The Nub

Our Misbehavin’ Home Field Media

Our Misbehavin’ Home-Field Media

While Baseball’s performance level in minority hirings has been slipping, its public relations skills are clearly improving. Good work, Commissioner Rob Manfred. Few fans had a chance to learn that the MLB’s latest annual diversity report card was full of low grades. Manfred’s team seemed to insure that the report received little media exposure. One under publicized and little realized fact:: the sport has three big league managers of color now – Dave Roberts of the Dodgers, the Nationals’ Dusty Baker and Rick Renteria of the White Sox – compared to the 10 minority skippers it could boast as recently as 2009.

Overall, MLB dropped more than eight points in racial hiring for on-and-off field jobs since last year and four-and-a-half points in gender hiring at the office level. Scorekeeper Richard Lapchick’s final grade was 76, down six-and-a-half points from 2016. If asked, we would have given Manfred and his team a tougher grade; the decision to return the All-Star game to exhibition from serious competition.deserves a still-lower grade..

Of course, the most egregious misplay belonged to the sporting media, which, by and large, chose to ignore the bad news about Baseball employment. The political media play a similar game while covering Team USA’s relations with counterparts abroad. The Yanqui press corps sends its vaunted objectivity to the showers then; how? by giving a pass to countries that play ball with Uncle Sam and pummeling those who refuse to play along. Venezuela has long been a prime example of a negative media target. The NY Times has consistently attacked Caracas since the days of Hugo Chavez a decade-and-a-half ago.

At the same time, the mainstream media have dutifully followed Team USA’s lead in looking the other way with regard to Honduras, where we have a military base. In 2009, Team Obama, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton playing a prominent role, reneged on supporting liberal president Manuel Zelaya, target of a right-wing coup. After Zelaya was deposed, Honduras became a drug-infested hell-hole. Hardly a word from the Yanqui media after the coup then or now, despite an overdue State Department warning early this year of Honduras’ “high crime and violence rates.”

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Yankee (not Yanqui) haters in this country deserve sympathy for strong early signs the Pinstripers are a playoff team, not the also-rans most observers considered them to be. Yes, it’s early, but the team’s impressive mix of veterans and newcomers – buttressed by good pitching – looks like it will stay the playoff-bound course as the rest of the season unfolds. It seems equally safe to describe the playoff-possibility of .the once-touted 2017 Mets with a single NY word: fuhgedaboudit!

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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 Tanking Game Taking a Toll on Both Fields

On YES the other day, Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay didn’t mince words: “The Padres are tanking,.” he said. San Diego, which tied for last in the NL in 2016, has one of the three lowest payrolls in the MLB this season (along with the Brewers and Rays). The Pods are going with three Rule-5 ($50,000) players on their roster. Opting for a minimal-budget approach that includes players who couldn’t make 40-man rosters elsewhere suggests a willingness to finish low enough to qualify for top-level talent selections next season. In other words: t-a-n-k-i-n-g .now, with eye on the future.

 

The political variation of tanking is on display as Team Dem talks of Resistance to hit-to-right efforts to hold on to Congressional seats. The talk can’t match the money Team GOP is spending to defend its control of the electoral field. An example: Republicans heavily outspent the Dem team in the Kansas special election last week; the GOP also worked harder on the personal level – dispatching Senator Ted Cruz to campaign in the district and having Trump and VP Mike Pence record supportive phone calls for winning candidate Ron Estes.

 

Bernie Sanders and/or Elizabeth Warren could certainly have helped lift the Dem vote, if the party had its organizing act together. And Bernie’s apparent reluctance to provide his successful campaign fund-raising list to the team effort is a disappointment. That’s especially true since the Dems, unlike the GOP, have few, if any politically active billionaires free to enrich their team’s coffers anonymously. .

 

As, spurred by Citizens United, the money-ball continues to bounce toward right field; beyond media hype, progressives have little to cheer about beyond the fading hope that the post-inauguration women’s march marked the beginning of true left-leaning resistance. NY Times columnist Ginia Bellafante noted an aspect of the oversell of such hope in Sunday’s NY Times: ”The age of activism that…Trump’s presidency unleashed has given us as…(a) symbol …of defiance the pink knit hat that women around the world have embraced as a means of communicating their distaste for (his) regressive views.”

