The Nub

The Credibility Challenge on Both Fields

With roughly only 40 regular-season games left, click it’s time to tick off playoff –possible teams. Except in the all-or-nothing NL East, buy five or fewer games behind in the wild card standings make our cut. By that measurement, prescription a numerically impressive 16 teams are still in the hunt – nine in the AL, seven in the NL. The list (including division leaders): Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, Royals, Tigers, Astros, Angels, Rangers; Mets, Nationals, Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants.

We give three teams on the list only outside chances of making the post-season: the Rays, Tigers and Mets. Why the first-place Mets? Because the healing-from-key-injuries Nationals can be expected to come on strong. And we know the Mets have been meltdown-prone in the homestretch ever since they were an inning away from the World Series in 2006. The Marlins hammered Tom Glavine in the final game of 2007, nudging them a game out of a first-place tie. They faded to three games out in 2008, owing to a depleted bullpen. In ensuring years they faded completely. Hard to believe some similar historic failings – hitting and/or bullpen – won’t undermine them this time around.

Would-be presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has a Metsian-like credibility challenge as he deals with the Dem team in his party’s nomination playoff. Vox scout Ezra Klein summed up Bernie’s problem in this single sentence: “Can Sanders convince Democrats he can win?”

The fact that Bernie will turn 74 early next month complicates his persuasion task. People in the national ballpark have never elected a Skipper as old as Sanders would be on taking office in 2017. The Dem team favorite – comparatively youthful Hillary Clinton (68 in January ’07) – has money as well as wide front office support working in her favor. What she doesn’t have is the elusive gift of “authenticity,” which WashPost’s E.J. Dionne says could be decisive. Here is how he puts it (without mentioning Hillary by name): More voters than usual seem tired of carefully focus-grouped public statements, deftly cultivated public personas, and cautiously crafted political platforms that are designed to move just the right number of voters in precisely the right places to cast a half-hearted vote for a person or a party.”

A reason, perhaps, why mostly spontaneous Donald Trump has been successful as a Team GOP candidate so far.

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Lengthening Odds: It’s risky ever to rule out the Giants from overcoming competitive obstacles. But, after last night’s loss to the Pirates and the Cubs’ victory over the Braves, SF is eight games behind the Bucs and four behind Joe Maddon’s team in the wild card race. That leaves them one-on-one with the Dodgers for the playoff spot that goes with the NL West pennant. And the Giants must overtake an LAD team just strengthened by the addition of Chase Utley, while they must counter with newly obtained Marlon Byrd as the lone reinforcement for the absences of injured Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan. All that, and we’re not in an SF-blessed even year.

Lucky to be a Yankee (Fan): Brian Cashman deserves a GM-of-the-Year Award for (1) acquiring pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (13-2) from the Marlins in a pre-season deal; (2) holding on to pitcher Luis Severino and first baseman Greg Bird rather than possibly dealing them away before the July 31 deadline. With the addition of Severino, the Yanks have a solid rotation to go with a superior relief corps and a potent offense. If they don’t hold off the talent-top-heavy Blue Jays for the AL East title, the Yankees should win enough to give their fans post-season play as a wild card team..

More on the Mets: Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan suggests where the blame should rest if the Mets pull another fade, despite the much celebrated rental of Yoenis Cespedes: “(Cespedes) is not the sort to liberate New York from the sins of the Wilpons, the Mets’ owners who are being lauded for upgrading their team at the deadline. Here’s the truth: A New York team starting the season with a payroll below that of the Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds, among many, many others, is the sort of unforgiveable failing that makes this look promising only because where they started is such an embarrassment.”


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

The Hype: Its Effect on Savvy Fans and Voters

Whaddaya know Joe? It’s mid-August, tadalafil ampoule and New York’s two teams are leading their divisions. The talent-rich Blue Jays and Nationals in close pursuit notwithstanding, best the hype is inevitable: “With some luck,” said the Wall Street Journal this week, “the entire World Series could be played in New York.” Savvy fans know better: both teams have sizable holes – the Yankees in starting pitching, the Mets with a persistent paucity of hitting.   The bubble could burst this weekend when the Yanks play three in Toronto, and Mets host the playoff-bound Pirates.

