The Nub

Beltran, Biden and the Gift of Likeability

Early in the Yankees’ season, sales find when nearly all the team’s touted hitters were stuck on the I-95, cure a reporter asked Carlos Beltran if there was cause for worry. “We’ll be all right,” he said. Respected for his straight talk and admired for all he’s accomplished, Beltran’s words comforted fans, who also hold him in affection. And, sure enough, his words turned out to be true – about hitters, pitchers, and the entire wild card-bound team.

Beltran is a rare baseball specimen. He once told NBC Sports’ Joe Posnanski that he plays better when the competition is “exciting.” He’s done just that, at 38, helping to lead the Yanks to their first post season in three years, He is their quiet hero, averaging an RBI every other game and making most of his 18 HRs count. What the fans see is a conscientious worker, doing an effective job without swagger. And they appreciate him for it.

That appreciation came up during a political discussion the other day. A Beltran fan who’s been supporting Bernie Sanders said he would switch his allegiance to a Carlos-like Joe Biden; that’s if Team Obama’s VP decides to join the presidential playoff.. Why give up on Sanders? Skeptics note that, were he elected Skipper, he would be the oldest president, at 75, to take office. Furthermore, Bernie is a staunch defender of som, a dirty word to many Americans.

So, maybe there’s a case for Biden, who would be 73, should he go all the way to the White House. The Nation’s Michelle Goldberg seems to think so. Here’s her account of the VP’s appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert earlier this monrh:

“Introducing the vice president on The late Show, Colbert said, ‘Everybody likes Joe Biden, right?… I think it’s because when we see you, we think that we’re actually seeing the real Joe Biden. You’re not a politician who’s created some sort of façade to get something out of us’…When they came back from a commercial break, the crowd was chanting “Joe! Joe! Joe!” as if at a campaign rally. Colbert, naturally, asked about Biden’s presidential plans, and Biden said he couldn’t commit: ‘I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, number one, they know exactly why they would want to be president…’ And I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there’… By the time the interview was over, Colbert was practically begging him to run, and many of the people watching were probably silently doing the same.”

Not yet, Joe. But we’ll be among those watching.

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What We Know(Barring the Unlikely): Seven of the eight post-season spots are either truly, or virtually clinched: Blue Jays, KC and Texas AL division winners, Yankees one of two AL wild cards. Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers NL division winners, and Cubs-Pirates NL wild cards. Simplifying the outlook for remaining unclinched AL wild card , we see the half-game-ahead Astros playing two more away against the Mariners and three away against the Diamondbacks. The Angels, half-game behind the Astros, meanwhile, have two more at home against Oakland, and four away against Texas. The Angels schedule looks tougher, but the Astros have been a consistently poor road team. The outsider Twins, a game-and-a-half behind in the WC race, have two left with the Indians away, and three at home with KC.

The Big Squeeze: The Rangers, by losing to the Tigers last night, have squeezed the AL West into a two-game separation between first-place Texas, the Astros (1.5) and Angels (2.0) behind. An interesting windup lies ahead this final week of the regular season.


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


Baseball Amid a Backdrop of Ecumenism

What We Know: The post-season outlook, canada online as of now (with less than a week to go): Wild Card matchups: (AL) Astros-Yankees; (NL) Cubs-Pirates. AL best-of-five first rounds: WC winner – KC , store Texas-Toronto. NL first rounds: WC Winner-Cardinals, advice Mets-Dodgers. The oddsmakers will surely pick the Dodgers, with super-aces Kershaw and Greinke poised to dominate, advancing to the NLCS, after defeating the Mets in three or four.

What We Remember: This week marked the 50th anniversary of aYom Kippur-Baseball double play involving the Dodgers’ all-time ace. The Jerusalem Post’s Michael Freund recalled the event. Here is part of what he wrote:

“ In 1965, the Day of Atonement coincided with… the date on which the Los Angeles Dodgers were going up against the Minnesota Twins in the first game of baseball’s World Series. The Dodgers’ best pitcher, Sandy Koufax, was expected to lead the charge for the team….But Koufax wasn’t just a baseball superstar. He was also a Jew from Brooklyn and a proud one at that. And although he was completely secular, he found himself facing a dilemma: stand by his teammates and play or respect the sanctity of the day. Koufax chose the latter, sitting out the first game (which the Dodgers went on to lose).

