The Nub

The ‘Have Nots’ Challenge to Baseball and Elsewhere

(Posted: 1/28/14)

The ‘Have Nots’ Challenge in Baseball and Elsewhere

Was the Yankees’ signing of Mashiro Tanaka “good for baseball”?  On MLB-TV last week the question was pitched and batted around.  It’s good for the “haves, healing ” bad for the “have-nots, discount see ” was the consensus.  Already an encouraging  political   sign, we thought: “haves” and “have  nots” instead of “big market” and “small market” teams. .Missing, however , was mention of the logical walkoff of the verbal game: if it’s not good for all, it’s not good for baseball.

We know about the similar absence of logic when we connect the nationwide economic divide and education.  Eight states generally identified as among the country’s 10 poorest – Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky,, Tennessee, Louisiana,  and Oklahoma – are also listed as having the most inferior schools.  All are averse to asking  residents to pay a little extra in taxes to improve their educational systems.

Yet, national stats show that top-spending states get a generous payoff: they dominate math and reading proficiency exams in the country’s elementary schools.  It’s not surprising, says Michael Leachman, a director at the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities: “If you invest more in your schools, you’re going to end up with a better-educated and ultimately higher-income population.”

It’s taken Baseball more than a century to learn – and act on – that obvious investment lesson as it applies to the sport.  Team owners have seen fit to enhance the amount  of revenue-sharing and luxury tax dollars distributed to have-not teams.   But, after the combined impact of saving on A-Rod and spending on Tanaka, the Yanks stand with the Dodgers far ahead of the rest of the field.  Here is an estimate of selected 2014 team salaries (approximate until season starts): Yankees $200 million, Dodgers $220 m, Red Sox $158m,  Nationals $158m  Tigers $153m, Giants $140 m,  Blue Jays $132m, Rangers $124m, Angels $108m, Cardinals $100m, Braves $99m, Orioles $98m, Kansas City Royals $91m, Reds $88m, Mets $87m, Rays $85m, Padres $84m., Indians $84m,  Oakland A’s $72m,  Mariners $71m , Pirates $70m.

Those stats tell us, among other things, that the Yanks and, especially, the Dodgers, figure to dominate lesser-funded teams for the foreseeable future.  That may not apply this season for the Yankees.  They share a competitive edge in the AL East with the Red Sox and, perhaps, the Rays.  The Giants will be hard put to keep pace with the Dodgers as is.  If Tanaka joined the Kershaw-Greinke-Ryu-Haren rotation, the term “no contest” comes to mind.  It’s the last term Baseball should want to see in play in any of the six divisions.

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The Need for Tanaka: “The Yankees were not willing to accept the likelihood of punting another season for tax purposes. And so they obtained a 25-year-old pitcher in the prime of his career who brings stuff and celebrity to their brand. Time will tell if it was money well spent, but for the Yankees, it was money they needed to spend to stay within striking distance of the Red Sox and Rays.” – Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated

A White Sox Optimist: “I expect off-the-chart production from (Cuban first baseman Jose) Abreu. I think he’ll out-hit Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes and be a durable 600-plus plate appearance presence in the middle of the lineup.”  – Former ChiTrib columnist Phil Rogers, now with

Insensitivity: Mets GM Sandy Alderson often finds a way to entertain media people when he comments on the challenges associated with the budget-conscious Mets.  But his sense of humor on display at a writers dinner the other night – applauded by some – clearly needs work.  Alderson noted that the NY teams had each signed a Japanese pitcher during the week, but that the Mets would be paying Daisuke Matsuzaka at a minor-league rate while the Yanks had signed Mashiro Tanaka for $155 million.  He thus succeeded in insulting Dice-K while reminding restive Mets fans of the team’s continuing short rations.   Nice double play, Sandy.


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




Will Skipper Obama Play Selig’s ‘Evolution’ Game?

