The Nub

The Fading Pressbox Tradition of Telling-it-Straight

In Camelback Ranch, viagra ampoule Arizona, cialis sale viagra executive vp Kenny Williams is making “bold, superlative pronouncements” about the White Sox playoff chances this season. He has lots of company; similar hope is being expressed in front offices of teams that haven’t had a playoff prayer in years, like the Padres, Marlins and Mets. The puffery puts managers Robin Ventura, Bud Black, Mike Redmond and Terry Collins on the spot – which is fair to all except Black, who has the Dodgers and Giants in his division. What’s missing as usual this spring are close-in, objective looks at how solid Black’s Padres and the other three teams are, and how realistic fans hopes should be.

Beat baseball reporters can’t help but become PR people for the home clubs, especially this time of year. Journalism in general lets us down, less through PR tendencies than through simplifying developments that deserve closer analysis. On the political field, partisan views harden amid a welter of “neutral”information. Fans’ inattentiveness plays into the problem. Two keen pressbox observers offer differing takes, neither encouraging. First, the field as viewed from HuffPost’s left-leaning Robert Kuttner:

“The Republican Party has devised a strategy of hamstringing government and making any remediation impossible…Instead of the voters punishing Republicans, the result is cynicism and passivity, so the Republican strategy is vindicated and rewarded. The media plays into this pattern by adopting a misleading narrative that makes the gridlock in Washington roughly the equal fault of both parties… It’s Republicans who are the blockers. But…the evidence fail(s) to alter the media storyline, and the damage has been done.”

Ezra Klein of Vox uses Obamacare to describe the gridlock in stark partisan terms:

“Imagine what would happen to, say, Speaker John Boehner if he decided that Obamacare was actually a pretty good law. He would lose his speakership and very likely his job. His friends in conservative think tanks and media would back away from him, and many would publicly denounce him. He would cause himself immense personal pain as he systematically alienated his closest political and professional allies. For a lot of people, being ‘right’ just isn’t worth picking a bitter fight with the people they care about. That’s particularly true in a place like Washington… If you’re John Boehner, loathing Obamacare is rational — and the reverse is true for Nancy Pelosi.”

A frustrating game that’s been around for too many extra innings.

–   –     –

Doubtful Investment? The early line on the Pirates’ pricey (more than $20 million) Korean infielder Jung Ho Kang is that his signing may have been a mistake. Why? The Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook has this explanation: “ Kang has had a lousy spring. Although it’s far too soon to pass judgment on him, his hitting skills — so prodigious in the Korean League — have not shown they will carry over to the major leagues. More and more outsiders are suggesting the team send Kang to Class AAA Indianapolis to find his stroke instead of starting the season with him….“(But) we don’t believe sending him to Indianapolis is the right thing for him,” GM Neil Huntington says. “We think the best way for him to get better is by playing at the major league level. He’s done everything to prove himself at every level but the major league level. The only way he can do that is by playing at the major league level. ”

Why Jays Seem Set to Fly: “Beyond th(eir) expected improvement in the lineup, the (Toronto) pitching staff as a whole should benefit from the presence of (Russell) Martin, both for his pitch-calling and, more objectively, his pitch-framing skills, as well as his effectiveness against the running game. There may not be a rotation in baseball that would benefit from Martin’s skills as much as this one, comprised as it is of a pair of soft-tossing veterans like (R.A.) Dickey and Mark Buehrle.” Cliff Corcoran, SI

On Rays’ Spring Struggles: “Spring training injuries/illness… have sidelined three of the (Rays’) top five starting pitchers and the lead in their second base platoon…(a situation) subject to change as soon as yet something else goes wrong.” – Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times

-o-

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

Pitching for a Possible End to the Patriotism Game

Is there any chance new Commissioner Rob Manfred will halt the patriotic hype teams impose on fans during games? Since he defers addressing the issue, buy viagra viagra it looks as though there’ll be no change: “God Bless America” will remain an unwelcome seventh-inning interruption at Yankee Stadium and other ballparks. Just as surely, advice fans will be asked to applaud members of the military for their service, or even only for their presence in uniform.

It’s time, Commish, to respond to widespread war fatigue by sending militarism to the showers. In its place, perhaps the work of local social agencies could be promoted, different deserving caregivers throwing out the first ball?. Patriotism can be celebrated in a new way: “America the Beautiful” sung in place of the “perilous-fight” National Anthem. And what better way to precede the first pitch than to have the crowd sway to the communal anthem of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”?

