The Nub

The No-Thanks Side of the Holiday Game

(Posted 11/29/14)

On post-Thankful Saturday, buy sildenafil our thoughts turn to fans with little to celebrate on the holiday: those SF rooters who lost their pet Panda. Giants fans have reason to feel betrayed, sildenafil unhealthy both by Pablo Sandoval and the team’s front office. “I need a new challenge,” Pablo said when asked why he chose the Red Sox’s five-year, $98 million offer over a similar one tendered by his former team. The SF brass may have nudged Sandoval out of town by not re-signing him before free-agency, as they did Hunter Pence. We know how the feeling of insult can spur an “I’ll-show-you” response.

It is clear that Team Obama’s offense coach, Chuck Hagel, did not leave his thankless job voluntarily. He was saddled as Defense Secretary with a Syrian policy that had the O-team aiding rebels in their fight against the Assad regime; at the same time, that regime was aiding the U.S. in its war against ISIS. Hagel’s lack of team spirit for the colliding alignment was obvious. The tension it caused among the Skipper’s close advisers, made him a target for unconditional release.

The Politico’s Glenn Thrush described the game’s walkoff point this way: After reports began surfacing of White House dissatisfaction with his performance in the past few months…(Hagel) dashed off an uncharacteristically sharp memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice slamming the administration’s Syria policy as rudderless and ill-defined.”

Hagel’s forced departure set off groans, right and left, on the annual long weekend of gratitude.

–       –       –

More Woe: While sharing the transitory pain with Giants fans, we might – yes, again – spare more profound sympathy with what’s left of the Mets fan base. Alone, perhaps, with the Padres, the Mets’ future is bleak, and will remain so as long as current ownership – Fred Wilpon and heir Jeff – remains in place. They have demonstrated their incapacity to run a big-market club in competitive fashion. A sad, post-Thanksgiving saga, dating back (with one exceptional season eight years ago) to 2002.

Whither Lester? Here are the vibes we sense surrounding Jon Lester’s future: The team willing to commit $150 million for six years (The Globe’s Nick Cafardo puts Boston’s offer so far at $120 million and the Cubs at $135m, each for six years) will get him. The Dodgers and Yankees must be considered threats to pounce, even though neither has taken part in the competition. We wouldn’t bet against any of the four in the Lester sweepstakes.

On More Likely Destinations…of Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, as theorized by MLB.com’s Phil Rogers: Greg Maddux had five cracks at free agency, the first when he was 26, the last at age 40. He used that leverage to change teams three times, but he never changed leagues. The Yankees and other American League teams tried to persuade Maddux to leave the National League but never succeeded. Maddux knew a good thing when he saw it. ‘”Do I look like an idiot?’ Maddux said at the end of his career…Veteran pitchers gravitate toward the NL, the last refuge from the designated-hitter rule. Earned run averages are lower, life expectancy seemingly longer.”

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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 dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

The ‘Rat’ Treatment’ Biting at Whistleblowers on Two Fields

(Posted 11/25/14)

What happened to the player who set off Baseball’s crackdown on steroid use? Almost forgotten and once shunned for his role as a “rat, canada ask ” Jose Canseco, buy ampoule now 50, is enjoying his belated vindication. He disclosed the widespread practice of players taking performance-enhancing drugs in his 2005 book “Juiced.” And he named names, big ones – Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi, with whom he played in Oakland, and Rafael Palmeiro, a sometimes training-partner. Later, after his revelations helped trigger the findings contained in the 2007 report overseen by George Mitchell, Canseco followed up with another book, “Vindicated.” In it he added Alex Rodriguez’s name to his list of accused users.

What’s striking about the Canseco saga is the outcast he became soon after his disclosures. Since he was both an avowed cheater himself, and was cashing in on identifying others who cheated as he had, critics dismissed Canseco as undeserving of attention. That dismissal endures despite the touted clean-up reforms for which he is, to a large extent, responsible. The media agree that blemished celebrities like Canseco, or unknowns like Carmen Segarra, who bring down public icons, forfeit prominent coverage. Segarra was an obscure bank examiner who exposed the coziness of NY’s Federal Reserve branch with the bank it was supposed to be monitoring, Goldman Sachs. Her secretly taped revelations, reported by ProPublica and broadcast on NPR’s This American Life, were largely ignored for several days by the corporate media (The NY Times shelved the story for six days.) At the time, whistle-blowing Segarra was jobless, having been fired by the Fed.

