The Nub

Playing the Indifference Game in Both Pastimes

(Posted: 10/29/13)

The hot stove season won’t start until the World Series ends, sale prescription but already there are signs of a heated Dodger-Yankee spending race to stock their 2014 teams.  The Dodgers have already signed Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero to a four-year $32 million contract.  The Yankees, find meanwhile, patient have leaked a plan to spend $300 million to shore up a roster they hope will be headed by Robinson Cano.  It shapes up as a return to Yankee-dollar-dominance days with a sharing twist: the Dodgers are already on what was a uniquely NYY field.

This post-season reminds us there’s no guarantee that rich teams and their pricey reinforcements will make it to the Series.  But they do have a better-than-fair shot – witness the Dodgers and Tigers – at making  the playoffs. Baseball, thus, must accept this top-weighted inequality as the price it pays for what is a largely free-enterprise system.  Fans of the top-tier teams don’t care about the dollar disparity separating the rich from the less-so.  Nor should they.  Unaligned fans, however, might reasonably have an interest in a fairer arrangement.

The not-caring stance on the political field is familiar to most of us: we can’t summon strenuous objection to widespread government wiretapping, since we have nothing to hide.  In the same way, we find it hard to critique Team Obama’s rough-and-tumble game abroad, the lethal effect it is having on opposing clubs and their fans. The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart elaborates on the indifference:

Part of the reason America is struggling as a superpower: (many of us) don’t give a fig about…  anyone else…(We) believe in the nation as the sole legitimate source of authority in international affairs.  And that’s true when defending our nation’s prerogatives…NSA spying on foreign leaders is only the latest example. In Colorado, they’re now issuing drone-hunting licenses so Americans can shoot down any airborne spy planes that trespass their property.  And yet there’s scarcely any sympathy…for the Pakistanis and Yemenis who are upset that the U.S. sends drones over their countries, though those drones regularly kill people…This isn’t American ’exceptionalism’ – the belief that the U.S. is fundamentally different, and better, than other nations. It’s what the international relations scholar John Ruggie has called American ’exemptionalism’ – the belief that America need not play by everyone else’s rules.”

Fans who don’t belong to either the indifferent or exemptionalist teams, can fume and put their complaints in writing.  But indignation, their default stance, produces a familiar double play – ineffectiveness and frustration.  Meanwhile, we know that like-minded elected players, are, with few exceptions, pursuing a strategy of silence.

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Coming Through:  No sooner did Joe Buck say John Farrell’s offense wasn’t getting enough from the bottom of the Red Sox order last night, then numbers six, seven, and, especially eight, came through last night.  With the score tied, rookie Xander Bogaerts singled in the seventh, Stephen Drew walked, then David Ross hit the crusher, a base-clearing double.  That put the game away, 3-1.  The Cardinals still had nine outs left.  But the combination of superb starter Jon Lester and remarkable reliever Koji Uehara didn’t give them a chance.

Punditry: Miracles can happen, but, clearly, it will take a miracle for the Cardinals to take games six and seven from the Red Sox at FenwayPark.  The Sox haven’t been in the habit of losing back-to-back games at home this season.  And, with Mike Napoli back in the lineup as DH, double-losses are much less likely than they were in St.Louis.

Tee Time:  If the Cardinals lose, chances are the decision skipper Mike Matheny will rue  most came in game four.  It was when he called on reliever Seth Maness to pitch to Jonny Gomes with the score tied, 1-1, and two men on in the sixth.  Maness had yielded a run in a third-of-an-inning in game one, and blown a save in game three.  Now he threw a pitch to Gomes that was – in his words – “up, right down the middle, on a tee for him.” Gomes, we know, didn’t miss it.

Monster:  David Ortiz, with an unbelievable Series BA of .719, (quoted on Fox): “I was born for this.  Before I was born, I was hitting in my mother’s belly…”I’m just swinging, not thinking.  I try not to let myself think.”

