The Nub

American Blacks: Losing Ground as Players and Voters

By now (give last night’s result a pass), remedy the Mets and fans everywhere know this: the KC Royals are for real – a very good team. The lineup full of multi-tooled, farm-grown players who blossomed together, does the mid-level club credit. The Royals have an impressive tradition. Owner Ewing Kauffman built MLB’s first U.S.-based Baseball Academy in 1970, designed to attract prospects overlooked by team scouts. Two of the academy’s early successes were African-American players Frank White and U.L. Washington. Both infielders, White played 18 seasons, his entire career with the Royals, making the All-Star team three times. Washington played 11 seasons, eight with KC.

Both played mainly in the ‘70s, when nearly a quarter of MLB rosters included Black Americans. With that history in mind, we noted today, when only seven percent of MLB players are American Blacks, the current Royals’ post-season roster includes a slightly above numerical average two African-Americans – outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson.. The Mets’ single Black American is right fielder Curtis Granderson.

The “why” of the erosion of African-American presence on MLB teams is well documented: increased recruitment of Latin American players one part of the story, shrinkage of baseball-playing opportunities for low-income black teenagers, another. Cutbacks in the number of playing fields, school teams, etc. is a further part of the shrunken -chance-to-play picture.

There’s a similar erosion of the chance to for American Blacks to play on the political field by voting. It comes 50 years after Congress gave them a Voting Rights law designed to end the practice of placing obstacles in their way. HuffPost’s Robert Kuttner traces what’s happened in recent years::

“Voting rights of African-Americans are being taken away by rightwing state governments, using the very techniques that the 1965 Act prohibited — techniques that were legalized after the fact by a partisan Supreme Court. In the South of the 1980s and 1990s, there were bi-racial voting coalitions that elected economically centrist and racially moderate governors and senators to statewide office, even in the Deep South. Bill Clinton of Arkansas was one such governor. Albert Gore, Jr. of Tennessee was one such senator…Those days are just about gone. The Republican Party in the Deep South is a mostly white party and the Democrats mostly a black party. The GOP has successfully played the race card, and biracial governing coalitions are getting scarce.

“Today, there are no Democratic governors in the 13 states of the old Confederacy (except for Virginia), and a shrinking number of Democratic state legislators…The relevance of this bitter history is that the region of the nation — the former Confederacy — that most needs to come to terms with the racial realities finally being exposed and discussed nationally is in no political position to do so…(Yes), it’s true that over the long term, the South is trending demographically more Democratic. But that assumes blacks will be allowed to vote.”

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Second Guess: An ’86 Mets hero, pitcher Bobby Ojeda, was quoted in the NY Daily News as saying the Mets should have relied on Matt Harvey and Jacob deGram heat in first two Series games with the Royals. His advice to the team and Noah Syndergaard in game 3: fast-ball KC into submission. We know now how that strategy worked out. Syndergaard struck out six in six innings, mainly with his heater.

NL East Upgrade: Mattingly and the Marlins, Bud Black and the Nationals. Bottom Line: Trouble for the Braves and Mets.

On Bud Black: “There is no certainty that the Nationals just hired (in Black) an exceptional manager, though as the example of (Bruce) Bochy shows, it’s absolutely possible. What they did do was hire a trained, experienced manager with nine years running his own ship and nine more years before that as a pitching coach, plus 17 years of experience as a big league pitcher. Experience, experience, experience — did I mention that? That won’t erase the bitter disappointments of the past two seasons. But it’s a long winter. So perhaps settle for: better late than never.” – Tom Boswell, WashPost



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


Sticking to a Dubious Strategy on Both Fields

Asked what about the Mets’ six dismal years leading to the World Series gave him most satisfaction, discount ask owner’s son Jeff Wilpon replied: “We stuck to it.” That is, doctor the team resisted spending on high-priced position players; nurturing inexpensive young arms on the farm instead.