When the story finally squibbed out, Senate investigators ordered hearings, held last Thursday and Friday, and the Fed itself, bracing for possible punishment, announced a plan to tighten regulation of banks it supervises. At the Friday hearing, NY Fed president William Dudley talked of seeking bank “safety and soundness” rather than serving “like a cop on the (banking) beat.” “Fix it,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said of the overly protective approach, “or we’ll find somebody who will.” Segarra, who didn’t get to testify, was further vindicated. She is still, however, unemployed.

–     –       –

Since Our Guess (Like Yours) Is as Good as Any…We believe the Red Sox will come to regret the five-year signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Ramirez, now 31, is temperamental and injury-prone, and the 28-year-old Sandoval’s value is based largely on what he can do, if and when the Sox make the playoffs. A big IF, as of now. We believe, too, that Cardinals GM John Mozeliak got the better of the four-player deal with the Braves and new GM John Hart. There’s an erratic streak in the make-up of Atlanta’s new starter Shelby Miller, while his prominent opposite number, outfielder Jason Heyward, has displayed a consistent, thoroughbred quality over the past five years – composite BA of .262, average HRs and RBIs 20 and 69. Hart may win the economizing game over the next few years, but Mozeliak can get instant results in 2015.

The Chase Heating Up: The Yankees seemed to have a clear field toward re-signing Chase Headley. No longer; the Pablo-less Giants are reportedly in the mix for a replacement at third base. Headley is a West Coast boy. Kyle Seager. another coveted third baseman, has been locked up by his team, the Mariners. Seattle is giving him a $100 million, seven-year contract.

In Demand: The most desired free agent on the market? The Globe’s Nick Cafardo suspects it is back-end lefty reliever Andrew Miller; he has received more than 20 feelers, including one from his last team, the Orioles. Miller recorded 103 strikeouts in 62 innings with the Red Sox and Baltimore last season. He’ll be 30 in May, and is reportedly seeking a four-year contract at close to five times the $1.9 million he made in 2014.

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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 dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

Spenders and Strugglers: Together in the National Ballpark

(Posted 11/22/14)

“You can always spend money, canada search ” said Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, talking (on MLB-TV) about the trade of starter Shelby Miller and reliever prospect Tyrell Jenkins for Braves’ right fielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden. The trade saved Mozeliak from spending the kind of money – $52 million (for four years) – he invested last year in another “impact” player, shortstop free agent Jhonny Peralta. Heyward, the elite player of the four involved in the exchange, is 25, and will earn $7.8 million in his “walk” free-agent season. The Cardinals may wind up having to pay Heyward twice as much as he’ll receive in 2015, and for several years, if they hope to keep him around. “That we’ll have to take day-to-day,” said Mozeliak, “and see what happens.”

We know it’s one thing to take life day-to-day when you have MLB-type money to spend – the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton getting $325 million for 13 years, Russell Martin due to receive $82 million from the Blue Jays over the next five years. It’s another for the millions struggling who can’t afford to see a movie, much less a ballgame live from bleacher seats. Baseball and its media cheerleaders have seduced fans into dwelling on the big money top players earn. Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees fans revel in their vicarious (“It’s not our money”) wealth when their teams spring for elite free agents. We’re all prone to feel respect, even awe, for the fabulously rich. Those struggling at the bottom end of our 99-percent society seldom get media attention or the public compassion they deserve.

