The Nub

Rare Risks: Players and Political Protests

Carlos Delgado, best a star slugger – and progressive political hero a decade-and-a-half ago – is in the news during what looked to be a pre-Labor Day weekend hiatus. Some of us recall his gutsy opposition to the Iraq War: a refusal to stand during the pre-game playing of our national anthem over years while a member of three teams – the Blue Jays, buy Marlins and Mets.

Delgado’s dramatic protest mirrors the weekend decision of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to publicly reject standing for the anthem with his team. Kaepernick, who is bi-racial, based his stance on what he considers the unfair treatment of African-Americans. He issued a written explanation for his stance this way:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The NFL responded by saying its players “are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”    

As to whether he sought permission to take his stand, Kaepernick said no way: “This is not something I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval.”

Selected Delgado Stats (16 years, per Baseball Reference): HRs 473, RBIs 1512, BA 298. Peak years: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 (with Toronto). ’99 – 44, 134, .272; ‘00 – 44, 137; .344; ‘01 – 39, 102, .279; ’03 – 42, 145, .302. Hall of Fame candidate 2015

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Wild Card Match-Ups (as of today): AL – Baltimore-Boston; NL – Cardinals-Giants

Notable Late Monday Scores: Kansas City 8, Yankees 5; Rangers 6, Mariners 3; Rockies 8, Dodgers 1

Streakers: Twins – 11, Brewers – 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.)

Standard-Setters in Two Disparate Sports

Matt Holliday, usa Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Aledmys Diaz: four key Cardinal players among several missing from the team in the homestretch. Yet the Redbirds are one-two behind the Giants at the top of the NL wild card race. They’re there despite the so-so 9-8 season recorded by ace Adam Wainright and an ordinary 9-9 effort from Mike Leake obtained to replace John Lackey, who won 13 last season. Then there was the loss for almost a month of clutch-hitting Matt Carpenter, he with the .396 OBP and .921 OPS.

How, under the circumstances, are the Cards more than staying afloat? The Mets’ Kelly Johnson has a familiar answer:

“The Cardinals have…had hard luck…(but) they have battled, and always seem to do what they do. The(y) seem to find a way to win games. I think that is something every team is trying to figure out, how to be as consistent and persevere as much as they do. They definitely set a standard, them and the Giants…” (NY Times)

The search for equivalent leadership on the political field leads abroad, with this testimonial clinching a successful tryout: “I don’t recall an example where she ever gave up. Surely there were moments when she didn’t get her goal, but when it got difficult and she had a task in front of her… she (persevered).”   That was a former math teacher, recorded by the BBC, about a student who went on to become Germany’s first female chancellor. The player in question: the remarkable Angela Merkel.

The German people, many of whom know little about her personal life – age 62, divorced, re-married, childless – may defeat her and her left-of-center coalition in the next election: they don’t like her generous immigration policy. And she isn’t very popular in the European Union because she’s a tough enforcer of strict euro-zone economic policies. But more than a few scorekeepers won’t be surprised if she pulls the game out.

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LA Shocker: Early this week, MLB-TV asked veteran catcher A.J. Ellis how the Dodgers were getting along so well with ace Clayton Kershaw sidelined. He said his teammates had risen to the challenge, indicating how proud he was of the group effort. Nevertheless, the team was looking forward to Kershaw’s return. Late this week, Ellis learned that when his buddy does come back, he won’t be around to celebrate: the Dodgers traded him to the Phillies f or Carlos Ruiz and a minor-leaguer. The deal was a shocker, not only to Ellis, but to several of the Dodgers, especially Kershaw, who reportedly came close to tears on hearing about it.

