The Nub

Insider Games Abound in the National Ballpark

(Posted 4/29/14)

Noteworthy during the Michael Pineda pine-tar flap the other night was the reticence of John Farrell and Joe Girardi to participate in the fuss. They clearly consider the outlawed usage cutting a corner rather than outright cheating. The message: baseball insiders would like to look the other way, buy buy and leave it at that. Yet, tadalafil stuff if Baseball rules say pitchers can’t use a foreign substance when facing batters, what are we fans to think about this insider attitude? One thing’s for sure: we don’t like being treated as outsiders.

It happens all the time in the politics game. Someone is caught cutting corners and, rather than punish the perpetrator, his teammates call for an investigation. The usual outcome of that exercise is an inconclusive finding. End of embarrassment. Team Obama has used a delay-of-game play to postpone until after the election a decision on a different kind of tar-related matter: whether to approve construction of the Keystone pipeline, which would carry tar-sands oil across the Midwest from Canada. The delay smacks of insider maneuvering even though the State Department says it needs more time to gauge public opinion on the project, which it is required to do. The scorecard shows 2.5 million fans going to bat for or against Keystone. That would be persuasive were it not for this fact: the delay provides members of both Teams, GOP and the Dems, a chance to make their pre-election pitch, for or against the tar sands oil line.

Where does The Nub stand on Keystone? Here’s a sign: its birddogs in Canada say supporters refer to the fuel source as “oil sands.” Opponents say, as we do, the more toxic “tar sands.”

 The ‘I’-Game (reprise): Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however…get a chance to push their ideas…But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.”  – Larry Summers to Elizabeth Warren, quoted by her in ‘A Fighting Chance’

The Insiders’ Enabler: “The president chose his team, and when there was only so much time or money to go around, the president’s team chose Wall Street.” – Warren (in her book), describing the Skipper’s response to the financial crisis of 2008

– – –

 Stat City .255, 283, 309: Those are the BA numbers Charlie Blackmon has put up in three part-time seasons with the Rockies. His current .389 pace will not hold up, but he deserves a shout-out for his remarkable April performance on the cusp of May. Then there’s Aaron Harang, picked off the pitching scrap heap by the Mets late last summer, and then signed as a free agent by the Braves in late March. His 0.85 ERA (3-1) is by far the most impressive in either league.

Returnee: Robinson Cano returns to Yankee Stadium with the Mariners tonight, owning a .301 BA, 11 RBIs and only a single HR in 24 games. He clearly misses the right field porch in what used to be his home park. Durable as always, he hasn’t missed a game. The Mariners are 10-14, in fourth place in the AL West, five games behind Oakland/the Rangers.

Windy City Worries? Little noticed at the time, Dale Sveum complained about the way the Cubs’ Theo Epstein laid him off as skipper after two seasons. Sveum said he was “blindsided,” expecting to be given more time – he had another year on his contract – since everyone knew the Cubs faced a long rebuilding process. Now Sveum’s successor Rick Renteria is likely worried about his predecessor’s fate and the possibility Epstein might again become impatient. The Cubs have fallen 10 games behind in their division, and April is still not over.

Prime Vacancies: The NY Post’s Phil Mushnick notes that, even for special games, like those pitting the Yankees against the Angels, prime Stadium seats are empty. Why? Cost of single box seat: $850, up from $250 a year ago, and $90 in 2012. Yet, Bud Selig says he checked and found Stadium seats overall to be “affordable.”

‘We’re Not Going Away’ Messages:  Milwaukee’s 5-3 victory over the Cardinals, putting the Brewers five-and-a-half ahead of the defending league champs in the NL Central; Oakland’s 5-0 shutout of the Rangers in Texas. The A’s thus reclaimed sole possession of the AL West lead. Also notable last night: San Diego’s come-from-behind 6-4 victory, ending the Giants’ four-game winning streak.


(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.)