We imagine that’s cold comfort for many Mets fans who remember the pain of being emotionally invested in a team that betrayed itself as non-competitive as early as late spring or start of summer. Fans elsewhere, in places like Arizona, Colorado, Miami, Minnesota, San Diego, and even Houston and Chicago, want, need, a team that will divert them; not necessarily a first-place team, but one that can keep them involved into September. In NY, six dark years have the cumulative effect of causing heartbreak to fans who – perhaps foolishly – care.

Caring or not, we know Baseball is a trivial pastime compared to the game of war. One of Team USA’s wars has been playing out for 14 years in Afghanistan, at a cost – cited by Reuters – of roughly 2,400 American and 92,000 Afghan lives (about a third of them civilians). The estimated cost in dollars is well over $7 trillion. Skipper Obama’s rationale for keeping 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan is virtually the same as leadoff man George W. Bush’s. Said Obama a week and a half ago: “I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”

The best our endless, massive investment has succeeded in accomplishing is this: we’ve kept the Taliban from completely overrunning the country. But there’s little doubt they will still be around when Team USA leaves the field. When that finally happens – years from now – we may wind up expressing a variation of the self-congratulatory Mets front office: “At least we didn’t cut and run – we stuck to it.”

Another Dismal Effort: “The early American position (on Syria) was that the first step in resolving the dispute had to be the removal of (Bashar al-) Assad from office. Those who knew him saw this as a fruitless demand, but it has been maintained for more than four years. In effect, our prerequisite for peace efforts has been an impossibility.” – Jimmy Carter, in NY Times

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The Confident Game: One old, and one new reason why Royals fans feel they’ll beat the Mets in the Series: closer Wade Davis (the old), second baseman Ben Zobrist (the new). Three key Mets: Jacob deGram, Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson surely help give fans in NY a different idea.

Advantage KC: Mets Skipper Terry Collins conceded yesterday the Royals have an edge entering the Series. “They’ve been through it,” he said. “It’s better to know what you’re getting into than not.”

Betrayal of Tulo: “His new teammates eagerly welcomed (Troy) Tulowitzki from day one. He fit seamlessly into the culture of veteran leadership in the clubhouse. He battled through a shoulder injury and a batting slump. He played spotless defense and delivered three big hits in the playoffs. But he never felt quite like he belonged. ‘I mean, these guys are great and I’m getting to know them,’ he said. “But at the same time, when you don’t spend the whole year with the team, it’s hard to feel settled’…He had enjoyed his teammates and the ride to the post-season. He was not complaining about the Blue Jays. But the bitterness from the trade still lingered. He said the Rockies had told him, ‘Hey, you’re not going anywhere.’ He felt betrayed.”– John Lott, National Post (of Canada)

LA Skipper-Talk: “(Gabe) Kapler, who recently completed his first season as Dodgers farm director, is the early industry-wide favorite to replace Don Mattingly. Coach Tim Wallach and third base coach Ron Roenicke (are also under consideration)” – Dylan Hernandez, LA Times –


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


On Mets, Chaos and Canada’s New Skipper

Leave it to the Mets. Their mid-season morass featuring the likes of Eric Campbell, Kirk Nieuwerhuis and John Mayberry behind them, capsule they’ve bumbled again, prostate en route to the World Series.. How? By undercutting the positive fan vibes the team has generated. They’ve done it by leaking to the media the probable departures of both playoff-darling Daniel Murphy and slugging rental Yoenis Cespedes. The tentative word is both will be allowed to leave when they become free agents in November.

The message: the team will revert to the same tight-fisted Mets as soon as the post-season starts. No reprise of this year’s excitement – and late box office surge – not with their best hitters gone. Pitching goes a long way, but, alone, can only be effective if competitive teams (like the Nats) collapse. Of course, front office mismanagement is not a Mets exclusive: the Blue Jays have been doing the opposite of the Mets, spending on makeovers for the last several years. The trend started in 2012 when they dealt for the pricey Marlins package of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and adding R.A, Dickey a short while later. Then came this year’s additions of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, which got them to the ALCS, but not as far as they hoped. The expensive lesson learned: jelling into a championship unit takes time.