Notable Late Friday Scores: Cubs 6, Dodgers 4; Giants 7, Braves 0; Cardinals 3, Oakland 1; Pirates 5, Brewers 3; Indians 12, Rangers 1; Astros 5, Rays 4

Tracking the (Changeable) Wild Card Races: NL: Cardinals – Giants; AL: Orioles – Red Sox

Streakers: Tigers + 5, Twins – 8


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


Two American Athletes Named ‘Ryan’ and the Blame Game

Why does Ryan Braun’s name come to mind amid the uproar caused by Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte’s night-out behavior in Brazil last week? Baseball fans know. The Ryan who plays for the Milwaukee Brewers, buy like the one who earned a gold medal at the Games, saddened the way we feel about ourselves.

Although Lochte’s drunken rampage, which he tried to blame on Brazilian police, made his country look bad before the world, Braun’s behavior in 2012 hit closer to home. His starring role with the Brewers made him a hero, not only in Milwaukee, but among fans across the Baseball universe. Braun’s failed attempt to conceal his illegal-drug usage was the lesser of his self-betrayals. What was unforgivable – and remains so with those of us who remember what happened – was his attempt to blame an innocent bystander for his exposure as a cheat. Jeff Passan, of Yahoo Sports, minced no words three years ago in telling the story:

“The call went to Major League Baseball…Ryan Braun was ready to deal. He wasn’t going to admit everything. Truth is, he didn’t really admit anything – no details about all the performance-enhancing drugs the league knew he had used, no straightforward admissions of guilt. He just wanted to end this 19-month charade, and if that meant bargaining for a suspension, so he would.

“Of the many things Ryan Braun is – a liar nonpareil, a serial doper, a raging narcissist – he is, above all, a self-preservationist. Never did he show that instinct more than when he publicly impugned Dino Laurenzi Jr., the innocent man who happened to collect a vial of Braun’s urine that started baseball down the sordid, tortuous path that found its first measure of closure Monday when Braun accepted a suspension (of): 65 games….What we know of Braun today is no different than what we knew of him before: He is a cockroach.”

Braun told reporters after the Laurenzi storm broke that he apologized to the man he had accused. “We’ve had some really good conversation,” Braun said. “We’ve made amends.”

Similarly, Lochte has apologized for his “behavior”, without admitting that he lied to – and about – local police who intervened. A Brazilian sports commentator summed up the situation without calling Lochte a cockroach. “He’s still portraying himself as a victim,” the commentator said. “So much arrogance.”

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More on Ryan B: The Brewers say they would be receptive to a trade now for Braun. He is batting .317, with 22 HRs in 103 games. He is 32, and signed through 2020 at $21 million per, which means he’ll probably stay put.

Wild Card Match-Ups (as of today): AL – Baltimore-Boston; NL – Cardinals – Giants

Notable Late Monday Scores: Seattle 7, Yankees 5; Cleveland 1, Oakland 0


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


Reasons for Red Sox, Dem Senate Candidates to Feel Positive

Stat City: If stats could speak, usa they would call out the name of a third dominant team to join the Cubs and Nationals as crunch-time approaches. The name would be the pride of the Red Sox Nation. Stats-wise, Boston may not match the Dodgers, the only team near the top in both pitching and fielding numbers. But the Sox have built a superior hitting machine. Consider their team BA of .286, far ahead of the second-place Rockies, the identical 286 BA of their timely scoring-position hits, and the unchallenged slugging pct. of .470. How can the Sox possibly miss the playoffs?   Well, they are among the lower half in pitching – 16th,, and only 10th in fielding. But, mighty mouse Mookie Betts – .316, 28 HRs – has become a serious MVP contender. And David Ortiz, at .317, also with 28 HRS can’t be forgotten. Between now and playoff-time the Sox, now only a half-game behind Toronto, should out-duel either or both the Orioles and Blue Jays. Anything can happen is our unpersuasive disclaimer.

Team GOP’s U.S. Senate candidates are hopeful something good will happen to calm their fears that Donald Trump’s downward poll-numbers spiral since the party’s Convention will impact their races. The polling-game scorers at FiveThirtyEight say those fears, so far, have been realized:.

“Democrats now lead in enough states to take back the Senate — so long as Clinton holds on to her large lead. If the favorites in the polls win, the Democrats would flip and pick up the seats in Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Republicans would pick up Nevada and hold onto Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.”