Beards Came Later:  Times Baseball columnist Tyler Kepner summing up what Red Sox GM Ben Cherington accomplished during the last off-season: (He put together) “a team that could play to its talents and have fun doing it, with reasonable contracts and minimum long-term risk.”

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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.)



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Wilpon and Diman: Not ‘Solid with Mets, Main Street Fans

(Posted: 10/26/13)

The most heartening Times headline of last week (slightly altered): DESPITE LEGAL TEMPESTS, buy pills WILPON APPEARS SOLID AS EVER ATOP THE METS.

 Okay, illness the unaltered version named Jamie DIMON, skipper at JP Morgan Chase, solid as ever as head of the nation’s biggest bank. Unlike Dimon, who has a board of directors looking over his shoulder, Fred Wilpon answers to no one. He has demonstrated his lack of focus, generally, and of savvy when speaking about the team. He belittled David Wright and Jose Reyes in a New Yorker interview. He tried, in vain, to dismiss the financial hit the team took, owing to his investments with Bernie Madoff. He doesn’t inspire confidence in fans or press box observers. The worst consequence of Fred’s ownership is his plan to leave the team to son Jeff, who, while working with GM Omar Minaya over a period of painful team descent, evinced less smarts than his father.

Current GM Sandy Alderson clearly secured an arrangement whereby Jeff Wilpon would stay out of sight while the team’s underfinanced rebuilding process was under way. Alderson is signed through next season (with a one-year club option). He may well elect to move on when his contract expires. Jeff could reappear as the Wilpon in charge as soon as the team is no longer an embarrassment. It’s a long-term guarantee of depression for Mets fans. Bud Selig can – and should – be blamed for helping Fred Wilpon ride out the team’s financial crisis, very possibly sparing him the need to sell.

The Wilpon saga is sad for Baseball; MLB needs a competitive NL franchise in NY. The Dimon affair is a national scandal. A “Teflon C.E.O”, in the words of the Times (which seems to run his picture every other day), Dimon has avoided federal prosecution for his flawed oversight in JPMorgan’s sale of shaky mortgage securities before the financial crisis of 2008. Team Obama is letting him get off, instead hitting the bank with a $13 billion penalty.

But AG Eric Holder insisted that the still-tentative deal include pursuit of an ongoing criminal investigation involving a bank in California overseen by Dimon and his team. An encouraging development…until disclosure of a legal consensus that Dimon need not worry about the probe going anywhere. Thus, the stipulation looks to be another in a series of transparently porous attempts to show the O-team’s new toughness (probing JP Chase’s possibly criminal dealings with Madoff is the latest). Remember, the Skipper promised an overdue prosecutorial rally against irresponsible banking execs last January, a rally personified by appointments of former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White to the SEC front office, and NY AG Eric Schneiderman to help identify instances of personal criminal misconduct in the field. It’s a noiseless offensive so far.

Unsurprisingly, the Wall Street publicity machine sees the story, not as Main Street does – just another banking exec eluding the need to pay a personal price for the enormous pain he’s caused; rather, a well-placed Times follow-up analysis portrayed JPMorgan (and Dimon) as a “victim of government zealotry.” As Yankee broadcasting legend Mel Allen used to say “How about that!”

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Captain’s Cue: Vintage Dustin Pedroia was on view at Busch Stadium before game three began. Red Sox players were being introduced and lining up along the third base line. Leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury trotted out and embraced manager John Farrell. Shane Victorino, next in the order, mimicked Ellsbury, giving the skipper a hug before taking his place on line. Pedroia ended the schmaltz, offering a slapped-handshake to Farrell, and moving on. David Ortiz and others in the lineup, took the cue from their hard-nosed captain, and were all business.

Add-ons: We suggested, pre-Series, that the Beltran (.286) – Pedroia (.273) matchup would reflect the outcome. How could we have disregarded Ortiz (.625) and Matt Holliday (.385) to now? You can bet the mortgage the Series will be returning to Goliath-town Boston after two more in another David’s lair, St.Louis. May the better team win; or, as they say in Nebraska, “Go, Big Red!”

