The Nub

Exciting Young Players: Where Do They Go?

Newsy Pre-Season Names: Corey Seager, generic capsule Byron Buxton, generic Trea Turner, Joey Gallo. Those are just four in the first 10 of 100 prospects listed in Baseball America’s early team talent ratings. (Seager and Turner, we know, are shortstops, with the Dodgers and Nationals, respectively; Buxton, a budding Twins outfielder, Gallo, a Rangers third baseman.) The Dodgers and Astros, listed one-two as having most overall prospective talent, each placed seven prospects among the top 100.

More noteworthy, however, are two perennial powers that barely made the list: the Cardinals and Giants; each placed only one prospect – Alex Reyes, a number-7-rated Cardinal righthander, and Christian Arroyo, a 62-slotted SF shortstop. Could it be that there’s an over-emphasis on prime prospects a team controls, rather than the overall number of its minor league players? One thing’s sure: the great majority of minor leaguers who reach the majors don’t last there. Looking at the Yankees’ season-long 2015 roster, illustrates the fact: Cole Figueroa, Ramon Flores, Rico Noel, Gregorio Petit, Danny Burawa, Caleb Cotham, Nick Goody, Jacob Lindgren, are just a few Pinstripers who came and went, possibly never to be heard from again.

Ah, Youth: New, young faces bring excitement to Baseball this time of year, but, as the above indicates, few stick around to make a difference. That’s certainly true in politics. Young enthusiasts for Bernie Sanders rallied around his campaign this month, but failed to vote in needed numbers in the key Nevada caucuses. There was a precedent for such a performance in 2008: Pew Research noted that, despite the campaign impact they made, young supporters of Barack Obama “were not crucial” to his election. We learned a similar lesson some years ago, working for a U.S. Senate candidate in NY. Making campaign stops at upstate college campuses, we were buoyed by the noisy support of students. But, when asked how canvassing for votes was going, they were evasive.. They assured us, however, they’d be a lively presence at an upcoming rally at Madison Square Garden, where partying would abound.

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Flummoxed: “We were stunned,” said Orioles beat writers to Buck Showalter when they heard about Dexter Fowler declining to complete a three-year Baltimore deal and returning to the Cubs. “I’d like to say I wasn’t,” said an equally bewildered Showalter. Fowler reportedly pulled out because the O’s wouldn’t include an opt-out clause in the contract. He was considered a valuable gap-filler to Baltimore’s spotty roster. Now he – and latest addition Shane Victorino – give the already division-favored Cubs an even stronger, top-heavy lineup.

Some other Baseball America talent-based pre-season slots: Atlanta #3, Red Sox 4, Mets 15, Yankees 17, Cubs 20 (before Fowler returned).

Indispensables? On MLB Now the other day, the panel discussed players on whose health the success of their teams would depend:. Two who received most prominent mention: Hunter Pence of the Giants, David Wright of the Mets.

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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.)



Record Book, re: Branch Rickey, William Buckley and Pete Reiser

On MLB Now the other day, buy panelists, look headed by host Brian Kenny, were talking about the implications of Toronto’s Josh Donaldson signing a two-year contract with the team. Donaldson will turn 32 in December of the year (2017) the contract ends. The consensus among clubs is growing, panelists agreed, that paying any player past 33 big money is a losing proposition. Donaldson, therefore, could have set himself up to leave the Blue Jays sooner than he would like.

How We’ve Come This Far: We know the emphasis of teams today, whether wealthy or more modestly financed, to invest in player development and hold on to top prospects in the hope of duplicating what the world champion Royals have achieved. Branch Rickey launched the elaborate farm system that is the model for what we see on a smaller scale now; he did it 95 years ago while both front-office exec and field manager of the St.Louis Cardinals. By the late 30’s, Rickey;s expansionist effort led to the Cardinals owning not only dozens of farm teams but entire leagues as well. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled that Rickey had violated the even-playing-field spirit of how organized baseball should run. Landis punished the over-stepping Cardinals by making 74 of their prospects free agents. (The team still had control of 800 players by the end of the decade).

Rickey’s game-changing initiative in the sport, and the criticism it spawned, was matched a couple of decades later on the political field. The initiator in this case was William F. Buckley, editor of the conservative National Review. Historian Gary Wills traces the change Buckley effected, and its consequences, in his NY Review of Books take on E.J. Dionne’s “Why the Right Went Wrong”:

“(Buckley) knew there could not be a conservative party if the South were not included in it. In 1957, he published an editorial titled ‘Why the South Must Prevail.’ It said:

The central question that emerges…is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes— the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.

“This feeling that superior people have license to circumvent democracy is still with us—when strategic gerrymandering and restrictive voting procedures freeze out minorities, the young, and the elderly, giving Republicans stronger representation in Congress than the popular vote warrants. Chief Justice John Roberts perpetuated this inequity when he voided Section Four of the 1965 Voting Rights Act — a decision followed immediately by a rush to impose new restrictions on who, where, and by what validation people can vote.

“The idea that America has somehow outgrown or transcended racism is an ever-renewable delusion. Some hoped that the election of a black president would mark the end of racism. But in fact it blew on the embers of racism we have beneath us all the time.”

The numerical racial embers in Baseball have, we know, been visible for decades.

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Rickey Extra-Inning: Rickey tried, but failed, to hide five-tool prospect Pete Reiser from free agency. Reiser wound up with the Brooklyn Dodgers, where, in a career-curbing crash at Ebbets Field, single-handedly pushed baseball to pad its outfield walls.

Reiser Extra-Inning: Years after he retired and helped raise a family that included children with health problems, Reiser was asked to look back on his life. He said: “There have been good moments and bad, but the good far outnumber the bad. And the sweetest memory of all is of the Kid, standing in the green grass of center field, with two out and the winning runs on base, saying ‘Hit it to me, hit it to me!

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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.)