(Posted: 1/26/14)

It took 15 years, tadalafil search but “get it right” finally outlasted concern for the “human element” and the “pace” of major league baseball games.  Bud Selig, buy who since 1998,  resisted a system of video replaying a game’s key moments, has now relented.  He sees the value of possibly correcting missed umpiring calls through use of the latest technology.  “This is really big…I know we’re doing the right thing,” Selig said at the time the expanded system was announced.

We’re pleased that Selig’s opinion on the issue “evolved.”  Perhaps there’s hope on the political field concerning another use of technology, the expanded surveillance game being played by Skipper Obama’s NSA team.  The Skipper, we know, talked last week of scaling back parts of the team’s privacy-invasion  efforts.  But it was a speech, “calibrated” as the NY Times put it, to “reassure” rather than promise “radical change.”  The message was as unpersuasive as Selig’s early comments in defense of baseball’s reliance on human eyeballing.

After the speech, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who helped Edward Snowden disclose the extent of the surveillance game, wrote this critique of the Skipper in the UK Guardian: Obama’s primary role in our political system and his premier, defining value to the permanent power factions that run Washington (is this):  He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He’s not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.”

Greenwald, nevertheless, saw in the speech a positive sign for the future: “Obama was forced to give this speech by rising public pressure…(It) should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy.”  Waiting in the on-deck circle: Whether Snowden can ever expect to receive clemency for his whistle-blowing?                                                                              

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Ridiculous: The most dubious replay decision, we believe, excludes “the neighborhood play” from challenge.  However defensible the idea that collision injuries should be avoided when a runner is trying to break up a double play at second, allowing the relay man to record a force while standing several feet from the bag compromises the game’s integrity.  And does so in such an obvious way it can’t help but provoke fan ridicule.    

Robin’s Long Return: We thought for sure that White Sox Skipper Robin Ventura would call it quits when his contract expired at the end of this season.  Last year’s last place finish, and the probability his 2014 team won’t be competitive with the Tigers and Indians in the AL Central would insure his retirement.  What a pleasant surprise then, when Sox GM Rick Hahn announced a multi-season extension to his contract.  Ventura said last season’s adversity “solidified” his feeling about the challenge: “You get through it and you realize you love this job and what it entails. The competitive part of it is you want to see it turn around.  I think that’s another part for me. I want to be here for the foreseeable future.”

Dice-K Rolls Again: The Mets gambled that they could wait out the market for Daisuke (Dice-K) Matsuzaka, and the strategy worked.  Matsuzaka finished 2013 impressively, winning four straight not long after joining the Mets in late summer (and losing his first three decisions).  Still, the Mets were able to sign him to a minor league contract.  He’ll have a shot at making the team’s starting rotation.

The Campaign for Stephen Drew (cont.): “(Drew’s arrival in Boston…(saw his) power c(o)me back, (and)  the defense came back. He started to look like the pre-injury Drew all over again. He was 30 instead of 27, but the things that grabbed you before started grabbing you again. He missed time in early July, but his (.253 BA, 13 HRs  and) 501 Plate Appearances was more than enough to justify his $9.5 million salary.” – Neil Weinberg, Daily Gammons


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


The Man Who Led Players from Pay Inequality to Prosperity

(Posted: 1/21/14)

On yesterday’s celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday, ampoule major league ballplayers had reason to celebrate the 86th anniversary of the birth of another black leader, with whom they were more closely involved, the late Curt Flood.  Only a few of them, however, are aware of why Flood should be remembered with gratitude: he was the man who started players on the road, first, to economic equality, then to prosperity.  After being traded from the Cardinals to the Phillies in late 1969, Flood decided to challenge in the courts the right of team owners to control where he played, as well as his earning power.  The challenge, which cost Flood his livelihood, ultimately freed players from that control.  Their minimum salary, $12,000 in 1970, rose to $200,000 by 2000.  Today, that minimum average is around half-a- million.