The key suggestion, Rob, is this: As part of the nation’s entertainment empire, Baseball owes its fans, and the public, a reminder of a responsibility to deemphasize our warrior bravura. And, to concentrate on cheering those, who. in the president’s words, are “doing what (they) can to make America better.”

Naomi Klein, in the Sunday NY Times Book Review, suggests some of the type of players on the Skipper’s make-things-better team: “student- debt resisters, fast-food and Walmart workers fighting for a living wage, regional campaign(ers, seeking) to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour…”

Not a bad list for the Players Union to get behind, and work to persuade MLB to do the same.

–     -     -                      

A Tribute to the Twins: “I was very fortunate that a lot of people showed me the right way to play. Coming up in the Twins organization I was able to watch a lot of guys play hard all the time, guys like Corey Koskie, Torii Hunter, and Jacque Jones. (It’s why I) play the game hard as well.’’ – The Mets’ Michael Cuddyer (quoted by John Harper, Daily News)

On Prince Fielder: “I want to tell him relax. I think I am becoming my mother, I am so worried.” – Rangers GM Jon Daniels (quoted by NY Post’s Joel Sherman)

Long Odds: “ Lou Piniella says you’ll get a Dwight Gooden, but you’ll draft 3,000 high school pitchers before one like him comes along.” - White Sox color broadcaster Steve Stone (to play-by-play partner Hawk Harrelson)                                                          

Attention Must Be Paid: “Nick Ahmed is going to win gold gloves, I assure you.” – Tony La Russa, on the D-backs’ probable rookie shortstop this season.

-o-

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

 

 

Disappearing Interest in Baseball and the War Game

How should we fans feel about baseball analytics – WAR, viagra buy look VORP, view DRS, and the like? We don’t intend to make a fuss about it, but we don’t like the trend. It distorts somehow what we’re seeing on the field. Derek Jeter looked like he was playing a perfectly acceptable shortstop last season, but the sabermetrics said he was a disaster. That took away some of the enjoyment of watching the Captain close out his career. Furthermore, it placed a layer of complication over the simple stats of yore. The Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote earlier this week of the reduced appeal that coincides with the game’s tech-friendly changes:

“In our day, we loved baseball cards and all we cared about was batting average, home runs, and RBIs. It was simple. It was easy to be a fan. Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, or Willie Mays used to step into the box and swing at the first good pitch he saw. Now, batters are encouraged to look at more than four pitches per at-bat. As a result, we’re seeing more called third strikes. At-bats take forever, attention is lost.”

Incidentally, here is a translation of the robot-like terminology referred to above: WAR is “wins above replacement”; VORP “value over replacement player”; DRS “defensive runs saved.”

Robotics, of course, have made our war games more one-sided – and deadly to innocent by-standers as well as our enemies – than ever before. In addition to Drone aircraft, piloted remotely and directed to attack from far away, we have, among other weapons in our tech arsenal, human involvement missiles known as “launch and leave” and “fire and forget.” The obvious major advantage, both politically and militarily: it spares the attacking team casualties resulting from “boots on the ground.” It also precludes dealing with “detainees”, who wound up at Guantanamo, and, not long ago, at U.S.- established “black sites” where torture was not uncommon..

As in baseball, the downside of the robotic war game, coupled with lack of a military draft, is a loss of attention among hometown fans, no longer personally involved in what’s playing out.

–     –       –

Hacking Early: Did you know Joe Mauer batted .577 when first-pitch hitting last season? We didn’t, until Gammons Daily published a rundown by super-statman Bill Chuck. Mauer did not get enough ABs to make Chuck’s list of 0-and-0 hitters with more than 100 plate appearances. Miguel Cabrera’s .441 led the list of 14. Jose Altuve was second with a .430 average.

Rosy Look at Red Sox Rotation: “The Red Sox have five starters 30 and younger who are athletic and already accomplished in the big leagues. There have been nine teams with five starters no older than 30 who made at least 28 starts each; seven of them made the playoffs. The entire AL East is a barren wasteland when it comes to “proven aces.” – Tom Verducci, SI

Opinionating: With two (+) weeks left before opening day, which division should we consider the one composed entirely of playoff-possible teams? Injuries having, in our opinion, eliminated the Rays from the AL East race, we believe that only the NL Central has five playoff-viable teams, with the Reds given a slot out of unaccustomed Nub-ian generosity. The Twins fall a bit short of earning similar consideration. Had they made the cut, they would have qualified AL Central as a second total-playoff-possible division. As it is, that division is one of only two (unless you include the competitive NL Central) with a likely four-team race. The other is the aforementioned AL East.

