The Nub

Holiday Thanks to Players Who Provide Clout for Our Morale

(Posted: 11/30//13)

Holiday Thanks to Players Who Provide Clout for Our Morale

Julian Assange

Carlos Beltran

Jerry Brown

Ron Brownstein

Eric Byrnes

Fidel Castro

Noam Chomsky

Ron Darling

Bill de Blasio

E.J. Dionne

Dick Durbin

Jim Dwyer

John Farrell

Terry Francona

Amy Goodman

Alan Grayson

Glenn Greenwald

Keith Hernandez

Derek Jeter

Garrison Keillor

Ezra Klein

Dennis Kucinich

Bob Kuttner

Evan Longoria

Joe Maddon

Dan Malloy

Chelsea Manning

Don Mattingly

Bill Moyers

Ralph Nader

Dustin Pedroia

William Pfaff

Buster Posey

Michael Powell

Bernie Sanders

Vin Scully

Tavis Smiley

Edward Snowden

Jeff Spurgeon

Elizabeth Warren

David Wright

Nuclear Thankfulness: Pinch-hitter E.J. Dionne takes his cuts on why Dem team fans  should be thankful for the Senate’s vote to end filibustering: a back-grounder on what has been called Nuclear Thursday:

“With their dramatic decision, buy nurse Senate Democrats have frankly acknowledged that the power struggle over the judiciary has reached a crisis point and that the nature of conservative opposition to President Obama is genuinely without precedent. What happened on Nuclear Thursday has more to do with the rise of an activist conservative judiciary than with the norms of the Senate. From the moment that five conservative justices issued their ruling in Bush v. Gore, discount liberals and Democrats realized they were up against forces willing to achieve their purposes by using power at every level of government. When the Bush v. Gore majority insisted that the principles invoked to decide the 2000 election in George W. Bush’s favor could not be used in any other case, they effectively admitted their opportunism. Dec. 12, 2000, led inexorably to Nov. 21, 2013.

“Bush v. Gore set in motion what liberals see as a pernicious feedback loop. By giving the presidency to a conservative, the five right-of-center justices guaranteed that for at least four years (and what turned out to be eight), the judiciary would be tilted even further in a conservative direction…The court rendered such decisions as Citizens United, which tore down barriers to big money in politics, and Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted a key part of the Voting Rights Act. Both, in turn, had the effect of strengthening the electoral hand of conservatives and Republicans.  With the conservatives’ offensive as the backdrop…Progressives felt they had no choice but to throw sand into the gears of a juggernaut.” – Washington Post

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Reliability’s Value:  Ricky Nolasco’s $49 million, four-year deal with the Twins – the biggest pitching contract of the post-season – attests to the accuracy of something David Cone once said on YES:  “Teams consider innings-pitched the most important stat for starters.” Nolasco has averaged 192 innings over the past six seasons, which prompts this analysis by SI’s Cliff Corcoran:  “Nolasco isn’t an ace by any league-wide definition, but…he should serve as an anchor of reliability for a Twins rotation that is otherwise adrift… If the Twins  manage to return to contention during the course of Nolasco’s contract, Nolasco himself will be no better than a number-three starter on the next contending Twins team, if that.  However, there is considerable value in being able to consume innings… and Nolasco’s new contract has affirmed that value as roughly $12-13 million a year.”

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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.)

Arrogance, Aggression, Collisions on Fields at Home and Abroad

Posted: 11/26/13)

Aware of the hold gridiron violence has on millions fans whose TV-watching is now a Sunday ritual, sales pilule Baseball clings to its nearest equivalent to NFL mayhem, canada the home plate collision.  Its reluctance to do away with the crushing contact has been clear since the bone-breaking impact that cost the Giants the services of star catcher Buster Posey in 2011.  There’s been no action, but lots of talk since then about rules that would protect catchers from what happened to Posey.  Barring them from blocking the plate would be one way, barring runners from barreling into them could be another.

Baseball execs know that the game’s fans dote on aggressiveness and want occasional crunches left on the menu.  But exec-vp Joe Torre says the issue will be discussed again next month.  And this time, he adds, since “the players are bigger, stronger, faster, there’s a feeling something has to be done.”

We’ll see.