Cutting Players on Both Fields and Regretting It

(Posted 4/26/14)

Cutting Players on Both Fields and Regretting It

Mets Skipper Terry Collins foresaw the possibility that dealing Ike Davis away to the Pirates would backfire.  But GM Sandy Alderson and his brain trust could not tolerate the team carrying a .203-hitting first baseman any longer.  Now Davis has added possible oomph to the Bucs’ offense, sale prostate including a record-setting grand slam against the Reds.  Who can blame Mets fans for thinking “Oh, ampoule how we could use that bat.”  The Red Sox felt they couldn’t afford to hold on to Jacoby Ellsbury (.330, patient 13 runs, 11 RBIs, eight SBs in 23 games).  The team’s fans must now suspect they can’t repeat without him.

Similarly, Team Obama has reason to regret decisions involving key personnel as well as strategy; they have eroded the Dem fan base as the mid-term and 2016 electoral playoffs approach.  By now, Dems throughout the national grandstand know the Skipper’s signing finance insiders Tim Geithner and Larry Summers was a crucial tactical misplay.  It exposed the team as overly cautious, unwilling to risk the boos of people in the corporate boxes.  Perhaps the worst mistake at the time was the signal the O-team sent when it cut loose the scrappy Elizabeth Warren. Instead of appointing her to head the Consumer Protection outfit she helped organize, Team Obama – including, reportedly, the Skipper himself – considered Warren politically “radioactive”.  Therefore, rather than rile the opposition, she had to go.

Now Warren, a brush-back consumer-protecting

Senator, is a reminder of how badly the Skipper has

disappointed his progressive fans. The bad news for

progressives: As of now, the anti-Warren-for-

President team includes Warren herself.

                                        –     –      –

Stat City: Division with largest gap between first and last teams: NL Central, Cubs nine-and-a-half behind Brewers.  Division with smallest gap: AL Central, Tigers two-and-a-half ahead of Indians. Best road teams: Brewers, 10-1; Oakland, 10-2; best home teams: Marlins, Rangers, 9-4

Worst Case for Curtis? Let’s face it: the Mets, a team of solid starters but inoffensive regulars, can hope at best to reach .500 this season, no matter what Curtis Granderson does.  But, as others have mentioned, the four-year, $60 million contract he signed to play at CitiField sounded disconcertingly like the four-year, $67 million one Jason Bay received from Omar Minaya in 2009.  Bay, who hit 36 HRs his last year with the Red Sox, managed just 26 total over three forgettable years with the Mets. He had just six HRS his first injury-plagued season with the NYMs.  Granderson has a total of one as April draws to a close, and is batting .141. The pressure on Curtis, suddenly the man, power-wise, on a new team, is intense and could, as with Bay, affect him long-term. That’s at least remotely possible since he played just a supportive role with the Tigers and Yankees.  For the moment, the pressure builds.

Simplification: Michael Kay, speaking for many, on YES, after umpires took 2:42 minutes to resolve a challenge during Yanks-Red Sox game Thursday night: “You can eliminate the word “instant” from “Instant Replay.”

Late Scores: Rockies 5, Dodgers 4;  Giants 5, Indians 1; Arizona 5, Phillies 4; Seattle 6, Texas 5; Oakland 12, Houston 5.


  (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.)


Betrayals in Both Pastimes, and in the Press as Well

(Posted 4/22/14)

Light Post-Holiday Workout. Baseball’s betrayal of would-be African-American players is touched on by pinch-hitter Bob Nightengale in this USA article. It does not include the economics of MLB teams’ concentration on player recruitment in Latin America. There, check owing to lack of age and school-attendance restrictions that exist here, sales find exploitation of young recruits is rife. Still, the piece is recommended.

