The Nub

Baseball and Brexit: the Aversion to Reaching Beyond Home Base

Semi-stunned by last week’s seismic Brexit vote in Britain, let’s call Baseball’s own little shock “Plexit.” That’s short for the best U.S. players electing to remain clear of their sport’s involvement with outsider ballclubs in the competition called the World Baseball Classic. The fourth renewal of the quadrennial event, tadalafil bringing together teams from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North, Central and South America, will be held next March. Japan won the first two tournaments, the Dominican Republic the most recent one, in 2013.

Fourth place in 2009 was the closest U.S. teams have come to winning the Classic. In general, Team USA has been a disappointment because the country’s best players – its Clayton Kershaws, Mike Trouts, Buster Poseys, etc, – decline to compete. Risk of injury during the spring training season that coincides with the Classic is the main reason for demurrals. Unlike the Yanquis, Dominican, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican and Asian Big League players are willing to take the risk. (The 2013 MVP was the Dominican team’s Robinson Cano.) NY Post birddog Joel Sherman tries to give reluctant U.S. players the benefit of the doubt in this recent report, during which he, nevertheless, describes their reticence as regrettable:

“I understand the concerns of players, agents and teams to the downside of undertaking a high-stress tournament in March, before bodies — especially pitching arms — might be ready. But one of the most important reasons the Commissioner’s Office and Players Association united for this event was to sell the game worldwide, and within this context, the United States has been the biggest slacker. In the third WBC in 2013, the American club was light on star power. Just as an example, the starting pitchers were Ross Detwiler, R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Derek Holland and Ryan Vogelsong. And, trust me, the relievers were just as uninspiring and the positional group was hardly the best of the best.”

The team’s newly named GM Joe Torre and manager Jim Leyland are talking hopefully of putting together a “dream team” this time around. Chances are, however, that the Plexit vote will be as disappointing to U.S. fans as Brexit was to many Brits.

Brexit’s below-the-radar impact on many of us political fans is given serious attention by the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson:

“The Brexit results are a strong warning for anyone complacent about Donald Trump. Brexit didn’t happen because people in Europe listened to him; but he is a voice in a call-and-response chorus that is not going to simply dissipate…There are structural economic issues that have left both Leave sympathizers and Trump voters with real grievances…The political institutions are very different…Brussels bureaucrats don’t quite have super pacs. But the word ‘rigged,’ or its local variations, is probably the key one on both sides of the Atlantic…The European Union is a great idealistic project, and it is a tragedy that it might be torn down now. A lesson for Americans is that fortified idealistic structures can be torn down, by means of some of the same wrecking tools Trump has been willing to deploy.”

–     –       –

A Vote for the Tribe: “If you were to ask what American League team would best match up with the Giants or Cubs in the World Series,” said one American League manager, “I think the majority of us…would say the Indians. They have the great starting pitching, and that starting pitching is really deep.” – quoted in Gammons Daily, by Peter Gammons.”f

A Red Sox Reminiscence: Actor Paul Giamatti, son of former Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett (Bart) Giamatti, says he “had to” root for the Red Sox while growing up in New Haven, Connecticut.  Asked by the NY Times what he recalled about the heartbreaking 1986 World Series with the Mets, the actor said this: “I watching…when the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs in a room full of Mets fans. Bob Stanley was pitching to Mookie Wilson, and I remember…thinking, ‘the Red Sox are going to lose.’ (Stanley)was a good relief pitcher, but he screwed up a lot. I never blamed Bill Buckner, I always blamed Bob Stanley…Certain things like that still rankle.” the opposing dugout would say the Indians. They have the great starting pitching, and that starting pitching is really deep.

Streakers: Indians + 10, Orioles + 5

 Notable Late Monday Night Scores: Oakland 8, Giants 3; Rockies 9, Blue Jays 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.)


A Couple of Quick Numerical Pitches

Saturday A.M. Stat City Leaders Update: Hitting: (BA) David Murphy, canada Nationals, buy and Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox, .349; RBI: David Ortiz, Red Sox, 60. HRs: Nolan Arenado, Rockies, 21. Pitching: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 11-1, 1.57. Fielding: (Team) Nationals, .990. Team Hitting: Red Sox, .289. Team Hitting with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) Cardinals, .306. Team Pitching: Cubs, ERA 2.72.