However political fans feel about Team Obama’s aggressive play, it’s the hallmark of the American game abroad.  International Herald Trib birddog William Pfaff says attitude has accompanied the rough play.  Press box observers in Europe have noted, he says, “how arrogant Washington has been about its actions.” He adds, “The all but unanimous American response to critics has been “Look, buddy, this is the U.S. and if you don’t like it…

“The old attitude of ‘we’re number one, and make something of it,’ is back.  One might think that the serial catastrophes of recent American foreign policy would shut a few American mouths, but this hasn’t happened.”

Pfaff notes the most recent example of Team Obama’s aggressive-arrogant double play is its demand that, should American forces remain in Afghanistan after their (still) scheduled withdrawal in 2014, they must be exempted from obeying the country’s national law, and permitted to forcibly enter Afghan homes when they deem it necessary.

Thus, the familiar message, this time to a truculent President Karzai: “Look, buddy, if you don’t like it…”

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Pinstripe Message: The Yankees wouldn’t match the Pirates’ offer to Russell Martin last season of $17 million for two years.  Now, acknowledging that as a mistake, they’ve agreed to pay Brian McCann $17 million a year for five years.  It’s a message as well as a personnel signing: the Yankees are back in the competition for big-ticket free agents. The disadvantage their playing under:  many more holes to fill than those of their main competitors – the Dodgers, Red Sox, etc.  The Dodgers, by the way, filled a back-of-rotation mini-hole with the signing of former National, Dan Haren.  Considering Haren, 33, could do no better than 10-14 with the hitterish Nats last season, the $10 million, one-year contract, seems like overpayment.  Why did the Dodgers do it?  The theory (per MLB-TV): they think Haren’s value is enhanced by his being back at home on the West Coast.

Not Again?  The few fans left can only hope the Mets’ signing of outfielder Chris Young to a one-year $7 million contract is not a familiar message: they’ll make do with affordable journeymen for yet another season, the fourth under GM Sandy Alderson.  His implicit excuse for apparently putting what was to be a “back-in-the-hunt” season on hold: Matt Harvey’s unavailability while recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Attendance figures will surely show the approach is not working.

Forgiveness:  Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, on why St.Louis agreed to pay Jonny Peralta $13+ a year for four years, despite his drug-related history: “We didn’t think we should punish him for past mistakes, for which he paid.”

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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.)







Hailing the Heroes Ignored in Both Games

(Posted: 11/23/13)

Let’s talk  about Baseball heroes: Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente are two that quickly come to mind; both stars, one broke the color line, the other, a Puerto Rican, died trying to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua.  We’ve noted here often another true hero: Curt Flood, who sacrificed his livelihood to free players from a system that made them, in the words of his biography, “Well-Paid Slave(s)”.  Robinson and Clemente are in the sport’s Hall of Fame, but Baseball, abetted by press box people, has given Flood little applause for challenging its legally sanctioned control over players.

We have been remiss for disregarding another player-hero, ignored by the establishment, who never got his due.  Danny Gardella, a wartime outfielder with the NY Giants in the 1940s, anticipated Flood’s audacious act.  He hit 18 HRS with 71 RBIs and .272 BA, in his second season with the Giants in 1945.  In 1946, the team offered him a salary of $4,500, take it or leave it.  When the Mexican League said it would pay $10,000, Gardella “jumped.”  Other, bigger names followed – Sal Magle, Max Lanier, Vern Stephens, Mickey Owen, Alex Carrasquel, to name a few.

Commissioner Happy Chandler imposed a five-year ban on those who didn’t return promptly for violating the reserve clause that gave the clubs control.  In 1947, Gardella went to court to challenge the ban – as Flood would do more than 20 years later.  He had to drop his lawsuit when proceedings dragged out into 1949, draining his resources.  But he had raised a valid issue that wouldn’t go away.  “I let the whole world know,” he told the LA Times with pride in 1990, “that the reserve clause was unfair.”

Skipper Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom this week to 16 American “heroes,”, including Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post editor who published the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the futility of the Vietnam War.  We consider Edward Snowden and Chelsea (Bradley) Manning similarly deserving for their exposure of Team USA wrongdoing on different battlefields.  Australian Julian Assange also merits a tribute for his WikiLeaks operation.  We’ve neglected to acknowledge all such heroes – it’s hard to keep up before Team Obama has them disappear into jail.  We did, earlier this week, make reference to the work of another hero without mentioning his name. Jeremy  Hammond, a 28-year-old Chicagoan, was convicted of a series of hacking offenses and  sentenced to 10 years in prison last week.  Among his illegal disclosures was this chilling information (passed to WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone): that government and corporate contractor Stratfor teamed to try to connect non-violent dissenters to terrorism, thus making them targets for prosecution. For some reason, the corporate media waved the story away.