Team Obama’s resort to bluster and belligerence with regard to Russia betrays a bankruptcy in our foreign policy. That the NY Times plays in lock-step with that hypocritical game – the headline “Russia Is Quick to Bend Truth About Ukraine” a breathtaking example – is a betrayal of its readers. It was, after all, neo-Nazis who helped trigger the turmoil in Kiev (aided by teams from the U.S. and European Union). Journalist/author Robert Parry, another pinch-hitter, has this explanation for the way the game is going:

“The American mainstream news media has rarely bought in so thoroughly to a U.S. government propaganda campaign as it has in taking sides in support of the post-coup government in Ukraine and against Russia and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Part of this is explained by the longstanding animus toward Russian President Vladimir Putin for his autocratic style…and his government’s opposition to gay rights. Another part is a hangover from the Cold War when the Russkies were the enemy….” – Consortium News

What stands out: the influence of Gay Rights, an issue whose impact has extended far beyond our national ballpark. That Putin bailed out the Skipper after he “red-lined” Syria no longer gets a purposeful pass from Team Obama or people in the press box..

Oh, Those O’s: Over Saturday and Sunday, the Orioles more than doubled their number of errors for the season – from three to seven. In so doing, they yielded first place in that fielding department to the Astros. On Sunday and Monday, the O’s managed to blow five- and six-run leads, losing by a run Sunday, but squeaking through to a 7-6 win in the Monday Boston Marathon day matinee.

Overdue: Time to acknowledge that the Brewers may be for real. They have taken a four-game lead in the NL Central, the largest margin in either league. Milwaukee has won four straight in their latest surge.

Message to All Those Disgruntled About Replay System: It’s the new normal in baseball, and we’ll all adjust to it, just like we adjusted to interleague play, expanded playoffs, and — yeah, I’m old — the designated hitter. The alternative — blatantly bogus calls being allowed to stand — is untenable.” – Larry Stone, Seattle Times

Late Scores: Phillies 7, Dodgers 0; Rockies 8, Giants 2, Rangers 4, Oakland 3; Astros 7, Mariners 2


 (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.)


Lowering the Ball-Talk and Pro-Hillary Pitch

 (Posted 4/19/14)

While watching the Red Sox-Yanks game on ESPN last Sunday night, search we got tired of Dan Shulman and John Kruk’s act: they kept talking, talking, talking, as if silence for a few seconds would cost them their jobs.  We turned down the sound and switched to ESPN radio, but the game wasn’t on in NYC.  So, with the Yanks ahead by a few runs, we called it a night.

Next day we received this e-mail from a Los Angeles loyalist Chris LaSalle: I don’t know if you watch the MLB Network, but I don’t like this culture of talk show hosts who yell. The show I’m referring specifically to is called High Heat with Chris Russo (they call him Mad Dog)…The yelling takes the fun out of baseball.”

Too much talk, too much yelling are turnoffs here, and apparently elsewhere.  And the triple play of offensiveness includes hard-sell propaganda.  It happens during Yankee games on YES every once in awhile.  The likable Ken Singleton falls into the trap of over-praising pinstripers.  On the political field, NY’s Skipper Andrew Cuomo pushes too hard to promote his policies.  But for us, the most low-bridging pol-propaganda campaign is the one besieging the public on behalf of likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  

A well-funded team backing Clinton called “Ready for Hillary” has preempted the field of potential Dem presidential nominees thanks, in large part, to media attention: “Massive 82% of Democrats want Hillary Clinton to run for president,” proclaimed the NY Times, reporting on a poll co-sponsored by the paper.  “Hillary is jogging around the (Dem presidential) track by herself,” was the much publicized report of a Quinnipiac Poll.   Her husband’s onetime adviser James Carville called Hillary the “presumptive” 2016 Democratic nominee in a network TV appearance.

Mrs. Clinton’s checkered recent record includes going to bat for the finance industry and a less-than-stellar stint as Secretary of State.  On finance, she reportedly told Goldman Sachs execs late last year that “beating up” Wall Street “had to stop.” A front-page story in The Times commented on her foreign policy scorecard this way last Thursday: “From…the grinding civil war in Syria to the latest impasse in the Middle East peace process, the turbulent world is now defying Mrs. Clinton’s attempts to articulate a tangible diplomatic legacy.”  “Presumptuous” would thus seem to be a more apt description of her would-be candidacy.