William Finnegan documented the hardships of one segment of those playing along the poverty baseline in a recent New Yorker article. They were workers at McDonald’s in the Washington Heights section of New York City:

“Most of the workers here make minimum wage, which is eight dollars an hour in New York City, and receive no benefits. Rosa Rivera, a grandmother of four who has worked at McDonald’s for fourteen years, makes eight dollars and fifty cents. Exacerbating the problem of low pay in an expensive city, nearly everyone is effectively part time, getting fewer than forty hours of work a week. And none of the employees seem to know, from week to week, when, exactly, they will work…The coming week’s schedule is posted on Saturday evenings…

“Arisleyda Tapia…a single mother with a five-year-old daughter…has been working here for eight years, and makes eight dollars and thirty-five cents an hour…’I need to get Internet,’ she said. We were in her apartment, and she pointed out an old Dell desktop wedged among other appliances on the dresser she shares with daughter Ashley. Internet access is about twenty dollars a month. Something would have to give. It could not be her unlimited-ride MetroCard. That was a hundred and twelve dollars a month—a giant bite out of her paycheck… If she got a raise to fifteen dollars an hour, she could buy new work shoes, help her mother (in Santo Domingo), get Ashley a good winter coat. Even so, fifteen dollars an hour is not considered adequate for a basic household budget…. Not in New York City, anyway. A recent study found that, assuming you get forty hours a week,… it might be enough for a single person living in Montana.. I didn’t mention th(at) to Tapia. We were sitting in her tiny railroad kitchen, talking in whispers, because the other renters might be asleep.”

Something for all of us to consider next time we hear about the determined-but-fitful natiowide rallies on behalf of fast-food workers, like those at McDonald’s.

–       –         –

Speaking of Money: The White Sox came from nowhere to sign first baseman Adam LaRoche for $25 million in a two-year deal. The Marlins were thought to have an inside track on the ex-National, LaRoche hit 26 HRs last season.

Easy to Say:: “If the Giants allow (Pablo) Sandoval to leave, they should be ashamed of themselves. Especially if this is about money. Because money should not be an issue for the Giants. Ever.” – Mark Purdy, San Jose Mercury News

Dodgers/Yankees Watch: Only one of the MLB’s two wealthiest teams – the Dodgers – have added a veteran major leaguer to their roster so far: he is righty reliever Joel Peralta, obtained from the Rays, as part of a trade involving three other minor leaguers. LA has also picked up minor league outfielder Kyle Jensen from the Marlins for a player to be named. The Yanks added Pirates lefty reliever Justin Wilson, who has played two-plus seasons with the Bucs. His combined W-L is 9-5, with an ERA of just under 3.00. The observer consensus is that both the NYY’s Brian Cashman and the LAD’s Andrew Friedman will eventually pounce into the elite market, signing or dealing for big-ticket reinforcements.

Movability: In movable outfield walls the Mets trust. Standing against the right-center-field fence..(at) CitiField, GM Sandy Alderson unveiled the team’s latest attempt to win more games than it loses. At season’s end, the team’s analysts carefully studied home run trajectories and decided to move in this fence by as much as 11 feet… Did I mention that the Mets moved in the fences after the 2011 season, when they won 77 games and lost 85? The next year they were 74-88…(Perhaps instead) the Mets should examine their spending habits. They keep up the pretense of being a small-market team that happens to play in the biggest market in the United States. In fact, they are spending $15 million to $16 million per annum on (Curtis) Granderson, $8.5 million on (Michael) Cuddyer in 2015 and, last year, spent $7.25 million on Chris Young, who hit not at all for the Mets. Put those contracts together and you end up with more than $30 million per year, which would allow you to purchase a terrific outfielder.” – Michael Powell, NY Times

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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 dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

 

The Propaganda Game in Both Pastimes

We were puzzled last week when the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer to a two-year $21 million contract, canada prescription giving up a first-round draft pick as part of the deal. Cuddyer will be 36 next season. Injury-plagued, buy he hit .332 and 10 HRs in only 49 games with the Rockies this year. His signing sounds like a close replay of the $7.5 million deal in which the Mets added Chris Young for 2014, only to release him in August. Here’s what Joe Sheehan said the of the signing on Gammons Daily: “Cuddyer can still be a contributor at the plate when he’s healthy, but he’s a bat-only player and a fragile, aging one at that. He’s not worth giving up even a second-round pick.” On the other hand, GM Sandy Alderson calls Cuddyer “terrific hitter” who is “versatile defensively” and the corner outfielder the Mets need to push them into playoff contention.

