The Nub

Cubs, Mariners, Team Obama ‘Turning the Page’

Posted: 9/30/13; e-mail update 10/1)

If you’re Dale Sveum, sovaldi chances are you’re either gone – as is Eric Wedge – or soon will be (as early as today), from your job as skipper of the Cubs. Your team underachieved in the eyes of GM Theo Epstein.  He and Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik believe they gave their managers talent enough to compete at a high level.  It didn’t happen to their satisfaction.  So, now it’s time to thank them for trying, and “turn the page”.  Wedge beat his bosses in Seattle to a break that he saw as inevitable:  Seeking an extension, but invited only to return for the last year of his contract, Wedge saw it as a vote of no-confidence: “It’s painfully obvious that I just wasn’t going to be able to move forward with this organization,” Wedge said . “We see things differently.”

Skipper Obama conceded at the UN the other day that his team now sees things differently in the Mideast.  Gone was talk of our seeking “freedom” for the peoples there.  As for “democracy,” that was a long-term, not immediate, goal for the region. Now, he acknowledged, we want to protect our “core interests.” including oil. The Nation’s Phyllis Bennis saw the message as a sign of a hopeful change in Team Obama’s game plan:

“There were lots of problem areas in the speech—President Obama was right when he said that US policy in the Middle East would lead to charges of ‘hypocrisy and inconsistency.’ US policy—its protection of Israeli violations of international law, its privileging of petro-monarchies over human rights, its coddling of military dictators—remains rank with hypocrisy and inconsistency. And Obama’s speech reflected much of it.

“But President Obama’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly reflected some of the extraordinary shifts in global—especially Middle East and most especially Syria-related—politics that have taken shape in the last six or eight weeks. And on Iran, that was good news.”   

Hopeful, too: the Skipper’s conversation with Iran’s leader about defusing the tension between their two teams.

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Jeopardy:  Ron Washington’s job as Rangers skipper may be at stake, if his team loses to TampaBay tonight, or even if it wins, then loses to the Indians in the AL’s wild card play-in game.  GM Jon Daniels didn’t hide his disappointment a year ago when Texas could only manage a wild card berth, then lost the play-in game to Baltimore.  He could dramatize his dismay this year, if the Rangers don’t make the playoff main events, by replacing the able, but never-quite-totally successful Washington.

Movin’ Up:  By edging Milwaukee Sunday while the Phillies lost to Atlanta, the Mets  finished an underwhelming third in NL East, 14 games under .500. Still, it marked the first time in five years the team didn’t finish one floor above the basement.  The Mets will reward Collins today with a new two-year contract.  That he received a year more than many of us expected suggests GM Sandy Alderson wants to give his manager one season – 2015 – when he may have a fair shot at being competitive.  To repeat what Alderson sees ahead in 2014: a “dream deferred.”

Uncharacteristic:  Two highly regarded veteran managers, Ron Gardenhire and Mike Scioscia, had a total of seven chances in crucial season-ending series to complicate, if not spoil, the efforts by the Indians and Rangers to clinch, or qualify for, a wild card. We hate to suggest that Cleveland’s beating Gardenhire’s Twins four times, and Texas’s sweeping of Scioscia’s Angels, means the pair of old lions have lost their competitive bite. But that’s how we see it…and hope we’re wrong.  Scioscia has five years left on his contract. but Gardenhire’s is expiring.

Overlooked Liberator:  Surprising bobble by sure-handed veteran scribe Peter Gammons in a piece in which he credits Jim Bunning, Robin Roberts and Marvin Miller for their key roles in the equalizing contract gains achieved “after the arrogant years of control of owners like Gussie Busch.”  He omits mention of the man who gave up his livelihood to challenge the reserve clause that, until the early 70’s, made players “well-paid slaves” controlled by whichever team employed them,  Flood’s courage led to freedom for the player-slaves and the enviable economic status they enjoy today.


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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome.Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. PreviousNubs may be found by scrolling below.)