If there’s a ray of hope that an alternative to Hillary will emerge, it appeared the other day with a pre- publication review in the New Yorker of progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren’s autobiography “A Fighting Chance.” Warren, a Red Sox Nation office-holding rookie, has repeatedly disavowed any plan to compete in the 2016 presidential race. 

So what follows – from the New Yorker article – should not count as pre-2016 propaganda:  “(Warren’s) story includes this fact: for a time she was a (divorced) single mother. Her brief is really about the abandonment of children, not by women who go to school or to work but by legislatures and courts that have allowed the nation’s social and economic policies to be made by corporations and bankers…’Divorce, an unhappy second marriage, a serious illness, no job,’ (Warren writes, about the plight of many women) A turn here, a turn there, and my life might have been different, too’…(She)…insist(s) on the existence of a relationship between caring for other people and caring about politics…Writing about her children and grandchildren, (she ) argu(es) about where our real debts lie.” – (Jill Lepore)

Warren has no foreign policy experience.  She differs from Clinton, too, in that she passed on becoming a White House “insider.”  It happened while she was serving on a Congressional panel monitoring the 2008 seven-hundred-billion-dollar bank bailout.  Larry Summers took her to dinner and told her she had an insider opportunity about which there was an unbreakable rule: Insiders “don’t criticize other insiders.” “You get the sense,” says Lepore, “that, over that dinner, she decided to run for office.”

If “A Fighting Chance” does nothing more than insure emergence of an expanded lineup of Dem players in the party’s presidential playoff, it will be remembered as an invaluable political rally-starter.

                                                                      –      –       –

What We Know:  Although it’s still only April, the Dodgers and Giants have made it clear they will dominate the NL West.  The Nationals and Braves, less clearly the class of their division, look like the good bets they’re supposed to be.  It’s the Cardinals and…take your pick, in the NL Central. Except for the Tigers in their Central division and possibly the A’s in theirs, the AL looks wide open.  One thing clear in the East: unlike last year, the Yankees are back and figure to be in thick of it come September.

D’back Depression: “You get worn down mentally when you’re not performing well by yourself.  When the whole team is doing it and everyone around you is in that same boat, and the team isn’t winning and nothing positive is happening, you don’t really have anything to hang on to.” – Arizona pitcher Brandon McCarthy, after team lost its sixth straight and fell to an MLB-worst 4-14 (5-14, after last night).

Stat City:  The Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton looks to be matching his potential at last: 26 RBIs to lead the MLB, and six HRs in 17 games.  The Rockies lead in team hitting with a .296 BA, Atlanta in pitching, with a 2:28 ERA, and the Orioles in fielding – only three errors in 15 games.

Late Friday Night Scores: Arizona 4, Dodgers 2; San Diego 2, Giants 1; Colorado 12, Philadelphia 1, Oakland 11, Houston 3; Texas 12, White Sox 0;


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

Who’s Number One? Not Our Team

(Posted 4//15/14)

Two weeks into the season and teams – especially in the American League – remain tightly packed.  How wonderful it would be if such crunchy competitiveness persisted into the September stretch.  We know it won’t.   Superior depth, sales ed key players kept healthy, tadalafil plain good luck, tadalafil and oh, yes, money, will spread out the field; fan and media attention will focus on the front-runners: the Dodgers, Tigers, Nationals, and, perhaps, a surprise team or two in the other divisions.

Too bad it can’t be otherwise.  Equality has a lot to offer.  We’ve become numb from hearing about the need for greater equality of income.  Most days we can read about the price we’re paying in the national ballpark for the gap between our first-stringers and bench-sitters. But now we can see the consequences of that gap: the distance we’ve slumped from the days when we could boast that “We’re Number One” in almost every category of performance.  An international group of respected birddogs checked out 23 world-league teams for their skills in math, reading and problem-solving.  Their report confirms our near-doormat standing in the world-wide competition today. The stats show Team USA finishing a dismal 21st in math, 16th in reading and 14th in problem-solving. 