Comparing the plight of Flood and his fellow players – the “well-paid slaves” of nearly a half-century ago – to working people today is instructive, if seemingly far-fetched. The players had to accept a minimum wage, if that’s all their owners offered.  They could reject the arrangement, but, in so doing, sacrifice their job, as Flood did..  Today, service workers or non-union employees in other industries are at the mercy, not only of their owners, but of the government.  If in 1970, Team USA had connected the minimum wage to the inflationary game, low-income workers would be making $10.74 an hour today instead of $7.25.

Their union is a major reason the players are doing so well.  Organized labor on the ballfield or in non-sporting working places has financial clout.  When a third of the country’s employees were union members in 1950, real wages were rising 81 percent.  Bosses as well as workers benefited from the gains.  Today, the union figure is down to 11 percent while the value of real wages stays flat. A main reason; an anti-Labor rally begun by the right in the 1970s persists as 2014 begins.  As that rally drove unions from the field, income inequality exploded:  the most recent stat – from 1993 to 2012 – showed, according to UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, that in real income, the top 99 percent scored an 86 pct. rise compared to a 6.6 for the rest of us.  The correlation between union clout and a more equal economic playing field is no coincidence.

Since Red Sox Nation Senator Elizabeth Warren and NYC’s Sox-fan Mayor Bill de Blasio have taken the field – Warren two years ago, De Blasio two weeks ago – the left has begun a rally of its own.  A hopeful sign appeared Saturday n the NY Times: “(A) plan (for sick pay for working people), a stark show of force by the city’s new liberal establishment, is the first in a series of labor- and immigrant-friendly laws that (the) Mayor…is expected to champion.” 

It’s the sort of hope Curt Flood gave his fellow players 44 years ago.  (A sad footnote:  Flood died of throat cancer in 1997, his finances near the poverty-level).

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Tanaka Time:  Here’s the consensus lineup of teams still in the playoff for Japanese ace Mashiro Tanaka: In the AL, the Yankees and White Sox; in the NL, the Dodgers, Cubs and D-backs. A decision is due from Japan before the end of the week. Our hunch as to the winner: The Yankees, on the basis of the franchise’s urgent felt need – to return from respectability to certain playoff-caliber level.

Overkill?:  The reported possibility the Nationals will sign former A’s closer Grant Balfour to their already loaded roster that includes the team’s last-year’s closer Rafael Soriano.

Farming at an Upper Level: A few days ago, Baseball America gave the Pittsburgh franchise a boost by naming it owner of the MLB’s best 2013 farm system. The Pirates replace the Cardinals, voted top farm system in 2012.  The nod to the Pirates was based on the number and quality of prospects.  Under a different measure,  Baseball America reported in December that the Astros system had the best 2013 performance record over the six minor league levels, ranging from Triple-A to Rookie.

More Farming Stats: A check by The Nub of the published list of 84 minor league all-stars, 14 from each level, showed the Rockies’ system with the most, eight.  Only two of 30 teams, Milwaukee and Washington, failed to place a single farmhand all-star.  The Nationals’ system, however, was third in performance record, behind Houston and San Francisco., and just ahead of the Mets. Milwaukee was 28th, ahead of Cleveland and Cincinnati.

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



Game-Changing in Yankee Stadium and North Carolina

(Posted: 1/18/11)

Who cares about Alex Rodriguez and his dope-y cocktails?  We do.  Not because of the MLB-A-Rod cat-and-mouse saga, discount try but concern about its aftermath.  At the center of that concern: the Yankees.  Many of us who long resented the inequality embodied by the too-rich-to-fail Pinstripers became Yankee-sympathizers last season.  Watching them play the the same cost-conscious game that perplexes nearly all other teams made Joe Girardi’s valiants almost endearing.

Now, sildenafil look with the roughly $25 million windfall resulting from A-Rod’s suspension, the Yanks will again be able to buy their way into the playoffs.  Can there be any doubt that they will obtain Mashiro Tanaka for their rotation?  Only the Dodgers can prevent that happening.  And one suspects the super-wealthy West Coast franchise recognizes that, to add Tanaka to a staff that already includes Clayton Kershaw, Josh Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, etc., would  make redundant its already awesome edge.

