Cardinals had in  overcoming adversity last year.  “They know what the pressure is like, know they can handle it.”  Prophetic words.  Prophetic, too, may well be speculation that Josh Hamilton’s Texas sojourn is over.  Manager Ron Washington may be gone as well.  His Rangers were in first place 178 of the 190-day season, then experienced a fade that could be fatal to the skipper.  

Looking Ahead: Along with Miguel Cabrera, the man to watch in the post-season plays for the Giants.  Ask his manager: “We’re not in this situation without Buster (Posey)  He’s so valuable with the way he catches, handles the staff and hits cleanup while handling all that’s thrown at him. He comes out here every day ready to go and ready to lead by example.” – Bruce Bochy

One Way of Looking at It:  We had strong reservations about adding second wild card teams to the post-season lineup: why dilute the playoffs the way the NBA and NHL do?  One reason was to involve more teams in late-season meaningful games. But was that enough to persuade us?  One reason for change is usually questionable; two (no matter what the change) make the move persuasive.  The second reason dawned on us slowly: the two-wild-card system automatically enhances the status of division winners.  No more would winning a wild card put a team on a par with the league’s top three teams.  Now there was another step required, an exciting win-or-go-home game, that we saw played out in Atlanta and Arlington yesterday.  Belated cheers to Bud Selig for a great decision.

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(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.)

Perils of Playing the Treacherous Media-Lite Ballgame

(Posted: 10/2/12)

Protecting the “pace of the game” was Bud Selig’s response to why he resists video replay of questionable calls on key plays. Selig, appearing on YES last week, sale countered Michael Kay’s suggestion that he was sacrificing the fairness of baseball decision-making and game outcomes.His pitch about pace, try laughable given the on-field delays triggered by dubious calls, left Selig an apparent agent for umpiring job security. Putting that aside and the potential immediacy of most clarifying replays (subjects we have belabored), let’s look at the link between “pace” and politics. Where clarity would be achieved from increased speed through baseball replays, confusion is often the consequence of accelerated newscoverage. The bottom-line corporate game has led to this reality: While U.S. military teams expand throughout the world, our cost-cutting media pull their permanent observers from much of the field. Meanwhile, the 24-hour news cycle produces rapid, media-lite, reportage of surprise plays occurring abroad. Public players linked to the surprise are forced to reactright away, the lack of reliable play-by-play notwithstanding. 

The obvious current example: Team Obama’s first blaming an anti-Muslimmovie for the fatal attack on its players in Benghazi, then slipping into an apologetic half-swing that gave the informational ball a new spin: “After all, (went the newly spinned version) it apparently was a long-planned terrorist rally unconnected to the movie that succeeded because of poor player security.”

The lesson for political fans is one taught by the legendary lefty slugger I.F. Stone: “All governments lie.” CNN, which broke the true story, should be cheered for demonstrating the truth of that tip. The lesson for Team Obama and other political franchises: take the time to be sure you deliver your responsive pitch on the black. It’s a treacherous new ballgame.

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Where Are We? The Red Sox seem dead, so the Yankees should join the Tigers (and probably the Rangers) as AL division champions. The victories of two feisty teams, Oakland and Tampa Bay, were the focus here last night. The outcomes impacted each other, leaving the Athletics in the playoffs, eliminating the Rays. The A’s’ 4-3 win over the Rangers sets up a possible one-game “play-in” between Oakland and Baltimore Thursday. The Orioles can only overtake the Yankees if the Red Sox revive and the red-hot Rays cool off in the season’s final two games.

In the NL, the Dodgers need a miracle – two wins over the Giants while the Cardinals lose twice to the Nationals for a “play-in” to occur between those two teams. If the season ended today, the lineup would be: Orioles-Athletics, Cardinals-Braves, one-game wild card playoffs. The Yankees would play the winner of one, the Nationals the winner of the other. The other ALDS would match the Rangers and Tigers, the NLDS the Giants and Reds. Do you follow?

Key Absence: A rib injury that affects his arm and shoulder will sideline Rangers set-up man Mike Adams well into the playoffs. Adams’ absence is a break for Oakland, as the A’s seek to clinch at least a playoff spots against Texas at home. Adams has made clear he’s going to be cautious about returning; he doesn’t want to risk doing permanent damage to his pitching arm, not with free agency looming. Should the Rangers no re-sign him, Adams will be much in demand on the post-season market.

Swagger: Mets Manager Davey Johnson, before his team’s 1986World Championship season: “We’re not going to win, we’re going to dominate.” Nationals Manager Johnson, August 2012: “If we don’t win the division, they can fire my butt.”

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(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.)