The Nub

‘Fearless’ Journalism vs. the Self-Promotion Game

On MLB Now the other day, case the subject was Josh Hamilton and his return to the Rangers: how would he do, canada decease back with the team he said it was a “mistake” to leave? Guest panelist Steve Wulf, remedy of ESPN, thought the better story was Angels owner Arte Moreno. “I like that Moreno considered Hamilton a bad influence,” Wulf said, “ and was willing to eat some of the millions he owed Josh to get him off the team.” Moreno deserves credit for his principles, Wulf added. What followed was a strained silence until Dan Plesac went back to Hamilton’s “new beginning,” something host Dan Kenny and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal were only too happy to discuss.

On the broadcast of the Royals-Yankees game that night, WFAN play-by-play man John Sterling took Alex Rodriguez’s side in the cheating scandal: “There were 750 major league players when A-Rod was suspended for using PEDs,” Sterling said. “Maybe 250, 300 were doing the same thing but weren’t caught.”

We were struck by the back-to-back non-controversial spin on the game and its players. It was a double reminder of what we know and willingly accept. Baseball is a private business enterprise dedicated to self-promotion and a valuable advertising source for newspapers, magazines, various forms of electronic media. Accentuating the positive is the financial name of the game.

Less noted is a similar predictability on a field that desperately needs a new beginning of its own, that of journalism. Owing to cuts in budget and staff, the news media have cut back drastically on first-hand reporting. The game now is to rewrite accounts from freelancers and other part-timers on the scene who are considered reliable. When first-hand reportages is in short supply, opinion or analysis pieces , often based on government handouts – serve as pinch-hitters. Predictablility comes into play when stories – mostly negative – are about China, Russia, Venezuela, etc., foreign national teams not playing ball with Team Obama.

“Democracy needs (diligent) journalists,” Bill Moyers reminded us in a recent speech at an event honoring several of the craft’s prize-winners, “but it takes money to support them.” Journalism has become (like Baseball) a private promotional enterprise. If the “fearless” variety is to survive, Moyers warns, “it will require a steady stream of independent income.” Either that, or less likely, perhaps, a miraculous national reawakening. Something that, for the moment, we believe only a long-shot Bernie Sanders can make happen.

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Changeovers: Giants, with a 4-2 win over the Braves, replace the Dodgers, 3-0 losers to Cardinals, atop the NL West (by a half-game); Royals retake sole possession of AL Central lead, beating Cubs 8-4, while Twins lose 6-4 to Blue Jays, falling a game behind KC.

Dividing Up the Losses: “Everybody’s losing,” said Yankees’ radio color announcer Suzyn Waldman, while updating the AL scoreboard for listeners the other night. The Yanks’ division, the AL East has had a remarkable run the first two months of the season. On the brink of June, it boasts, on the one hand, just one winning team – the NYYs – and on the other, the closest race by far of the six divisions: three games separating the first-place Yankees and last- place Red Sox.. Chances of a wild card team emerging from the division – from not good to nil.

Streakers: Cardinals +5, Giants +5, Tampa Bay -6, Brewers -6, Phillies -5


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

The Fuel Activating Games on Two Fields: Fear

Measuring the Post-Memorial Day Milestone: “We’re not even out of May, best sovaldi sale ” said Mets Skipper Terry Collins, when reminded the other day how his team was sagging after a fast start in April. GM Sandy Alderson said on MLB Now that he ”thought” the Wilpons would finance reinforcements, if the team needed a playoff push., We can trace the hints of tension in these comments to this numerical reality: while the Nationals are a shoo-in to win the NL East (see below), teams in the NL Central and West are better situated than the Mets to earn the league’s two wild cards. The Giants or the Dodgers seem likely, as of now, to be one of the two. The superior-balanced Cubs or Pirates figure to get the other card, while the Cardinals can be expected to win the division.

The Yankees are in almost the same bind as the Mets: only one still-to-assert-itself AL East team looks strong enough to make the post-season through a first-place division finish. Two wild card spots should land among the Angels, Mariners, Royals, Tigers, and we can’t forget the Astros.. The pat outlook would have a rock-solid basis were it not for one imponderable: a key mid-season deal that changes the equation.