Naming Some Names: Real Clear Politics polling surveys indicate Dems Michael Bennet in Colorado, Evan Bayh in Indiana and Russ Feingold in Wisconsin have solid leads. Team GOP’s Marco Rubio in Florida, Chuck Grassley in Iowa and Rob Portman in Ohio are looking safe. If Dem challengers who are slightly ahead of incumbents in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire hold on, it could be the clincher.

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“Done”: Panelists on MLB Now yesterday agreed that two would-be playoff contenders are “done” – the Mets and Astros. They offered this consolation for each underachieving team: 2017 could be a bounce-back year: thanks to Houston’s batch of good young players and the Mets’ reassembled starting rotation.

Notable Late Friday scores: Giants 8, Mets 1; Reds 9, Dodgers 2; Astros 15, Orioles 8; Yankees 7, Angels 0

Streakers: Cardinals + 5, Braves – 6; Brewers – 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 Skipper Seeks Time-Out to Bench-Jockeying with Putin

Old summer: the climax of the hardball season in the minor leagues; and the end of sandlot league softball games in many parts of the country. The games have been fun until now, sale when tension creeps in at closing time. A new book by Jay McInerney captures some of what’s happening this way: a husband, intent on showing his stuff in a decisive sandlot game, makes a key error leading to defeat. “That was possibly the most mortifying moment of my adult life,” he tells his wife. “Oh, come on (she says), it’s just a game.”

“No, it’s not, (says he) it’s never just a game.”

Big league managers like Terry Collins of the Mets, and even John Farrell of the Red Sox, are feeling the stress of late-season contests that are much more than just games. Their jobs may well be in jeopardy because their teams are not doing as well as expected. (Nowhere near, in the Mets’ case.) When his once-touted club fell to .500 last week, Collins issued a warning to his players: “Starting tomorrow, we’re going to get after it. And those that don’t want to get after it, I’ll find somebody else who does.”

On the political field, vacationing Skipper Obama found VP Joe Biden to go after establishing a more peaceable U.S. stance with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, lest the two teams’ differing stances in Syria and the Ukraine become more than just games. Obama has not pushed to end U.S./Russian cross-purposes over support for Syrian President Assad. But the Skipper has asked bench coach Biden to calm Ukrainians amid their country’s renewed tension with Russia. Putin says Ukraine is trying to provoke a conflict over the Crimea, which Russia annexed two years ago. Obama has Biden (according to Reuters) urging the Ukrainian president to “do his part” to prevent the issue from escalating.

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What We Know (or think we do): Two of three top teams in the AL East – Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox – will make the playoffs. As mentioned earlier this month, the feeling in Red Sox Nation is that John Farrell will be gone if the Sox are the outlier. In two of the six divisions, we can confidently identify the winners: both are in the NL – the Nationals and Cubs. Giants and Dodgers will duke it out for first place in the NL West. The loser will likely earn a wild card (with either the Cardinals, Pirates, Marlins or Mets).

Notable Late Monday Scores: Pirates 8, Giants 5; Nationals 5, Rockies 4; D’backs 10, Mets 6; Marlins 6, Reds 3

Streaker: Angels – 11

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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 Illusion Informing the White Sox Fan in the White House

Do you know that the Angels, buy Dodgers and Yankees are three MLB teams without official mascots? Do you care? We don’t. But, amid the 27 mascot names provided by CBS Sports and Wikipedia, we do have a favorite: it’s “Dinger,” the diversion offered to fans of the Colorado Rockies. We have a soft spot, too, for “Mr. Met” and “Philly Phanatic, two familiar creations often visible in our neck of Baseball Nation.