These Stats on the other field, in the Senate League: Eight of the 10 seats most likely to change parties next year are held by Team GOP; the Dem team, therefore, has a solid chance to regain control of the Senate following the 2016 elections. If Clinton wins the presidency, Dems will need to win just four of the top-ten matchups. One apparent sure thing: in Wisconsin, Russ Feingold returning to the upper chamber with a victory over incumbent Don Johnson.                                                  –     –     –

Three Largest Division Leads: Cubs 10 games ahead of Cardinals (NLC), Rangers nine ahead of Astros (AL West), Giants seven ahead of Dodgers (NLW)

Two Examples of Why Playing Ball Isn’t All Play: “Hitting with two strikes is hard to do,” says home run leader, the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado (quoted on The Rockies are a respectable fifth among teams scoring men with two outs (behind the Cardinals, Tigers, Red Sox and Mariners), but Skipper Walt Weiss thinks they can do better when batting with two strikes. Weiss believes they adjust their stroke and allow tension to take hold.

John Smoltz says when a pitcher gives up a run with two out, “It’s like getting kicked in the gut.” He doesn’t have to emphasize the hurt when the two-out damage occurs after getting ahead with two strikes: a double dividend for the team at bat – a late run or two, and a hyper-frustrated pitcher.

Notable Late Friday Night Scores: Red Sox 8, Rangers 7; Mariners 4, Cardinals 3; Giants 5, Phillies 4

Streakers: Indians + 7, Astros + 6, Rays – 8, Nationals – 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.)


Fans on Both Fields Taking What We’re Told

The thought occurred in the home seventh of the televised Pirates- Cub game at Wrigley Field last Saturday: former Cub Jose Cardenal led the packed crowd in a rollicking chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” A contrast came to mind: Why, during the seventh inning of Yankee games at the Stadium are fans forced to endure the unwelcome interruption of long-deceased Kate Smith singing “God Bless America”?

Baseball’s role of patriotic cheerleader – one that many of us find excessive, buy especially when war-making is involved – should have been sent to the showers long ago. It’s something Commissioner Rob Manfred ought to consider. A recommendation that “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” replace flag-waving delays would surely be a cause for celebration at many stadiums; the many with less enlightened seventh-inning diversions than the one that makes Wrigley Field so special.

The reason for minimal fan outcry about patriotic policy is also familiar on the political scene: blind acceptance of the guidance received from government and the media. The scorecard shows a narrative that depicts the Dem team as the party of “working people”. It’s something that’s true, but only when contrasted to Team GOP and its concern for the wealthier classes. Bernie Sanders wants the Dems to become a genuine “party of working people and young people, and not just wealthy campaign contributors.” That, we know, regrettably, is unlikely to happen, once election-year excitement ends.

New Yorker scorekeeper Benjamin Wallace-Wells offers this credible look at what lies ahead of the Dem team and its fortunately-positioned, Sanders-lite leader: “The basic arguments for Clinton have been defensive. Against the madness of Trump, against Republican efforts to reverse the gains of the Obama Administration, she offers the assurance of another four years of liberal federal judges and civil servants…”

A less-than-rallying way to scratch out a win, but so much better than a walkoff loss.

– – –

Pity the Pirates: They’ve lost 10 of 12, fallen three games below .500 and 15 games behind in the NL Central. That’s not all: they’ve just been swept by one of the league’s dominant teams, the Cubs, and, although they won last night, are now dealing with the Giants, who have won nine of 11.

Worryin’Time:When a manager says, game-after-game, “We’ve got to do better,” as the Mets’ Terry Collins has been repeating about his inoffensive lineup lately, he’s sending a two-word message to the front office: “Help me.” Injuries to key players – David Wright, Lucas Duda, etc. – mean Collins’s job is not on the line. But it may be time for once-celebrated hitting coach Kevin Long to start to worry.

Notable Late Monday Night Scores: Dodgers 4, Nationals 1; Tigers 8, Mariners 7; Rangers 4, Orioles 3; Cardinals 3, Cubs 2.

Streakers: Rangers + 7, Phillies – 7, Rays – 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.)


Upbeat About One Pastime, Less So About Another

Responses received here to the recent piece on John Smoltz’s campaign for a U.S.-World All-Star game have been generally favorable. But Patrick Shields of Manhattan makes a practical point: recruiting star players from across the globe and melding them into a team would be too time-consuming a challenge.   Shields suggests a more scaled-down “regional” approach. For Smoltz (as we understand it) the “world” players would be limited to those competing in the MLB. The world team would, thus, be mostly Latino and Asian: in other words, a scaled-back global version.

If nothing else, the conversation is a reminder of how the sport has grown through the years. Another positive reminder was provided this week from an unlikely athletic pastime; one that competes in popularity with Baseball during the spring and early summer: pro basketball. The NBA gave fans reason to doubt its integrity this week. Two days after the Golden State Warriors took a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the best-of-seven championship, league officials acted, in the eyes of many fans, to help insure the series would not end with game 5. They retroactively suspended Warrior co-star Draymond Green from playing in what could have been the clincher because of a foul he committed in the previous game.