Managers, and GMs like Alderson can be expected to campaign for what they hope will be a job-saving transaction, especially, if, as in the case of Collins, their future with the team is almost certainly on the line. The dynamic is different in the corporate-political league, although fear is a common catalyst. The baseball skipper/or GM is afraid of losing his employment; the defense contractor and his pro-military teammates are afraid the public will lose its fear of jihadists and terrorism in general. Thus, every few days, we see NY Times articles headed “Iraqi Forces Are Blamed in ISIS Rout” and “Calm Down, ISIS Isn’t Winning.” The underlying messages: U.S. boots on the ground are inevitable, and our troops and weaponry will wear the jihadist enemies down. Reinforced by cautionary pieces in the media about the threat of terrorism, the messages act to fortifiy both the armed forces and a productive arms industry fueled by endless investment in our endless series of wars.

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Quarter-Pole Chatter: On MLB-TV last night, a panel of Brian Kenny, Joe Magrane, and John Smoltz closed down the NL East division race. “The Nationals will remain in first place the rest of the season,” they agreed. Do we hear any disagreement? We doubt it. Dubious prize for greatest distance from first in their division goes to the Brewers: 13-and-a-half games out; runners-up, Oakland, 12-and-a-half.. The surprising Astros own the largest division margin between first and second: five-and-a-half games ahead of the Angels. Narrowest margin separates first (Tampa Bay) and last (Toronto) in the closely matched struggle of AL East teams: three-and-a-half games.

Super-Surprise…is a fair description of the Twins, a game ahead of Detroit and just two games behind Kansas City in the AL Central. Since going 1-6 at the opening of the season, Minnesota has recorded a 25-12 W-L record, best post-mid-April mark in either league.

Productivity: The Rockies may be last in the NL West, but they are comfortably ahead of all MLB teams in RISP – hitting home runners in scoring position. Colorado has a .318 average; KC, the only other team above .300 in RISP, is at .307. The Cardinals and the Royals have the best run differentials – St.Louis plus 56, KC plus 52. The Phillies and Brewers, – 56 and -55 – are at the bottom of the differential list.

Streakers: Texas + 6, Cincinnati – 9


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

Three Blue Chip Teams and a Long-Shot Candidate

Snap Quiz: What, over recent seasons, do the Cardinals, Giants and Tigers have in common? The obvious answer (NY-style): They keep comin’ atcha. Over the past five years, the Cardinals and Tigers have made the playoffs four times (the Tigers qualifying the last four seasons in a row); the Giants, we know, were World Series winners in 2010, 2012 and 2014. A large part of the credit must go to five managers: Bruce Bochy, who led SF to its alternate-season titles, Tony La Russa, who guided the Cardinals to their 2011 championship, before yielding to Mike Matheny, and Jim Leyland and Brad Ausmus, who combined to pilot the Tigers on their four-straight playoff run.

Deserving at least as many cheers are key front-office people – GMs Brian Sabean (Giants), John Mozeliak (Cardinals) and Dave Dombrowski (Tigers) plus their scouting directors John Barr (SF), Jeff Luhnow (now Houston’s GM) and Dan Kantrowitz (St.Louis), and David Chadd (Detroit). The Giants and Tigers trail the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox in the payroll standings. The Cardinals, $50 million below the Tigers, are back with the mid-spending masses. All three teams have developed a successful formula for spotting blue-chip prospects. In addition to identifying superior playing ability – “tools” – all three emphasize the importance of work ethic and overall “character.”

Watching for those basics, making it a consistent focus year after year, has provided the stamp of a winner to all three. The unswerving commitment to what has worked may be what separates them from the pack. In the upcoming political playoffs, we know, money will be the separator. Unless, a repetitive focus on what should work can make one of the playoffs – that involving Dem teams – competitive. Vermont’s sot Senator Bernie Sanders (running for national Skipper as a Democrat) brings that kind of rasping, should-work approach to his underfinanced race against always cautious Hillary (“I’m watching closely”) Clinton.

On ABC This Week earlier in the month, Sanders made clear he was watching how “government works for ordinary people (rather than) the billionaire class” in Scandinavia. When it was suggested that praising Scandinavia was a dangerous vote-seeking strategy, Sanders replied: “What’s wrong with that…when (they) have more income and wealth equality… (and) have a stronger middle class …a higher minimum wage and they’re stronger on the environment than we are?

“We can learn a lot from other countries,” Sanders added. “We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country…at the same time as we’re seeing a proliferation of billionaires…I don’t think that’s what America is about.”