We know which assessment is the more realistic: MLB GMs, like most corporate execs, are prone to hype additions to their teams while often badmouthing subtractions. (Check how, in the last off-season, the Mets justified releasing Justin Turner, who went on to bat .340 with the 2014 Dodgers.) The dismaying aspect of this predictable game is the slavish way much of the sporting media transmits the puffery without challenge.

On the political field, the unbalanced media buildup is called propaganda. Misguidedly patriotic, it applies to the version American fans are pitched concerning blame for the Ukraine crisis. Because Team USA pledged years ago that NATO would not trespass on Russia’s swath of the international ballpark, Team Obama shares the blame with European clubs for breaking that promise; thus, the dangerous game playing out in eastern Ukraine. Russia and Vladimir Putin are not guilt-free in the match-up, but their side of the game is seldom reported in the U.S. media. Furthermore, although Putin played nice with us on Syria and in early innings of the Iran nuclear-limitation talks, we shouldn’t be surprised when the press box people call him out, if, as feared, the Iranian talks founder.

“News is something someone wants to suppress,” goes a journalistic axiom, “the rest is advertising.” Our media are inclined to advertise Team Obama’s good intentions, suppressing the O-team’s pushy errors of judgment. Through accounts based on government handouts with home-field scoring, the press tradition of fair calls on decisive plays has all but disappeared. It’s a checked-swing change that should provoke jeers in the national grandstand.

–           –             –

Deal Day: The Braves’ new GM John Hart didn’t stay inactive for long. On Monday afternoon, he dealt right fielder Jason Heyward and relief pitcher Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for starter Shelby Miller and reliever prospect Tyrell Jenkins  Heyward could become a free agent after next season and might command more money than the Braves can afford. The fact that Giancarlo Stanton reportedly will sign a 13-year contract for $325 million later in the week enhances the dollar-value potential of young, defensively strong outfielders like Heyward.

Martin Going Home: Russell Martin fell $8 million short of the five-year salary marker set by Hunter Pence when he re-signed with the Giants earlier this fall. But Martin, who made $17 million for two years with the Pirates, will earn $82 million through 2019 with the Blue Jays. The deal, completed Monday, was a surprise. The Cubs and Dodgers, as well as the Pirates, were thought to be closer to signing Martin than other teams. As it is, the 31-year-old catcher will be returning to his native Canada

AFL Addenda: The Yankees, Reds and Astros had prospects register top performances in the just-completed Arizona Fall League. Yankee farmhand first baseman Greg Byrd won the league’s MVP, leading the AFL with six HRs (tied with Padres outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe), batting .313 with 21 RBIs. Reds up-and-coming outfielder Jesse Winker won the league’s batting title with a .338 and earned runner-up spots in on-base percentage (.440) and slugging (.559). Houston’s Mark Appel was acknowledged best pitcher, compiling a 24/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in seven outings and a league-high 31 innings.

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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 dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

The Propaganda Game in Both Pastimes

We were puzzled last week when the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer to a two-year $21 million contract, ask giving up a first-round draft pick as part of the deal. Cuddyer will be 36 next season. Injury-plagued, case he hit .332 and 10 HRs in only 49 games with the Rockies this year. His signing sounds like a close replay of the $7.5 million deal in which the Mets added Chris Young for 2014, only to release him in August. Here’s what Joe Sheehan said the of the signing on Gammons Daily: “Cuddyer can still be a contributor at the plate when he’s healthy, but he’s a bat-only player and a fragile, aging one at that. He’s not worth giving up even a second-round pick.” On the other hand, GM Sandy Alderson calls Cuddyer “terrific hitter” who is “versatile defensively” and the corner outfielder the Mets need to push them into playoff contention.

We know which assessment is the more realistic: MLB GMs, like most corporate execs, are prone to hype additions to their teams while often badmouthing subtractions. (Check how, in the last off-season, the Mets justified releasing Justin Turner, who went on to bat .340 with the 2014 Dodgers.) The dismaying aspect of this predictable game is the slavish way much of the sporting media transmits the puffery without challenge.