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The Washington-Texas Match:  Skipper Ron Washington seems to be something of a hero to the Rangers front office.  No sooner was his team eliminated from the post-season, than Texas GM Jon Daniels said it was “not a question” that Washington would return as manager.  Couple of days later, Daniels said he “preferred” to think in terms of extending Washington’s contract beyond 2014.  The extension hasn’t happened yet; it won’t be surprising if the move is put off until Daniels sees how much his skipper gets out of the Prince Fielder-enhanced version of the team next season.

Blockbuster Hay:  How desperate were pastime pundits for a blockbuster hot stove deal – i.e. Ian Kinsler for  Fielder?  Well, Bill Chuck, on Gammons Daily, ticked off ways the deal could impact on no fewer than 19 players connected to 10 teams, including Texas and Detroit – from Elvis Andrus (alphabetically) to Max Scherzer.  The list includes top free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Sin-Shoo Choo, Carlos Beltran and Joe Nathan. That opens a lot of speculation fodder between now and the next big deal.

Hopeful Upgrades: The non-explosive deal yesterday in which the Cardinals traded third baseman David Freese to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos is worthy of modest notice because both sides upgraded in positions where they felt they needed improvement.  Incumbents Chris Nelson in LA and Jon Jay in St.Louis now have the challenge of proving the feeling was wrong.

Listing in Arizona:  Fourteen of the 30 teams taking part in the Arizona Fall League had players make Baseball America’s top 20 list.  Three Cubs prospects made the list, and two each from the Twins, Blue Jays, Marlins and Red Sox.  Twins farmhand outfielder Byron Buxton was picked number one.  The Cubs’ highly rated third baseman Kris Bryant was second, Athletic shortstop Addison Russell third.  Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez and Minnesota’s Alex Meyer, both pitchers, finished fourth and fifth on the list.

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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.)



An Open Secret: Where Public and Player Activism Has Gone

(Posted: 11/19//13)

The last time major league players made public political statements was five years ago:Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford. Jonny Gomes, generic David Price and others appeared at a rally for presidential candidate Obama in Florida. Since then the players union has stayed out of politics, here suggesting through its passivity that members keep away from issues for which it would have been appropriate to go to bat. The collective bargaining rights of other unions would be one of them, organizing rights another. And, farther afield, how about swinging out for voting rights in southern states where poor black and brown people have been caught in conservative pick-off plays?

People generally, including onetime political activists, have been almost as quiescent as the players union. The last attention-grabbing issues rally occurred almost three years ago, in February 2011. That was when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker pulled off a squeeze play on the state’s public sector unions. Tens of thousands gathered throughout much of the month to try to stop the play. This past September and October, marchers gathered in NYC to celebrate the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street; a later rally, protesting against NSA surveillance was staged in Washington. But both “mass” events attracted modest turnouts, in the several hundreds rather than thousands.

A year-long study, financed in part by the Center for Media and Democracy, provided a clue last spring as to why mass protests have become rare: the country’s “counter-terrorism agencies view citizens engaged in (expressions of) dissent as (possible) ‘terrorist threats’.” The result: agency involvement in the “monitoring” and “suppression” of such groups teaming with local law enforcement. Furthermore, the study found the counter-terrorism activity was largely being carried out “on behalf of (major) corporate interests.” In his TruthDig column this week, Chris Hedges was more specific, reminding us that “disturbing (hacked) information released to WikiLeaks and independent media “show(ed) that the government and (contractor) Stratfor attempted to link nonviolent dissident groups, including some within Occupy, to terrorist organizations so peaceful dissidents could be prosecuted as terrorists.”.

 Until a super-organizer like Leslie Cagan, leader of mass protests against the Iraq war a decade ago, emerges (she’s still organizing small-scale actions), it may be futile to think serious activism can be reactivated. Two heavy journalistic hitters haven’t given up. In the preface of her new book “The Bully Pulpit,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin writes that she hopes the story she tells of Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft will help “to summon the public to demand the action necessary to bring our country closer to its ancient ideals.”  The Nation’s Jonathan Schell hails Edward Snowden’s role for “letting the public know the abuses being carried out in its name…

“Asked why he had done what he did, Snowden replied ‘I am neither traitor nor hero. I am an American.’ He based his actions on the finest traditions of this country, which its current leaders have abandoned but which, he hopes the current generation of Americans will share. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll find out whether he was right.”