No matter how dramatic the updated change in the 2014 Yankees, it’s bush-league stuff compared to the game-changing status that has taken place in North Carolina’s political ballpark.  The Tar Heel state team turned mostly blue in 2008, its fans cheering Barack Obama, a Dem governor, U.S. Senator, most of its Congressional roster and a solid lineup of state legislators to elective victory.  Today, thanks in great part to an infusion of outside righthand-hitting money, Team GOP has taken control of the governorship, the courts, a hefty majority of Congressional seats, and both houses of what is now a veto-proof state legislature.

The pull-to-right team tailored state electoral districts its way, and put into play a grand slam voter- suppression game. Meanwhile, it has cut funding for education, medical services for the poor, unemployment insurance, while also cutting taxes paid by corporations and inheritors of family fortunes.  The scorecard shows a resounding defeat for democracy and all people of the state.

Similar outside-cash-funded conservative efforts are under way in roughly two dozen states.  Protest movements like “Moral Mondays” in North Carolina (featured earlier this month on Bill Moyers’ PBS program) are signs of catch-up democratic rallies in some of them.  The real hope, however, is action by federal court umpires, calling for replays and   rollbacks of possible unconstitutional play by the moneyed right.  Meanwhile, the Dem team has been a trailing, but playing a competitive game in its home ballparks.  The score for the moment: Team GOP 23 (states); Dems 13; Mixed Control 13.

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On A-Rod’s Impact:  Rodriguez unwittingly did his fellow players a huge disservice by bringing this case to arbitration.  Baseball now has the power to impose penalties beyond what people thought they could.” – Veteran labor lawyer Joseph Farelli (quoted in the NY Times)

Recommendations…either implied or explicit from MLB –TV’s Ron Darling and Dan Plesac:  Darling to Ray Price – “Go for something like a 20-10 season this year” to insure a big payday in advance of his becoming a free agent (after 2015).  Plesac to Don Mattingly – “The contract extension with the Dodgers doesn’t mean (he’s) secure” That big-spending organization (Plesac suspects), won’t be satisfied with anything less than the team reaching the World Series.

Mediocrity a Maybe: SI’s Winter Report Card on the Mets:  “New York stands assured of a climb back up the win column from its 74 wins the last two seasons. If everything goes right, it may even have a winning record this year.”

Hope on the Horizon:  Spring training begins less than a month  from now – February 6: the D-backs open camp then, an early start to permit their preparing for official games in Australia against the Dodgers on March 22 and 23.

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(Comments on Nub issues can only be addressed by Skipper Dick Starkey, at



Here’s to Baseball Now, and Politics, Too

(Posted: 1/14/14)

Some summers ago, best while traveling near Cooperstown, usa NY, we went out of our way to visit Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  The tour of exhibits – statues, photos, artifacts, historical narratives – celebrating the game’s honorees left us unmoved.  The memorabilia seemed musty and lifeless.

The visit had a payoff, however, which we found on the Hall’s front lawn: a scoreboard brought us up to date on results from previous night’s games.  That alone made the detour worthwhile.  We realized then, that for all the emphasis on the game’s past – the former heroes and their feats – it was Baseball now that mattered.

We think of the experience each time the media make their annual fuss over election to the Hall.  The weeks of campaigning, partisan debate, electoral intrigue serve only to fill the off-season gap in real Baseball news.  While happy for Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, we’d be happier still if they would just be named with a simple announcement and honored at Cooperstown the following summer.

Our thoughts about the Hall of Fame itself are unapologetically political: the people who run the place betrayed their conservative bias not long ago when they cancelled a showing of the movie “Bull Durham” because its stars, scheduled to be on hand, were lefty activists Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins; both had been critical of President George W. Bush.

