The Nub

Arizona: Baseball, and More Than Hit-to-Right Politics

(Posted: 5/31/13; e-mail update 6/1)

Arizona commands our cheers this weekend. Why? Not only because the disregarded Diamondbacks are duking it out with the Giants and Rockies for the NL West lead. And certainly not because we’re fans of hit-to-right Arizona politics. No, discount click we’re here to hail Arizona State U., usa physician which, case among other things, has sent more baseball players to the majors than any other school over the last 55 years. Its roster of baseball alumni includes Barry Bonds, Reggie Jackson, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Andre Ethier, Mike Leake, Jason Kipnis, Ike Davis. etc.

Comparatively few of those players, earned their degree before leaving the school. That’s happening much less now; ArizonaState’s big-time score is occurring away from the ballfield and in the classroom. Its game plan now focuses not only on getting everyone in shape to graduate, but in making higher education available to students who might not have the money or grades to gain admission elsewhere. Where “many public universities are responding to squeezed budgets by limiting enrollments,” reports National Journal’s Ron Brownstein, ArizonaState is “graduating large numbers of nontraditional and first-generation students by expanding enrollment.

“With 70,000 students, one-third of them first-generation, Arizona State crystallizes the shared philosophy of what New America calls ‘next generation’ universities. ‘We define ourselves by who we include, not who we exclude,’ Michael Crow, the university’s dynamic president, says…’We will not advance this institution on a vision of status being achieved through exclusion’.”

Brownstein notes that, although similar approaches are rare at colleges elsewhere in the country, like-minded game plans are succeeding at two other public schools – the Universities of California (Riverside) and Central Florida. A rally in the making? A reason for hope, at the very least.

Follow-Up: Noted in the last Nub was the shooting death in Orlando, FL of a suspected accomplice in the Boston Marathon attack. Now, after conflicting law-enforcement accounts as to what happened, The Atlantic, and other media outlets, are calling for an inquiry, saying it is possible the man was unarmed and wrongfully killed. Respect for human life by U.S. law enforcement seems to be suspended in the name of anti-terrorism.

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More cheers for Arizona baseball; in particular for former D-backs manager Bob Brenly, who now does color on team broadcasts. When, not long ago, a missed umpiring call skewed the end of an extra-inning game, Brenly expressed his exasperation on the air:

“I’m telling you (Brenly said) you get into the late innings of a close ballgame, you don’t want the umpire to determine who wins…I have a lot of friends who are umpires, and they work extremely hard. But I just feel like the game has gotten too fast. Pitchers throw too hard. There is so much movement on the ball as it gets into the hitting area. I just think it’s not humanly possible to get every call right….We’ve got a…system now that’s foolproof. You’re going to get every pitch correct. … I just think in any sport, especially this sport, any time you can eliminate mistakes…we owe it to the game to do it… Ultimately, we’re going to get to the point where replay is a common part of baseball, even balls and strikes. I’m just advocating that we speed up the process.”

‘Natural Rivalry’ Stats: AL and NL teams finished the midweek series with 29-29 record. Twins and Tampa Bay were AL sweepers, over the Brewers and Marlins. Among NLers, the Mets swept the Yankees, the Cubs took three of three (one game postponed) from the White Sox. Our vote for the most significant performance: the Pirates, taking three of four from the Tigers.

Stress: “What are you asking me to do? Take my belt off and spank them? Yell at them? Scream at them?”…(24 hours later) “The most important thing is you can’t go crazy. That’s how you lose them — when you start going nuts when times are going bad. You have to stay steady.” – KC Skipper Ned Yost, on successive midweek days during team’s 4-18 tailspin.

