“Another year, cure another run for it.” Detroit’s Victor Martinez said it about his team’s annual World Series aspirations. The Tigers, like the Cardinals in the NL, are aiming for their fourth straight playoff season. None of the other 28 teams has matched them in recent post-season-achieving success. A willingness to spend to fill immediate roster gaps and productive farm systems have been the framework of a persistent focus – that of remaining dominant in their divisions and all of baseball.
The consistency achieved by the Braves and Yankees over the past two decades will be difficult to match. But relentlessness has come to characterize more and more teams, from the A’s to the Rays. Team USA has been unwavering in its determination to rebuild its farm system in South America, with its main focus on Venezuela and its black gold. The record book for the past decade-and-a-half shows this: from the time new Skipper Hugo Chavez moved the oil-rich farm team to an independent league, Team USA undercover players have repeatedly started bench-clearing ruckuses in hopes of reclaiming the franchise.
The dirty play is going on now, with anti-government protests cheered by Team Obama and condemned by Venezuela’s league-mates throughout the continent. Even the NY Times, considered in Caracas the Yanquis’ semi-official mouthpiece, suggested Saturday that the O-team’s strategy was misconceived: “regional and internal dynamics are increasingly drifting away from Washington…(there is a) declining influence of American diplomacy in the region .” Perhaps aware of the trend, Skipper Obama has let coach John Kerry do the anti-Caracas jawing in his stead..
Kerry’s involvement is a reminder that we can add South America to the Middle East and, perhaps, the Asian Pacific and Africa, as areas where respect for – and fear of – Team USA is on the wane.
– – –
Sounds Reasonable: The key provision of the new home plate collision rule: “Catchers can block the plate if they catch the ball before a runner arrives, but the catcher cannot block the path of runner trying to score. If catcher does block in such fashion, the runner will be called safe.”
The Newest Oriole: “(Nelson) Cruz…is the first free agent extended a qualifying offer ($14.1 million) to fare much worse in the end, as he landed a contract (8m) worth just 57 percent of that total…(His stats) do not portend well for a 33-year-old power hitter who is coming off a PED suspension. He still should be much more productive than the left-field combo the Orioles trotted out last year — his .808 OPS from 2011-13 is more than 100 points better — and he’ll be playing in another home ballpark that’s favorable to power hitters.” – Joe Lemire, Sports Illustrated
Prognostication: “The playoff spot (in the AL East) is going through one or the other.” – Reliever Matt Thornton, who played briefly with the Red Sox and is now with the Yankees. (quoted by Ken Davidoff, NY Post) We know, he’s not talking about the Rays, Orioles, or the Blue Jays, who now have an added incentive to muscle into the scramble.
Rays of Optimism: “Because of the unbalanced schedule, there’s a good chance all five teams in the AL East will finish over .500…We’re feeling good about our team; our scouts say they’ve never seen so much depth going into the season.” – Rays GM Andrew Friedman
(More of The Nub, a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey, can be found at perfectpitcher.org)