In our SecurityState, it will be a miracle if Snowden’s hope is realized.  But miracles do happen (in baseball, anyway).

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Possible Bargain Battery: The post-season stove warmed up slightly yesterday, with Tim Hudson signing for two years with the Giants and Carlos Ruiz re-signing for three with the Phillies. Much as we hate to join the crowd throwing names around, we’d like to try to keep the heat rising. So we, herewith, recommend two below-radar free agents to any attentive GM. They are (2013 stats in parenthesis): Scott Feldman (12-12 with Cubs and Orioles; salary $6 million); C.J. Piersynski, (272, 17 HRs, 70 RBIs with Rangers; salary $7.5 million). It will be a surprise if their medium-size salaries don’t get those two solid performers signed quickly.

An A.J. Appreciator: In 2007, we’ve recalled before, Joe Girardi did color for the YES network. During one of the games he worked, a broadcast colleague – it might have been Michael Kay – talked with a hint of disparagement about the hyper-intense Piersynski’s unpopularity with his then-Giants teammates. Said Girardi: “I’ll take A.J. anytime.”

Intrigue: There was a third notable signing yesterday, and the most intriguing of the three: the Reds gave second baseman Skip Schumaker a two-year deal. Speculation that Cincy will look to trade Brandon Phillips is, thus, no longer far-fetched.

Hitting Him Softly: Among veteran managers whose names have NOT been mentioned in the post-season skipper-hiring sweepstakes: Davey Johnson. If he doesn’t get a call, it may be because of something Joe Posnanski, of NBC Sports, wrote about him toward the end of the season: Manager Davey Johnson looks 70 years old. He is 70 years old, of course, but he did not look it last year when his Nationals shocked everybody by winning 98 games and becoming the first Washington team in about 80 years to play postseason baseball. Winning baseball has a way of ironing the wrinkles and straightening the back and adding a little bit of volume to the voice. Losing baseball, meanwhile, has a way of doing the opposite. Davey Johnson actually looks 75 years old. (He talks) so softly you can barely hear him.”

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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 Elusive Stike Zone in Both Pastimes

(Posted: 11/16//13)

Anybody remember Jeff Francoeur? Of course; most ball fans do. He is still around. And he’s aninteresting case. He broke in with the Braves eight years ago, malady at age 21, and was a rookie sensation: a .300 BA and 14 HRs and 45 RBIs in 70 games. All that plus a powerful outfield arm that registered 13 assists. A local boy, popular in the clubhouse, embraced by the fans, Francoeur seemed headed for a long career in Atlanta. He had two good years in 2006 and ‘07, playing all 162 games and batting 103 and 105 runs, with 29 HRs in ’06, and 19 assists in ’07. Then, in 2008, his career suddenly began a downward spiral. Bobby Cox had seen enough of his persistent flaw – an inability to learn the strike zone – and finally traded him to the Mets. Since then, 2009, he has drifted to the Rangers, Royals and Giants. As of now, Francoeur’s future is in doubt: soon to be a 30-year-old free agent, his stats suggest he doesn’t quite care enough to become a consistently productive player.

Many pressbox people and fans in the national ballpark feel that way about Skipper Obama. Like Francoeur, the president started fast, then began struggling with, among other things, a strike zone problem. His over-eagerness at the plate was evident early last summer when he pushed for military force against Syria after the Assad regime crossed the “red line” of chemical weapons usage. Congress had no intention of giving the Skipper his strike. He had predicted – hoped – that his second-term victory would stop Team GOP’s rally-killing moves. A vain hope that left him “exasperated.” National Journal’s George Condon kept a scorebook on the more recent of his familiar exasperations.:

In June, Edward Snowden started leaking highly sensitive and embarrassing National Security Agency documents. By July, Snowden was demanding asylum in Russia, leading Obama to cancel a planned summit with Vladimir Putin at the precise time he was looking to the Russian president to bail him out of (the) no-win battle with Congress over Syria…Obama’s annus horribilis wasn’t over, of course. Still to come was the badly botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a mess still awaiting a fix. The result, (just after) the one-year anniversary of his reelection, is that Obama finds himself near a personal low point in his approval ratings.