His choice caused a sensation among an entire generation of American Jews, from the most observant to the least active. It underlined that Jews need not feel discomfort about their identity while taking part in American public life. After all, if young Sandy Koufax could place fidelity to tradition ahead of pitching in the World Series without fear of a backlash, then clearly America was a place where Jews could assert their identity more securely than previously thought.

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Yogi and the Pope: When Berra met Pope John Paul II nearly a half-century ago, he told how the meeting went, as reported in the Baltimore Sun:

Reporter to Yogi: “I understand you had an audience with the Pope.”

Yogi: “No, but I saw him.”

Reporter: “What did he say?”

Yogi: “You know, he must read the papers a lot, because he said, ‘Hello, Yogi’.”

Reporter: “What did you say?”

Yogi: “I said, `Hello, Pope.’”

(Thanks to Nubbite Philip G. Ryan, of Kingston, NY)

Playoff Returnee: With a 10-4 victory over the Mariners last night, KC became the first team to clinch a playoff spot. The Royals lead 5the AL with 89 wins; Toronto has 87. As of now, KC figures to face one of three wild card teams, the Yankees or Astros (and possibly, the Angels).

Still Twitching: The Twins, who lost 6-3 to the Indians, are now tied with the Angels, a full game behind the night-off Astros. Skipper Paul Molitor still hasn’t given up: “We’re back to having a chance,.” he says.

Streakers: Pirates + 6, Cardinals + 5. Rockies – 5, Oakland – 5,


(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 Risky Expectations Game in Every Pursuit

Last spring, ampoule the Washington Nationals were considered by most savvy observers to be the “best team in Baseball.” Blame for their implosion can be linked to key injuries, sildenafil cheap poor managerial decisions, a minimally ace-like ace, an unreliable relief corps. Valid as those contributing factors may be, what sabotaged the team from the start is familiar throughout the sporting world: overly-high expectations. The Tigers, Dodgers and Cardinals were three Baseball examples last year. Serena Williams was similarly victimized last week, tightening under the intense pressure generated by her desperately devoted fan base.

On the political field, the obvious potential victim is Hillary Clinton, positioned by her party to be its unbeatable nominee. Hillary had a similar slot in the 2008 Dem playoffs. She lost then, in part, because of an over-reliance on staid organizational support while main opponent Barack Obama played hard to build up a boisterous grass-roots base. Clinton’s preference for a risk-averse stance keeps her impressive fan-base from catching fire. Yet, she surely remembers it was Barack’s caution-free success in rallying his fans that signaled her ’08 defeat

Ezra Klein, on Vox, hints it could happen again: he believest the Dem’s anti-Trump, Bernie Sanders, is posing an “increasingly serious challenge” to Clinton:

“Where Trump has never held elected office, Sanders is one of the longest-serving members of Congress; where Trump calls himself a Republican but seems to loathe his party, Sanders calls himself an independent sot but acts like a loyal Democrat; where Trump delights in attacking his fellow candidates, Sanders refuses to go negative… where Trump is limiting the Republican Party’s ability to reach beyond its base and win minority voters, Sanders is trying to expand the Democratic Party’s base among the white working class and evangelicals; where Trump is a billionaire attempting to take over American politics, Sanders is a congressman of unusually modest means trying to stop billionaires from taking over American politics.”


Rarity: Heard over radio broadcast of Toronto-Yankees game at the Stadium last weekend this remarkable sound: fans chantintg “mvp, mvp,” when the Jays’ Josh Donaldson came to bat.