Stuck: Just when the Mets gave its fans the fleeting illusion that better days were coming – taking four of four from the Yanks this week – a Wilpon showed up to remind them of reality. Whatever improvement becomes visible in the next year or two – and things can hardly get worse – the boss’s son Jeff is sure to re-emerge as a key part of the brain trust. Yet, Jeff and father Fred demonstrated over the past decade that they don’t have “the necessities” (thank you, Al Campanis) to operate a ballclub effectively. That’s the future, and the fans – what’s left of them – are stuck with it.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues or requests for regular e-mail updates are welcome when addressed to the skipper at Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)



Perplexity of the Skipper’s ‘Near-Certain’ Game Plan

(Posted: 5/27/13 P.M; e-mail update 5/28)

Baseball people who seldom see perfectly placed hits could only be amused by the Skipper’s promise to insure the “near-certain” accuracy of future drone strikes.  Baseball and certainty are at opposite ends of the field; “anything can happen” is more like it.  A batter can make out seven of 10 times, sale illness yet be considered a success.  Failure is the sport’s dominant experience, a way of acquainting us all with the real world: “A tragedy filled with joy,” in the words of “The Natural” author Bernard Malamud.

The series of wars, including strikes by our less-than-accurate drones, have, we know, replaced joy with tragedy in much of the Muslim world.  Linking that fact to the attack during the Boston Marathon is not an original idea.  But a witness to what happened – freelance writer Claire Schaeffer-Duffy – connected the event to what she heard from a young man who survived an American bombing in middle Asia.  Shaken by such violence, he told her, “children became more aggressive.”

“Is that happening here?” Schaeffer-Duffy asked herself. “Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is 19, old enough to have a moral code, too young for so much despair.  Seeing his youthful face in the news,  I can’t help but wonder if he, and the other young men among us who became train wrecks of destruction, are a legacy of the wars we so mindlessly began these past two decades.  Steeped in the violences of the day, they are clueless about life’s immeasurable value.”  – National Catholic Reporter

Behind the Skipper’s “near-certain” remarks is, perhaps, a renewed appreciation of life’s value everywhere.  Perhaps, too, Team Obama will not consider acceptable the deaths of even three innocent lives (as in Boston), as it assesses the success of future drone raids.

Noted:  Two of three men implicated in the Boston Marathon bombings – including one interviewed in Orlando, FL – were shot to death by our lawmen.  By way of contrast, two men involved in last week’s killing of a British soldier were shot and wounded by London police.
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Joy, and hits…are both in short supply these days for the Mets’ Ike Davis – BA.158 – as well as other normally better-hitting neighbors on the lower reaches of the I-95: Atlanta’s B.J Upton,.148; Adam Dunn, .159, of the White Sox; Milwaukee’s Ricky Weeks, .174; KC’s Mike Moustakas, .178.  Upton has struck out nearly 40 percent of the time – 60 in 155 ABs; Davis has 54 Ks in 152 ABs.

Holiday Evaluation: On MLB-TV Sunday night, a discussion of impressive weekend performances evolved into picking baseball’s standout team as of the Memorial Day signpost.  Panelist Cliff Floyd said it is clearly the 32-18 Rangers: “They’ve shown it isn’t the players you’ve lost that are important; it’s the ones you throw out there.”  The 32-17 Cardinals, who won Sunday while Texas lost,  have moved ahead of the Rangers in overall best record.

Streakers:  Angels +8, KC – 5, Marlins – 5.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments about blog issues or requests for regular e-mail updates are welcome when addressed to the skipper at  Previous Nubs may be

found by scrolling below.)


Nobody in Either Field Loves an Empire

(Posted: 5/24/13, sale for sale PM; e-mail update 5/25)

We suggested from the get-go that fans resentful of the high-spending Yankees could learn to admire this year’s budget-conscious assemblage of the team. That was before injuries put second- and third-stringers into key positions as regulars. With Mark Teixeira, treat Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on extended DL, Joe Girardi’s lineups lately feature castoffs LyleOverbay at first base and Reid Brignac at shortstop, rookies David Adams and Austin Romine at third and catching, with journeymen reserves Travis Hafner, Jayson Nix and Ben Francisco as key bench players.

Fans who never thought Brian Cashman would challenge the team to play with rejects and rookies ought to be impressed. The Pinstripers are competing on a level AL East playing field, and setting a pace as they did in their spendthrift days. Equating the Yanks with an “Evil Empire” – something Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino did more than a decade ago – seems quaint in the present situation.