-o-

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

 

The Challenge of a Big-Time Comeback

The comeback, viagra pilule one of the most compelling stories in sports, best cialis malady is, we know, living up to the hype in the NY area this pre-spring. Alex Rodriguez and Matt Harvey, who haven’t played in more than a season, are getting major coverage. It’s a product of their differing splashy careers and their potentially key roles on the high-profile Yanks and Mets.

The overplaying of the A-Rod and Harvey sagas shouldn’t prevent us from noting stories of other players returning after long layoffs. Josh Johnson, who last pitched for the Blue Jays in 2013, hopes to return to the Padres staff later this season after 2014 was lost to his second Tommy John surgery in seven years. In 2008, 09 and 10, Johnson went 33-12 with the Marlins, recording that third year the lowest ERA of 2.30 in the NL. Padres Skipper Bud Black salivates at the thought of his retrieving just a fraction of his earlier dominance.

In Surprise, AZ, Ryan Madson, who hasn’t pitched since 2011, is competing for a spot on the Royals’ reliever corps. Madson replaced Brad Lidge as Phillies closer in May of that year; he recorded 32 saves and a 2.37 ERA. The Reds signed him away from the Phils in the off-season. By the end of spring training, a torn ligament in his right elbow meant Tommy John surgery, from which he hadn’t recovered until possibly now. We won’t know for sure about Madson or Johnson – or even Rodriguez and Harvey – until they perform under big-league pressure.

The same applies to a much-chronicled political player who hasn’t thrown herself into electoral competition since 2008. The Hill’s Charlie Cook looks at the sports-like rigors of the game she faces:

“(Hillary Clinton) is akin to a professional athlete who has been sidelined by injuries for several seasons. Does she still have—to borrow a phrase from the legendary political author, the late Richard Ben Cramer—‘what it takes,’ or Tom Wolfe’s ‘the right stuff’? In 2007 and early 2008, Clinton was pretty good, and she got better as her contest with then-Sen. Barack Obama headed into the middle and final stretches. But does she still have it? Maybe she still has the touch, and maybe she doesn’t. But no one, even her own team, knows for sure right now.”

–     –     –

Deals Nor Made…Are Sometimes the Luckiest:: The Mets, who tried to find a taker for Bartolo Colon or Dillon Gee this winter, are glad now they couldn’t work a deal: With a strained ligament sending Zack Wheeler to the Tommy John surgery lineup, both Colon and Gee figure to round out a rotation along with Matt Harvey, Jake deGrom, and Jonathan Niese. That’s if more injuries don’t strike.

Another Hurtful Absence: Giants radio broadcaster Duane Kuiper, on when Hunter Pence’s broken arm will be healed: “One of the first things I did when Pence went down…you’re looking to see how many games is Pence going to miss against the Dodgers. And the Giants play the Dodgers a lot early. So he’s either going to miss six or nine games against L.A. The Giants-Dodgers third series is in the middle of May, so either he misses six or he misses nine…I think when you look at May 1, you are looking at the start of spring training for him again.” – SF Chronicle

Predictable Second Thought: “If we would have seen those signs, we would have kept him” : Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on former Buc Steve Pearce, who hit 21 HRs for the Orioles last season (and a two-run shot against the Pirates on Sunday). – (quoted by Stephen Nesbitt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

-o-

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

Armed Power on the Field and in the World

Snap Quiz: Who are the three MLB hitters to finish 2014 in the top five of both HR and RBI lists? Answer: Nelson Cruz, tadalafil clinic Mike Trout and Jose Abreu. Which of the three has the highest composite total?

1 –Cruz, viagra levitra 148; 40 HR, 108 RBI.

2 – Trout, 147; 36 HR, 111 RBI.

3 – Abreu, 143; 36 HR, 107 RBI.

Which is close to a five-tool player? Trout, who hits with frequency and power, runs and fields at a high level.

If we had to note one major weakness in this otherwise seemingly superhuman ballplayer, the high fastball is it.” – Anthony Castrovince on Trout, for Sports on Earth. (Our comment: Trout himself has acknowledged he does not have a superior outfield arm.)