Such trivia came to mind because of verbal pitches thrown by Trevor Noah, successor to Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. Noah is a bi-racial South African, son of a Caucasian mother and black father. He said, during an interview on Ezra Klein’s podcast, that Americans almost seemed to want their national skipper to be a “mascot” rather than a leader. That jibed with our sense that, outside of Obamacare, our White Sox fan in the White House has been an engaging presence, and more of an articulator than achiever. Indeed, we were reminded on Pacifica Radio a few days ago of a Skipper’s negative achievement: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange noted that Obama has had more whistle-blowers jailed than all previous presidents together. A leader would face strong opposition if he tried to get away with that. A mascot might elicit shrugs throughout the national ballpark..

But, it’s what Noah said about race in the U.S. after election of the first African-American president that made an impact.: “If you’re black in the United States,” he said, “even after two terms of President Obama, you still feel black.” Why is that such a disappointment? Because, says Noah, with Obama’s election “came the illusion that everything would change.”

In the lengthy interview, Noah also offered this observation: “Ironically, what happens with every single black person is that black people are black people until they achieve a certain level of excellence, and then they become their name. I’ll give you an example — Will Smith. Is Will Smith black, or is he Will Smith? He’s Will Smith. Tiger Woods was Tiger Woods….

“I find it strange that the bad apples in the black community will be used to tarnish the black community as a whole, but then the stellar performers will be somehow given a name that is outside of race… So it’s almost like Barack Obama, yes, that man has become the first black president. But in terms of black people, in terms of the country as a whole, people felt like that would extend everywhere (which it hasn’t).”

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P.S. We remember in the mid-‘90s when Michael Jordan tried to make a career out of baseball with the White Sox. We were riding between cars on a suburban rail line. On the same outdoor platform, a group of white guys punctuated their noisy conversation about some local incident with reference to “Niggers.” Soon, the subject shifted to Jordan and his new challenge. The tone turned respectful: he was “Michael”, someone regarded with awe.

Notable Late Friday Scores: Orioles 5, Giants 2; Phillies 10, Dodgers 6; Texas 8, Detroit 5;

Wild Card Match-Ups (as of today): AL – Boston at Toronto; NL – Miami at Dodgers

Streakers: Angels – 8; Tigers – 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.)


On Spoilers and the Desperate in Different Fields

The post-non-waiver deadline period has left 15 teams within five games of wild card playoff possibility. Badly timed losing stretches experienced by the White Sox, usa Royals, and yes, the Yankees, consign them (by our measurement) to the remaining non-contending 15. Their departure means either the Tigers or Indians have an AL Central Division title within reach. The division-title contention breakdown elsewhere looks like this: Baltimore, Toronto, and Boston s in the AL East, Texas, Houston and Seattle in the West; Nationals, Marlins, Mets in the NL East; Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates in the Central; Giants, Dodgers, Rockies in the West.

While make-or-break tension will accompany every game the contending 15 play from now on, members of the other 15 have the fun: they can play loose as spoilers in most of their remaining games; in many ways it will be the best part of their season. On the political field, underdog supporters of Donald Trump don’t figure to spoil Hillary Clinton’s rally toward the White House. But the underdog-backing the widely perceived loser receives will have an impact, nevertheless. Vanity Fair columnist T.A. Frank detected that likelihood during the Convention: he found his fellow Democrats short on sympathy for the strugglers leaning in desperation toward Trump. He places part of the blame on Team USA’s Skipper:

“We are divided these days, badly so, and along more and more lines. Obama has not changed that. As fine as his intentions are…his efforts to broker agreement across our worst divides have often exacerbated them. We have a lot of ‘conversations’ about identity nowadays…but how often is a focus on irreconcilable differences the key to unity?… The old verities aren’t delivering the promised prosperity or dignity for everyone, and millions of Americans are ready to try something else.”

Elizabeth Warren touched on the Skipper’s undelivered promises, as well as one of his successes, in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek excerpted here:

How would you grade Obama’s presidency on reining in Wall Street, financial reform, and toughening enforcement of existing regulatory laws? “I always start with an A+ for how Obama fought for a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when a lot of his advisers wanted to throw it under the bus…But there have been disappointments.”