Strategic Suggestion: Who would blame John Farrell if he decided to install Mike Napoli as catcher in the rest of the non-designated-hitter games in St.Louis? Not us. We consider Napoli too important an offensive force to be kept out of the lineup. He was stopped Thursday night, but after three games his three RBIs are topped only by Ortiz’s five. What do you think, Skipper John?

Both Sides Now: How did Tim McCarver feel about the umpires overturning colleague Dana DeMuth’s ruling on what would have been a key force out in the first inning of game one? Pete Kozma never controlled a flip from Matt Carpenter, but DeMuth called Dustin Pedroia out. When umpires convened and correctly second-guessed DeMuth, McCarver was conflicted: “They’re opening a Pandora’s Box,” he said. “What will happen on the next close play?” Still, he added approvingly: “They got it right.”

Anything but Tim-orous: SI’s Cliff Corcoran has this unsentimental take on the Giants’ re-signing of Tim Lincecum: “San Francisco, a team that is not prone to reckless spending, is paying a player who has been the worst starting pitcher in baseball over the last two seasons $17.5 million a year over the next two. It’s doubtful that any other team would have given Lincecum nearly this much money.”

No, Thanks: Asked by the NY Post’s Joel Sherman if he would be interested in becoming a coach in Cincinnati, where he makes his home, ex-Red and Yank Paul O’Neill demurred this way: “You have to understand that coaching takes up more time than managing. Managing (i)s interesting because you are in charge of the wins and losses…If you are going to be a coach, you should probably do that right away after you retire. For me, I am happy doing just what I am doing now.”

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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.)



Reason for Hope on Two Fields? Time Will Tell

(Posted: 10/18/13; e-mail update 10/19)

When, healing after falling behind 3-1 in the NLCS, case Don Mattingly said he trusted Josh Greinke and Clayton Kershaw to pitch the Dodgers into a seventh game, for sale one reporter had this comment: “Hope is a fickle strategy.” We know now that Mattingly’s faith in the pair he considers Baseball’s “best” pitchers has so far paid off. The faith – and its accompanying hope – will be tested again tonight when Kershaw tries to even the series in St.Louis.

On the national ballfield, to even pitch the word “hope” in the face of Team USA’s endless war on terror and its fallout – its innocent victims, the rally against whistleblowers and all adversaries of the security/surveillance state – is to deny our permanent condition. The instructors who taught us that is so: members of the corporate media, ever ready to go to bat for government, accepting whatever it tosses their way as a perfect strike.

If, despite the gloom, hopelessness has eluded us, it’s because of hitters willing to swing out against Team Obama’s game plan – grand slammers like Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. They have had to flee the field, we know, to escape head-hunters. A prominent exception still openly holding his adversarial stance: Glenn Greenwald, slugging lawyer and civil liberties author who helped Snowden expose the government-surveillance game through the UK Guardian.

Greenwald is preparing to launch an on-line mass media venture financed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. “A dream journalistic opportunity,” Greenwald calls it – one, that with a quarter-billion-dollar bankroll, will enable him and his teammates to dig, not just skim. His lineup will include author Jeremy Scahill, who independently dug out the extent of the Blackwater scandals in Iraq and the blowback-causing Drone efforts in Yemen. The project still has to choose an opening day; it plans to field a system with squads in New York and San Francisco, as well as in Washington. Greenwald himself is based in Rio de Janiero. There is no guarantee the new team will score big, or last. Nor does it even have a name. A good one might be “Hope.”

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Hopeless? The consensus after David Ortiz’s slam helped Boston overtake Detroit in game 2: the Tigers would need a shrink to regroup and take the ALCS from the Red Sox. Now, after losing game 5 Thursday night at home, Detroit clearly needs a magician if it hopes to sweep games 6 and 7 from the Sox at FenwayPark. That’s the reality, even with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander ready to work their magic for Jim Leyland.