But empire-building is a hard rap to shake off, in the political as well as the sporting field. In much of Latin America, people refer to USA as “The Empire” – an unfriendly term even without the adjective. On Pacifica’s “Democracy Now” the other morning, actor-activist Danny Glover recalled that, in 1791, our newly sovereign republic helped put down a revolution of Haitian slaves against colonial France. It was an uprising inspired by our revolutionary war for independence, but one that horrified slave-owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

We know what happened when Team USA went to bat in the 1840s for “Manifest Destiny”, the right to insure that its regional neighbors were playing ball: The “Yanqui” empire took over the field whenever its interests were threatened in places – many with democratic skippers – like Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Chile, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Honduras. That meddling, under the laughable cover of pro-democracy, has extended now to the Middle East and beyond. The updated scorecard shows that we are seen – in Muslim ballparks, in particular – as hostile imperialists. When fans wonder “why do they hate us?” they haven’t been reading the record book.

The Yankees say their plan is to remain frugal until after next season when they hope to avoid paying a luxury tax by having remained under the spending cap. If they heed our coaching sign, they’ll stay cost-conscious (as well as keenly competitive), put the Evil Empire term far behind them, and win over ever more additional fans.

NYC Inside Stuff: We welcome Anthony Weiner into the NYC mayoral race; he is a one-man enlivener in a contest that can use rally-hat energy. We won’t vote for him – not because of his personal misplays. He promised long ago that, if he ran and was elected, he would turn back the movement toward more bicycling in the city. A political misplay, in our opinion. Weiner now says he “won’t go on an anti-bike-lane jihad,” if elected. We take him at his original word.

Someone Else Has His Number: “The Jedi Master of the Artful Pander, Senator Charles E. Schumer.” – Michael Powell, NY Times

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‘Terry Francona Focuses on the Positives’, a sports headline in Thursday’s Boston Herald, didn’t tell the whole story. Red Sox ownership never met with Francona as they were nudging him out the door after the 2011 season. The snub rankled him. On whether he would meet with his former bosses during the current Indians-Red Sox series, Terry gave this non-positive response to Michael Silverman: “I haven’t talked to those guys (up to now), so I don’t really have any expectations, nor have I thought about it.’’

That’s a Relief: Comforting reminder to Mets fans from Daily News “Insider” Andy Martino: The 2013 Mets were supposed to stink.”

Streakers: Braves +6, Angels +5, Mariners -5, Twins -9

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues or requests for regular e-mail updates are welcome when addressed to the skipper at Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)


Baseball and the Military: Allies in Aversion to Change

(Posted: 3/20/13 P.M; e-mail update 3/21)

It has taken more than half a decade for Bud Selig to do what a growing number of fans, sales diagnosis players and press box people have done: support the use of video replays to check the accuracy of close baseball calls.  The commish now says his opinion has “evolved” and he’s considering expanding replay usage to include all calls except balls and strikes.  The catch – the expansion, sale if he follows through, won’t go into effect until next season.  The delay is in keeping with the hilarious hyper-caution Selig and his people have exercised on this no-brainer of a step forward.

Selig’s head-in-sand stance is strikingly similar to that of baseball’s favorite non-sporting team, the U.S. military.  Consider the “instinctive” feeling of General Martin Dempsey, Skipper of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as to why the military has been slow to crack down on decades of sex abuse in its ranks:  After 10 years of war, Dempsey said, there is certainly a risk we might be a little too forgiving” of defendants who have fought for their country.  The record book shows the ‘forgiving’ of sexual predators is a shameful military tradition that goes back far longer than 10 years.

The infamous Tailhook convention scandal in which naval and marine officers sexually assaulted 83 women and seven men occurred 22 years ago this September.  Its disclosure  was supposed to change the military attitude toward such offenses forever.  But not a single prosecution resulted from the criminal spree.  And now we know the number of reported sexual assaults has jumped 30 percent in two years (2010-2012) alone.  Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says there’s “no silver bullet” that will end the predator game right away; just as Bud Selig believes baseball can’t find a way to insure accurate calls.