On the political field, the unbalanced media buildup is called propaganda. Misguidedly patriotic, it applies to the version American fans are pitched concerning blame for the Ukraine crisis. Because Team USA pledged years ago that NATO would not trespass on Russia’s swath of the international ballpark, Team Obama shares the blame with European clubs for breaking that promise; thus, the dangerous game playing out in eastern Ukraine. Russia and Vladimir Putin are not guilt-free in the match-up, but their side of the game is seldom reported in the U.S. media. Furthermore, although Putin played nice with us on Syria and in early innings of the Iran nuclear-limitation talks, we shouldn’t be surprised when the press box people call him out, if, as feared, the Iranian talks founder.

“News is something someone wants to suppress,” goes a journalistic axiom, “the rest is advertising.” Our media are inclined to advertise Team Obama’s good intentions, suppressing the O-team’s pushy errors of judgment. Through accounts based on government handouts with home-field scoring, the press tradition of fair calls on decisive plays has all but disappeared. It’s a checked-swing change that should provoke jeers in the national grandstand.

–           –             –

Deal Day: The Braves’ new GM John Hart didn’t stay inactive for long. On Monday afternoon, he dealt right fielder Jason Heyward and relief pitcher Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for starter Shelby Miller and reliever prospect Tyrell Jenkins  Heyward could become a free agent after next season and might command more money than the Braves can afford. The fact that Giancarlo Stanton reportedly will sign a 13-year contract for $325 million later in the week enhances the dollar-value potential of young, defensively strong outfielders like Heyward.

Martin Going Home: Russell Martin fell $8 million short of the five-year salary marker set by Hunter Pence when he re-signed with the Giants earlier this fall. But Martin, who made $17 million for two years with the Pirates, will earn $82 million through 2019 with the Blue Jays. The deal, completed Monday, was a surprise. The Cubs and Dodgers, as well as the Pirates, were thought to be closer to signing Martin than other teams. As it is, the 31-year-old catcher will be returning to his native Canada

AFL Addenda: The Yankees, Reds and Astros had prospects register top performances in the just-completed Arizona Fall League. Yankee farmhand first baseman Greg Byrd won the league’s MVP, leading the AFL with six HRs (tied with Padres outfield prospect Hunter Renfroe), batting .313 with 21 RBIs. Reds up-and-coming outfielder Jesse Winker won the league’s batting title with a .338 and earned runner-up spots in on-base percentage (.440) and slugging (.559). Houston’s Mark Appel was acknowledged best pitcher, compiling a 24/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in seven outings and a league-high 31 innings.

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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 dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Non-Partisan Letter to New Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred

(Posted 11/15/14)

Dear Commissioner:

Congratulations on rallying to win your new office, mind and the chance it offers to transform major league baseball from a national pastime into a national symbol: a sport that glorifies civilian “sacrifice” in a country that cares. You surely know that, purchase despite its long history of support for U.S. offensive play abroad, Team MLB has a fan base dedicated to peace. Polls confirm widespread fatigue with war-making even as we all acknowledge the battlefield valor of those honored on Veterans Day.

We suggest that you respond to fan yearnings for a different focus at the ballparks – switching from homage to the military to grateful recognition of those making America and the world more humane places. The men and women of Doctors Without Borders offer one example, the selfless members of the Salvation Army another. The hands-on people who aid the hungry, homeless, seriously ill, ex-offenders, etc. in all MLB areas have earned the applause of the millions of ballgame spectators watching in grandstands and on TV. You can make it happen.

We urge you to follow through on what could be a courageous break with a century-old linkage of Baseball with armed violence – a welcome initiative for which your stewardship would be long remembered.