The fragmented picture is of a president, who, like a lost hitter, swings at off-the-plate pitches and lets fat ones go by. His crucial weakness, suggested by Bill Moyers, is that he’s “a man of principle without conviction.” A man who throws up his hands at adversaries, not to retaliate, but in frustration. The Skipper’s at-bats confirm Moyers’ final verdict: “He is no fighter.”

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The ‘Being Yourself’ Game: NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, on the appeal of baseball that he personifies, and hopes will prove attractive to other African-Americans: “You can go out, you can have fun, you can be yourself. You don’t have to be a certain height; you don’t have to be a certain weight…You can play the game. If you can pick up a bat and swing it, you have a chance.”

The Wooing Game: If we were the GM of the Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, and any of the other teams that have expressed an interest in signing free agent Carlos Beltran, we wouldn’t be seeking to have him come to our home town to talk. We’d hop a flight to San Juan after arranging a visit near or in his home in Puerto Rico. Beltran will turn 37 next season and has a tendency to wear down if overused. But if Marlon Byrd got a two-year $16 million contract from the Phillies, Beltran should attract close to twice as much from the team that ultimately signs him.

Excess: The Daily (Peter) Gammons takes this long-overdue shot at colleagues Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) and Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) in their breathless race to out-scoop each other on trade rumors: Your team is going to sign and trade for who they are going to sign and trade for whether Ken Rosenthal or Jon Heyman scoops the story or not.” – The “dampening” piece itself is signed by Neil Weinberg

 Why Ball Fans Should Love Bruce Dern: The veteran film actor, on playing the lead in the newly released film “Nebraska”: “I got lucky. I got a big role. Some great players never do. They spend their whole career on the Astros.” – Interview in NY Times Leisure Section

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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.)


Peak Season for Political Front-Runners, Baseball Gossip

(Posted: 11/12//13)

It’s the peak time of the baseball year for teams facing another season of downtime in 2014.  Any club can express interest in obtaining free-agent standouts like Robinson Cano, buy doctor Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo.  Wishful talk is cost-free.  Media people, meanwhile, no rx are free to speculate about far-fetched trades involving Troy Tulewitzki, Max Scherzer, Matt Kemp, etc.  The bet here (bets are free, too) is that Cano will return to the Yankees, and that the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yanks will dominate the key off-season transactions.  How wrong can one be betting on money?

In pre-peak politics concurrent with baseball talk-time, two prominent performers are considered to be almost-sure 2016 presidential candidates put forward by each of the major parties:  Hillary Clinton by the Dems, Chris Christie by Team GOP.  Why does the righty NJ Governor Christie look stronger than center-left former Senator and Sec of State Clinton at this point?  His prime advantage is that he’s a fresh face (one four-year term as governor) compared to Hillary, who began an elective political career a decade-and-a-half ago.

Christie managed to appeal across party lines in a state that, a year ago, was swept by a Democratic president.  He outdid Obama, winning by 60 percent, outscoring his Dem opponent with women, men, Latinos, and people in upper- and lower-income brackets.   His gift for narrowing the gap fissured by partisanship has been likened to that of Bill Clinton, who will be working to help his wife replicate what he achieved at the polls and in the White House.

Hillary’s head-start has already helped clear the current presidential primary field of serious Dem contenders.  But the growing sense of inevitability is making many in the party restive.  The Nation’s Richard Kim notes the misgivings connected to her early lead:

“Can we please hold the crown for at least another (few months)?…I’m totally behind the idea of electing a woman president in 2016, and I also understand the (impact of) Obama’s oft-dispiriting presidency. But anointing Clinton now isn’t just anti-democratic; it paints a big sign on the party’s door: No New Ideas Here.

Kim points out that, while still a senator, Hillary remained back in the clubhouse while the nation’s class-warfare game was unfolding.  Furthermore, although she took signs from Team Obama, it was on her overseas watch that U.S. foreign policy took a series of hits – the military coup in Egypt that we refused to acknowledge as such, the switching sides on the military coup in Honduras, first supporting the beleaguered progressive president, then his right-wing opponent; the expanded Israeli settlements on Palestinian land against which the O-team protested weakly and ineffectually.  And, of course, the still-simmering Benghazi disaster.  Lots of potential ammunition for Team GOP in 2016.

Kim’s last line offers an intriguing, if long-shot, option: “Senator Warren, your country calls.”