The bewilderment expressed by the military front office involves suicides as well as the sex crisis; 350 active-duty troops took their own lives in 2012.  The Pentagon says it doesn’t understand why.  It has yet to address its forgiving record compiled abroad: the aversion to prosecuting the often unforgivable misbehavior of service members on foreign duty toward the persons and customs of local residents.  The emerging picture is of a military that has managed to obscure up to now how porous are its problems.

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Don’t Look Now…but the Indians have won 18 of 22 and five straight.  After their 10-inning, come-from-behind 10-8 victory over the Mariners Monday – making them 5-0 in extras – they were hailed on MLB-TV (perhaps prematurely)as this year’s “Cinderella Team.”

Reason to Fret:  It’s too early in late May to talk of a contending team in crisis. But dominant closer Jim Johnson has given Buck Showalter a legitimate cause for concern: In his last three appearances going into Monday night’s game, Johnson blew two saves and earned a loss, key factors in what became a five-game losing streak for the O’s..

Still Smiling:  We award the managerial prize for grace under stress, to Dodger Skipper Don Mattingly. During the LA-Braves game in Atlanta Sunday, John Smoltz, doing color on TBS, noted that Mattingly has been under pressure to get his last-place, high-payroll team moving.  When asked about it, Don, his job in jeopardy, was able to smile. “I’ve had plenty of time to get used to it,” he said.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper t  Previous Nubs may be found byscrolling below.)


Boos for a ‘Bystander’ on the Baselines

(Posted: 5/18/13)

Early this week, sale hospital fans of Team Obama must have felt like followers of the Mets facing a  series with the Cardinals.  Disaster loomed (and occurred differently to both teams). The Mets’ scant chance of winning these days is when Matt Harvey pitches – as happened yesterday against the Cubs.  But Harvey wasn’t scheduled to appear in St.Louis (where the Mets dropped three of four).  And there was no persuasive way the O-team could defend its own sloppy play in response to three separate opposition rallies.

The Skipper tried to dismiss the deadly debacle in Benghazi as old news already recounted in the record book, patient and to claim that coaches, treatment not he, were in charge during overly aggressive play by the IRS and DOJ squads.  None of his three defensive strategies worked. Rhetorical line drives from the left, right and center buffeted Obama with charges that won’t go away – of cover-up (Benghazi), partisan targeting (the IRS playing anti-right politics) and overreaching against press freedom (the DOJ snooping on AP phone records). It’s (George W.) Bush-league behavior, only worse.  Consider how many of us thought Team Obama played a cleaner game than its predecessor.

The triple play that victimized the O- team will surely energize Team GOP and cause fan defections in advance of the midterm pennant race. The UK Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald finds a press box response to the nub of the scandals – surveillance – most instructive:

It is remarkable how media reactions to civil liberties assaults are shaped almost entirely by who the victims are. For years, the Obama administration has been engaged in pervasive spying on American Muslim communities and dissident groups…It has prosecuted double the number of whistleblowers under espionage statutes as all previous administrations combined, threatened to criminalize WikiLeaks, and abused Bradley Manning to the point that (the) UN denounced his treatment as ‘cruel and inhuman’.  But, with a few noble exceptions, most major media outlets said little about any of this…  It took a direct and blatant attack on them for them to…denounce these assaults, and acknowledge this administration’s true character.”

Adding to the O-team’s devastation is this take – in the NY Times – on the man supposedly shaping his team’s character:  “A bystander occupying the most powerful office in the world.”                                             

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Stat City:  The Cardinals, first in pitching, third in hitting and fifth in fielding, are the one team in the top five (of 30) of hitting-pitching-fielding categories.  Detroit is first in hitting, Arizona first in fielding.  The Mets have fallen to 29th in hitting and 26th in pitching.  The DL-laden Yankees are ninth in pitching, 10th in fielding (15th in hitting). AL East and West are opposites in more ways than geography: four of five East teams are above .500, four of five West squads below.

