Among our holiday blessings was “My Baseball Years, discount sale ” an essay the great Philip Roth wrote in the mid-seventies. In it, he says baseball provided him with a patriotism not “grounded in moral virtue and bloody rage” (thanks to Hitler), but in pride for our racial and ethnic diversity absorbed though playing and observing the national game. (The blacks he saw were in the bleachers at Ruppert Stadium in Newark).
New York City’s Skipper Mike Bloomberg enhanced that sense both of blessedness and of pride in our different cultures living together peacibly. He did it by denouncing what he called the NRA’s “paranoid vision” of a “violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe.”
Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner elaborated on the “we’re-in-this-together” theme, paying tribute to Skipper Obama on Bill Moyers’ public TV show earlier this week. “Obama has done an astonishing job,” he said, “of reminding us that government is a good thing, and that we share responsibility for one another because without that shared responsibility our own lives are destroyed.”
Kushner, author of the screenplay for “Lincoln,” also indirectly reproached lefthanders for their impatience with Obama, who, like our 16th president, has chosen to move ahead with caution: “The job of the president is both to make the compromises necessary to actually have things happen in a democracy, which means compromising at a slower pace than anybody would necessarily like. At the same time he has to keep telling us where we’re going, what we’re trying to arrive at.” Kushner noted that Obama has done that on, among other things, gay marriage – “We knew in 2008 he supported that issue, but as the first black president he couldn’t act right away.”
Although he wrote ‘Angels in America’, Kushner did not talk to Moyers about baseball. He did, however, express his passion in this way for what we consider our parallel national pastime: “All of the various fields of human inquiry — theology and philosophy and morality and psychology meet rather beautifully in politics. And sometimes I wonder if politics isn’t…the taking of all of the(m) and (giving) them meaning.”
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Elsewhere Yankees: Two former Yanks – Nick Swisher and Raul Ibanez – brought us baseball-related holiday cheer this week by signing with the Indians and Mariners. Swisher, who received a four-year, $56 million deal, will give the Indians needed offensive punch as they and new manager Terry Francona try to stay close to competitive with the Tigers in the AL Central. The signing of Ibanez – one year, $2.75 mil – gives Mariner fans a sign of hope that Seattle has no intention of being AL West pushovers in 2013. The Yankees, despite their budgetary-constraint approach this post-season, still figure, we believe, to be the AL East team to beat. They’ll have a solid group of returning regulars while the Blue Jays and Red Sox, with new managers, will need time to meld their mix of new faces.
More Than Also-Rans: Since the Orioles, with Buck Showalter, and the Rays, with Joe Maddon, are obvious capable-of-surprise teams, the AL East is likely to be the one division with five of five potential playoff contenders.
Boston Brightener: The most significant addition of the past week may belong to the Red Sox. In acquiring All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan from the Pirates – for expendables Mark Melancon, Ivan DeJesus, Jr., Jerry Sands and a minor leaguer, the Sox have locked in a solid one-two back end to their bullpen. Hanrahan is expected to compete for the closer role with incumbent Andrew Bailey. A nice decision for Skipper John Farrell to weigh.
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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)