Behind those numbers an all-too-familiar finding: The performance gap between our college graduates and high school-only prospects is larger than anywhere else.  National Journal scout Ron Brownstein sums up the scorecard’s message this way: While the U.S. continues to nurture islands of spectacular achievement, it is less committed than its competitors to maximizing the potential of all of its people. The flagship U.S. colleges and universities, which still recruit disproportionately from affluent white families, spend at least twice as much per student and produce far better results in graduation and employment than the less-selective public…institutions that enroll most of the growing numbers of minority students.”

Just as the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox are likely to finish near, or atop the MLB in box office receipts, so does success in our education game attract a big league payoff.  In the words of an expert Georgetown U. observer, “Every new dollar in the American system only goes toward the winners.”  That suggests this revised slogan: “Some of Us Are Number One.”

                                                             –      –       –

Stat City: The Orioles, with only three errors in 13 games, hold the team-fielding lead.  The Rockies lead in hitting average, but the Braves, with 20 HRs in 13 games, lead in that category.

Shifty: Rays Skipper Joe Maddon was asked why he bothered putting a shift on when Robinson Cano, who hits to all fields, comes to bat.  “He’s a great hitter, I know,” said Maddon, “but I thought, if nothing else, it would get him thinking.”  – quoted by John Flaherty, on YES

How’s He Doing? In the early going, Cano has been hitting well – 15 for 46, .326, in 12 games.  He’s experienced something of a power shortage, only five RBIs, two extra-base hits, and no HRs, so far.

Late Monday Scores: Seattle 7, Texas 1; Oakland 3, Angels 2; San Diego 5, Colorado 4; Mets 7, D-backs 3.


 (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 Double-Play and Double-Talk in Both Pastimes

(Posted 4/12/14)

Some teams, cheap like the Diamondbacks last season and Red Sox so far this year, sales are snake-bit by double plays. The seldom-on-base Mets are spared that embarrassment; they have been victimized more by double-talk than twin-killings. Fred Wilpon’s front-office people have insisted for the last five years that losses incurred in Bernie Madoff’s schemes have not hurt the team’s payroll. Yet the amount expended on players each season has plummeted since Mets owners took the Madoff hit. It was $140 million pre-Madoff (2008), compared to $89 million now. 

“Separate” is the word used for deniability purposes; as in Madoff losses are charged against different parts of the Wilpon empire, separate from that of the team. The penny-pinching approach, putting the cause aside, was supposed to end this season. GM Sandy Alderson changes the subject when the payroll comes up. He talks instead about the underfinanced team being ready to win 90 games. 

Politicians do double-talk almost as well as baseball people. Indeed, the back office members of Team Obama hit a new high for duplicity just a few days ago. The subject was secret destabilization efforts – a favorite CIA game – in countries that don’t play ball with the O-team. Such efforts, if “covert”, are supposedly illegal. That the O-team can talk around that obstacle, or try to, became public with exposure of dirty work in Cuba. Using private contractors abroad as cover, the Yanquis sought to rally unrest in Cuba through Twitter messages to some 68,000 citizens, presumably identified as impatient with conditions under the Raul Castro regime. When the game, connecting it to Team Obama, was uncovered, this kind of double-talk ensued:

“(Calling it) a covert program is wrong,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, “The government has taken steps to be discreet.” “The program was neither ‘secret’ nor ‘covert,” insisted a State Department spokeswoman, “Discreet does not equal covert.” Senator Pat Leahy, who skippered a team looking into the game, was more succinct: “Stupid,” he said. “Revealing,” might be the most apt term. If the O-team is involved in dirty play against a minor league outfit like Cuba, fans can easily imagine similar trouble-making wherever Yanqui interests are deemed to be on deck. And the predictable double talk when our players – whether in the (CIA-disguised) uniforms of AID or the so-called National Endowment for Democracy – are doubled up.