The Nub

The Tradeoff: “Baseball has been profoundly affected by a ‘national pastime tradeoff,’ whereby in exchange for maintaining its status as the national game, it has pursued (pro-military) policies that have exacted a great price.” – Robert Elias, author “The Empire Strikes Out” (The New Press)

–       –       –

Panda Uncaged? On MLB-TV the other morning, Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds were guessing the destination of free agent Pablo (Panda) Sandoval. Vasgersian said he thought the Giants wouldn’t let him get away. Reynolds disagreed, noting that SF made it a point to sign people they wanted to keep – Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence – before they reached the open market. That hasn’t happened in Sandoval’s case, Reynolds noted. An encouraging point of view for Giants fans.

Reunion Ahead? When departure signs pile up, as in the case of Russell Martin, they can’t be ignored. The Pirates adding Francisco Cervelli to its corps of catchers this week was one of several indications free-agent Martin would move on from the Bucs. Then came word that both the Dodgers and Cubs, as well as the Blue Jays, were interested in signing Martin. The ex-Dodger, ex-Yankee backstop is expected to get a four-year deal from one of the interested parties. It’s no secret LA has the financial clout to reunite with Russell unless the team’s new boss Andrew Friedman has other ideas.

Devaluation: “This past postseason was a monument to how much the game has changed and how we need to readjust our traditional view of the importance of starting pitchers. San Francisco and Kansas City reached the World Series without asking their starting pitchers to win games – with Madison Bumgarner being the exception to every rule, of course. They simply asked their starters not to lose a game before they it could be handed over to a parade of relievers. Before Game 7, both managers — the Giants’’ Bruce Bochy and the Royals’’ Ned Yost — told me they would be content with a five-inning start, if not less, from starters Tim Hudson and Jeremy Guthrie, respectively. It turned out the two starters got just 15 outs combined.” – Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated

The Mets’ Most Likely: Jon Niese is the likeliest Mets pitcher to be traded this off-season. That was the case before Daily News columnist John Harper wrote about Niese’s “knucklehead” antics causing static between him and Skipper Terry Collins. Niese, has an affordable $10.5 million owed him over the next two years. That he’s a lefthander and only 28 make him attractive trade bait. The one question mark: Niese has had two mediocre, injury-marred seasons since peaking at 13-9 in 2012. He went 9-11 in 2014.

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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 dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Rebuilding Ahead for Dem Team and Several Balllclubs

(Posted 11/8/14)

What do the Yankees, buy Brewers and Braves have in common with the Dem team in this post-season, stuff post-election period? About their also-ran status in respective races, rx all can say of their defeat(s): “At least, it wasn’t heartbreakingly close.” The ballclubs have the next few months to pick up their pieces and try to construct a 2015 winner. The Dem team faces two tough years of rebuilding. It’s new status: not just that of an also-ran, but of a doormat.

Money, we know, will keep the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers relevant, as will the solid groundwork that gave the Giants their third Series title in five years. (Mets fans are still asking themselves “How did the SF front office know that Angel Pagan was worth $40 million for four years?”) Leading the Dems back into contention will take the hard work of overcoming (a) a much better financed opponent, and (b) disinterested spectators in the national ballpark.

Speaking to Bill Moyers on the Moyers & Company PBS show, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said the only way kindred fans in the grandstand could contend with big corporate money was to “rally millions and millions of people” around a left-of-center stance, demanding a livable minimum wage, reform of the college loan program, etc. As to how that rally can be triggered, however – in the face of Fox News and political comment on radio being “95 percent conservative” – Sanders was far from sanguine: “I have no magic solutions,” he said.

Sanders did note, in a positive vein, the recent history of progress on social issues: “If I had said to you 20 years ago that we would soon elect an African-American president, you would have thought me crazy. If I had said 10 years ago that gay rights would soon win legal support in Washington, same thing.” Two squibs of hope that will have to sustain the Dem team for at least the next two years.

–     –       –

Siege: “The trend this off-season is very dangerous for the small market teams. Andrew Friedman has gone to Los Angeles and is putting together…a dream team organization. Getting Farhan Zaidi from Oakland as his General Manager is incredible, to have Josh Byrnes there… and hearing some of his other potential hires is scary. The same goes with what Theo Epstein is assembling with the Cubs, beyond bringing in Joe Maddon. In many ways, the same applies to the Red Sox being able to go get Chili Davis and pay him three times what they could have paid in Oakland.” – (An NL executive quoted by Peter Gammons, Gammons Daily)

Home Boy: Anyone other than Joe Maddon’s bench coach for seven years will be a surprise choice to succeed Maddon as Rays skipper. The coach in question: Dave Martinez, who not only knows the Maddon system, but, with his family, is a long-time resident of Tampa Bay.