 

Just a guess: greenbacks rather than pink hats will make the difference in Georgia’s special House vote being decided today.

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The starters and young and old position players are propelling the eight-straight-win Yankees, but NY Times observer Tyler Kepner calls two barely noticed mid-relievers – Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard – keys to the team’s early success. Entering last tonight’s game with the White Sox, Warren had retired all 20 of the hitters he faced; together the pair had yielded only six hits in 41 at-bats.

Cubs president Theo Epstein, made this reply when asked if he had any player-related insights to offer to the NY Post’s Joel Sherman: “Young, good; old, bad.”

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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.)

Gane-Changers Roiling Both Fields

From the typical fan’s casual distance, this year’s version of the old ballgame has a familiar look; except,, perhaps, for no-pitch purposeful walks. But the attentive among us are aware of once noticed gradual changes that now have become permanent. The shift is a prime example. Its success has devalued ground-ball hitters and put ball-in-the-air batters in greater demand than ever. Another infield-out changing alteration: since runners must avoid barreling into fielders at second, double plays on ground balls have become almost automatic. Finally, there’s the arm-saving consensus that starting pitchers should seldom go more than six innings:

There’s been as well a barely appreciated but seismic shift on the political field: Michael Bennet, Team Dem’s Senator from Colorado described it this way the other night on MSNBC: Legisators from Dem and GOP teams , Bennet said, are afraid to agree jointly on any potentially game-changing issue. Why? The voters in both parties have become vehement in opposition to anything adversary office-holders say, no matter how meaningful.

The careful political comments, pro and con, on the bombing of the air base in Syria is an example of avoidance of bi-partisanship. None of the comments we’ve heard suggests that Team USA send humanitarian aid rather than missiles into that war-torn country. The idea of a humanitarian rather than a violent response to hardship is a reminder of how regularly Baseball chooses to honor our fighting men and women while all but ignoring medical care-givers.l

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Weather Watch: April is the cruellist spring-like baseball month for Atlanta and Toronto (1-5), but not for Arizona (6-2), Minnesota (5-1) and Baltimore (4-1)

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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 Distraction Game: How Rookie Team Trump Is Making It Work

Here’s to Phillies rookie Brock Stassi, who made this year’s team without ever coming close to the big leagues before. And he made it at age 27 after long years of trying. And here’s to him for not taking his achievement for granted: “It’s not done,” he said.” I don’t just want to get here. I want to stay here.”

Stassi embodies high prospect – and team – hopes as the new season gets under way. How great it would be if one of the outsider teams – like the Phils – could make it to the playoffs. His experience in the minors suggests Stassi has the savvy, as well as the tools, to help Skipper Peter Mackanin’s team pull a long-shot surprise.

The country is learning that, on the political field, Team USA is suffering from a rookie-like shortage of savvy. As the NY Times’ Robert Draper noted in Sunday’s magazine: “The business of governing ha(s) little to do with any trade (President Trump) had previously practiced.” And except for the Skipper’s top bench coach – and VP – Mike Pence, his main dugout staffers are as innocent of how the government game is played as is he.

Well, maybe not.entirely: Team Trump has learned how to execute distractions when under pressure and to take advantage of the Skipper’s legal privileges. Thus, the crucial question of whether he and his teammates colluded with Russia’s cyber-warriors to defeat Hillary Clinton remains under an unanswered cloud, as does the refusal to make public the president’s tax returns.

The TT’s avoidance plays are described as “inappropriate”, “not unlawful” “legal flexible tools” rather than seeking to evade a “monolithic statute.” Press box observers are also barred from pursuing reports of “incidental” cyber-contacts because Washington has spared them the taint of illegality. Fans in the national ballpark have a right to wonder if the game, presumably linked to Constitutional gaps, will continue without a hitch through 2020.

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Teams Supposed to Win Opening Day Games, but Didn’t: The Cubs, losers in the ninth to the Cardinals, 4-3; the Giants, also losers in the ninth to the Diamondbacks, also by 4-3; The Yankees, losers to the Rays, 7-3; Royals, losers to Twins, 7-1; Angels, losers to A’s, 4-2.

Most impressive win: Indians overcoming Rangers lead, with help from Edwin Encarnacion (HR) and winning reliever Andrew Miller. Final: Cleveland, 8-5.

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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.)