Speaking of arms…

Snap Quiz 2: Which are the world league’s three major arms exporters: 1- USA, 2 – Russia, 3 – Germany.

“Overall, the U.S. sent more than $26.9 billion in weaponry to foreign nations…The country that received the highest dollar amount of U.S. weaponry was the United Arab Emirates, with more than $3.7 billion in arms received over that period. Russia dealt the greatest value of weapons to India, sending more than $13.6 billion.” – Business Insider (based on 2012-13 figures) “China tripled its share in th(e past five years), overtaking

France. It is on track to surpass Germany to become the

third-largest arms dealer. Business is brisk.” – The Economist

A Different Impact: “We see something, and immediately — because the military is so reliable, weapons systems are more remote, and special operations are less visible —there’s a tendency to just pull the trigger. In many, many cases, that isn’t the best solution.” – Former Senator Jim Webb quoted by Vox’s Ezra Klein

–   –     –

What Nelson Cruz Means…to his new team: “You feel his presence in the middle. You feel when he’s coming up. Playing against him, you know how many batters away he is. He’s one of those guys, he commands a lot of respect.”- Kyle Seager, Cruz’s Mariners teammate (quoted by Larry Stone, Seattle Times)                                          

An NL East Mano-a-Mano: Giancarlo Stanton won his first face-off with Matt Harvey this week, going one-for- two in a game at Jupiter, FL, in which the Marlins beat the Mets, 7-4. Stanton doubled off the left field wall in his second at-bat against Harvey. He lined to third his first time up. NY Times-man Tim Rohan reported how the two division standouts assessed each other: Stanton on Harvey: “He was solid — firm and precise, I’d say, working in and out,” Harvey on Stanton; “He’s so big and strong that, even though I got it in on him, he still was able to get it out to the warning track. He’s making $300 million for a reason.”

Can Wil Myers Cut It…in Petco Park’s CF? A rival evaluator offered a tentative answer to Union–Times’ Jeff Sanders: Myers has looked “better than expected,” the evaluator said. CF at Petco will be rough on him, he added, but it’s workable. “Not a train wreck.”

-o-

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

 

What One Team Can Do With Money, Another Can’t Do Without

With the Yankees and Red Sox each in danger of finishing out of the playoffs in back-to-back years (for the Yanks three straight), cialis sale viagra there’s reason for fans of more MLB parity to rejoice. The big-leagues game has moved on from a period of dominance by wealthy teams. Consider that over the past 20 years the Yankees have made the playoff 17 times, buy viagra buy cialis advancing to the World Series on seven of those occasions; the Red Sox gained the post-season 10 of 20 times – seven of the last 12 years – and reached the Series in three of them.

So there’s greater-equality news in the East, seek and a consistent evening-out financial playing field in both Midwest-based leagues. Only one team among the 10 in the West has gone against the parity-progress trend; the mega-rich Dodgers are a current a throwback to the Yankees-dominance days. Furthermore, they figure to keep winning in at least a Yankee clip for years to come. Condolences to NL West fans who begrudge the broad, front-running embrace of Dodger Blue. At the same time, congratulations for your having the Giants to keep things interesting.

Scorebook on ISIS: Money, the bane of political life in the heavily cash-strapped national ballpark, has emerged as positive game-changer for Team USA on the violence-mired playing field abroad. ISIS’s capture of Mosul and its oil fields last year reportedly insured a revenue flow of from one to five million daily, and, according to U.S. Intelligence, assets of as much as two billion. But since then, air strikes on its oil facilities have drastically reduced cash flow. ”They need money,” a Human Rights official told Reuters. (Fighters must receive some pay to keep fighting.) ‘They’ve increased taxes” and are even selling scrap metal collected from bombed factories.

Another international affairs observer, quoted by Slate, said what ISIS is making, even at reduced levels is “a lot for a terror group, but not for someone who intends to run a state and rule over an extended territory.” In other words, ISIS can continue to cause trouble as the strongest member of a terror network, but figures to fall short of resources needed to run a traditional country. Cold comfort when considering the drain on our dollars. But, in the long term, hopeful realism concerning the terror unleashed by the self-described Islamic State.

Switch Hitting: For fans who missed Skipper Obama’s speech Saturday in Selma, Vox’s Ezra Klein flagged these two paragraphs, which he considers among the best of his presidency:

“We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress — our progress — would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.

“Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination… requires admitting as much.”

–     –       –

Make Way for New Math; We noted in the previous Nub that 40 percent of teams in a third of the MLB divisions figured to be out of contention when the season starts – the Braves and Phillies in the NL East, and D-backs and Rockies in the NL West. Now, with the likelihood that ligament-sprained Yu Darvish will be lost to Texas for most of, if not the entire season, we feel obliged to add the Rangers and Astros in the AL West to the list. That means, in our view, minimal competition for the top spot in half the divisions. And, if we count the Twins, and now the Rays (owing to Drew Smyly’s shoulder tendenitis) as solitary outliers in the AL Central and East, more than a quarter of the 30 teams loook to be non-contenders. Parity? Not yet.

On Alex Rodriguez’s Early Fielding and Hitting; It’s not going to be an Ozzie Smith year.” – (A-Rod, after playing a few innings at third.) “He looks like he’s swinging a weighted bat.” – (A NL Talent Evaluator, quoted by Erik Boland, Newsday)

 Golden Oldies: R.A. Dickey (Toronto), Joe Nathan (Detroit) and Ichiro Suzuki Miami) are among prominent members of the 40-and-over players who (barring the unforeseen) will be playing in the majors this season. Dickey and Nathan are 40, Suzuki is 41. Among others, listed on Gammons Daily: LaTroy Hawkins (Rockies), 42; Bartolo Colon (Mets) 41, and Jamey Wright (Rangers) 40.

Just Business: Huston Street has been representing himself for the last 2 1/2 years — starting with the two-year, $14 million contract he negotiated with the Padres in July 2012 — and Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto believes the 31-year-old right-hander is the only active Major Leaguer without an agent. ’He’s a businessman,” Dipoto said of Street, ‘and he just so happens to be 30th all-time in saves.’… Street has drawn a very clear line in the sand — he wants something between the four-year, $36 million contract Andrew Miller signed with the Yankees and the four-year, $46 million contract David Robertson signed with the White Sox…’It’s business, it’s baseball,’ he says, ‘just like anybody else with a job’.” – (Alden Gonzalez, MLB.com)

-o-

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

The Scholar-Shortstop as Team and National Model

Derek Jeter is keeping a low profile during spring training this year. Newly retired, viagra sales ed he announced he planned to be “out of the country” during the pre-season warm-up sessions. He is missed, cialis usa sildenafil so it was nice that Russell Martin took time to remember the impact his former teammate had on him. Martin, now with the Blue Jays, told NY Times-man David Waldstein that, in his two years with the Yankees (2011-2012), Jeter had, unknowingly, pushed him to another playing level.

‘Here is what Martin best remembers,’ Waldstein wrote: ‘Jeter arriving at the clubhouse each day, a cup of coffee in hand and a wisecrack on his lips. Jeter going through (regular) pre-game routines and batting practice. Jeter eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before each game. And finally, Jeter (refusing) to concede anything to (the opposing pitcher)’. “I loved that,” Martin said. “It didn’t matter if the guy was on his way to a no-hitter…Nobody was ever more respectful (outside the game) than Jeet , but in the game , he wouldn’t give the guy any credit.”

The Pirates signed Martin for the next two seasons. He said he realized in Pittsburgh there that he could emulate Jeter and be a role model of rigor and consistency for his younger teammates: “If he could do it, I could, too.” Martin might not have been surprised to learn just how consistent Jeter’s excellence had been. Some years earlier, he was a scholastic model for students at Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan. There, Jeter earned a scholar athlete award for the area, in addition to baseball-playing honors.

Shortly before Martin learned about self-discipline from the Captain, a national experiment to help African-American students develop serious study habits from peers like Jeter was called out by the Supreme Court. Schools integrated in the 1960s and ‘70s became segregated again.

“A splintered court,” wrote U.Cal Berkeley Prof. David Kirp, “delivered the coup de grâce when it decreed that a school district couldn’t voluntarily opt for the most modest kind of integration — giving parents a choice of which school their children would attend and treating race as a tiebreaker in deciding which children would go to the most popular schools. In the perverse logic of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., this amounted to ‘discriminating among individual students based on race.’ That’s bad history (because) economists’ studies consistently conclude that African-American students who attended integrated schools fared better academically than those left behind in segregated schools. They were more likely to graduate from high school and attend and graduate from college… Between 1970 and 1990, the black-white gap in educational attainment shrank — not because white youngsters did worse but because black youngsters did better.” – (NY Times)

It is no stretch to conclude the connected consequences of similar “bad history” persist today in Ferguson, Missouri and many parts of the national ballpark.