The decision, cleanly arrived at or not, helped make game 6 – and now game 7 – possible; it assured the NBA of multi-millions in additional TV-and-attendance money that would have been lost had the Warriors won game 5. The arrangement couldn’t help but smell bad. For comparison purposes, it’s interesting to note that in nine of 16 World Series since 2000, Baseball’s best-of-seven championship ended 4-0 or 4-1; only four times did the Series stretch into a revenue-expanding seven games.

Whatever influenced the NBA decision, it was perfectly legal, just as was Hillary Clinton’s pre-primary effort to gain the support of 33 of her party’s state committees. As reported in ‘Counterpunch’ earlier this spring, here is how the deal was put together: “In August 2015, at the Democratic Party convention in Minneapolis, 33 democratic state parties made deals with the Hillary Clinton campaign and a joint fundraising entity called The Hillary Victory Fund. The deal allowed many of her core billionaire and inner circle individual donors to run the maximum amounts of money allowed through those state parties to the Hillary Victory Fund in New York and the DNC in Washington.A Citizens United-like Supreme Court decision in 2014 opened the financial field gates that enabled Clinton’s game to pay off. We can hope that money will have less clout in presidential politics not too long after a new, at least moderately progressive Skipper is elected.

–     –    –

Yes, it’s still early…but objective fans, watching for playoff teams to emerge, can’t help but focus on two of six MLB divisions: the AL East and Central. Only six-and-a-half games separate the first and last teams in the East; in the Central, the margin is only three-and-a-half between first-place Cleveland and fourth-place White Sox. In the four other divisions, a total of only 10 teams can be considered playoff-competitive, if we count the leading Texans, Nationals, Cubs and Giants, and six pursuers – the Mariners, Mets, Marlins, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rockies – all but the Cardinals (10.5) fewer than double-digits behind.

The Return: Ex-Giants wonder boy Tim Lincecum, now 32, is scheduled to return to a major league mound this afternoon in Oakland, pitching for the LA Angels. The Angels are 13-and-a-half games behind the Rangers is the AL West, the A’s 14-and-a-half arrears..

Notable Late Friday Night Scores: Nationals 7, Padres 5; Dodgers 3, Brewers 2; Rangers 1, Cardinals 0; Indians 3, White Sox 2; Royals 10, Tigers 3

Streakers: Giants + 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.)

Pressure Building on Team Leaders in Both Fields

Rob Manfred hasn’t been perfect; but, sildenafil going on a year-and-a-half into his term as baseball commissioner, usa it’s fair to say he’s been doing pretty well in his new job. Two of our favorite moves: Manfred has followed through on predecessor Bud Selig’s push to get close plays called correctly through use of video. To Manfred’s credit, also, are the steps he’s approved – despite the frequent resort to video-monitoring of disputed calls – to speed up games. Equally satisfying, as we see it: his unwillingness to meddle with two other Selig initiatives – the quadrennial World Baseball Classic and the enhancement of the All-Star Game by making its result count. (At stake: home-field advantage in the World Series to the league with the winning team.)

Among those pressuring Manfred to do more is an unlikely campaigner: Hall of Famer John Smoltz. He says he wants to see an annual U.S.- World All-Star Game, and will keep lobbying the commissioner to get behind the idea. Smoltz hopes to see the world stars event become a reality, even at the cost of its possibly replacing the existing Game. “I won’t rest until it happens,” Smoltz has said repeatedly on MLB-TV.

Under pressure on the political field, Hillary Clinton is being urged to avoid playing a predictable presidential campaigning game: associating herself too closely to the current National Skipper. “She is the candidate of continuity,” notes left-of-center PBS commentator Mark Shields, at a time of strong desire for change. That stay-the-course stance may mean two tendencies the country can do without: a weakness for wars abroad and for Wall Street’s unchecked power at home. Still, if Clinton’s likely skipperdom leads to nothing more than a re-shaping of the Supreme Court, it would – will – be worth rallying behind.

–   –     –

“I surrender,” e-mailed a Mets fan on the West Coast as Max Scherzer and the Nationals beat the Cubs, 4-1, last night, the win moving the Nats five games ahead of the NL’s defending champions. In the unlikely event the Cubs come back near the pack, loose defense may be the reason. Joe Maddon’s team is 22d of 30 in fielding, with 40 errors in 62 games. The Nationals are first, with only 23 errors in 64 games.