The media’s periodic tendency to deify (or denigrate) former presidents can, as with Hall of Famers, become excessive.  The millions of words devoted to the mixed record of John F. Kennedy’s three years as Skipper (let’s not talk about his personal life) exemplify that excess. JFK’s on-the-job record is incomplete and probably, therefore, undeserving of so much attention: we’ll never know, crucially, whether he would have rallied our effort in Vietnam or signaled a leaving of the field.  Ronald Reagan is remembered for earning the gratitude of conservatives.  His oft-noted righthanded achievement – persuading an electoral majority of Americans that “government can’t do it” – is still depressingly influential.  Lyndon Johnson failed the nation on Vietnam; that failure blemishes his ever-expanding media legacy.  But, 50 years after he declared war on poverty, LBJ received this welcome, because up-to-date, shout-out from Times lefty Paul Krugman:

“Evidence…points to a big improvement in the lives of America’s poor: lower-income Americans are much healthier and better-nourished than they were in the 1960…For example, children who had access to food stamps were healthier and had higher incomes in later life than people who didn’t.”     

Amid today’s glaring inequality-of-life contagion, that’s no small accomplishment.

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The Stephen Drew Campaign:  There’s no doubt the Red Sox want Drew back. They have publicly stated that. They’d prefer a one-year contract, but (Scott) Boras is pushing for a two-year deal. One of the factors for the Red Sox is Drew’s veteran presence and the fact that they would be going into the season with rookies up the middle in Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and in Jackie Bradley Jr. center field, and then another young player, Will Middlebrooks, at third base… We’ll see how it turns out, but the Sox’ staff is rooting for Drew’s return…” – Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe

Win Some, Lose Some:  The Rangers scored big when adding Shin Soo Choo to their roster, only to lose starter Derek Holland for the first part of the season, owing to a stairway stumble at home.

 Unsweetened Words:  SI’s Cliff Corcoran, putting together winter report cards on the 30 MLB teams, summarized his review of the Miami Marlins in this pithy fashion: “When your best move is spending $21 million on Jarrod Saltalamacchia, you didn’t have a great offseason.”

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


Could There Be a Positive Impact of Polar Vortex on MLB?

(Posted: 1/11/13)

A heavy hitter named “Polar Vortex, discount pharmacy ” made a dramatic debut this week at ballparks around the MLB Nation. The freakishness of its frigid whirlwind slam through the East, buy Midwest and beyond should be a wake-up call for Baseball schedule-makers. Weather scientists say there’s no reason why PV can’t reappear during the early part of the season. April “snow-outs” in Denver, Minneapolis and other cold-belt cities are, we know, already commonplace, as are raw, cold days elsewhere in the region. A remedial rally is long overdue.

By our amateur count, 13 teams – seven on the West Coast, including Arizona and Seattle, with its dome, three in the Southeast, two in Texas, and one indoors in Toronto – could host early- April match-ups. That would leave four teams and two match-ups, perhaps in New Orleans and Puerto Rico. True, the arrangement would undercut enthusiasm in cities where opening day wouldn’t occur until the season was two weeks old. But Polar Vortex reminds us that weather wins – or should win – when the alternative is nothing worse than inconvenience.

Political Side of the Field: The weather scorebook tells us Polar Vortex is just polar cold air that usually plays close to home. This week it went on a road trip. Greg Laden, who tracks the elements for National Geographic, says the phenomenon is not sending a political message: “We are not seeing an expansion of cold, an ice age, or an anti-global warming phenomenon. We are seeing the usual cold polar air taking an excursion. So, this cold weather we are having does not disprove global warming.”

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Tanaka-Based Snap Quiz: Name the team to which this report refers – “This is as good a time as any to splurge, because (Mashiro) Tanaka is a free agent at a relatively young age, has more upside than any other available pitcher, won’t cost a Draft pick and the________ badly need high-upside starting pitching.” – Yankees? D-backs? Rockies? Guess again. Source: Alden Gonzalez,, on the LA Angels.

Descent: Vernon Wells could take the year off, if he wanted to, and be paid $24 million, owed by the Yankees, Angels and Blue Jays. Wells, whose production plummeted after the Jays traded him to the Angels three years ago, was released by the Yanks yesterday. He batted .233 and hit 15 HRs in 130 games with the NYYs in 2013; that was three BA points and four HRS more than Wells registered in 77 games with the Angels in 2012. His stats in his last of 12 seasons with Toronto (2010) – .273 and 31 HRs in 157 games were close to his productive norm while with the Blue Jays. His fade has been as dramatic as it was disappointing to the Angels and Yanks.