The New Power Game (re: Ukraine): “The diplomacy thus far displayed by…the United States has amounted to little more than bellicosity and unenforceable threats. “ – William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune

– – –

Heady Brew: We know good pitching and hitting is a winning combination. The streaking Brewers, atop the NL Central, lead the MLB in pitching and are third in hitting.

Why the Milwaukee Momentum: “’Go-Go’ (Carlos Gomez) is on base pretty much every at-bat, which is unbelievable. And ‘Braunie’ (Ryan Braun) is heating up. When guys do that… it’s pretty easy for (the supporting cast) to chip in.” – Brewer first baseman Mark Reynolds (to Tom Haudricourt, Journal-Sentinel)

Tweak-Time? On YES the other night, Michael Kay noted a correctable flaw in the video-replay policy: “Managers leave the dugout and delay the game, waiting for a signal from the clubhouse as to whether they should challenge or not. They should be required to make the decision right away without leaving the dugout.”

Streakers: Brewers +7, Marlins -5


(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.)

A Bias Shared by Umpires in Both Fields for Those ‘At the Top’

(Posted 4/8/14)

We were reminded the other day of Red Sox Skipper Bobby Valentine’s sensible frustration two years ago over missed umpiring calls: “I want a ball called a ball and a strike called a strike, pills ” he said, addressing Baseball decision-makers. “Figure out how to do it.”  In fairness to home-plate umpires, he added: “It’s almost impossible to do what they do, so why do we ask them to do the impossible?”

Baseball had long since perfected the technology by then; electronic monitoring of pitch locations measured the accuracy of umpiring calls.  A review of a two-season-long sampling of those calls – about to be published in the journal Management Science– indicates that umpires are wrong a troubling 14 percent of the time.  Researchers Brayden King and Jeffrey Kim note, among other things, that umpires, being only “human,” fall into predictable traps. They tend to expand the strike zone more for home teams than for visitors, and are more likely to make mistakes under pressure when the game is on the line.

More significantly, when viewed by political fans, the analysts found a bias based toward success: Umpires showed favoritism toward All-Star pitchers and those with a track record of not walking batters, like Greg Maddux.  They summed up this way: “Our research confirms: that umpires tend to make errors in ways that favor players who have established themselves at the top of the game’s status hierarchy.” 

A bias toward people “at the top”: a charge that can be leveled at our supreme political umpires after two decisions – Citizens United in 2010, and McCutcheon last week.  The 5-4 rulings make access to wealth a major advantage to political players seeking elective office.  In the words of the NY Times, the High Court’s McCutcheon decision, lifting the already generous campaign fund-raising limits, “could fundamentally reshape the political terrain” from now on.  Players who will benefit immediately: incumbent office-holders who don’t need advertising to develop name recognition.

If, owing to fan and media insistence, Baseball should someday soon add balls-and-strikes challenges to video replay review, can political fans hope for more fairness in their pastime? Lefty optimists believe Dem voters (at least) will rush to the polls in surprising numbers to rally against the sell-out to the rich. Michael Kinsley takes a related stance in the WashPost: The power of money in politics is only as large as we allow it to be.  What we need are a few more campaigns where the amount an opponent is spending becomes an issue itself.  We need a political culture where a politician will have to make a calculation before accepting a contribution from Rich Plutocrats for America: Will the number of votes I gain by having more money to spend… be bigger or smaller than the number I will lose because people are offended by Rich Plutocrats for America?”Rumbles heard in the national grandstand indicate such a culture and the reactive rally it triggers is remotely possible. 

Reality tells us we’re more likely to witness a familiar bonehead play by those who should be responsive.  The play is covered often in a single record book word: inattentiveness. If there is a faint hope of getting lefty hitters’ eyes back on the ball, it resides in the populist farm system.  And the hope that it will produce fiery leaders in the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders mold to help the team re-focus.  