Tightener: “Adam Eaton’s single to center off Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez, his fourth hit of the night, scored J.B.Shuck with the game-winning run as the White Sox completed an improbable comeback from seven runs down and claimed a 10-9 victory over the Tigers in 12 innings Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Shuck opened the frame with a double to right and was moved to third by Tim Anderson’s sacrifice bunt. ‘It’s huge,’ Eaton said. ‘To claw back the way we did, especially in the ninth to tie it up, it’s a huge win for the team. We can hopefully hop on this wave and ride it a little bit’.” ( Chisox are now most distant of four top teams in the AL Central, but only 3.5 games behind first-place Cleveland.


Pleasant Surprise: While Mets pitching, burdened by the team’s usual weak offense, is not living up to expectations, the Tigers have found a top-of-the-rotation rookie in 23-year-old Michael Fulmer. A key piece in the deal that brought Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets, Fulmer, 7-1, has been unscored-upon for 28 innings. The newcomer from the Mets farm system has Detroit thinking its playoff hopes are realistic.

Notable Late Monday Night Scores: White Sox 10, Tigers 9; Royals 2, Indians 1; Oakland 14, Texas 5; D-backs 3, Dodgers 2 (Greinke the winner); Giants 11, Brewers 5

Streakers: Cardinals + 5, Pirates – 5


(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. )


On Being a Cubs Fan and Possible National Skipper

Looking ahead to late October, discount when it’s very possible the Cubs will clinch a world championship – their first in well over a century (1908). If it happens, the event will surely be seen as a promising sign for the presidential candidate who, early in her career, declared herself a Cubs fan. When asked in 2000, as a Senate candidate from New York about, her apparent switched allegiance to the Yankees, Hillary Clinton was ready: “I had no American League team; I have one now.”

Hillary was so ready for this presidential run long before the campaign unfolded, that many resented the “coronation” aura surrounding her candidacy until Bernie Sanders stepped forward. She and hitters to left can be grateful that Bernie gave her a battle. And if some of us need consoling, these scorecard notes by Vox’s Ezra Klein may help:

“(Clinton) won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party. She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 523 governors or members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; 13 have endorsed Sanders. This work is a grind — it’s not big speeches, it doesn’t come with wide applause, and it requires an emotional toughness most human beings can’t summon. But Clinton is arguably better at that than anyone in American politics today. In 2000, she won a Senate seat that meant serving amidst Republicans who had destroyed her health care bill and sought to impeach her husband. And she kept her head down, found common ground, and won them over.”

P.S. If she wins, Hillary will share a Chicago team-leaning with her predecessor, whom we know to be a White Sox fan. For some of us, a salient reason we’re grateful for Barack Obama is this: in the twilight of his two tumultuous terms as National Skipper, he is still with us.

–       –         –

Far and Away…the tightest of the six divisions, the AL East boasts only seven-and-a-half games separating first-place Baltimore and fifth-place Tampa Bay. The Yankees, on a belated roll, have moved over.500, after sweeping the Angels in four games and beating the Tigers last night.

Uh-oh: Chatter concerning managerial job security centers on two AL Central skippers, the White Sox’s Robin Ventura and Detroit’s Brad Ausmus. Both teams are around .500, but ownership expected each to do better. Moves by the Chisox front office, including adding James Shields and Justin Morneau, and releasing Mat Latos and Jimmy Rollins, suggest an effort to keep Ventura viable. How much patience will be allotted Ausmus may depend on upcoming performance. In any event, the division, headed for the moment by Cleveland, will be interesting to watch, even with the Twins far out of contention.

Moving On Out: Don’t look now, but the Rangers, winners of nine of 12, are solidifying their leadership of the AL West, with Seattle (which beat Texas last night) the division’s only significant competitor at this point.

Notable Late Scores Last Night: Mariners 7, Rangers 5; Dodgers 3, Giants 2; Miami 8, Arizona 6

Streakers: Yankees + 5, Royals – 8, Oakland – 6, Angels – 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.)


Hitting Well, and Not So, Depending on the Field

Stat City: Deserving of overdue attention: the Red Sox, canada and David Ortiz, in particular: He leads both leagues in RBIs, with 54, and is tied with Robinson Cano for third in AL home runs, with 16. The Sox can boast three of the AL’s dozen top hitters in Xander Bogaerts, number 3, Ortiz, number 4, and Jackie Bradley, number 12. Worthy of note, too: hitters six to 11, most of whom received minimal attention outside their team fan base: the Astros’ Jose Altuve, number 6 (.336) the Twins’ Eduardo Nunez, number 7 (.335), the Cardinals’ Aledmys Diaz, number 8 (.328), the Marlins’ Christian Yelich, number 9 (also .328), the Pirates’ Starling Marte, number 11 (.327).