Neighborliness: Tim McCarver (on Fox) was prepared to forgive an egregious umpiring call in the third inning Thursday night. Austin Jackson, running from first on a ground ball, was forced at second even though Sox shortstop Stephen Drew completed the force while several feet from the bag as he tried for a double play. “It was a neighborhood play,” said McCarver. “The umpires sometimes call it so the infielder can avoid being hit and hurt by a sliding runner.” We don’t want to see anybody hurt, but the call snuffed out a possible Tiger rally. Here’s hoping the video replay arrangement next year eliminates the dubious neighborly practice.

A Cardinal Flaw: Stats sometimes surprise; this one was a shock: Ron Darling (on TBS) noted that the Cardinals went 4-50 in the regular season when trailing after seven innings. He said it Wednesday, as the oft-flawless Redbirds fell behind the Dodgers in the third and never caught up.

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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.)


Baseball and Skipper Obama: a Study in Contrasts

(Posted: 10/14/13; e-mail update 10/15))

The faces in the capacity playoff crowds scanned by TV cameras at St.Louis and Boston  are striking for their whiteness.  No surprise. Elevated ticket prices preclude attendance by any but the well-heeled, see among whom African-Americans are in short supply.  If only for image reasons, see Baseball should be doing more to make games accessible, not only to American blacks, but to working class Latinos and low-income fans in general.  We’ve noted often how slow the sport has been in bringing black players, once many times more numerous than now, back to the ballfields.

The absence of black faces at the ballparks reminds us of the contrasting efforts of Skipper Obama with regard to Africa.  Unlike the sluggish sport of which he is a (White Sox) fan, the Skipper believes in being aggressive.  “What makes America different, what makes us exceptional,” he said in a recent address to the nation, “is that we are dedicated to act.”  The action his team is taking in dozens of African countries has less to do with upgrading living standards than with establishing a strong U.S. military presence.  A main reason: the lead taken by China in the exploiting-Africa game. The UK Guardian’s John Pilger explains how we are being outscored.

Africa is China’s success story. Where the Americans bring drones, the Chinese build roads, bridges and dams. What the Chinese want is resources, especially fossil fuels…More than jihadism or Iran, China is Washington’s obsession in Africa and beyond.

Pilger is an Australian, who has watched our military buildup in his country as well, and and throughout the Pacific.  The result of our anti-China ‘pivot’ to Asia is a game plan, says Pilger, “whose threat of world war may be as great as any in the modern era.”

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Kindling: When Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia combined to get the first two hits and score a run off Max Scherzer in the sixth Sunday night, it was a revelation: “Scherzer is human,” it said.  The possibility arose that the Sox would get a shot at the Tigers bullpen, as shaky counterpoint to the solidity of the team’s starting rotation.  Now the outcome of the series, resuming Tuesday afternoon in Detroit, seemingly hinges on the endurance of Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Scherzer.  If they cool off – a crucial  “if” – the Sox have, in the words of Jonny Gomes, “a little kindling to start a big fire.”

Anxiety Time:  The Cardinals have their closest equivalent of the Tiger trio – Adam Wainwright – pitching tonight against the Dodgers and their third starter Hyun-jin Ryu, in game three of the NLCS.  The Dodgers face a 3-0 series deficit, if they don’t round up some kindling of their own.

Thoughtful Butcher?  Raving about Anibal Sanchez’s six-inning, no-hit, 12-strikeout performance Saturday night, Tim McCarver called him, both a “thinking” pitcher and a “carving” one, as in “He…CARVES…them.”

Product Placement:  Home plate umpire Joe West wore a Wilson sporting goods sweatshirt – with a prominent “W” showing –  under his uniform jacket Sunday night. A first, in our years of game-viewing experience.  West wore the standard ump uniform, minus the billboard message, Monday night

Brain-y Trust: Lineup of future managers on coaching staff of 1988 Cleveland Indians, as shown in photo on Fox during Sunday night game:  Bud Black, Padres; John Farrell, Red Sox; Charlie Manuel, former Phillies; Ron Washington, Rangers.  Team also included player Terry Francona, now back in Cleveland as skipper.