                                                                –        –      –

Prince Has a Problem: Prince Fielder’s base-running last season – particularly in the playoffs – was laughably bad, unless you were a Tigers fan.  But Skipper Jim Leyland never criticized him publicly.  Not so with Fielder’s new manager at Texas, Ron Washington.  “Prince just blew it,” Washington said after Fielder failed to score from third in a game last week against Tampa Bay.  Prince was waived home on a ground ball, but he hesitated halfway before being called out while trying to return to third. “I didn’t pick up (the third base coach) in time,” Fielder explained.  – Evan Grant, Dallas Morning News

Shout-Out…for MLB-TV’s Eric Byrnes, the most lively of its panelists who is also one of the most savvy.  He caught our attention last night when he saw this year’s edition of the Red Sox as a.500 club –“halfway between what they were last year and in 2012.”  What happened to the champion Giants of 2012 and the SF doormats of 2013 is an example, he said, of the letdown experienced by most title teams.

Selected Stats: A week into the season, the Tigers, 4-1, have the best record; SF’s Brian Belt, with four  in seven games, leads in HRs, the Mets, with a .178 team BA, are the most woeful in hitting.


 (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.)


Derek and Barack: One Has Let Us Down

(Posted 4/5/14)

Derek and Barack: One Has Let Us Down

We launched The Nub seven years ago today, sales physician when Derek Jeter was still in his prime, and Barack Obama had emerged as a competitive player in the 2008 presidential race.  Here (with apologies for quoting ourselves) is the first pitch we threw on that opening day in 2007:

“If Barack Obama regains his early campaign momentum, click one reason is likely to be the Derek Jeter factor.  That Barack and Jeter share similar multi-cultural backgrounds will surely seep into the broader voter consciousness as the baseball season unfolds.  The racial comparison will likely lead many even casual observers of the sport to connect Jeter’s attributes with those of Obama.  Jeter has earned the admiration of fans throughout the country and world for his skills and conduct.  Obama can benefit from a transfer of that admiration if he handles himself in the political field with the same unruffled assurance that Jeter exhibits when he steps to the plate or corrals a difficult ground ball.”    

We know that Obama won the admiration of enough Dem and swing voters to become Skipper in 2009.  The cheers faded when he opted to play a Bush League game, going to bat for existing excesses in the war on terror, and adopting George W’s relaxed stance toward Wall Street.  An e-mail to The Nub in April ’09, reflecting on the would-be O-J connection, suggested how the Skipper was letting his fans down:

“The iconic images many of us have of  Jeter on the field are diving head first into the stands to catch a foul ball, running way out of position to make a crucial flip home, as well as the calm,  graceful, unselfish style he shows on and off the field.  Obama clearly has the calm and grace (he’d be a great two-strike hitter, too) but I think Obama still has to show some of that willingness to get dirty, get a few stitches.” – J. Mindich, Manhattan

Obama’s failure to take a combative stance, to risk dirtying his uniform, has betrayed whom we thought he was.  Jeter will finish his Yankee career remaining true to his image of resolute, playing-to-win excellence.  Derek’s ability to make good things happen on the diamond will be missed when he leaves.  Barack will have missed  his chance to do meaningful good as Skipper if mid-term elections go to favored Team GOP.  In that sense, Obama and Jeter are leaving the field together.

                                                                     –       –       –

Fish Story:  It’s early, but the Marlins look like anything but doormats in the NL East.  They lead the division, having taken four of their first five games, and lead all of Baseball in hitting with a team BA of .315.

Stat City:  Only one of 30 teams is undefeated after the first week: the Tigers are 3-0, having had a couple of rainouts.  Atlanta is team leader in pitching, with an aggregate 1.29 ERA, the Astros and Tampa Bay tied for the fielding lead, neither having made an error in four and five games, respectively.  The Braves’ Craig Kimbrel registered three saves in his first three closer chances.

Malingerers: Ron Darling said it about the Mets Thursday (on SNY), referring to Ruben Tejada’s failure to slide into home the night before:  “It looks like they’re not going all-out.”  In the same game, which the Nationals won, 5-1, Mets starter Bartolo Colon trotted to first base on a ground ball, looking amused at his own lack of effort.  Manager Terry Collins clearly has his hands full: uninspired play on top of a lineup full of holes.