–     –       –

More on Russell Martin: The new Blue Jay catcher, with a hefty four-year contract, has – it should be noted – made the playoffs with two other teams, the Yanks and Bucs, for four straight years. The Yankees, meanwhile, are considered in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight time.

Safe to Say…(apparently) that the most meaningful spring training injury so far will have minimal impact. Hunter Pence’s fractured left forearm is expected only to keep him out of the Giants lineup until mid-April. SF fans can exhale.

Striking Idea: “Why can’t technology call…strikes (with) managers (given) a certain number of challenges on ball-strike calls, the way tennis players do? The video board shows the tennis ball approaching the line, the crowd oohs and aahs, the image lands, everyone cheers or boos, and the player no longer likens the chair umpire to a stray dog. It’s great stuff, and nobody cares if it slows down the match.” – (Mark Whicker, LA Daily News)

Sorry, But…By our projected count, 40 percent of teams in a third of the MLB divisions can be ruled out of contention before the season starts: the Phillies and Braves in the NL East, and the Rockies and Diamondbacks in the NL West. Houston and Minnesota seem to be solitary outliers in separate AL divisions.

                                                           -o-

(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)V

Pressure: the Price of Inevitability in Both Pastimes

“Don’t worry, best cialis cialis sale they should go all the way.” Host Brian Kenny was bucking up a guest, viagra sales generic an admittedly “anxious” Nationals fan, case on MLB Now. We thought about the downside of rooting for the 2015 Nats: the sky-high expectations of a championship, and the pressure to meet them. We’ve learned, especially since the addition of the second wild card, that anything can happen in the playoffs. The Nats will surely make the post-season, but surviving into the Series will be a challenge, and winning a world title anything but a cinch.

Hillary Clinton is the Nationals of the political field – a title-winning cinch in the Dem division of 2016 presidential race. She has been declared “inevitable” as a candidate with probably no competition in the first electoral playoff. But when she battles for the top spot with Jeb Bush, or one of Team GOP’s other surprisingly strong contenders, she will be at a disadvantage. Why? Clinton will not have benefited from testing her message against serious competition.

Ezra Klein, scouting for Vox, says Hillary’s rallying efforts in the run-up to the one-on-one fight have been unpersuasive for a glaringly simple reason:

“She sp(eaks)… about bipartisanship and promote(s) her record of working with Republicans in Arkansas and as a senator from New York. Her objective, should she run for president, would be to end partisan gridlock. ‘I’d like to bring people from right, left, red, blue, get them into a nice warm purple space where everybody is talking and where we’re actually trying to solve problems,’ Clinton said (in a recent major speech). But it’s not going to happen…Hillary Clinton doesn’t work in a political system where right, left, red and blue are going to meld into a warm purple.”

Her overriding problem, as we see it: An inability to inspire with words that come from the heart rather than polling results. A further handicap: he coziness with Wall Street has curbed the enthusiasm of progressives. It risks prompting a reluctance to rally behind her, despite the stakes (court appointments, financial deregulation, cuts in social programs, etc.) A sobering prospect for her supporters and the entire Dem team.

–     –     -.

Worth Noting…about MLB.com’s Top 100 Players list: The top three – Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Felix Hernandez – play in the West, for the Dodgers, Angels and Mariners. Five of the top 10 play in the West – Buster Posey (SF) and Robnson Cano (Mariners) are others, 8 and 10, respectively.

Worthwhile Commentaries: Ron Darling, on numbers 4, Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, and 9, the White Sox’s, Jose Abreu: “When Stanton takes batting practice, the other team stops to watch.” “Abreu’s great break-in year (36 HRs, 107 RBIs, .317 BA) opened the door for lucrative contracts for the newly signed Cubans that followed.”

Making a Mess: Mark Whicker, LA News, quotes Josh Hamilton’s spiritual mentor Roy Silver, about his switch from the Rangers to Angels: ‘(Josh) has never handled expectations well.’ Whicker adds a second quotation, from the late basketball coach Jim Valvano, about his colleagues chasing dollars: ‘Don’t ever mess with happy.’ “Hamilton did (says Whicker), but maybe he had the same trouble many of us do: Recognizing it.”

-o-

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

 

.