The Nub

Pouring Out Pre-Season Cold Water

A few days before the 20002 World Champion LA Angels began a gradual downward curve, more than 100,000 east coast marchers took part in what was becoming a desperate losing game of their own: challenging a Team USA-spurred “run-up” to a war with Iraq. How solidly did the media join the run-up effort? Well, the march occurred on a Saturday; the NY Times grudgingly acknowledged it the following Thursday.

The Angels, then one of the MLB’s richest teams in a weak division, took six AL West titles over the next 12 years, but by the end of 2014, they had plenty of financial competition – from the Rangers and Astros.in the AL West, and the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers in the MLB, as a whole. Despite a lineup that included Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, the Angels, with an unproductive farm system, sunk to third place in 2015 and next-to-last in their division last year.

The anti-war movement in late 2002 and early 2003 had to rally game-changing support without either the help of financial angels or the vocal backing of shallow-bench elected officials.. The most prominent speaker to address marchers in D.C. that January was Jesse Jackson. Under the circumstances, anti-war sentiment could make only minimal impact by the time the war began in early March of ’03.

That experience suggests how difficult will be the touted task of taking on Team Trump as did the T-Party in the first and successive years of Barack Obama’s Skipperdom. Journalist/author Jane Mayer cited this from a book by Harvard’s Theda Skocpol on the role of T-Party-aided money: “The Tea Party movement was a ‘mass rebellion… funded by corporate billionaires, like the Koch brothers, led by over-the-hill former GOP kingpins like Dick Armey, and ceaselessly promoted by millionaire media celebrities like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.”

Progressives today have neither access to big money, nor the expectation of help from a Dem team dependent for leadership on the likes of Chuck (Make Noise, Not Waves’) Schumer. To be remembered with trepidation, too: It was the “liberal media” that cheered Team Bush into the most grievous of recent “dumb wars.”

     

Productive Vagabond: Brandon Moss, who has played for six teams over a 10-year period – the Red Sox, Pirates, Phillies, A’s, Indians and Cardinals – will be joining the seventh, the Royals, on a two-year deal this coming season. Moss, now 33, hit 28 HRs for the Cardinals in 2016. He is expected to DH most of the time with KC.

Back to Sleep: The All-Star game, revised to be a simple exhibition and no longer to decide which league wins home-team advantage in the World Series, won’t be played until mid-July. But already, press-box pundits are expressing regret for what has been lost. The other day, two members of an MLB Now panel talked of the opportunity the nothing-at-stake contest will afford for a late-innings nap. It should be noted that the players union was complicit with Commissioner Rob Manfred in the decision to free its members from any serious effort the previous arrangement may have required.

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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.)

 

Barack and Baseball Have Left the Building

We remember that Team USA’s former Skipper declared himself a White Sox fan more than once in his first term eight years ago. We remember, too, that, as the team showed itself less competitive than fans hoped, supportive words from the White House all but disappeared.. Switching his stance at the fading of his final season, Skipper Barack found his voice, not in berating the Sox or in support of the Cubs, but on issues about which he had been satisfied executing a safety squeeze:: race and police violence, to name just a couple..

Progressive fans are grateful for the image of decency as well as wisdom the retired skipper conveyed at home and to the world (with particular gratitude centered on his survival). But they regret that he chose to add extra innings to what he once called “dumb wars”, and they (we) acknowledge the possible validity of the view that his reticences at home helped elect his successor..

Skipper Trump is unlikely to do likable things, such as embrace his hometown Yankees or Mets, or any ballteam. Nor can we expect compassion for those whose meager incomes rule out their attendance at most stadiums.. But, in truth, we have only vague ideas of how his game plan will play out. There is so much “carnage” to be addressed.. Still, he has touched on relations with Russia, NATO and the need to return factory work to our rust belt: priorities suggesting this long-shot reason for hope:. That, amid much bad sportsmanship, he could be remembered in four years as the Skipper who brought jobs and peace to the home team.

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Chirps of Relief in Oriole-Land: Why? Baltimore has finally re-signed 2016 HR champion Mark Trumbo, without whom, most observers agree, the Birds would have been dead ducks this season.

The Guru Speaks: Bill James, Baseball historian, founder of sabermetrics, and Red Sox senior advisor, provided a shot of optimism for Boston fans this coming season. Speaking of David Price’s problems pitching in nine playoff games for the Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays and the Sox – 2-8 over seven years, James said he doubted it would happen in 2017. Why? Price no longer has the burden of being team ace. Boston traded for White Sox ace Chris Sale in the post-season. James said he’d be surprised if Sale did not assume the pressure pitching role at playoff time.

Realism: While appearing on MLB Now, James had this advice for fans wondering if their teams would be part of the upper level competition this season. “If the question is ‘Are they in or out?,’ “ the answer is they’re out.”

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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.)

 

A Focus on the Competitive Realities in Both Fields

To our recent stated belief that only a single NL East team, the Nationals, would be among the league’s four clubs with a genuine shot at its 2017 pennant – the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants were the others – came this howl from several NYC fans: “What about the Mets?” Our answer: the Mets, like the Cardinals and Pirates, are also-rans; their only hope the lead team in their division collapses, as the Nats did two seasons ago. Attentive fans know that few MLB teams have both the resource$ and focus to be truly pennant-level competitive.

Speaking of Focus…Alert spectators following the Political league have watched as only a single club – Team GOP – took charge of what once was a spirited competition. The surest sign of the demise of the once-dominant Dem team is its newly named public spokesperson: Chuck (“Where’s Charlie?”) Schumer. New Yorkers know that Senator Schumer has been a noisy non-combatant on any issues that carry risk – such as offending Wall Street, supporting Israel, questioning Team USA’s belligerence abroad. Indeed, a year after the Iraq war began, we asked Chuck’s Washington office for his statements on that conflict. “There are none,” we were told. As other pundits have noted, Schumer has re-emerged as a progressive. Indeed, Chuck’s frequent scripted statements attest to his unfamiliarity with the role.

We know the party made the mistake of backing another centrist – Hillary Clinton – in the election. As dubious as the choices of Hillary and Chuck for leadership positions, the problem has been less their non-progressive stance than the blindness of the shallow-bench Dem team itself.

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A Retrograde New Order: The decision of Joey Votto not to play in the World Baseball Classic with Team Canada led to a depressing discussion on MLB Now the other day. The panel’s consensus: the meager participation of American players, and the lack of enthusiasm for the Classic in the 30 U.S. team front offices, mean the WBC will not survive much longer. If so, former Commissioner Bud Selig’s two games-that-count innovations – the Classic and the newly meaningful All-Star match-up – will have been sacrificed out of an organizational wish to “keep things simple”…fans (like many of us) be damned!

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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.)