Splash-Time? The consensus buzz on where two key free agents will wind up: Jon Lester with the Cubs, owing to his Red Sox connection to Theo Epstein; Pablo Sandoval with the Red Sox, because, following their last-season selloff, they need a quality third baseman and a chance to make a splash for their fans.

Bum Deal: Madison Bumgarner (signed a) five-year extension… with the Giants prior to the 2012 season. (It) includes an $11.5 million salary for 2017, what would have been his first year of free agency. It also includes two club options, for 2018 and ’19, at $12 million apiece. So, for $35.5 million, the Giants could have a frontline starter for three years in the prime of his career. If Bumgarner remains healthy, it’ll be the best bargain in baseball. If he misses time with injuries, the Giants haven’t spent a quarter of their payroll on him.”(Barry Svrluga, Washington Post)                                                        

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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 dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

Baseball, ‘Yes-Yes-Yes’; Politics, ‘Not Today’

(Posted 11/4/14)

At a victory rally in San Francisco last Thursday, generic Giants’ right fielder-cheerleader Hunter Pence led fans in a “Yes, Yes, Yes” chant: “Madison Bumgarner, Yes-Yes-Yes”, “Buster Posey, Yes-Yes-Yes,” etc. We waited. At last, Pence called out “Re-sign Pablo, Yes-Yes-Yes!” What will the Giants do about their dynamic third baseman Pablo Sandoval? He has entered free agency, we know, and can be lost to a team that bids high (the Red Sox?) for his services. Sandoval is one of well over a dozen “name” players “in play” on the MLB market. Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields are three premium pitchers on the list; Nelson Cruz, Victor Martinez and Hanley Ramirez, as well as Sandoval, four of the platinum position players..

Although the post-season is Baseball’s annual down-time, the hot stove schedule fires up no sooner than the World Series ends. Signings over the next several weeks can shift the balance in competitive – nearly all six – divisions. The Dodgers and Yankees, we know, can afford to sign and/or retain coveted performers they crave to include on their 2015 rosters. The grapevine says , the Yankees could go after Ramirez as Derek Jeter’s successor at shortstop, and the well-heeled Red Sox could lure Sandoval to fill their third base hole.

The excitement over what’s at stake next spring should increase as winter approaches. The stir in off-season Baseball contrasts sharply to the apathy felt around the country on this Election Day. Vox commentator Ezra Klein provides the background to why that’s so:

“Washington hasn’t solved all America’s problems, or anything even close to it. But now it’s stopped even trying. That isn’t to say nothing will get done…or to deny the possibility of terrible events forcing emergency actions….But both parties know that, barring the truly unexpected, they can’t get anything big done for at least the next few years — and the American people have caught on, too. If there’s anything extraordinary about Washington today, it’s the levels of polarization and gridlock. This is the least productive Congress since we began keeping records, and one of the most unpopular, too. After an era of extraordinary action, we’re now entering an era of extraordinary inaction.”

– – –

Bomber-Talk: The Yankees have reportedly ruled out signing any of the premium free agent pitchers and Sandoval. One name they have not turned their back on (so far): shortstop Ramirez. As expected, they’ve made a one-year qualifying offer to closer David Robertson.

Robby’s Added Value: The Yankees’ radio play-by-play man John Sterling used to say “It’s Cano, doncha know,” when Robinson Cano – now a Mariner – would make big hits while a member of the home team. Bill Chuck, super stat-keeping teammate of The Globe’s Nick Cafardo, recently cited a little recognized positive of Cano’s offensive game: he’s the unique regular to have struck out fewer than 100 times over each of the past 10 seasons among players with at least 400 at-bats.

A Small but Impressive Sample: Chuck also identifies perhaps the only active player who considers Madison Bumgarner a patsy: he’s Oakland’s Jonny Gomes, who’s hitting .750, six-for-eight, against the Giants’ ace.