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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.)


No Stopping the Dodgers and Team GOP?

(Posted: 10/11/13; e-mail update 10//12)

The LA Dodgers’ celebrity exec Magic Johnson caused a flap the other day by suggesting the team would be spending too much to re-sign Clayton Kershaw to go after Yankees free agent Robinson Cano when the bidding period opens.  The flap had to do with Cano’s market value, sales malady stratospherically high if the Dodgers want him, remedy less so with them on the sidelines.

The Yankees would seem to have a clear field to get Cano back into pinstripes.  Except for one thing: Magic used the hedge-word “probably, ” as in “We got guys we need to keep…the numbers probably don’t add up.”   The truth is LAD prez Stan Kasten and GM Ned Colletti could well decide Cano would enhance the Dodger brand.  And, like the Yankees of yore, they can afford to attract whomever they want.

It’s an awkward situation for Baseball, so proud of the new-found near-parity achieved this year, It’s been more fun for the many non-Yankee fans with the team exercising budgetary restraint in its player dealings.  But if the top-dollar Dodgers go all the way in the first full season of their new splurging era, parity will quickly become passé. The consensus will be there’s no stopping them.

In electoral politics, it’s more fact than consensus that roughly 125 House members of Team GOP can’t be stopped; most have been gerrymandered into safe districts by their party-controlled state legislatures in 2010.  They have no need to compromise on matters like government shutdown or the debt ceiling.  There are about 117 Dems in long-stable hyper-partisan districts, but they don’t come close to matching the opposition in voting discipline.  Ron Brownstein, in the National Journal, sums up the game this way:

“GOP legislators have succeeded in fortifying themselves into homogeneously conservative districts. On every measure, Republicans today represent constituencies that lean more lopsidedly toward their party.”

 An electoral gerrymandering scorebook shown by Rachel Maddow, on MSNBC, documented Team GOP’s victories in three states (in mostly rural districts), despite losing statewide popular votes to the Dems: In Michigan, although outnumbered by 300, 000 votes statewide, GOP members took nine of 14 seats; in Wisconsin, they took five of eight; in Pennsyslvania, the GOP won 13 of 18 seats ; in two states – Virginia, where the GOP won eight of 11 seats, and in Ohio, where they won of 12 of 16 –  the Dems lost the popular vote by thin margins.

Thus, the source of the repeated Congressional standoffs with no compromises in sight.  Maddow further notes that the situation could get more dire: the only true GOP contest in those safe districts would be in the party primary, where the incumbent would likely have to move further to the already intransigent radical right to deal with a challenge.

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Domination:  Former pitcher Dennis Eckersley and former catcher Buck Martinez made it clear early in Thursday night’s decisive ALDS game on TBS that Justin Verlander was untouchable.  “He can throw the ball wherever he wants,” they agreed after Miguel Cabrera’s two-run homer in the fourth inning.  “All his pitches are working.  What can a hitter do?”  It occurred to one listener that they were so repetitively persuasive there was little point in staying with the game to its 3-0 end.

Price-y Reinforcement?  Ray Price believes the Rays will trade him before next season, two years in advance of his becoming a free agent.  MLB-TV’s Peter Gammons says the Dodgers have the money and minor league prospects to add Price to their rotation headed by Clayton Kershaw and Josh Greinke.  So hot stove speculation now includes the eventual whereabouts of Robinson Cano and Price.  We see that anytime an elite player goes on the market, or is believed to be headed there, the Dodgers are considered a likely destination.

A Cardinal Challenge:  If the talented and battle-tested Cardinals can’t handle the Dodgers in the NLCS, the new ownership in LA can congratulate itself.  Despite the doubters, the front office and Don Mattingly, et al, will have succeeded in getting their galaxy of stars to mesh, and make it all the way to the World Series.  The Dodgers will have done it big-time, just when the Blue Jays and Angels showed how challenging a task that adjustment process is.

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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.)