A-Rod, the Big Banks and the Money Game

(Posted: 9/27/13; e-mail update 9/28)

Dodger, sildenafil ed Yankee and Red Sox fans may be tired of complaints about the disequilibrium big money causes in baseball, and beyond. But they can see the ripple-effect of the problem in the much publicized case where baseball and the legal field intersect: Alex Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game suspension for using illegal drugs.  A-Rod, he of the $275 million contract, is fighting to avoid losing a $32 million chunk of that sum.  And he has the resources to insure that it will be, at the very least, a fair fight.  Indeed, his all-star lineup of attorneys, sports law experts, PR advisors, and private investigators could be more than a match for the MLB’s legal team.  The contest begins Monday in what figures to be a five-day series.

In the past decade, banking and other industry executives – whom A-Rod hopes to emulate – have consistently scored personal victories against Team USA over errors for which they could have been prosecuted.  They were not, in part because of “deferred prosecution” agreements under which they were given time to stop the illegal sloppy play.  Often, the U.S. team relied on evidence produced by defendant-hired birddogs that acceptable changes had been made.  That happened, in the words of a former assistant U.S. attorney, because of “scanty resources…committed to corporate crime enforcement.”

Since fear of prison can best motivate executives to insure against incriminating replays, another former U.S. attorney (quoted by the NY Times) worries that, with the prison threat all but out of the game, “We have created no disincentives for committing fraud or white-collar crime.”

Meanwhile, NY’ Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, appointed by the Skipper a year-and-a-half ago to put clout back into the threat of prosecution, is still stuck at home plate.  According to the Huffington Post, “Statutes of limitation (involving the relevant alleged crimes) have, in most cases, run out.”

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Blurry Look-Ahead:  Except for a Cincinnati-Pittsburgh wild card play-in game, there is no other sure post-season match-up, as of Friday morning.  Almost-sure: Detroit vs. Oakland in the AL’s first round.

Joylessness:  Why do we sense that, barring a run deep into the playoffs, Rangers Skipper RonWashington knows he won’t be asked to complete the final year of his contract in 2014?  It’s because of these comments, made to Times columnist Tyler Kepner the other day: “You look everywhere there’s a chance at being in the playoffs, there’s joy.  I don’t see (it here).  I really don’t.  I’m not knocking anybody.  I just don’t see it.  All they can talk about is how we collapsed.”

Letdown Time: Overheard on MLB-TV – As Yanks were being drubbed by the Rays a second night on Wednesday, an out-of-town play-by-play man, noting the score (the final was 8-3). said: “It looks like the Yanks are packing.”

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome. Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)


The Perils in Both Pastimes of Playing It Safe

(Posted: 9/23/13); e-mail update 9/24)

On the brink of a fifth straight fourth-place finish, sales ask who can blame remnant Mets fans for being indifferent about their team?  For many of the diehards, sales indifference is far better than frustration. That was what they felt in the years right after Carlos Beltran took a third strike in the decisive 2006 NLCS game against the Cardinals. The downward spiral of the stock-the-big-team, starve-the-farm-system approach adopted by Omar Minaya and Jeff Wilpon was nerve-frazzling.  The front-office panic that prompted the post-midnight firing of Skipper Willie Randolph in midseason 2008 served only to prolong the descent.

The Mets, in desperate need of a fresh start, went with the familiar: bench coach Jerry Manuel became manager, Minaya rewarded with a three-year contract extension, and stormy Tony Bernazard kept in charge of the unproductive farm system.  All that, and the owner’s son Jeff, still the too-visible co-boss of the unfolding calamity.

