The Nub

Mega-Money, Trump’s Team and Unfocused Fans

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(Posted :3/28/17)

Check out the eight teams with the highest 2017 payrolls and you’ll have a good idea of most playoff teams as the MLB season begins this weekend: Dodgers, Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox, Cubs, Rangers, Giants, Nationals. The Yanks and Tigers don’t make the Nubbian cut. The comparatively low-budget Indians belong in the group. That leaves one other likely playoff team: either the Blue Jays or Astros, by our reckoning.

The point is obvious: money makes for winners. New Yorker’s Jane Mayer underlined it in the 3/27 issue of the magazine. Since Team Citizens United’s impact reached the field seven years ago, its clout has shifted power – in Mayer’s words – “from two main political parties toward a tiny group of rich mega-donors.” The heavy hitters unleashed their financial barrage late in the 2016 election season. The Hillary-Dem team, we remember, seemed to have control of the presidential race well into October. Then the big money made its presence felt throughout the media – a game-changing presence felt both inside Team Trump and in disaffected corners of the national grandstand.

As the Mega team hit to right, its would-be skipper talked a showy all-fields game while confounding reports of international cyber-meddling helped keep him in fan-focus. Barely noticed by the media, meanwhile, were recruits filling the Trump Team clubhouse: players and coaches installed by the big-money long-ballers. In her article, Mayer identifies shadowy billionaire Robert Mercer, in particular, as the scout who paid most to surround Trump with favored members of the Mega team. Thus, as the Mayer piece notes, the richest among us influence the direction the country and its Skipper are headed.

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Snubbing the Cubs: MLB-TV insiders Dan O’Dowd and Tom Verducci predicted the other night where the Dodgers are headed: this season – to the World Series. Why have they a better chance than the Cubs? Because, they agree,, of two top pitchers – Clayton Kershaw and highly rated newcomer Julio Urias. Behind them: the best group of position players and secondary pitchers money can buy. Second best, say we, the squad assembled by the Red Sox.

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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.)

Fighting to Get Back in Baseball Focus

Have other fans noticed how hard it is amid the constant blustering of the country’s new skipper to focus on baseball? We confess to have experienced an immobilizing Trumpian funk while exposed to the president’s scary vision of Team USA’s future. It has so dominated the media we believe few other attentive news-watchers could embrace the usual spring training distractions.

 

An e-message from friend Jim Wallenstein of Wellesley, Mass makes a sporting focus easier.

It reminds us, without mentioning the skipper, that Baseball’s approach to promoting the sport has long fit comfortably with pre-Trump policies: in particular, those providing tax cuts for the rich and profit-making at the expense of the masses. Nor, says Wallenstein, is Baseball alone:

 

“Contemporary professional sporting events are a mass of common people paying handsomely for the privilege of observing the actions of a few very rich ones, a phenomenon which mimics the current social order and reflects the inequality that marks it instead of offering a diversion from it.”

 

As for finding diversion from the noise on the political field, fuggedaboudit. A headline in the NY Times Saturday had the best advice: “Depressed by Politics” it asked, adding “Stop obsessively checking the latest news and you’ll be happier.” Watching liberal MSNBC has become a particular trial for some of us progressives. The station’s reporters dutifully pounce on every wild pitch from the skipper to fill their all-news obligation. Once in a while team members say something sensible like this game “has got to stop.” Or “Outside of Washington and New York, nobody cares about what the Russians may or may not be doing.” Our favorite savvy statement: describing our script-hugging Team Dem leader Chuck Schumer as a “clown.”

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WBC Woe: East coast fans of the World Baseball Classic – we among them – have a right to feel betrayed by playing times, including pre-and post-midnight starts, that discourage us from watching the games live. A suggested step toward modestly rectifying the situation in 2021: add or subtract two hours from the starting times of all games scheduled to be played at widely unwatchable hours.

Thank you for the stimulus, Jim Wallenstein. His message in full, as carried by Huffington Post, can be accessed at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/58ade90de4b0ea6ee3d034a9

 

 

 

 

Changing Stances and How We Feel About Them

On the cusp of a new season, it’s time we made a clean breast of some (far from all) things we dislike about the changing trends in Baseball: the over-emphasis on analytics encouraging a disregard for traditional W-L, RBI. BA measurements of player value; replacing “contests” – e.g., All-Star games – with no-stake “spectacles”; all tinkering with arrangements – e.g., luxury taxes and the like – that soften penalties wealthy teams must pay for their financial advantages.

To be continued, as the season progresses.

On the other side of the plate, here are a couple of things we progressives like about Team Trump’s approach to the political game: its benign stance toward the Russians, despite the widespread national anti-Putin paranoia; more generally, we appreciate the Skipper’s apparent disinterest in triggering a new cold war anywhere. More predictably, we applaud his pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare programs.

Some negative calls ahead as we examine Trump’s policy lineup up close in ensuing weeks and months.

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Brett Lawrie: just cut by the White Sox, is latest of a few of prominent free agents still unsigned. Among others:: Pedro Alvarez, Marlon Byrd, Doug Fister, Tim Lincecum, Angel Pagan

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

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