This Just In:  Headline in latest NewRepublic – “Hillary’s Nightmare?  A Democratic Party That Realizes its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren?”

And This:  From Monday’s NY Times – “Conservative Republicans Recoil at the Notion That Christie Is the Party’s Savior.”

Moral:  Neither party should be seduced by early pre-season puffery.

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Deep Down Depth:  If consensus farm-system rankings are accurate, the Pirates stand an excellent chance to make the playoffs next season for a second year in a row.  They have a passel of prospects that could serve as trading chips as they seek to upgrade on a modest budget.  Expert observers consider both the Bucs and the Astros as the current deepest farm-system organizations.  The Astros are clearly ready to improve, but they have too many holes to fill to dig themselves far enough out of last place to contend for a post-season spot as early as 2014.

Hole-y Pinstripes: The Yankees have holes of their own to fill at catcher, and, possibly, shortstop and third base, depending on the health-related availability of Derek Jeter and the suspension threat hovering over Alex Rodriguez.  If we didn’t mention second base, it’s because Brian Cashman is determined to re-sign Robinson Cano. As for pitching-staff needs, the team has made signing Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka their second off-season priority. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports elaborates:

Sources with knowledge of the Yankees’ plans said they are ‘going to be bold’ in bidding on the 25-year-old right-hander when the Rakuten Golden Eagles post him, likely later this month.  Just how high the Yankees plan on going is unclear, but executives believe the winning bid for the rights to negotiate a contract with Tanaka will top $75 million, nearly 50 percent (more than) the posting fees for Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka.”  Of course, the Dodgers are also expected to have something to say about Tanaka’s future.

Behind the Prize:  Here is an excerpt of a pre-award accolade to the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez by SI’s Cliff Corcoran.  Fernandez was named NL rookie of the year Monday night: “Over the final 18 starts of his rookie season, this 20-year-old promoted directly from High-A went 10-3 with a 1.50 ERA and 0.86 WHIP while striking out 10.1 men per nine innings and allowing just four home runs in 120 1/3 innings. Sixteen of those final 18 starts were quality…The Marlins went 14-4 in his starts over the season’s final four months.”  TampaBay’s Wil Myers won the AL rookie award.

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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.)



Notable Matchups: SAC Cap v.O-Team, A-Rod v.Baseball

(Posted: 11/9//13)

Attentive fans watched as Baseball tried to pull off a successful PR safety squeeze on Alex Rodriguez this week. The sneaky half-swing: leaking word of a failed banned “stimulus” test in 2006. Clumsily executed, discount purchase the dribble betrayed a telling sign of desperation in MLB’s legal contest with Team A-Rod. On one side, sildenafil Bud Selig’s club wants to prove the Yankees’ $275 million star cheated with drugs and deserved a 211-game suspension from the sport; on the other, A-Rod’s squad is determined to show that Baseball has played dirty in its game to get him.

How the arbitrator will decide the contest in a few to several weeks is anybody’s guess; we do know that A-Rod has been able to tap his player earnings to recruit a legal team at least as potent as that of his corporate opponents. A decision in a financial-field legal contest announced the day of the leak suggested similar equally balanced player rosters. Team Obama’s attorney in Manhattan claimed a $1.2 billon victory over SAC Capital’s squad for insider trading, but – surprise! – the O-team didn’t lay a glove on SAC’s owner Steven Cohen.

What many observers see as a tainted victory came after more than a decade of labor-intensive play – described by the NY Times as, among other things, “poring over trading records, interviewing informants and issuing grand jury subpoenas.” Cutting down Cohen in another labor-intensive effort – lining up for a lengthy criminal trial – was a non-starter. It would have entailed competing with a deep legal team that could include the best court-savvy talent Cohen could find; that would intimidating opposition for a numerically challenged government squad .

We thus have a game where Team Obama has reason to prefer dollar-settlement victories to going after individual players who have done wrong. When companies take a financial hit, however, laid-off employees pay for the dirty play of execs. In the words of Virginia U. economics prof Edwin Burton, “The villain (turns out to be) the one who sweeps the floor every night.”

Is Rodriguez a villain? There’s probably something to Baseball’s determination to punish him, something beyond Selig’s concern about his legacy. But (as we’ve said before) most fans don’t care; they’ll root for whoever takes the field for the home team, his off-the-field record notwithstanding. On the other hand, the public cares deeply about the big-bucks settlements that spare banking execs prosecution. Fans of justice would like to see the A-Rod-types of the financial league sent to the barred showers for their indictable misplays.