At about the same time, Team USA’s new Skipper was putting together his bench coaches. Acknowledging an insecurity unremarked during his pre-victory rally, Obama, too, went with the familiar: fellow Chicagoan Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, friend Eric Holder as Attorney General, Wall Street favorites Tim Geithner and Larry Summers as Treasury Secretary and chief economic policy advisor, respectively, and, holdover from Team Bush, Robert Gates as Defense Secretary.  Looking back at those appointments – “failure being rewarded,” critics said – the reverses the Skipper and his team suffered in the sub-prime mortgage debacle and in misplays abroad, were unsurprising:  Obama chose to do, as did the Mets, go with a lineup that was safe and comfortable than with a new start.  Author Pankaj Mishra sums up much of the messy situation in the latest New Yorker:

“Obama was expected to restore an ethical sheen to post 9/11 foreign policy, but he has intensified drone warfare in Yemen and Pakistan, pursued whistle-blowers, and failed to close down Guantanamo. It is difficult to imagine him risking Israel’s security by taking a hard line against the Egyptian generals – especially not while he weighs the appropriate response to Syrian war crimes, copes with the human costs of the Iraq occupation…seeks peace with honor in Afghanistan…and controls the fallout from Edward Snowden’s revelations.”

A lineup of challenges that compromises any effort to execute a coherent game plan.

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 Wild Card Wannabees: Trailing teams that must run the table, or ramble on home (as of the Rays defeat of Orioles this afternoon) – Baltimore (five out) with three vs. Toronto and three against the Red Sox; Yankees (four) three vs. Tampa Bay and three against Houston; Kansas City (three-and-a-half) three vs. Seattle and three against the White Sox.

Recrimination:  The YES-camera close-ups of faces in the Yankee dugout as the team’s last outs were made yesterday made it clear:  their wild card dream had ended.  Color man Paul O’Neill came down hard on Vernon Wells for helping make the 2-1 defeat to SF happen.  Wells struck out while pinch-hitting in the eighth with men on second and third and nobody out. It was a pitch he fouled off that incensed former Yankee O’Neill.  “That was an 87-mile fastball down the middle; there was no way he shouldn’t have put it in play to get the tying run home.”

Davey Not Done? Why did we think Davey Johnson’s retirement as Nationals’ skipper after this season was a mutually agreed-upon idea?  WashPost columnist Tom Boswell corrects that widely held perception: (“The ‘why’ of) Johnson leaving the Nats is murky. Everybody smooths over his departure, nobody’s mad and the hugs will be real. But it was never Johnson’s choice. Davey says he understands (his bosses) the Lerners might not want a manager ‘on social security.’ Weeks ago, he said, ’The way things have gone this year, maybe, if they asked me, I’d say, ‘Go with somebody else’.”  Johnson will be 71 next season, when it shouldn’t be a total surprise if he’s brought back to manage another team.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome. Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)


September Slump for Team Obama, But Not the Red Sox

(Posted: 9/20/13; e-mail update 9/21)

Last Sunday night, buy John (“Theeeeeee Yankeeeeees WIN!) Sterling hailed the Red Sox on WCBS as “the best team in baseball.” He was particularly admiring of their balance: “They can field a lefty-hitting team, generic or a righty-hitting team, both good…They’ve got excellent starters and a terrific bullpen.” It was a glowing tribute to GM Ben Cherington, (without mentioning his name) and to Skipper John Farrell’s leadership. The Red Sox, doormats a year ago, are today, we know, a smooth-running machine with the best record in both leagues.

The contrast between The Nation’s Sox and Chicago’s last-place White Sox is remarkable. Nothing has gone right for Robin Ventura’s South-Siders. Eerily, the Chisox’s most prominent fan has had a parallel problem, some are calling a “September slump.” Skipper Obama’s foreign policy team bollixed its little-ball plan for Syria. Even the friendly NY Times joined the press box critique that, on Syria, Team Obama is “in disarray.” In defending the changeable strategy of threatening, then delegating, and finally putting his “unbelievably small” attack plan on hold, the Skipper suggested to us a baseball analogy: “Had we been like the Red Sox,” he might have said for starters, then added what he actually said: “and rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined…(the press would have) graded it well.”