Yo, Yoenis: It’s a long shot, but if the Mets outbid the Yankees for Yoenis Cespedes, fans can point to former Yanks owner George Steinbrenner as the responsible party. It was Steinbrenner who noted that he willingly paid a lot to Reggie Jackson, because Reggie “put fannies in the seats.” A draw the Mets have lacked over much of the last decade until Cespedes came to town.


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


Endurance a Challenge for Young Players and Pols

It was early in the spring that MLB-TV’s John Smoltz, best treatment among others, best warned there was no telling how touted young pitchers would meet the challenge of longer seasons than they’d experienced. “Some may bog down in the late summer heat,” he said. We’ve watched that happening here in New York as the Mets’ main weapon – their green starters – has jammed in the homestretch. Dealing with the dilemma of whether to sacrifice the current season for yet another “next year” by saving arms for the future has some fans nervous despite the team’s seven-and-a-half-game lead “I’ve seen this movie before,” said a meltdown-weary Mets caller to ESPN Radio the other day, “and I don’t like the ending.” The resurgence of Bartolo Colon, he of the record-breaking, 31-inning scoreless streak (best ever for a 42-year-old), should tamp down the nervousness.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have a simpler challenge…whether, if they fail to get by Toronto, Mashiro Tanaka or Luis Severino will pitch the wild card play-in game against the Rangers or Angels. We’ve said it before: GM Brian Cashman has done a miraculous job molding the 2015 Yanks. Besides assembling two of the top three hardest throwers in the AL – the now-disabled Nathan Eovaldi and recently promoted Severino, he rustled from the Rangers one of the league’s top all-around shortstops: Didi Gregorius started slowly with his new team, but has reached double-digits in HRs and a 270-plus BA. His fielding, meanwhile, now has gold-glove glitter.

The age issue in politics usually involves older candidates and whether they’ll be vigorous enough to meet the challenge of endless campaigning, much less, running the country. If the doubts raised in Baseball, centering on the endurance of younger players, are equally valid in the other game, here are rookie-ish political competitors to doubt as the primary season unfolds:

Four Team GOP players – Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker – will still be in their 40’s on January 17, 2017, when our next Skipper will be sworn in. National polls show Rubio and Cruz (to be 45 and 46, respectively) as the strongest among the four. But doubts about the campaign trail endurance they’ve gained as Senators, from Florida and Texas, suggest they are risky bets over the long term. One reason: the GOP hasn’t chosen a presidential candidate in his 40s since 1959, when it selected VP Richard Nixon. Assuming that Donald Trump (to be 70 on 1/17/17) will fade as the playoffs proceed, the still-early polls indicate Ben Carson (to be 65) and Jeb Bush (to be 63) are the GOP’s most solid potential winners.

On the Dem team’s side, only former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (to be 54 on 1/17/17) has anything close to a youth-endurance issue with which to contend. Hillary Clinton (to be 69) is far ahead nationally, but she hasn’t shaken the pursuing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (to be 75).

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Who Says Investigative Reporting is Dead? Two front-page NY Times stories on Sunday and Tuesday broke through the cordon of silence surrounding the Clinton campaign’s top-secret strategy: the headlines describe the insider info uncovered – “CLINTON RELYING ON TAKING SOUTH TO THWART RIVALS” (Sunday); ‘CLINTON AIDES SET NEW FOCUS FOR CAMPAIGN” (Tuesday)

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Scramblin’: One of six divisions still has three teams competing for two playoff positions: the AL West, with the first-place Astros, two-and-a-half games ahead of the Rangers, and five-and-a-half in front of the Angels. The Angels host the Astros this weekend in a series that could either tighten or simplify that race.

Ready Reinforcements: Three clubs – the Rockies,Twins and Tigers – each landed two players among the 15 roster spots on Baseball America’s newly announced 2015 Minor League All Star team. Two Rockies position players – third baseman Ryan McMahon and outfielder Jordan Patterson – made the team, as did two Tigers pitchers – Matt Boyd and Michael Fullmer (traded by the Blue Jays and Mets). The Twins placed outfielder Max Kepler and pitcher Jose Berrios on the All Star roster.