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Tale of Two New Managers…One in Detroit, the other in Seattle: “I said all along we’d hire (Lloyd McClendon) in a minute, but we needed to follow through with the process and see if someone knocked our socks off. And Brad did. For us, it was really that we found someone, in Brad Ausmus, we think has tremendous upside potential. If it wasn’t for that, Lloyd would have been a great choice.” – Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski (quoted by Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone.)

In Demand: Carlos Beltran said early last season they wanted to continue playing after his two-year contract with the Cardinals expired in October. St.Louis has now made him a qualifying ($14.1 million) offer for 2014. Beltran could decide that one more rigorous year at age 37 is enough, and accept the deal. He’s more likely to sign for two years elsewhere, with the Yankees and Red Sox among several teams interested.

Same Old Story: “The Mets, remember, had some $50 million come off the books as the contracts of Johan Santana, Jason Bay and Frank Francisco expired, leaving them with two guaranteed contracts for next year, belonging to David Wright and Jon Niese, worth $25 million. Yet they’re expected to add no more than $30-40 million…so their… payroll is likely to be in the same $90 million range it was last year…A record 14 franchises had payrolls of $100 million or higher, and…at least a few more clubs (c)ould be over that number next year. Which means the Mets could be in the lower third of all payrolls, despite having the third-highest local TV revenue in 2013, behind only the Yankees and the Angels… All of which makes you wonder about the ongoing speculation that owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon still have significant financial problems, perhaps going back to the Bernie Madoff scandal.” – John Harper, Daily News

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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.)



Insider’s Game in the Courts and on the Ballfield

(Posted: 11/5//13)

“Inside baseball.”  The term was used last week in a comment on a NYC judicial case growing out of the NYPD team’s “stop-and frisk” strategy.  A female Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin found that the tactic was overused and led to a “policy of indirect racial profiling.” She ordered changes in the way the frisky game was played. Three male Appeals Court judges not only halted the changes, sales try but took her off the case.  They booed Scheindlin for what legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called a conventional “inside-baseball” play – steering the long-standing lawsuit to her courtroom.  To challenge the play, canada said Toobin, was a “weird fit of pique.”

On the day that Toobin made his remarks, NY Times stat man Benjamin Hoffman wrote of a weird on-field inside-baseball incident in September involving Braves catcher Brian McCann and Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez.  The high-spirited Gomez hit a home run, celebrating as he rounded the bases; gyrating in a way old-school players like McCann consider unprofessional: “showing the pitcher up” is the term commonly used.  McCann conveyed his contempt for Gomez’s antics by – in Hoffman’s words’ – “standing in front of home plate, his mask on top of his head…body language saying clearly to Gomez ‘You shall not pass’.” (An obstruction call allowed Gomez to score.)

Most of media praised McCann for protecting the inside-baseball rule.  Hoffman was less favorably disposed, despite McCann’s leadership and “fire”: “Some observers,” he wrote, “(are) projecting a contract worth $100 million over six seasons.  But given (McCann’s) position, his recent decline in durability and an expected drop in production as he enters his 30s, he appears to be the most likely of this season’s big-ticket free agents to end up becoming an albatross for the team that signs him.”

The NYC media treated the Appeals judges more gently than did Toobin.  He believes, by the way, that, after the city’s likely next skipper, lefty Bill de Blasio, takes charge, the Appeals ruling will “go away.”

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Worth Noting: Carlos Gomez had a breakthrough 2013 season – 24 HRs, 73 RBIs, 40 SBs in 47 tries, and a BA of .284.  He’s the lone standout of the five players the Mets traded for the Twins’ Johan Santana in 2008.  Minnesota gave up on him after two seasons, trading him to Milwaukee, where he has blossomed.  Brian McCann played in only 102 games, owing to injury.  He batted .256, with 20 HRs and 57 RBIs. His caught stealing percentage was a respectable 24 pct.  The Braves have made him a $14.1 million qualifying offer for 2014, an offer he’s almost certainly expected to reject.