It will surely take time for Canada’s newly elected Premier Justin Trudeau to put together a smooth-working team. The 43-year-old Trudeau, a Liberal, unseated Righthander Stephen Harper, who has been pitching for nearly 10 years. Trudeau inherited a left-of-center stance from his father Pierre, the country’s Premier when he was a boy. The new leader demonstrated his savvy on election night this week by pledging to pull Canada out of the U.S.-led air combat coalition operating in the midst of the chaos over Syria.

More on Air-Borne Chaos: In Bob Woodward’s new book, “The Last of the President’s Men,” Richard Nixon is quoted (in the 70’s) as saying this to Henry Kissinger:After 10 years of dropping bombs over Southeast Asia, here is what we have to show for it: “Zilch.”

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The Basepath Game: Alert base-running, displayed by both Mets and Royals in their successful pennant chases, should be a lively feature of the World Series. Curtis Granderson does his derring-go with flare, Lorenzo Cain with gigantic strides.

The Score-Early Imperative: Deep lineup vs. deep starting pitching – that’s this year’s World Series matchup. If those two strengths neutralize each other, KC’s shut-down relief pitching may give the Royals a winning edge.

Discomfort: Don Mattingly clearly had no qualms about separating himself from the Dodgers. The grapevine’s repeated suggestions that boss Andrew Friedman would like to name his own skipper was a nudging message. The question isn’t whether, but where Mattingly will land as manager before next 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.)

Bernie Sanders Fans: Get Ready to Cry Like Wilmer Flores

“It’s All Right to Cry, canada treat Wilmer Flores”: could have been the subject of a story headed in a section of Sunday’s Times. It forgave men for doing what Mets infielder Flores did when he thought he was being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. Close-up shots taken in late July showed Flores unable to hold back tears; he was playing what he mistakenly considered his last game with the team that signed him years earlier. (The deal, sildenafil we know, was cancelled at the last minute, owing to questions about at the health of Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez.)

History Lesson: When Flores was tentatively traded, the Mets were at the unequal end of club payrolls, among the bottom half dozen of the 30 MLB teams. “Spending like a minor league team in a major market,” went the media line on the inoffensive roster. That changed when, after eight disappointing seasons, the Mets found themselves in late July within a few games of the division’s troubled top team, the Nationals. Money materialized, and professional players, including Yoenis Cespedes and Tyler Clippard, were added on a rental basis. The Mets thus joined Baseball’s middle class, and the sporting world (at least, in the NY area) sighed with relief.

Tutorial: Relief, we know, is not what struggling Americans are receiving in the current economic season. The plight of the nation’s have-nots is acknowledged to be a crying shame – one that on the political field moves many fans – women as well as men – to tears. The worst part, says Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, is the ignorance surrounding the term som. Squeezed into public conversation by Sanders, who describes himself as a “democratic sot”, his pitch for som is causing noise.. Many fans equate it with tyrant-tainted communism, a linkage that goes back for well over a century. But, through the years, sotic principles, largely unrecognized, have become embedded in our capitalist-dominated society. Living examples of local som abound: fire, police and sanitation departments, the postal service, public schools and transportation, etc. Funded by government. At the federal level, Medicare and Social Security are social, but could be called “sotic” programs.

Sanders, a contender for National Skipper, is a long shot to win the Dem team nomination. Why? som, as an alternative to capitalism, requires at least a proportional rise in the taxes Americans pay to finance some of the things Sanders wants to see happen: among them, making health care and public college education free. If, after the capitalist-sot alternatives are discussed over the next year, most voters are likely to boo the free-lunch idea because they want to keep what little they have, and don’t see a future in greater sharing. They will choose extended innings of the capitalist game we play today. A choice we can hope will be made at least by fans better informed than they have been.