Contrasting this positive news for selected ball fans is this polls-based political report from Neal Gabler, on

“(Donald) Trump’s and (Hillary)Clinton’s ratings are the equivalent of, say, the batting averages during a baseball season in which no one is hitting very well. Americans are just in a very surly, unreceptive mood. They hate everybody.”

– – –

Stat City (2): The playing against-the-grain Nationals: first in fielding, second in pitching, possessors of two of the MLB’s best hitters – batting leader Daniel Murphy (.384), and 2015 MVP Bryce Harper. Yet: the Nats are 18th in team hitting. One big reason: Harper is batting only .249. True, if a walk is as good as a hit, Bryce gets points for his MLB-leading 49 passes in 54 games. Also notable: Michael Fulmer, whom the Mets sent to Detroit in the Yoenis Cespedes deal, is 6-1, and has set a Tigers rookie pitching record, racking up 22-and-a-third scoreless innings.

Run-Producers: The Rockies are the NL’s most productive team in hitting with runners in scoring position (RISP): .281; in the AL, it’s the Red Sox, .301.

Possibly Overlooked Moves: James (Big Game) Shields from Padres to White Sox; Carl Crawford cut by the Dodgers. Kolten Wong demoted to Memphis by the Cardinals

Streakers: Indians + 6, Braves – 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.)


Importance of Bench-CIout on Both Fields

As of now, generic the Giants and Cubs are expected by savvy observers to duke it out for the NL pennant, and perhaps the World Series title. The Cubs, we know, are loaded with talent – they had Baseball Prospectus’ highest rated farm system last season, and it’s still given a superior ranking this year. The Giants are a conundrum: their minor league talent level was classified 25th, both last season and this. The addition of solid starters Johnny Cueto and Sam Samardzija, notwithstanding, Bruce Bochy’s team doesn’t stack up on paper as a pennant-winning possibility. Here’s how the Prospectus people explain how the Giants manage to go against the odds:

“San Francisco’s well of (home-grown) arms has run dry recently, so they switched to turning the Joe Paniks and Matt Duffys of the world into quality regulars. No team has had more development success out of farm systems consistently ranked in the bottom 10 of lists like (ours). We shouldn’t even bother ranking the Giants at this point.”

For the moment, the Mets and the Yankees are two of the more prominent supposed playoff contenders in the shouldn’t-even-bother thinking-about category. Why? Weak benches made evident by the same old names that seldom stick for long while shuttling back-and-forth from Triple-A.

On the presidential primary field, we know how sparse was the number of players the Dem team farm system produced this year: Hillary Clinton was the single serious prospect. Behind her: a virtually invisible bench. Sot-turned-Dem Bernie Sanders emerged as a popular spoiler, but Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee were non-competitive outsiders; only former Maryland Skipper O’Malley had a solid connection to the party. The numerical disparity when matched against Team GOP’s original lineup of a dozen-and-a-half candidates is revealing.

Where none of the five Dem-roster players – with the possible exception of Clinton – had personal fortunes nor solid business support to backstop their willingness to compete, most Team GOP competitors had both family money and generous corporate backing to encourage their entering the field. Barring an historic upheaval in fan attitudes, this disparity will still be on display in coming elections. Along with it, the paltry bench on the Dem side of the diamond.

– – –

Three teams – the Angels, Marlins and Tigers – finished at or near the bottom of Baseball Prospectus farm system talent ratings both last season and this. The Angels were 28th in 2015 and are 30th now, the Marlins 29th both seasons, the Tigers 30th last season, 27th this. The Yanks were rated 21st on the list last season (16th now); the Mets are a shaky 21st. Until they promoted Noah Syndegaard, Steve Matz and Michael Conforto, and traded righthander Michael Fullmer to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes deal, the Mets were a surprising fifth in 2015.

Snap Quiz: Until this week, the AL East was the closest-packed of the six divisions. No mnore. Can you guess which division replaced it? Answer: the AL West, in which only seven-and-a-half games separate the first-place Rangers and the last-place A’s.

Notable Late Scores: Giants 5, Cardinals 1; Rangers 7, Mariners 3; Dodgers 4, Braves 2

Playing Poetic Pepper: “The clouds took up their positions in the deep stadium of the sky, gloving the bright orb of the sun before they pitched it over the horizon.” – “Some Glad Morning”, by Joyce Sutphen (via Writer’s Almanac)


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