The Skipper’s defensiveness and his coach John Kerry’s bellicose bench-jockeying have prompted many lefty (and other) fans to disappear into the upper deck when either of them sound forth on the field. “At some point people make a collective decision and they don’t listen to the president anymore. That’s what happened to both Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush,” says presidential biographer Lou Cannon . “I don’t think Obama has quite gone off the diving board yet… but he’s close to the edge. He needs to have some successes…”

The Skipper’s fans worry that his slump will continue into October, when the playoffs and debt-limit noise will cause many to tune him out more than they already have.

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Wild AL Outlook: If the pressbox consensus proves to be correct, the AL wild cards will go to the Indians, and either the Rangers or Rays. The reason: strength (or lack) of schedule. Cleveland has three games left with last-place Houston, two with the last-place White Sox and four with next-to-last-place Minnesota. The Rangers and Rays have similar-strength skeds: Texas plays Kansas City, Houston and the LA Angels, while the Rays battle Baltimore, the Yankees and Toronto. The Orioles face an uphill climb against the Rays, Toronto and the Red Sox. KC, if it gets by Texas, finishes with Seattle and the White Sox, so has an outside shot.

In the NL…The Cardinals play three with the Brewers, Nationals and Cubs. Unless the Nats make trouble – a legitimate possibility – the Cards must be considered favorites in the division. The Pirates and Reds go mano-a-mano six times, a sandwich that has the Bucs playing the Cubs, the Reds the Mets, in between those two crucial series. Barring a sweep by either team – which might open the door for the Nats – Pittsburgh and Cincinnati should be meeting in the NL’s play-in game the week after next.

Naysayer: Most baseball fans are thrilled with the wild card scramble just games from season’s end; most, but not all. Dennis Eckersley, on NESN the other night, called the tight races “lame.” At least one of the contending teams, he said, should break away and “show it deserves to make the playoffs.” As it is, he suggested, it’s hard to think any of the 10 or so clubs are of playoff-caliber.

O, Those Orioles:  Despite losing the finale, Baltimore left Boston Thursday night with a sixth series win in its past seven trips to Fenway. The O’s have won 14 of their past 20 games at the Sox’s home park.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome. Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. PreviousNubs may be found by scrolling below.)


Stat City – Tracking Play in One Field, Misplays in Another

(Posted: 9/16/13; e-mail update 9/17)

Only about a dozen games left in the regular season: Time to play the numbers game, best illness on the chance they will identify which four of the 10 wild card contenders – the Cards/Pirates, generic pilule Reds, Nationals, Rangers, Rays, Indians, Yankees, Orioles, Royals – have the best team hitting/pitching/fielding records. The stats should show which of them have the basis for a successful run. The numbers in question go from three – first in each category – to 90, last in each. The teams involved exclude the division-leading Red Sox, Tigers and A’s in the AL, and the Braves and Dodgers in the NL (the Bucs/Cards are, for the moment, a toss-up).

Here’s a sample of how the game will work, using the winningest of the 30 teams in the two leagues, the Red Sox, as the example. The Sox are second in hitting, 12th in pitching and fielding, for a total score of 26. Now we play for keeps, checking (in alphabetical order) on the 10 would-be wild card-ers: the Cardinals are sixth in hitting, fifth in pitching, fourth in fielding, for a total of 15; Indians – 14, 16, 23, total 53; Nationals – 15, 9, 24, total 48; Orioles – 8, 24, 1, total 33; Pirates – 22, 2, 21, total 45; Rays – 12, 13, 2, total 27; Reds – 17, 4, 8,, total 29; Rangers – 9, 10, 15, total 34; Royals – 10, 6, 10, total 26; Yankees – 23, 20, 3, total 46.

As we see, the team stats suggest (a) that the Cardinals should finish first in the NL Central; (b) the Reds and Pirates (in that order) should win the NL wild cards; (c) the Royals (a shaky contender at the moment) and Rays should match up in the AL. The intensity of the challenge presented by the various opponents over the last weeks could well be more decisive than the numbers posted in our game. Crucial will be how determined teams are to spoil the successful play of the contenders.