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Why What Happened Happened: “It’s not easy to do what we want to do when they’re (Mets pitchers) are doing what they want to do.” – Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo (quoted by Tyler Kepner, NY Times.)

Unsung Heroes: Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson both credit Mets batting coach Kevin Long with making them better hitters. He did it, in part, by getting them to toe-tap while re-positioning their front feet. Pitching coach Dan Warthen received a shout-out from Noah Syndergaard, who said he had a minor-league approach to getting batters out until Warthen took him in hand.

Cubs in Motion: “Those guys are on. You tip your cap and move on.” – Kyle Schwarber

Where Has Troy Tulowitzki Gone? we asked not long ago. Last night, his three-run homer spurred the Blue Jays to an 11-8 victory over the Royals. KC’s lead in the ALCS was cut to 2-1; its supposed ace Johnny Cueto was clobbered.

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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.)




The Playoffs: Pastime and Political

Pardon This Perspective: Among the playoff survivors, buy treat the team with the strongest standing – based on winning tradition – is clearly the Cardinals. But the Cubs have shown themselves to be a genuine powerhouse. In the AL, the Blue Jays may have the power, but the Royals have the resiliency. The upstart spirit of the young and talented Astros makes them a sleeper team to watch, however. For the Mets to advance, we know they must get by the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Even money, at best.

The political upstart to watch in the Dem team’s debate playoff tonight is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He must show he belongs in the same competition with heavy favorite Hillary Clinton. And he must do it while calling for increased taxes to pay for programs to help close the gap between the super-rich and struggling. Hillary’s challenge is to lose the façade that blunts her public appearances. As one pressbox observer put it, she has the stature, Bernie the passion. The three other competitors – Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee – have a huge, but simple chore: make a dent on the public’s perception of who they are.

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This One, Too: Our shout-out for best playoff broadcasters: the Astros-Royals team on TBS of Matt Vasgersian, John Smoltz, and A.J. Pierzynski, Having an articulate ex-pitcher and active catcher tracking the action is an unbeatable combination. Second best: the TBS Mets-Dodgers team of Ernie Johnson, Ron Darling and Cal Ripken.


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

Reason for Regret on Both Fields

For much of the latter part of the season, best mind Yankee – and fans, sales malady generally – praised team GM Brian Cashman for his roster decisions. Instead of going after available established stars at the trade deadline, illness Cashman chose to hold on to the club’s blue-chip prospects, pitcher Luis Severino and first baseman Gregory Bird, among them. The strategy sacrificed the team’s chances of winning the AL East, but the Yanks did earn the league’s first wild card.

Spilled Milk: Now, following the win-or-go-home loss to Dallas Keuchel and the Astros, the Yanks’ decision not to bid for a Keuchel-equivalent in David Price or Cole Hamels is open to question. Given Mashiro Tanaka’s diminished reliability, the team faces next year, both without an ace, and – even assuming the addition of a Price-like free agent – with grave (if premature) doubts the aging team will soon be returning to the post-season.

Skipper Obama was similarly averse to beefing up his military team on the field in the Middle East. What he wanted most was for Russia to stay off the field. According to New Yorker birddog Philip Gourevitch, Skip now seems to regret that approach:

“The President has preferred to pay the price of doing too little in Syria, rather than too much…(Although he) did tell the UN he was prepared to put the fight against ISIS ahead of the fight against (Syrian President) Assad, and to work with Russia and Iran to that end.”

Most fans at home want nothing more than for our military, with 14 years on the far-away field, finally to reach a post-season of its own.

