During Skipper Obama’s inaugural pitch last Monday, seek we thought of him as a closer, ed coming on to relieve the starter – his first-term self – who wore himself down through many contentious innings. Former relief pitcher Dan Plesac and onetime baseball GM John Hart ticked off on MLB-TV the gifts it takes to be an effective closer: high velocity, an out pitch, fearlessness, and durability. Hart summed up the discussion, saying, overall, the closer should be a “power pitcher.”
The skipper displayed his heater persuasively enough to indicate he was up to the power role. Indeed, righty Times-man David Brooks felt Obama’s brush-back effectiveness. His liberalism was “unapologetic,” said Brooks, adding that opposing players like himself would “now have to raise our game.”
How successful the new closer will be in blowing away opponents of “collective action” will become clear as he’s called upon to take them on at climactic moments. Those moments will come as he sets about to win broad support for advancing gay rights, making life easier for illegal immigrants, preserving the social safety net, and stemming global warming. Those save opportunities are lined up, but securing them against Team GOP won’t be easy. Why? Because Obama’s game is based on an expansive view of the much-contested role of government.
New York magazine’s Frank Rich, on what the skipper can possibly close on sooner rather than later: “Any progress on climate change and on gun control may well depend on whatever Obama can accomplish through executive actions. On immigration reform, the president has the leverage to achieve more. Even the present-day GOP isn’t enough of a suicide cult to keep antagonizing and demonizing the fast-growing Hispanic electorate that threatens its very existence..(On gay rights), I doubt (Chief Justice John)Roberts wants to go down in history as the jurist who blocked equality for gay Americans, particularly since full equality increasingly looks inevitable. Obama’s formulation crystallized the crossroads at which Roberts finds himself: He can be the Earl Warren of Brown v. Board of Education or Roger Taney, whose court delivered the infamous Dred Scott decision before the Civil War.”
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King Kimbrel: The MLB-TV consensus on the closer who comes closest to meeting the velocity-out pitch-fearlessness-durability standard: Craig Kimbrel of the Braves, who had a breakthough year in 2012, striking out 116 in 62.2 innings and closing 42 of 45 save opportunities. Though not a power pitcher (and not durable last season), Mariano Rivera came in second. The Rays’ Fernando Rodney was third. The Reds’ Aroldis Chapman did not figure in the competition. “We accepted the report that the Reds were making Chapman a starter,” the network, said, explaining his absence from the list.
Having Their Phil? Who won the seven-player trade that sent the D-backs’ Justin Upton to the Braves for infielder Martin Prado and three prospects? The immediate beneficiary is Atlanta; in the long run it might be Arizona. The identity of the deal’s big loser is clear: it’s the Phillies and their fans, who in the last few days saw their two main NL East adversaries grow stronger. First, the defending league champion Nationals signed Rafael Soriano to be their closer, then the runner-up Braves caused more Phillie consternation by adding their second Upton; they had already signed B.J., Justin’s older brother. The best the Phils could do to answer was sign former Tiger Delmon Young, a deal devoid of the potentially decisive impact of the two others.
The ‘Why?’ of the Upton Trade: “The problem is that (Justin) didn’t play with a high level of energy,” said (a) former teammate…“Justin doesn’t have that kind of attitude; he has a quiet intensity that doesn’t fit the mold of what (they) seem to want. He plays hard, but has to look suave doing it. Slamming into walls isn’t his thing, and they will accept nothing short of all-out sacrifice for the team.” – quoted by Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports.
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