Spoilers play a crucial role in the political field when aggressively dirty play occurs. We know it did recently overseas, in Iraq, and in the sub-prime mortgage game at home. As we wait in vain for a belated spoiling rally by Team USA, it is useful to check the stats on how such play was dealt with in earlier seasons. The record book shows that the banking league featured play similar to our sub-prime action in the eighties and nineties. Savings and Loan banks were at the center of a cheating scandal then. Team USA gave what had been small, locally owned franchises the right to expand, making loans free of federal regulation that, in many cases, entailed excessive risk. By the mid-‘90s, a third of the S&Ls had failed, owing to wild, backdoor pitching.

Here are some stats from that period: cost to taxpaying fans – $124 billion. Team USA’s legal birddogs hauled 1,000-plus of the implicated players to court, winning 90 percent of the prosecutions. And the comparative numbers from the sub-prime period: approximate cost to taxpayers – $12.8 trillion; prosecutions- 2, convictions – 1. The Iraq numbers: cost – $1.7 trillion; approximate fatalities – 4,500; approximate wounded –35,000. While there have been a few low-level military prosecutions, elite players, deserving of some form of punishment for their roles in the disastrous, torture-stained war, have been untouched. Notes Vanity Fair’s stat-collector Grayson Carter:

“Many of the architects of the Vietnam War became near pariahs as they spent the remainder of their lives in the futile quest to explain away their decisions at the time… We’ve never officially and fully come to terms with this ruinous (Iraq) war—one of the longest in our history—and the myriad fault points in the reasoning behind it.”

What’s clear: military players and Team USA’s front-office people protect their own. And, in the case of the current banking league, big money brings greater power and protection, as well as profit, than it did a few decades ago. The shift that successfully forced Larry Summers out of the Fed Reserve skipper’s race may be the nearest thing to an appropriate penalty for the deregulation-based misplays of the past decade.

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Slide of the Yankees: Yankees broadcaster John Sterling (WCBS Radio), pessimistic about the team’s wild card chances, provided this long-shot formula for success: “They can’t think of taking two out of three from Toronto, then two out of three from TampaBay; they’ve got to win every game to have a chance.” Sterling and sidekick Suzyn Waldman did see a flicker of hope in the current three-game series matching wild card leaders TampaBay and Texas. “Somebody’s got to lose,” said Waldman.

Grievances: Former pitcher Derek Lowe, imparting two gripes he had as a player to Don Orsillo while doing Red Sox-Rays color on NESN: “Road-trip-ending night games. Fans turn off their sets and go to bed. They don’t know it takes two-and-a-half hours before the players will get to their plane and finally get home sometime early morning.” Then: “It’s great to picked for the All-Star game; but to get picked and not play is frustrating. It happened to me, and shouldn’t be allowed to happen to anyone.”

Obvious Maybe, But: Another former much-traveled pitcher, C.J. Nitkowski, doing color with Sterling on WCBS, passed along this tip from a pitching coach: “When you get two-and-two on a batter, don’t nibble. You want to get him out before you have yourself facing a full count.”

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome.Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. PreviousNubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Why Fans No Longer Like the Power Game

(Posted: 9/14/13)

Amid pre-playoff euphoria, generic seek this sobering week might be an appropriate time to count the ways Baseball has misplayed its position over the past decade-and-half.  Its overriding error: the snail’s pace in which it has met these three 21st century challenges – (a) the use of  performance-enhancing drugs;  (b) technological advances, salve i.e., sickness video replay;  (c) fan impatience with persistent post-9/11 patriotic intrusions at games.

Progress have been made, we know, on the first two.  The crackdown on Ryan Braun, A-Rod, Nelson Cruz, etc. this summer was a positive signal that cheating will no longer be tolerated.  The long overdue expansion of replays planned for next season is another welcome initiative.