Renewal? The bet here is that Jeff Francoeur, who signed a minor-league contract with Cleveland, will make the Indians’ open-day roster. Francoeur has started fast almost everywhere he’s played – Atlanta, New York, Texas, Kansas City – only to lose momentum. Or was it discipline at the plate? Fans at each stop – except briefly at SF at the end of last season – loved him…for awhile. Maybe “Frenchy” will find renewed focus under Terry Francona.

Likeminded: Red Sox and American Songbook fan Jonathan Schwartz (on WNYC-FM), assessing the sporting outlook in cold early January, with Baseball still a month away – “There is no hope.”

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



Lefthanders Rallying on Both Fields

(Posted: 1/7/14)

The new year has begun quietly for Baseball fans, sales sales but it is a hopeful quiet. Between now and opening day, all but a few of them can enjoy prime time: Well over half the 30 teams can claim that, as of now, owing to off-season upgrades, they have a legitimate playoff shot. How many of them are bona-fide World Series contenders may not become clear until we see which team snares the expected ace from Japan, Masahiro Tanaka.

In any event, with optimism rampant, there’s added reason to welcome the off-season’s last non-Baseball month. On the political field, 2014 starts with similar elation felt by fans of a suddenly left-leaning Dem team. What Tanaka will mean to whichever club he is destined to join, NYC’s new Mayor Bill de Blasio means to lefty Dems. Almost defiantly liberal, de Blasio has rallied progressives well beyond his home city. Indeed, wirh Connecticut’s Skipper Dan Malloy next door, Martin O’Malley down the coastal baseline, managing Maryland, and Jerry Brown (one of three leftish West Coast governors) skippering California, the Dems have southpaw exec strength at both ends of the national ballfield.

De Blasio’s impact has already reached the would-be presidential warm-up bullpen. Red Sox Nation’s Senator Elizabeth Warren is now seen by the left as a serious prez prospect; they note her consistency as a hitter against income inequality while front-runner Hillary Clinton is known for playing ball with Wall Street. The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky sees Bill Clinton’s swearing-in of de Blasio as a sign the Clintons – Hillary, in particular – want to join publicly in a new ballgame:

“Clinton thinks that De Blasio-style left-leaning populism represents something real within the Democratic Party…The Clintons must be thinking (that) a symbolic hitch-up to that wagon…could make Elizabeth Warren, and all the liberal money people who are keen on her, think twice.”

On the other hand, if Hillary’s restive fans don’t see her moving closer to the left field line from her place in left-center, it is they who may be thinking twice.

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Nobody Asked, But: Surveying the list of, roughly, 40 still-unsigned free-agent starting pitchers, we’re surprised that, among affordable ones still out there, the following have not been locked up: ex-Yankee and Red Sox swing man Alfredo Aceves, despite his mercurial temperament; former Braves Tommy Hanson and Paul Maholm, despite Hanson’s injury history, and ex-Mets Chris Capuano (also a former Dodger) and Daisuke Matzusaka, despite their general unpredictability. Also surprising, as a worth-a-shot bargain: Bruce Chen, the much-traveled lefty (10 teams in 15 years, the last four with KC).

Hole-y Damage: Respected ChiTrib columnist Phil Rogers puts the Yankees and Reds one-two on his list of “most damaged” teams, as of the new year. The retirement of Mariano Rivera and the loss of free agent Robinson Cano put Brian Cashman in a hole out of which he’s yet to dig, in Rogers’ view. Here is what he says about the Reds: “The Joey Voto contract seems to be doing for the Reds what Joe Mauer’s did for the Twins. As close as Cincinnati has been in recent years, there was little money for GM Walt Jocketty to spend. He’ll cross his fingers and hope Billy Hamilton can fill the hole left by Choo’s departure.”

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