Commented John Nichols in The Nation: “Sanders acknowledges that it would require a “political revolution” for his campaign to break through the status quo. But if that’s the case, he’s already winning…It’s pretty damn revolutionary…for a Democratic presidential contender to rip the ‘billionaire class’ and then make the case that Scandinavian social democracy has something to teach us about equality.”

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Scrapheap Story: If you’re a Rangers, Padres, Mets, Mariners, or even a Nationals fan, you may, however vaguely, remember righthander Chris Young. He’s bounced from team to team from team to team over the last 11 years, winding up this season with the Royals. Last night, he shut out the Cardinals over six innings, bringing his record to 4-0 and his ERA to 0.78. He was voted comeback player of the year with the Mariners last season, but Seattle let him go, as had so many teams before…to their belated regret.

Say It Isn’t So, Joe: Mauer‘s just not a home run hitter. He’s changed his approach to try to pull the ball…I don’t believe he’ll ever hit 10 in a season again.”   – Phil Miller, Minneapolis StarTribune                                                          

Experience Clearly Wanted: “Although (former GM Dan) Jennings is manager now, the Marlins could soon…mov(e) forward. Jeff Conine and Mike Lowell could be options… and both would bring… playing experience to the dugout.” – Scott Gelman, SB Nation      

Vulnerability? On MLB Now yesterday, Harold Reynolds said the Cardinals will most feel the loss of Adam Wainwright in the bullpen, not their rotation. “The bullpen got to rest every five days when Wainwright put in his eight innings. They’re liable to get worn down without him.”                                                      

Streakers: Giants +7, Nationals +6, D-backs +5, Reds – 6


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




Back from Disabled List With Little to Cheer About

The Nub went on the disabled list in early April, sales preceding by a few days the Mets’ David Wright (strained Achilles tendon) and Travis d’Arnaud (fractured finger) and the Yankees’ Mashiro Tanaka (wrist tendonitis and forearm strain). The N-team’s return this week, generic discount will make it the first of the group back in action. During its long absence there has been shuffling, malady but minimal change in most division standings – streakings, up and down, but, few permanent-seeming realignments.

Amid comments received while sidelined: about pace of game, the surprising Astros, the early firings of Brewers’ Skipper Ron Roenicke and the Marlins’ Mike Redmond, the predictable fade of the Mets, etc., this from Nubbite Dan Appel of Greenpoint NYC, attracted our particular notice: “The notion that baseball should make massive rule changes because of the need for ‘more excitement’ is deranged. Also deranged: the notion that more offense equals more excitement.”

We agree, at least as much for political as for baseball reasons. The resort to more and more offense as an answer to battlefield challenges has become a predictable Team Obama strategy. The Skipper, skilled at hitting up the middle on domestic matters, lets his front shoulder fly open when the military signals a need to go for the fences. The increasing use of drone warfare and resulting innocent casualties, are a perplexing response to the long-ball approach. The drones’ still-frequent forays come just two years after the President announced a scaling back of the remote-control aerial campaign. When, a month ago, he had to apologize for a drone strike’s killing of an American hostage in Pakistan, there was talk that the scaling back would finally take place.

A NY Times headline, two days later, suggested nothing would change, and why; it read: “DEEP SUPPORT IN WASHINGTON FOR CIA’S DRONE MISSIONS.” A further reminder that the Skipper, his own man on so many issues, caves unfailingly to the military when additional offense is the name of the game.

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Stat City: Two teams – both from the NL West – have made the lists of top-ten clubs so far in hitting, pitching and fielding: the Dodgers are sixth in hitting, fourth in pitching and seventh in fielding. The Giants, third in hitting, 10th in pitching, and ninth in fielding. The Royals, Cardinals and Marlins are number 1 in the three respective lists. KC, by the way, leads all 30 clubs in delivering runners in scoring position (RISP), with a .309 average.

Some Flexible DL Updates: Yasiel Puig, shut down April 24 with a strained hamstring, is now not due back to Dodgers until sometime next month. Orioles’ Matt Wieters (recovering from Tommy John surgery), now on 60-day list, could return in early June. Brewers’ Jonathon Lucroy (broken left toe), sidelined April 21, expected back early June. Mets’ David Wright (hamstring strain late April); possible return: mid-June.

What’s Clear as Memorial Day Milestone Looms: Billy Beane’s off-season shakeup of the A’s, considered daring at first, has turned out to be reckless. Brewers GM Doug Melvin is similarly on the spot for going to other extreme – doing almost nothing off-season to upgrade his Milwaukee club..

Streakers: White Sox +6, Phillies +6


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