“It’s too fragile,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny likes to say when scribes extoll the consistent play of what SI’s Tom Verducci calls the skipper’s “superteam.” Fractious” might be a more apt word to describe Team GOP’s would-be presidential lineup as the primary playoff gets rolling. The team has no solid favorite in position to challenge bumptious Donald Trump. Indeed, among the 21 active primary candidates, 17 Republican and four Democrat, there is only one generally acknowledged front-runner. Hillary Clinton has a Cardinal-like superteam plus name recognition and money to enable her to go all the way. But Hillary would do well to note what Matheny said of his heavily-favored Redbirds: there is too much fragility in what lies ahead to consider one’s success a sure thing.

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More on the Cardinals: A key to the Cards’ dominance this season can be found in runs-allowed stat. St..Louis has yielded only 322 runs in 112 games; that’s 84 fewer than the wild card-bound Pirates. The Rockies, at the bottom of the list, have, by comparison, given up 575 runs. SI’s Joe Lemire points out that the Redbirds’ pitching and defense are particularly tough when the opposition has men on base. With runners in scoring position, it’s virtually forget-about-it, says Lemire.

Adjustment: Jose Reyes, on what it’s been like being traded from the playoff-likely Blue Jays to the doormat Rockies: “It’s been tough. I want to win. My best time was in the playoffs with the Mets (2006). But I’m still playing baseball.”

Streakers: Toronto + 9, Kansas City + 5, Cubs + 5


(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)




The Buying Game Playing Out on Both Fields

On MLB-TV the other night, sovaldi Peter Gammons asked former Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd a rare, provocative question about Baseball’s uneven playing field: “Aren’t teams justifiably concerned,” he said, “at the way the Dodgers are using their endless supply of money?” Gammons was referring to the LAD strategy of refusing to yield prime prospects for the likes of Cole Hamels or David Price. Instead , they spend whatever it takes to obtain solid non-stars like Mat Latos and Alex Wood by relieving trade partners of disposable pricey contracts. The multi-million dollar buyouts plus luxury taxes are acceptable costs of doing business the new Dodger way.

O’Dowd replied like a true organization-man: “The Dodgers are playing within the rules,” he said. Any need to rectify the economic imbalance was left unexpressed. Coincidentally, at a Charles Koch- audition for possible GOP presidential candidates, Jeb Bush was defending the $120 million war chest he’s already raised before announcing his candidacy. “Money helps,” he said. “I’m playing by the rules of the game, the way it’s laid out.” And, we know what the rules laid out by the “Citizens United” decision means: that Koch and other Dodger-like moguls with deep pockets can try, and possibly succeed, in buying elections, including that of the next national Skipper. Fan apathy could abet the effort. Rally caps in abundance are needed to produce a stopper.

Ezra Klein (Vox) on Donald Trump’s Game: “He doesn’t back down…an appealing kind of lunacy.”

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Tribal Score? Who made the best trade-for-a-prospect deal prior to the July 31 deadline. The verdict of one highly regarded minor-league tracker interviewed on MLB-TV: the Indians pulled off a coup in obtaining lefty Rob Kaminsky from the Cardinals for Brandon Moss. Kaminsky, a first-rounder drafted out of high school in 2013, is now described by as a premium prospect who had “the best curve ball in the (Cardinals) system.” “They gave up too much,” said another birddog.

Stat City – pitching leaders: Zach Greinke, LAD, W-L pct. 1.71 (11-2); Chris Sale, CWS, strikeouts, 186 in 143 innings; Tyson Ross, Padres, fewest walks, 4 in 113 innings.

Bad Look: “There was a scene Tuesday night in the eighth inning, when (Hanley) Ramirez came in on a ball and Pablo Sandoval went out and eventually made the catch, resulting in the two laughing on the field.   It was a bad look, and YES analyst Paul O’Neill made note of it on the Yankees broadcast. Laughing on the field during a 13-3 loss doesn’t put you in the best light.” – Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe


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