More Bad News for Chisox Fan Obama:  “The White Sox are on pace to score (a sub-par)580 runs. They’re last in the AL with a .237 batting average…It is hard to see a lineup built around an aging Paul Konerko and lacking fresh legs…  scoring enough runs to support Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Jose Quintana and a strong, deep bullpen.” – Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune

Evolutionary:  JasonBay calls his role as a bench player for the Mariners “the evolution of a career.”  He told reporters at Yankee Stadium this week “I knew early on I wasn’t going to play…So, it was just (learning) when to be ready, how to be ready.  And that was kind of a process and I feel I got a handle on that.” Bay says he still follows the Mets, stays in touch with former NY teammates, and wishes things had gone differently: “I was trying to do the things you think you can do,(but) it wasn’t happening… I tried everything.”

The Silent Mariner: “Raul Ibanez is a deep thinker — an avid reader and musician, in fact — who understands that athletics is best as a non-verbal activity.  Many ballplayers speak (unresponsively) because they lack insight.  Ibanez knows enough to know that words cannot capture his mindset.”  – Andy Martino, Daily News

Perfectionist:  MLB-TV’s Eric Byrnes. responding to Joe Torre’s “nothing’s perfect” defense of umpire’s missed calls:  “We can get something perfect with the new (video replay) technology.  Why not do it?”

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments about blog issues or requests for regular e-mail updates are welcome when addressed to the skipper at  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)




Tight Races Blurring Outlook on Both Fields

(Posted: 5/10/13)

After six weeks of watching teams sort themselves out, sildenafil it is still not easy to play the probable division-domination game. The Tigers are an easy pick in the AL Central, but, however unlikely, they could finish second to Kansas City, or, yes, Cleveland. The Cardinals and Reds look to be the class of the NL Central, but the Pirates and Brewers could certainly make trouble. It is dangerous to write off talent-laden clubs like the Angels and Blue Jays, so the AL West could well be a three-team (Rangers, Athletics, Angels) dogfight and the AL East, as advertised, a five-team donnybrook. The Giants, Dodgers (still) and Diamondbacks are the three teams to watch in the NL West, but the Rockies, with their brazen-outsider tradition, may demand room.

The injured Roy Halladay’s absence simplifies the outlook in the NL East. The Phillies don’t have the arms or the arsenal to keep pace with the two teams that look to be a lock: the Bravcs and Nationals. Indeed, of all the teams mentioned so far, Atlanta and Washington are the surest one-two combination (in either order).

The only two clubs worth watching in the political field – Skipper Obama’s and Team GOP – are in a deadlock that neither side looks able to break. Scout Ron Brownstein (National Journal) sees unavoidable extra innings ahead:

“The GOP’s near-lockstep rejection of expanded background checks on gun sales will provide Democrats another brick in a wall that includes widespread Republican opposition to gay marriage, abortion, no-cost contraception in health insurance, and funding for Planned Parenthood. All of these positions stamp the GOP as primarily representing the cultural values of rural, heavily evangelical, and largely white heartland states—and not the prevailing beliefs of more diverse, cosmopolitan, and suburban states…The GOP’s struggle to culturally connect with the (diverse group) will help Democrats…

But the president’s inability to deliver better economic outcomes presents a powerful counterforce. The latest…National Journal Heartland Poll, released last week, offered a keening wail of economic anxiety and discontent. About three-fifths of those polled said they feared falling into a lower economic class, and fewer than one-fourth considered it ‘very realistic’ that they could meet such basic financial goals as saving for retirement or their children’s college education. Among whites, only 21 percent—tied for the lowest share ever—said Obama’s agenda was increasing opportunity for people like them.

If either side figures to have an edge when the game reaches the 2014 midterm race, it is Team GOP, which can easily hold its control of the House while validly competing to outscore the Dems in the battle for the Senate.

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New Leaders: The Yankees slipped into first place in the AL East during the midweek, taking two of three from the Rockies. They did it with what qualifies as remarkable pitching at Coors Field, holding the Rox to five runs in the three games. The Yanks, we know, have been winning with a patchwork lineup that will soon be bolstered by the return of Curtis Granderson, with Mark Teixeira not far behind.