The fade-away of flag-waving may not happen right away, but there is reason to hope  change is taking the field, if not yet on the basepaths.  Why?  A reversal in fan support – spurred by the bloody game in Syria – for military adventures abroad.  “The unease about military action in(volving) Syria has many roots,” says the National Journal’s record book man Ron Brownstein:

“But its core is a diminished faith that U.S.-led military actions can produce benefits that exceed their costs, especially in the Middle East. .. In 199(5)…Clinton…launched a NATO bombing campaign against Serbia that prompted a Bosnian peace agreement. In 1999, together with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Clinton engineered another NATO bombing campaign that stopped ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.  These victories, won with astoundingly few allied casualties, fueled confidence among ‘liberal hawks’ that military force could spread human rights and democracy…That cycle started unwinding almost immediately after Baghdad fell.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, it proved far easier to topple tyrannical regimes than to end violence, seed democracy, or even instill order…”

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Game Delay: re Ballpark Faith…”One hot Sunday afternoon last season, I did not rise for ’God Bless America.’ In a beer-soaked tone of voice that wasn’t pleasant, a gentleman several rows behind me told me to stand up. I reminded him that I don’t have to.  I’m concerned that this is a myopic way to exercise faith.  I imagine that the God I believe in isn’t interested in dispensing special nationalistic blessings. When we ask for blessings to be bestowed only on ‘us,’ we are in danger of seeing ourselves as set apart from the world. Faith is global, and one nation doesn’t get any more or less of God than any other. – James Marsh, Methodist minister (Wash Post)

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Back to the Game: The basis for the earlier-cited change in fan attitude on militarism can be summed up simply: cost and counter-productive results.  If Team USA is Baseball-slow to reflect that dovish change, the lobbying power of the military-corporate complex, expressed through the media, helps provide the obstruction.  MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow makes that point in her examination of a new work by author Andrew Bacevich, a Vietnam combat veteran and West Point graduate, published in last week’s NY Times Book Review:  “(‘Breach of Trust’) is a bracing indictment of my profession, and how no one suffers consequences for even the most humiliating failures of prediction and analysis, as long as those failures favor the use of military force.”

Follow-Up: “John Kerry’s farce and Barack Obama’s pirouettes are temporary. Russia’s peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy.” – John   Pilger, UK Guardian

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Serious Series Thoughts:  With their domination of division opponents, the Red Sox have emerged as the “Beast of the (AL) East”, and maybe of the entire league (sorry, Tigers).  The Dodgers and Braves are playing similar roles, we know, in their NL divisions.  Yet, we know, too, that the Cardinals are the team against whom it would be foolish to bet.

Weekend Scramble: If TampaBay is to re-tighten a grip on the AL’s second wild card spot ahead of the game-behind Yankees, this weekend offers the Rays a good chance: They’ll be playing three with Minnesota while the Yanks must contend with the Red-hot Sox. Meanwhile, Texas, now just two games ahead of the Rays, has its own challenge: playing three with an Oakland team that could knock the Rangers back into a season-ending WC scramble.

Obsolescence: The new, spendthrift Dodgers could prove him wrong, but Buck Showalter believes the Yankees’ success in keeping their five Series-title core of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte* and Jorge Posada together from 1995 through 2009, will “never happen again.”  Why? No team could afford to meet the escalating salary demands of such consistently high-performing players. (*took a three-year sabbatical in Houston, 2004-2006)

Theft: The flap involving Joe Girardi and Showalter when Girardi complained of sign-stealing by the Orioles’ third-base coach Monday night was much ado about the obvious: that’s the view of Rays Skipper Joe Maddon.  Here is how he put it: “Everybody should try to steal the other team’s signs…That’s part of the game to steal signs, man, absolutely.  I love trying to do that.”

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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.)