Tim’s New Tune? During the Cubs-Cardinals game, carried by MLB-TV Wednesday, we heard Tim McCarver, now regularly covering the Redbirds, do something we’d never noticed before. He called the home team “we”, as in “It’s vital we score that run from third.”

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


Strategy on Both Fields Frustrates Confused Fans

Glum fans in a half-dozen cities with once-touted teams like the Orioles, sale medical Mariners, buy Tigers, no rx White Sox, Padres and Marlins, have a fair question: where, they ask, are the meaningful games they hoped to see this month? By now the answer has sunk in: what happened was a crucial unwillingness of team purse-holders to spring for needed reinforcements. Some, like the Tigers, were sellers; Detroit, we know, gave up ace David Price to Toronto and slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets. The two Texas teams were big-time buyers – the Rangers adding Phillies’ prize starter Cole Hamels, and the Astros the solid Scott Kazmir of the Athletics and the Brewers’ dynamic center fielder Carlos Gomez .

Rangers GM Jon Daniels said, given the depth of his team’s farm system, deciding to deal for Hamels was a no-brainer: “Three years guaranteed at about twelve million a year; you know we just felt like that value made it worthwhile parting with the players who we like quite a bit.” Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, who signed soon-to-be free agent Price as a rental, said he couldn’t let the opportunity pass: “The great superstar players, rarely become available. We think…adding a guy like Price will give us a chance to win. It’s as simple as that.”

Investing heavily on less than a sure thing is never easy, whether in baseball, banking or politics. The New Yorker’s John Cassidy sees a Baseball-like reticence in Team Obama’s refusal to sink major human resources into defeating ISIS:

What explains the reluctance among politicians to consider confronting, head-on, a movement that has been intent on eradicating ideals that the United States and its allies hold dear? The Iraq War, of course. By destroying the Iraqi state and setting off reverberations across the region that, ultimately, led to a civil war in Syria, the 2003 invasion created the conditions in which a movement like ISIS could thrive. And, by turning public opinion in the United States and other Western countries against anything that even suggests a prolonged military involvement in the Middle East, the war effectively precluded the possibility of a large-scale multinational effort to smash the self-styled caliphate.”

Cassidy adds that he’s not calling for a ground war against ISIS. Like most of us, he doesn’t know what to think, except to hope the appeal of ISIS on disaffected Muslims will wane. “But do I have any real confidence that (it) will happen?” he says: “ I do not.”


Whither Pecota? The start of September is a little early to see how accurate were Pecota’s sabermetric-assisted projections of the final regular 2015 standings. We decided this was a good time, however, when we noted how off-the-mark many predictions have so far turned out to be.   In two of the three AL divisions, Pecota picked the Red Sox and Tigers to finish first; both are now at the bottom in the East and Central, respectively. And in the AL West, the projected finish of the first-place Astros was last. Pecota did much better in the NL, particularly in the Central and West divisions, where it forecast victories by the Cardinals and Dodgers.

Big Tests: The Nationals and Giants, projected to finish first and second t in the NL East and West, both have tough roads ahead; each is either six (Nats) or six-and-a-half (Giants) games behind the Mets and Dodgers.. The Nats have six games remaining with the Mets – three next week – so they still possess a legitimate shot at finishing on top, where Pecota said they would. SF, on the other hand, has only three left with the Dodgers in the last week of the season. Until then, Bruce Bochy must guide his team, at least, to shave three-and-a-half from the LA lead (an immediate opportunity the Giants blew last night against the Rockies).

Scramblers: Meanwhile, the AL West looks to be a face-off between the Astros and Rangers, two games apart, for the division, the loser fated to scramble with the Central’s surprising Twins for the second wild card. The Yankees have dibs on the first card, if they don’t overtake the AL East – leading Blue Jays, a game-and-a-half within reach. Pecota, by the way, picked the Twins to finish dead last in the Central, two games behind the runaway Royals, projected to finish fourth..

Streakers: Giants -6, Braves -9

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