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The Jon and Jeff Team: What stood out for some of us after watching the opening series of playoff games – was the two key leaders of the Texas Rangers. Team President Jon Daniels bypassed interim manager Tim Bogar to choose Jeff Bannister, Clint Hurdle’s bench sidekick in Pittsburgh, as Rangers Skipper. It was a not a popular choice, locally, but a carefully researched one. The imperturbable Bannister – buttressed by Cole Hamels, another sound, if costly, investment – has guided the Rangers to within a game of eliminating the vaunted Blue Jays from the playoffs’ first round. And Texas will play the possibly decisive game at home Sunday. Incidentally, Daniels identified new Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff as a regrettable part of the Hamels deal. Eickhoff, 25, established himself as a solid top-of-rotation right-hander with the Phils during the last month-and-a-half of the season.

The Matt Harvey Missing Practice Brouhaha: “The Met fans have really turned on Harvey. If the brass is smart, they use him like an old dish rag, and then trade him for a hitter and reliever. He is no Tom Seaver.” – Keith Weber, (Mets fan, Manhattan). “There were a lot of boys on that ’86 team that didn’t make practice, either…It’s really hard for me to criticize. Half our team didn’t make the [World Series] parade . . . We had guys who barely showed up to games.” – Ron Darling (former Met pitcher, now a team color broadcaster)

Who Needs Harvey? The Mets have a legitimate ace in Jacob deGrom. He confirmed that status, outpitching Clayton Kershaw last night. Elsewhere, the Cardinals brought the Cubs back down to earth, and Kansas City rallied to even its series with the Astros.


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

Gee, Getting Gun Control Laws Is a Hard Game to Win

“Who is Dillon Gee?” “Get me Dillon Gee.” “Get me a young Dillon Gee.” “Who is Dillon Gee?” The antic show-biz bio (linked to veteran actor Sam Levene) came to mind in connection with a former Mets pitcher: Dillon Gee averaged double-digit wins with the team from 2010 through 2014. His career as a Met came to an abrupt end this season; it happened after he complained about being duped into joining teammates in a gun-control promotion organized by NYC’s former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Gee, troche a hunter, site said that, while he opposed gun violence, he did not endorse gun control. His public gripe reportedly incensed GM Sandy Alderson. Gee, 29, already dropped from a rotation that included younger arms, was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas soon after the early June event. Although going a respectable 8-3 there, he was not called to rejoin the big team on September 1. The Mets made clear they wanted him gone.

While a credit to the team for standing up for gun control, the under-played Gee saga hints at the heft of pro-gun power – a clout that scatters attempts at effectively challenging the gun lobby. Skipper Obama bemoaned what lawmakers haves made an immovable problem after last week’s shooting deaths in Oregon. This has become “routine,” he said.

“What is also routine is that somebody, somewhere will say ‘Obama politicized this issue.’ Well this is something we should politicize… We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months. This is a political choice we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones…We are going to have to change our laws. This is not something I can do myself.”

The ball is on the Congressional field, where it will remain until fans can generate positive action.                                                          


AL Knockout Night: The Nub gives the Astros the edge over the Yankees in the AL wild card play-in game at the Stadium tonight. Why? We value Dallas Keuchel’s (20-8) consistency over Mashiro Tanaka’s (12-7) mostly up- but-sometimes-down performances. On the other hand, Keuchel struggled (5-8) on the road this season.

Win or Go Home in Pittsburgh: Insiders, like panelists at MLB-TV, favor the Cubs over the Pirates in tomorrow night’s NL play-in game in Pittsburgh. .They’re understandably impressed with Jake Arrieta’s W-L of 22-8, and his 0.75 ERA over the second half of the season. Still, Bucs starter Gerrit Cole (19-8) is no slouch.

Singular Series Choices: MLB-TV panels Greg Amsinger and Dan Plesac ares so impressed by the Cubs that each pick Joe Maddon’s team to go on to the World Series. They agree on the other World Series team as well – the Blue Jays.