What would those be? “Mary Jo White and the SEC. They have failed to prosecute wrongdoers. Failed to put tough regulation in place. Failed to take up changes that they have the authority to make and that would restore more confidence in the fairness of operations on Wall Street. That really hurts.”

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Headache-Makers: The Mets have something akin to their own Yasiel Puig in fellow Cuban Yoenis Cespedes. Both are potential game-changing players whose erratic and/or unproductive streaks undrcut their value. Cespedes’ apparent golf-related trip to the disabled list is the latest headache he’s inflicted on his offense-hungry team. The Dodgers, meanwhile, hope that a stint back in the minors will encourage Puig to return to his early brilliance.

Notable Late Friday Scores: Red Sox 9. Dodgers 0; Astros 5, Rangers 0; Blue Jays 4, Royals 3

Streaker: Cubs + 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.)


‘Anything-Can-Happen’-Time Unfolding on Both Fields

Who could have expected the playoff-hopeful Pirates to deal away closer Mark Melancon to the Nationals, or the still-in-contention Yankees to trade prize reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians for four prospects? Not many of us. The deadline deals we anticipated came in a rush yesterday, shortly before the 4 p.m. cutoff point. We list here the ones that, like the two mentioned above, will impact playoff-contending teams. The difference-makers, as we see them: Jonathan Lecroy and Carlos Beltran, from the Brewers and Yankees, to the Rangers; Matt Moore, from the Rays to the Giants, for Matt Duffy. Jay Bruce from the Reds to the Mets. Josh Reddick and Rich Hill, from the A’s to the Dodgers. Fernando Abad, from the Twins to the Red Sox. Ivan Nova, from the Yankees to the Pirates. Francisco Liriano, from the Pirates to the Blue Jays. Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce plus Wade Miley, from the Rays, Guyer to the Indians, the others to the Orioles. Lots of surprises: especially the decision of the Yankees to, in effect, give up on the current team and invest instead in a bumper crop of prospects.

Several days earlier, a friend in finance presciently warned about a world in which “anything can happen.” He was speaking in passing about baseball, but mostly about the investment outlook, including the profit-making implications of an upset on the political field. It’s a long-shot, we know: Donald Trump’s chances are far-fetched; he can’t win. But can Hillary Clinton lose? If enough progressive voters think the way Ralph Nader does, her defeat is at least a remote possibility. Nader was particularly incensed by what he called the Clinton “con” job when, at the party Convention, she accepted becoming the Dem team standard-bearer. Here is some of what she said that ticked him off:

She said she’d tax the wealthy for public necessities, but declined to mention a sales tax on Wall Street speculation… She opposed ‘unfair trade agreements,’ but remarkably omitted saying she was against the TPP (the notorious pending Trans Pacific Trade Agreement backed by Obama that is receiving wide left/right opposition). She paid lip service to a ‘living wage’ but avoided endorsing a $15 an hour minimum wage, which would help single moms and their children – people she wants us to believe have been her enduring cause. Few people know that it took until the spring of 2014 before candidate Clinton would come out for even a $10.10 minimum wage. News reports noted that Clinton…was wrestling with how to support $10.10 per hour without alienating her Wall Street friends.

“(On foreign policy) remember, as Secretary of State, Hillary fully backed war crimes, condemned by almost all countries in the world. On the stage in Philadelphia, she spoke of backing Israel’s security without any mention of Palestinian rights or the need to end Israel’s illegal occupation of the territories. It is true, as numerous speakers repeated, Clinton is ‘most qualified and experienced,’ but her record shows those qualities have led to belligerent, unlawful military actions that are now boomeranging…”- (excerpted from Common Dreams)

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Non-Waiver Deadline Winners: Indians, Rangers

Newly Confirmed (it says here)Playoff Teams: Cubs, Giants, Indians, Nationals, Rangers

.Late Monday Scores: Red Sox 2, Mariners 1; Nationals 14, D’backs 1; Twins 12, Indians 5; Cubs 3, Marlins 0

Streaker: Tigers + 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.)