Perplexity: Oakland manager Bob Melvin, after umpires ruled that a potentially game-changing A’s home run against Cleveland was only a double: “I can’t process this yet… I’ve never felt so helpless on a baseball field. So helpless and so wronged.”

Dodger Blues: Skipper Don Mattingly, after the Dodgers lost their seventh straight, 3-2, Wednesday night, to the Diamondbacks: “Every day at this point is deflating. When it keeps kind of creeping on you day in and day out and you get (Clayton) Kershaw up there, and…(lose).”

Defiance: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, on suggestions (like the one above) that his team could be counted out of playoff contention this season: “We have core guys on this team who know to win. We’ll survive. Others can think what they want, it’s what we believe.”

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues or requests for regular e-mail updates are welcome when addressed to the skipper at Previous Nubs may befound by scrolling below.

The ‘Coarsening’ of Attitudes in Ballparks, Local and National

(Posted: 5/6/13 P.M.; e-mail 5/7)

In Miami, sale Houston, Chicago, and certainly in NYC, the unflattering words are flying, about the Marlins, Astros, Cubs, and Mets.  Fans, impatient with teams that are rebuilding instead of contending, feel betrayed.  In the third year of GM Sandy Alderson’s tenure, the Mets have a near-Triple-A-level lineup, with little sign of imminent minor league help. Any wonder offended fans are staying away.  The situation is similar in Miami and Houston, teams with the two lowest payrolls and rookie-deep rosters to match.  In his second year as GM, Theo Epstein has upgraded Cubs personnel, but not enough to make them competitive in the tough NL Central.

Why do fans in those cities consider grousing their right?  For them, the corporately owned local teams are a public asset expected to perform at a level that does justice to their support.  Fans in the national political ballpark expect the same of Team USA and its skipper.  Polls say many consider the play of clubs at both the executive and legislative levels Bush-league.  One of their growing grievances: the security state game and its impact.

On the (Bill) Moyers and Company show the other night, UK Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald traced a “coarsening” of fan attitudes to Team Obama’s aggressive play in the Middle East.  He noted that reports of “collateral damage” are dismissed without detail.  “We don’t even know the names of innocent people who died,” he said, “so, since they don’t exist, we don’t think about them” How different, he said, was our attitude toward the victims in Boston: there was understandable nationwide mourning, as well as a celebration of “collective self-esteem.”

Greenwald also recalled the “bloodthirsty” response to the killing of Osama bin-Laden in 2011.  “When someone is shot in the head and his body dumped in the ocean,” he said, “when even a person we consider evil meets death, the relieved response should not be raucous, but solemn.”  The overall consequence of the anti-terrorism game, he suggested, has been to “degrade” the way we respond to what’s happening in the world and at home.

A sample of degradation – an attitude that asks of Team Obama: “Do whatever you have to do to keep us safe; we don’t have to know about it.”

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Time to Take Texas Seriously.  The AL West-leading Rangers have replaced the Braves atop the team pitching list, and have joined the Tigers in the elite first-five listings in all three hitting-pitching-fielding categories.  The Tigers are second in hitting (to Colorado) and fielding (to Arizona), and fourth in pitching.  To go with their first in pitching, the Rangers are fifth in hitting and fielding.

On Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout:  “Manny is ZOOMING into the (who’s better) discussion – exceptional fielding at third (what an arm) and hitting .309 with 21 RBI (more than Harper) in 32 games.  Harper has taken a big leap forward as a hitter. I think that will continue…Machado right now is playing better than Trout.  Trout is continuing at exactly his level of the last 2 months of ’12… At .275 and a .850 OPS, that’s an excellent player but not what last year seemed to portend.” – Tom Boswell, Washington Post

Swingers:  Fresh from winning nine straight, the Brewers have dropped five in a row.  The Giants, meanwhile, reeled off six wins a row, four of them by a single run. including three weekend one-run victories over the Dodgers.

 Making an Impression:  On YES Sunday afternoon, Yankees color man Al Leiter liked what he saw in Oakland closer Grant Balfour:  “High energy…old school, talks to himself…fiery nature.”  He and his team have “lots of personality.”