(More of The Nub, a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey, can be found at

A Two-Field Tale of the Lapse in Clear Thinking

(Posted: 9/9/13; e-mail update 9/14)

On NESN the other night, illness Dennis Eckersley and Don Orsillo were imagining that Baseball’s projected use of expanded video replay to check the accuracy of umpires’ calls had gone into effect:  “There’s another challenge,” Eckersley said, repeatedly, on close plays.  Orsillo would laugh and agree.  But the division-leading teams, the Red Sox and Tigers, were competing for best record in the league, and home-field advantage in the AL playoffs.  No laughing matter.

Bud Selig and the committee members agreed well before the end of August that clinging to the sport’s “human element” no longer made sense.  They had time to set up the expanded re-play system for the last month of this season.  Since the start of the two-wild-card arrangement, September amounts to an added playoff month for at least a third of the 30 teams.  The ultra-important games involving the homestretch contenders deserve correct calls on key plays.  The excuse that still further time is needed to implement the replay expansion is too feeble to be taken seriously.  Given the groundswell of demand from managers, players and fans over the past few years, the sport’s decision-makers surely drew up a contingency plan for when the inevitable occurred.  If not, they were asleep amid the alert.

Hardly noticed on the political field was the anomaly of mainstream journalists booing fellow players for exposing Team Obama’s backdoor deceit as it invaded fan privacy through the National Security Agency.  The expose, the work of double-play combo  Edward Snowden and UK Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, was a scoop of global significance; the pair responsible deserved the cheers of fellow players and their front offices.  Instead, they were vilified for daring to take the journalistic role seriously, that of speaking truth to power.  NY Times columnist David Carr pointed out the irony, weeks after the story broke:

“If the revelations about the N.S.A. surveillance were broken by Time, CNN or The New York Times, executives there would already be building new shelves to hold all the Pulitzer (and other) Prizes  they expected. Same with the 2010 WikiLeaks video of the Apache helicopter attack. Instead, th(ose) who did that work find themselves under attack, not just from a government bent on keeping its secrets, but from friendly fire by fellow journalists. What are we thinking?”

Our first thought: how apt the label applied to his peers by Jimmy Breslin: “the Pekinese of the press.”

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Update:  With victories Monday night, Baltimore and Cleveland both moved to within a game-and-a-half of Tampa Bay, holder for the moment of the second AL wild card position. The Yankees, losers to the Orioles, fell to three games behind the Rays.  In the NL, Cincinnati, losers to the Cubs, fell two games behind the division-leading Cardinals and a half-game behind the first wild-card team Pirates (pending the outcome of the Pittsburgh-Texas game).

Gas Tank Leaking:  “When (Mariano) Rivera announced his impending retirement in March, he said, ‘the tank is almost empty.’ His performance for most of the season belied that. Through Aug. 3, Rivera had a 1.56 ERA and had blown just two saves in 37 chances…. Since then, however, he has posted a 4.20 ERA and blown five of 11 save chances. He has also given up four home runs across 15 innings since Aug. 3 after allowing just two in 40 1/3 innings to that point in the season.  That stretch started with Rivera blowing three straight save opportunities for or the first time in his career. He then ran off eight straight scoreless outings, converting six saves, but has now blown his last two saves…The erosion of his velocity over the last several seasons makes clear that his tank is indeed getting low.” – Cliff Corcoran, SI

On Bouncing Back: “We’ll continue to fight through it, and all of a sudden come out on the other side.  It’s truly that simple and difficult at the same time.”  – Tampa Bay Skipper Joe Maddon (before the Rays ended a 3-7 road trip with a come-from-behind 4-1 victory over the Mariners onSunday).

Impatient Look Ahead:  Here, a month in advance, is our pick for the showcase game of the playoffs, if the World Series doesn’t go the distance: Whichever two teams among the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds meet in the NL’s single wild card “play-in” contest.

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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. Requests for e-mail updates to that address are also welcome.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)


Pirates, Rangers, Yes, But Is Obama Credible?