(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 Propaganda Problem in Both Pastimes

  (Posted 4/1/14)    

Why did propaganda about the various teams seem more prevalent than ever this spring training period?  Only one of the 30 teams – the Astros – was written off as a playoff possibility.  Even the Marlins and Mets “could surprise, sale ” we were told, “if they avoid injury and their young players live up to their potential.”  So much unembarrassed blather.  At the long-awaited end of the exhibition season, reality finally asserted itself; the consensus:  Nationals and Dodgers sure bets to win their divisions, Tigers and Cardinals likely winners in theirs, Rays shaky favorites in AL East, and A’s with a slight edge over the Angels in the AL West.

Now the puff-talk will fade, and firm numbers recording wins and losses will tell the true story.  Bench-jockeying on the other – political – field has started a rhubarb about the value of the story numbers tell  compared to that of expert opinion. Times lefty Paul Krugman stirred up the flurry when he complained that former teammate Nate Silver was letting stats – data, speak for itself.  Stats should support analysis in the political game, Krugman says, not pretend to sum up the game’s significance because of a numerical result.

If asked to umpire this insider tiff, we would have to delay the game to make two points: the stats Silver produces are usually solid, but are snapshots of plays made now. They can’t be depended upon over a long term.  Krugman’s “expert” approach would be more persuasive were it not so predictable.  His consistent hitting to left denies him the chance to inform fans in right field, who look away when he comes to bat. 

The paucity of pressbox people who pitch down the middle is a political problem. Their one-extreme-or the-other-punditry reinforces the left-right polarizing in the national grandstand.  (A separate problem: the NY Times, and much of the mainstream media, reflecting Team Obama’s pro-Israel and anti-Venezuelan biases). We plead guilty, despite our best intention, to quoting biased sources with whom we agree. What we prefer is calling to the plate a few scribes who make our all-star team for their balance and fairness. In alphabetical batting order, we recommend three of them today (more later in the season): Ron Brownstein, of National Journal, Al Hunt,, and Ezra Klein, Vox.      

A current Brownstein sample, concerning Obamacare: “The law is emerging from this first open-enrollment period in an equivocal political position. Registration hasn’t gone so badly as to guarantee its doom—nor so well as to ensure its survival.”  

And one from Hunt: “Democrats, when not in a state of panic, predict that (a near-likely Team GOP electoral takeover of the Senate) would lead to Republican overreach, paving the way for a Democratic president — and Senate — two years later.  If so, the agenda of that new president would be to undo much of what had been done the previous two years.

                                                      –       –       –

Opening Day Heroics: Adam Wainright, Cardinals, no runs, four hits, seven innings; Nelson Liriano, Pirates, no runs, four hits, six innings; Yovani Gallardo, Brewers, no runs, four hits, six innings; Justin Masterson, Indians, no runs, three hits, seven innings; Neil Walker, Pirates, walkoff homer over Cubs in 10th inning; Alex Gonzalez, Tigers, walkoff hit to defeat KC; Buster Posey, SF, two-run homer in ninth to edge D-backs.

Investment Value: “(The Mike Trout six-year, $144.5m extension deal) is a major coup for the Angels given that Trout’s likely value over the course of the deal could be twice what the Angels will pay him.”  – SI’s Cliff Corcoran

A No-Exception Year? “I’ve never been on a team where, at the All-Star break, I’m planning my off-season.”  – Former Oakland and Atlanta starter Tim Hudson, now with Giants. (quoted by Times-man Tyler Kepner)

Solace in Seattle“No matter how much the team continues to struggle on its perpetual journey back to contention, they still have arguably the best pitcher on the planet — (Felix)Hernandez is at least in the conversation — on the mound every five days (and winner last night).  And now, they have one of the best hitters on the planet in their lineup every day. And that means Every. Single. Day. Cano has missed just 14 games the past seven seasons with the Yankees.” – Larry Stone, Seattle Times


 (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.)