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How to Win in Either Field: Be Good or Lucky

(Posted: 10/7/13; e-mail update 10/8)

In the first week of the playoffs, drugstore a baseball-savvy former political coach said it: “There are a couple of ways to win a ball game. One is to be really good. The other is to have a really lousy opponent.”  The record book of best-of-three, canada and first-round series, shows that well over half the time – in 22 of the 38 first rounds since 1981 – at least one team was overmatched, resulting in three straight losses to a (possibly) lucky opponent.

It hasn’t happened this time, because the seemingly overmatched Tampa Bay Rays, on the brink of being swept by the Red Sox, rallied from a 3-0 deficit, to pull out a walkoff victory in the bottom of the ninth Monday night.  The Rays, far from lousy, still have to face a team that is really good in game four Tuesday, and then maybe again Thursday.  The Sox, we know, dominated their league and led both leagues in regular-season wins.

In the political ballpark, being overmatched has led to a rout of Team GOP’s delay-Obamacare game.  The effort to cut down the Skipper’s health insurance program misfired, leaving the righty team in disarray.  But the Skipper’s squad is hurting its chances to win in a decisive sweep.  How?  By making errors in design of the Web site scoreboard that is supposed to give fans access to the program.  The WashPost combo of Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas reviews the self-inflicted damage:

“The Obama administration did itself — and the millions of people who wanted to explore signing up — a terrible disservice by building a Web site that…is still unusable for most Americans. They knew that the only way to quiet the law’s critics was to implement it effectively. And building a working e-commerce Web site is not an impossible task…Instead, the Obama administration gave critics arguing that the law isn’t ready for primetime more ammunition for their case. There are signs the site is improving. The early word from insurers is that basically no one was able to sign up during the first two days, though successful applications began to ‘trickle’ in on day three…(For now, Team) Obama…needs to get the marketplace working, and fast.”

The sloppy play means it will take additional time to win over the 26 states that have refused to take the field, penalizing for long extra innings their eight million lower-income residents most in need of Obamacare’s benefits.

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What Else Do We Know…about the playoffs:  The Pirates have the unenviable challenge of facing Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright at St,Louis in the decisive fifth game of their series Wednesday.  Similarly, if Oakland doesn’t eliminate the Tigers Tuesday, the A’s will have to beat 21-game winner Max Scherzer in the deciding contest Thursday.  At least, they’ll get to face that challenge at home.  As of late Monday night, game four of the Braves-Dodgers series is tied.  (Result will be part of e-mail update Tuesday).    

In Case Bob Melvin Missed It:  Jim Kaat (doing color on MLB-TV) called out Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes for loafing to first base on a ground ball that could have scored a late run against Detroit Monday.

Vicariousness:  Although neither NY team made the playoffs, former Mets and Yankee players have played key roles in the Pirates-Cardinals NLDS.  Ex-Mets Carlos Beltran and Marlon Byrd have driven in six and five runs, respectively – Beltran for the Cards, Byrd for the Bucs.  Erstwhile Yankee catcher Russell Martin scored the go-ahead run in Sunday night’s 5-3 Pirates victory.  Martin, like Beltran, has hit two HRs so far in the post-season. Oh, yes, Beltran was on base when Matt Holliday hit the two-run HR that gave the Cardinals their 2-1victory.

Dusty’s (Possible) Departure: “Dusty Baker leaves the Reds as… a great old school baseball man who is known less for his impressive resume than for the hole in it.  He has never won the World Series. Baker has been to the postseason more times without winning the World Series (seven) than any manager in history…Cincinnati needed to fire Baker not because he did a lousy job — he won 90 or more games three of the past four years — but because he simply ran out of chances and the Reds needed a new voice.  Baker may be out of chances around the game, too, especially as more and more people who do the hiring in baseball are at least a generation younger than he is, and they understand and embrace the game from an analytics standpoint that never interested Baker.”  – Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated

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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.)