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments about blog issues or requests for regular e-mail updates are welcome whenaddressed to the skipper at  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.


The Impact on Both Fields of a Lost April

(Posted: 5/3/13 PM; e-mail update 5/4)

A cruel month for a half-dozen teams, and April was particularly painful for two with enhanced payrolls – the LA Angels and Toronto Blue Jays.  Both, with keen playoff aspirations, hoped their new mix of players would start fast.  Instead, the Angels (now 10-18) lost 17 of 26 (.346), the Blue Jays (now 10-19) 17 of 27 (.370).  The sub-.400 percentages are significant, according to record-book research conducted by Fangraphs.  Of 32 teams that finished April sub-.400 between 2003 and 2012, only one – the 2006 Twins – made the playoffs.

The hope that the new second wild card (as of last season) would give the 2012 Angels a better shot at bouncing back into the post-season went unrealized.  They fell short by four games, unable to make up ground lost in April.  The Angels have an advantage now over the Jays; they can possibly bulk up against the AL West’s new addition, the rebuilding Astros, who are expected to lose close to 100 games.  There is no is no similar weak sister, we know, in Toronto’s AL East.

While the Angels and Jays nursed early-spring hopes, Team Obama went into the sequester game in March, thinking it had an edge over its righty opponents.  Team GOP had hung tough in pre-game discussions designed to avoid mandatory cuts in rosters and payrolls.  Its hard-nosed resolve meant much inconvenience, if not hardship, for fans at all levels of the national ballpark.  Surely the O-team would score with the restive public as a result.  All went according to the game plan until cutbacks at the airports made flying an ordeal.  Then, as WashPost’s Ezra Klein describes it, the Skipper’s Dem team dropped the ball:

“Sequestration was supposed to be so threatening that Republicans would agree to a budget deal that included tax increases rather than permit it to happen. That theory was wrong.  The follow-up theory was that the actual pain caused by sequestration would be so great that it would, in a matter of months, push the two sides to agree to a deal.  Democrats just proved that theory wrong, too…What Democrats said (last week) was that in any case where the political pain caused by sequestration becomes unbearable, they will agree to cancel that particular piece of the bill while leaving the rest of the law untouched…Sequestration is (thus) no longer politically threatening, but it’s even more unbalanced: Cuts to programs used by the politically powerful will be addressed, but cuts to programs that affect the politically powerless will persist.”  

Scoreboard shows a loss for fairness, the Dem team staring at defeat from the cusp of  a walk-off win…and Team Obama fighting the odds as it plays its version of catch-up baseball.   

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Rockies High: Of course, it’s still early, but the prize for the persistently surprising team goes to the Colorado Rockies, first in the NL West, and at the top of the 30-team list in hitting. The Red Sox, with the best record in the two leagues (20-8), have a legitimate claim on that prize, especially since they and the Tigers are the only teams in the top five of the hit-pitch-field categories.  Detroit is second in hitting and fielding, Boston third in hitting, fifth in pitching.

New Manager of the Year (so far): “I know I probably got an opportunity because Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura got an opportunity and handled themselves really well.  I think we make too much of (the lack of experience), maybe.  I don’t want to be disrespectful to the guys that grinded and took that (more traditional) path, but for me, maybe because I’m naive, the game is the game. I try not to make it more than it is.” – Rockies Skipper Walt Weiss (quoted by Sporting News’ Anthony Witrado)

Blame Game: Finger-pointing in Toronto is inevitable, given the team’s dashed hopes so far.  On MLB-TV Thursday night, a panel that included Dan Plesac and Tom Verducci singled out Melky Cabrera for partial blame.  Melky, who was batting .346 with 11 HRS for the Giants when drug-test failure forced him to the sidelines last summer, is hitting .235, with zero homers in 115 ABs for the Jays.  “Melky has ruined it for others,” said Plesac. “No returning drug-user will get a contract like the one Toronto gave him ($16 million for two years).”

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments about blog issues or requests for regular e-mail updates are welcome when addressed to the skipper at  Previous Nubs may be

found by scrolling below.