(Posted: 9/7/13)

Sure, best for sale the Pirates could slip overboard during the rest of September, mind but they get an A-plus for extra effort after making August deals to shore up their offense.  Reinforcements Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd, from the Twins and Mets, are potential game-changers for the Bucs.  In the same way, Alex Rios, a White Sox-to-Rangers August addition, should insure that Texas fans wear a playoff smile in October.  Then there are the moves of other would-be AL Wild Carders, looking to add bat-power: TampaBay grabbing David DeJesus, Baltimore Mike Morse, and Cleveland Jason Kubel.

The Pirates’ and Rangers’ front offices, in particular, deserve fan credit for confirming that “we-are-credible-contenders.”   The runaway Dodgers, meanwhile, moved far beyond believable with their trade for the Phillies’ Michael Young.  That the team felt a need to buttress its talent-rich lineup smacks of why-not? extravegence, a sense it should “do something” as the post-season approaches.

Skipper Obama seems to be afflicted with a similar condition as his team talks of the challenge to show “credibility” concerning Syria over its alleged chemical weapons use.  His air-strikes game plan, repudiated in polls by fans at home, would confirm his team’s role as the world’s moral enforcer.  Reminiscent of Donald Rumsfeld’s “shock-and-awe” display, it could well lead to another disturbing version of that overkill in Iraq a decade ago.   The NY Times warned of a more serious “boots-on-the-ground” consequence this week: “even if limited in scope and duration,” it said, the planned attack could “mire (us) in the Syrian civil war.”

As for the likelihood that Congress will ignore such cautionary signs and defy fan sentiment opposed to their going to bat for the Skipper, National Journal observer David Kraushaar sees the game differently:

“With military intervention unpopular, few at-risk members are sticking their necks out to support the president, even those from his own party. These members are acutely sensitive to public opinion, and self-survival is often more important than taking one for the team.”

If the opposition indeed pulls out a win, the Skipper’s next move will be crucial: he can either acknowledge defeat, or have his team pursue the plan anyway.  The game, an eerie replay of the run-up to the disastrous invasion of Iraq, may go to extra innings before there’s a final outcome.

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NYC Insider:  For whom and why The Nub will vote in next week’s Dem primary:  Mayor – Bill de Blasio.  He stood with the fans who wanted term limits kept in the game. Comptroller – Eliot Spitzer.  The team needs a fireballer, not a journeyman, to back finaglers off the plate.  Public Advocate: Letitia James.  Superior seasoning gives her a slight edge over another fine player, Daniel Squadron.

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 Where We Are: After last night’s second-straight come-from-behind victory over the Yankees, the Red Sox put any doubt about their AL East domination them.  They join the Tigers, Braves and Dodgers as almost certain winners of four of six divisions.  Still in doubt: the NL Central and AL West.  The NLC is a virtual lock to send three teams – the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds to the playoffs.  The runner-up team – Oakland or Texas – in the ALW will very likely earn the first wild card spot in their league. The other spot will be won in a last-weeks scramble among a half-dozen teams, headed for the moment by Tampa Bay.

Retaliation:  David Cone (on YES), advising on what he found to be the best way to avenge the purposeful hitting of a teammate by an opposing pitcher:  “Instead of just hitting somebody, keep pitching hard inside to have everyone thinking, ‘uh, oh, I’m the target’.”

Congratulation: Dennis Eckersley (on NESN), during Jon Lester’s winning performance, out dueling Detroit’s Max Scherzer early this week:  “I’ve never seen him pitch better.” Tigers Skipper Jim Leyland echoed Eck, saying Lester was at his all-time best: “He was terrific.”

On Importance of Parts That Fit: “You can’t explain an unexpected season — good or bad — until you parse its parts…You can’t explain Boston’s switch from 69-93 to a 96-win pace unless you know how Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, Junichi Tazawa, and Craig Breslow glue things together. All of New England does. Oakland wouldn’t be (where it is) without platoon players such as Seth Smith, John Jaso, and Nate Freiman, who won’t play often enough to be listed among ‘league leaders’.”  – Tom Boswell, Washington Post

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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.)