Fenway’s Loss: An emotional sight for many viewers – when Red Sox players lined up under the broadcast booth in Cleveland Sunday to wave goodbye to ousted play-by-play man Don Orsillo. The recipient of the tribute waved his thanks, and said “Orsillo rounding third…” He’ll be in the Padres broadcast booth next 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.)


Which Skipper Looks Worse – Matt Williams or Barack Obama?

Who looks to be the big loser after the live-on-TV tussle between Nationals teammates Jonathon Papelbon and Bryce Harper? Super-star Harper has shown himself every so often to lack hustle. Fans will be less forgiving of that from now on. But he’s not going anywhere. Papelbon has confirmed his powder-keg personality; he would be traded if either his permission were not needed or an acceptable taker with big bucks could be found. He is likely, no rx if not sure, to survive. Not so, Nats Skipper Matt Williams. The man who led the Nationals to a division title in 2014 and was manager of the year, is now described by the media as a failed strategist and by several unnamed players as having “lost the clubhouse.”

When a Baseball job is in jeopardy, the sport’s insiders pounce: speculation about who’s head may fall is irresistible grist. The equivalent tendencies on the foreign policy field center around regime change. The same journalistic yen for conflict leading to the invasion of Iraq 12 years ago has surfaced again with regard to Syria. Coaches on the staff of Skipper Obama have persuaded him that force must push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of office; like Saddam Hussein in 2003, Assad has to go. It’s an awkward strategy because Assad’s troops are fighting against ISIS together with our coalition forces. Now, Vladimir Putin is making matters trickier by having Russia, which is pro-Assad, join in the anti-ISIS campaign. The arrangement has clearly flummoxed Obama. The Skipper’s perplexed – and indecisive – response to Putin is agitating the U.S. press, creating the sense that, at a political level, he has lost both clubhouse and fans.

As to the differing degrees of press agitation, the following two headlines after the two leaders met last week are instructive “Obama and Putin Clash at UN Over Syrian Crisis” (NY Times); “Obama, Putin Talk of Easing Tensions in Syria, but at Odds on How.” (McClatchy Papers).   We can draw from the comparison that the Times is rooting for a shock-talk standoff Baseball writers love; McClatchy, meanwhile, is playing a more measured game, one we welcome. Behind the current impasse is this unanswered question: How long will the Skipper listen to militant advisers, nudging him to heed their demand for discredited regime change?

One thing seems sure: Assad will remain as skipper long after Obama (and Williams, one way or the other) have moved on.

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The Big One This Coming Week: The most memorable event of the post-season is likely to be one of the two wild card play-in games. The Yankees will have their hands full whichever AL West team emerges for the game at the Stadium Tuesday night. It should be a rouser. But we see the Cubs-Pirates game in Pitsburgh Wednesday night as the potential all-of-October highlight. Their records say the two belong with the Cardinals as the NL’s three best teams (sorry, Dodgers and Mets). It’s the one post-season game we would hate to miss.

Regrettable: KC’s victory over Minnesota last night all but eliminated the surprising Twins from wild card contention. First-year manager Paul Molitor did himself and his feisty team proud.

What Ever Happened to…Wil Myers, Padres: Injuries have made it a lost season for the former touted prospect: .253, with eight homers and 29 RBI in just 59 games; Robinson Cano, Mariners: .286, 20 HR, 76 RBI in 153 games; Alex Rios, KC: .260, four HR, 30 RBI in 102 games (injuries again).

Two of Five Things Retiring Jeremy Affeldt Doesn’t Like About Baseball: Overly rabid fans in Philadelphia; miniscule clubhouse at Wrigley Field.

If There Is Any Doubt About Relief Pitching Fatigue: You’re probably not feeling as good as you were at the beginning of the year. You’re eventually gonna hit that wall. And how you get through it (is by trying to) still pitch confidently. Even though you might not be feeling the best. ” – Nationals reliever Drew Storen (quoted by Barry Syrluga, Washington Post)

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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.)