Tribute to Someone with More than Speed: “Jacoby Ellsbury has hit as many as ten home runs once in his career. His arm is below average. Fine. The man is a superb center fielder playing in a home park where the game from right center field to the 420 corner, with walls and angles at every turn, is a vital part of building a home field advantage…Anyone and everyone in New England should thank him, wish him luck, and if the Seattle Mariners or the San Francisco Giants or Washington Nationals want to give him what the Red Sox gave (Carl) Crawford, give him an appropriate sendoff for all that went into two rings and an extraordinary career.” Peter Gammons, Gammons Daily

Five Reasons the 2013 Giants Fell to a Fourth-Place Tie (with San Diego): Matt Cain – innings 184, 8-10, ERA 4.00;  Tim Lincecum – innings 197.2, 10-14, ERA 4.37; Barry Zito – innings 133.1, 5-11, ERA 5.74.  Angel Pagan – games 71 of 162; BA .282, HR 5, RBI 30; Marco Scutaro – games 127; BA .297, HR 2, RBI 31. All but Zito will be back with SF next season.  The Giants decided not to exercise his contract option and will give him a $7 million buyout.  Zito was 63-80 over seven seasons with the Giants.

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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.)


Teams at Home and Abroad Gird to Bolster Offense

(Posted: 11/2//13)

First, thumb it was Oakland and Billy Beane, who started the on-base-percentage trend – teams going after players who could take a walk, put the ball in play, etc., instead of the more expensive hitters for power or average. Now, with a more equitable spread of dollars, the “Ben” approach – as in Red Sox GM Ben Cherington – has supplemented Beane’s MoneyBall strategy. No more big names or big (as in long-term) contracts. Instead, go for the solid, offense-bolstering journeymen – the James Loneys, Stephen Drews, Nick Puntos, Michael Youngs, A.J. Pierzynskis. Nate McLouths, etc., as well as pitchers like Bronson Arroyo and Scott Feldman

Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo may well be among the last of the non-pitching free-agent long-termers. It will be no surprise if a rash of modest multi-year deals are soon offered middle-of-the-pack guys who in the past had to settle for single-year contracts. It should be a compelling race for durable everyday players, one we can enjoy. The lively competition for players will serve as contrast to a grim trend in the international ballpark: a contest involving production of terror-inspired offensive weaponry.

In his latest book “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield,” journalist-author Jeremy Scahill traces the basepath leading to the arms race in question:

“(A) drone strike in Yemen the day Obama was sworn in served as a potent symbol of a reality that had been clearly established during his first four years in office: U.S. unilateralism and exceptionalism were…a permanent American institution. As large-scale military deployments wound down, the United States had simultaneously escalated its use of drones, cruise missiles, and Special Ops raids in a (widening) number of countries.” Scahill quotes a Team Obama campaign anti-terrorism adviser on the resulting airborne bloodshed that could lie ahead in much of the world:

The U.S. drone program, the adviser said, was “encouraging a new arms race for drones that will empower current and future rivals and lay foundations for an international system that is increasingly violent.”

Remote-control warfare: risk-free aggression that has become the growing weaponry of choice in a world that seems doomed to endless conflict.

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Early Curtain: The season seemed to end in the bottom of the third Wednesday night. That’s when, with the bases loaded, Shane Victorino sent a 3-2 Michael Wacha fastball high off Fenway’s left field wall. It was 3-0. Said Tim McCarver: “That’s what happens when you throw a major leaguer the type of pitch he’s waiting to hit.”

Early Confidence: John Farrell must have felt Victorino had hit the clincher. Between innings, he told the retiring McCarver he’d be missed. There were six innings to go, and the lead at that point was only three runs. No matter. Farrell knew there would be no seventh game; his team would never stumble on its way to Boston’s third championship in nine years.

Departure Time? Re Derek Jeter’s signing a one-year, $12 million contract with the Yankees for 2014, SI’s Cliff Corcoran makes these observations: It’s telling that Jeter didn’t negotiate a second year or even an option onto his new deal. With Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera having retired, Jeter is now the last active player of significance from Joe Torre’s championship Yankees teams. With his body having betrayed him so often and so significantly in 2013, it seems it is finally clear to Jeter himself that his time is almost up. It’s likely that this contract will be his final one, which would make the 2014 season Derek Jeter’s last.”

Promise: We learned at NYC’s Rose Planetarium this week about “dark space,” vast regions of the universe that, to now, have eluded scientific inquiry. As of late this week, we’ve entered Baseball’s dark-space period – the three months, November, December, January – when MLB activity is comparatively quiescent. As usual, what off-season developments do occur will be monitored and reported on by The Nub.

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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.)