‘Cool’-ness: What Baseball Lacks and U.S. Military Has in Excess

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

The post-season heroics of David Price, ambulance Andrew McCutchen, generic Marlon Byrd, Delmon Young, Desmond Jennings, et al, suggest that the African-American presence is alive and well in baseball. We know that’s not the case: American blacks account for only eight percent of major leaguers. That so many of our best athletes (proportionally) are absent from the national pastime while they stand out in basketball and football, is more than just a sports-related anomaly. The absence speaks to the national scandal involving allocation of resources, part of the mega-problem of inequality.

Of more crucial concern to Baseball people, the comparatively few blacks in their sport diminishes its popularity – and therefore its profits – in the competition with the NFL and NBA. In last Sunday’s NY Times, Jonathan Nailer noted that the NFL’s TV ratings “exist in a whole other stratosphere” from those of MLB. Furthermore, the 2012 NBA ratings on ABC “were nearly double those of MLB on Fox.” Viewers like to see home-grown stars – like LeBron James and Adrian Peterson – performing in sports that are more physical, and often more violent, than baseball. As for the role of blacks on a broader popular basis, Nailer has this to say:

“Much has been made of the declining participation of blacks in baseball. Less has been said about the trickle-down effects of this in an era when hip-hop is such a powerful tastemaker in American culture. Baseball is not cool.”

What can be done? Instant replay next season will help generate a bit of new interest. In the long run, to get cool young blacks involved, Baseball must be prepared to help bridge the inequality gap. How? The commissioner, the owners and the union must be prepared to provide money to support baseball programs at underfinanced public schools, including arrangements for places to play. African-Americans in low-income urban areas have, we know, much readier access to hard-top basketball courts and confined strips of touch football space at local playgrounds. Baseball is doing a little of that work now. But the current aid it offers through the RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner cities) system is spotty, and far from adequate, given the scope of the challenge.

There’s your game plan, Bud Selig: Make it happen – as your prime legacy – before you retire in 2015.

The U.S. military has an opposite problem involving blacks: their number – 20 percent – exceeds the percentage of African-Americans in our population. The title of a column by Al Hunt on points to the problem: “THE WIDENING GULF BETWEEN AMERICANS AND THEIR MILITARY.” Economic inequality has filled the services with low-income men and women – Latinos and whites, as well as cool blacks – who joined the military for a paying job. Hunt quotes General Stanley McChrystal lamenting how “unrepresentative of the population” are members ot the volunteer army. A return to the draft would be a remedy, but that, like a proportional raise in taxes, Hunt notes, is a “non-starter.” In the meantime, the attitude of many of us toward the military, as described by author and Vietnam vet Andrew Bacevich: “cordial indifference.”

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Intimidated: It was only NLDS openers for the Pirates and Braves, but they both looked outclassed by the Cardinals and Dodgers. Adam Wainwright and Carlos Beltran propelled the Cards over the Bucs, 9-1; Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez played similar roles with the Dodgers. On the basis of the first meetings, both winning teams seem to have more of two key assets – talent and depth – than their opponents.

Unintimidated: Rays Skipper Joe Maddon (quoted by the Times’ Tyler Kepner), on the positive rush his team gets, playing as visitors before charged-up home-town fans: “We like playing in front of big crowds. I think our guys are really good at breathing in the moment.”

Debacle: There was lots of disbelief to go around last Monday night, when both the Rays and Rangers had rosters of 37 players for their wild card tiebreaker. The rationale: It was the 163d regular-season game, so the stupid September call-up rules applied. Each year, press box people and broadcasters express the hope “that’s going to change.” When, Bud Selig, when?

Plain to See: John Smoltz (on TBS) on one seldom-mentioned way a manager knows it’s time to yank his pitcher: “Facial expressions. They can tell when a pitcher has lost confidence.”

Quiz: The most beautiful park east of San Francisco,” Wash Post columnist Tom Boswell (among others) calls it. Which baseball stadium is he referring to? No, not Busch Stadium, Camden Yards, Chase Field, CitiField, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Target Field, Turner Field, nor Yankee Stadium. Answer: PNCPark, Pittsburgh.

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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.)