Why Not? NYC Nubbite Keith Weber suggests a new verb for “held hitless” – the batter was “Bumgarnered.”

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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 dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

Disgust and Dismay on Different Sides of Electoral Ballpark

(Posted 11/1/14)

Raise your hands, buy capsule East Coast fans, try if you stayed up to the end of the seven World Series games. Until game 7, we made it once – game 1 – waiting for the type of Royals comeback that characterized their play throughout the playoffs. After that we joined the diaspora – the millions of fans who opted for sleep, and others who defected to competing NFL football games, or entertainment fluff like “The Big Bang Theory.”

Let’s face it: Baseball, like most of the print media and all the major religions, is losing its fan base. In all three categories, it is mainly young people who have drifted away. The internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc. have replaced newspapers and magazines; aging clerics and hoary-sounding moralisms are causing once-responsive teenagers to flee. Baseball is just too stately – all right, slow – for the young and their fast-paced lives. Most of all, however, it is money that has pushed aside what once was the national pastime. The three-figure cost of attending the average game is one aspect of the problem; the determined drive of TV networks to recoup their investments by attracting prime-time audiences is another. For many observers, this accessibility factor is the key.

Prof. Stephen Greyson, Harvard Business School spet in sports management, presents the case simply: “If the premier part of your product starts after 8 Eastern time and it’s during the week, it’s really hard to develop young fans.”

The impact of money on U.S. politics has been lamented for years; never more so than in this election when the 2010 Citizens United decision is being felt more broadly today than ever before. Under the heading, “The Disgust Election,” Lefty pitcher Timothy Egan, delivering for the NY Times, says Citizens United has generated “a sense that average people have lost control of one of the last things citizens should be able to control – the election itself.” The feeling is understandable, given the billion-dollar outlay by the Koch brothers and other outside groups to buy the support of Congressional candidates in battleground states. Then there is the court approval allowing voter suppression in nearly half the states; in some of which (like Texas), Egan notes, “you can vote with a concealed handgun ID, but not one from a four-year college.”

Righthanders are unhappy about the upcoming election, too. But, unsurprisingly, their dismay has nothing to do with Citizens United and/suppression of young and/or powerless voters. The Wall Street Journal’s Janet Hook gives this view from the right-field stands:

“The GOP’s advantage springs more from intense anti- Obama feelings than from a wave of voters who believe Republicans will transform Washington. Indeed, disillusionment with politics may help explain why Republicans’ edge isn’t wider at a time when job approval ratings of the Democratic president have slid into the 40% range. The backdrop of this fall’s voting is a mood of voter anger over the status quo, polls suggest. (Days) before the Nov. 4 election, it isn’t even clear what exactly the midterm contests are about. No single issue dominates, except unhappiness with the established order.”

Dem disgust versus vague Team GOP unhappiness: it adds up to nervous scoreboard-watching on the left side of the national ballpark.

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Nerve-less: In the sixth inning of the tingly seventh game, a Fox camera caught Madison Bumgarner yawning in the dugout as he awaited returning to the mound for what should have been a tension-filled second inning of relief.

The Belabor Game: It was hard to believe Royals’ third-base coach Mike Jirschele didn’t wave Alex Gordon home as he scurried from first with two outs in the ninth. The only way KC was going to tie the score – we were convinced – was through an (admittedly unlikely) off-target relay from SF shortstop Brandon Crawford. As it was, even with the Royals having an out still left and a man on third, realistic fans knew the Series was over.

Fast-Forgotten File: The head-hunting verbal pitches thrown by anonymous sources and quoted in the media, aimed at Joe Maddon: Why? His agreeing to take the skipper’s job with the Cubs held by Rick Renteria, and therefore not vacant. Maddon therefore allegedly broke an unwritten rule designed to protect sitting managers from ambush. In reality, it was the Cubs,’ Theo Epstein, not Maddon, who undercut Renteria, deciding to remove him to make room for the ex-Rays skipper.

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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 dickstar@aol.com. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)