The Nub

“Eyeballing” New and Upcoming Changes on Both Fields

 

(Posted 11/11/17)

About halfway through the World Series, play-by-play announcer man Joe Buck had had enough: “What’s with this spin-rate stuff”? he said to color man John Smoltz, who had been describing a new sabermetric pitching measurement. Although Buck’s tone was half-joking, he had tapped into the frustration of many long-time fans; those who wanted baseball to remain an “eyeball” sport rather than one taken over by technology.

Yet the takeover, already embedded, has provided new ways to gauge the value of players – measuring the range of outfielders is one example, focusing on on-base potential (OBP) over batting average another, wins above replacement (WAR) yet another, offering an effective tool to track pitching spin skills. These measurements are useful for many of us at the end of the season, but almost annoying day to day.

And what would be useful changes on the political field, in the crucial warm-up to tax reform? Team GOP is pushing for cuts in what corporations now pay, less concerned with how working people are hit. The best the Dem team can offer is a fight for an “equal playing field” combined with rejection of Trump, a Clinton playbook re-run. On the hopeful-if-perhaps-over-hyped scoreboard: the gubernatorial win in Virginia, and the possibility the favored (GOP) Senatorial candidate in Alabama, Roy Moore, has disgraced away his chances. Then there is the Dem team’s not-so-secret weapon as 2018 approaches: health care.

History Lesson: From the political press box, a look back at “intellectual conservatism”, whose heyday coincided with Baseball’s pre-World War 2 emergence: (circa 1938): “War is caused by the conditions that bring about poverty…no war is justified…no war benefits the people.” (Frank Chodorov) An outgrowth of that early game plan (as quoted in last Sunday’s NY Times magazine): “Efforts to combat international Communism would be more dangerous than Communism itself.”

Bi-partisan support today for any such pacific policies, we know, is unthinkable. But shouldn’t the Dem team consider examining the possible military-spending reasons why that is so?.

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(The Nub is a team effort produced by Dick Starkey; it is also available on website perfectpitcher.org)

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, cialis 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.

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“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’.” (MLB.com) 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

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

 

The Downside of Domination on Both Fields

What we know (or think we do) at the end of the first month of the season: the Cubs are going to run away from NL opponents, cialis generic including the Nationals. They’ll make it, as widely predicted, to the World Series. We know Cubs fans will be the envy of their 29 counterparts. And we know, too, that, as the runaway proceeds, Joe Maddon’s team will be both widely admired AND MLB’s most hated club. That’s the price of domination. Teams that played in back-to-back Series – the A’s of 1988-89-90, the Braves of 91-92, the Blue Jays of 92-93, the Phillies of 08-09, and, of course the Yankees of ’96 and 98-99-2000-2001-2003 –all felt the whiff of away-fan resentment. It hasn’t happened to the 14-15 Royals yet because they’ve snuck up on us.

There’s a similar reaction prevalent in many of the quadrennial presidential series and, particularly, in the intra-party playoffs leading to the final match-up. Hillary Clinton ought to be bracing for a campaign devoid of a level of enthusiasm she’d like. She experienced comparative indifference when running against Barack Obama in 2008. Then she confronted an exciting young opponent seeking to make presidential history. Now, her differences with 74-year-old Bernie Sanders are more pronounced and could damage her in the likely presidential playoff against Donald Trump. Bloomberg,net’s Al Hunt ticks off Hillary’s potential obstacles, beginning with economic issues, on some of which Trump sounds more like Sanders than Clinton:

“…taxes, health care and regulating Wall Street…On national security, too, as Clinton hasn’t much moderated her interventionist bent. She was a leading advocate for the 2011 military action in Libya. The aftermath of the invasion turned out disastrously and Obama has expressed his regrets. She hasn’t…If she is the Democratic nominee, she’ll need Sanders followers in the autumn. She (can’t) rely on Trump’s unpopularity…If it weren’t for Trump’s (record polling negatives – 65-24 pct.), the story would be about Clinton’s negatives. In the same (Wall Street Journal/NBC News) survey, she was viewed unfavorably 56-32.”

Hillary surely knows how she can soften much of the progressive resentment she’s encountering: express sincere support for many of the “revolutionary” policies pitched by her rally-generating Dem adversary, Bernie..

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Where Did He Come From? We’re talking about the MLB hitting leader Aledmys Diaz; he’s the 25-year-old Cardinals shortstop from Cuba who replaced Ruben Tejada, who, in turn, replaced injured Jhonny Peralta. A .380 BA breakout over 14 games with Triple-A Memphis late last summer earned Diaz promotion to the Cards this season. He is hitting .420, with four HRs in 21 games – a surprising performance helping the Redbirds remain in flight in the NL Central.

Jeter Redux? Californian Eric Byrnes says (on MLB-TV) he has no doubt about the identity of the current player who comes closest to comporting himself – on and off the field – as did Derek Jeter. He’s Buster Posey, the Giants’ catcher and acknowledged team leader.

Byrnes’ ‘Bests’: Byrnes’ regional pride was manifest earlier this week in these other insights: “The Giants are the best team in Baseball…ATT Park is the best ballpark.”

Streakers: Mets +7, Marlins +6, Pirates +5, Dodgers – 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.)

 

Hailing the Heroes Ignored in Both Games

(Posted: 11/23/13)

Let’s talk  about Baseball heroes: Jackie Robinson, viagra usa cialis Roberto Clemente are two that quickly come to mind; both stars, one broke the color line, the other, a Puerto Rican, died trying to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua.  We’ve noted here often another true hero: Curt Flood, who sacrificed his livelihood to free players from a system that made them, in the words of his biography, “Well-Paid Slave(s)”.  Robinson and Clemente are in the sport’s Hall of Fame, but Baseball, abetted by press box people, has given Flood little applause for challenging its legally sanctioned control over players.

We have been remiss for disregarding another player-hero, ignored by the establishment, who never got his due.  Danny Gardella, a wartime outfielder with the NY Giants in the 1940s, anticipated Flood’s audacious act.  He hit 18 HRS with 71 RBIs and .272 BA, in his second season with the Giants in 1945.  In 1946, the team offered him a salary of $4,500, take it or leave it.  When the Mexican League said it would pay $10,000, Gardella “jumped.”  Other, bigger names followed – Sal Magle, Max Lanier, Vern Stephens, Mickey Owen, Alex Carrasquel, to name a few.

Commissioner Happy Chandler imposed a five-year ban on those who didn’t return promptly for violating the reserve clause that gave the clubs control.  In 1947, Gardella went to court to challenge the ban – as Flood would do more than 20 years later.  He had to drop his lawsuit when proceedings dragged out into 1949, draining his resources.  But he had raised a valid issue that wouldn’t go away.  “I let the whole world know,” he told the LA Times with pride in 1990, “that the reserve clause was unfair.”

Skipper Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom this week to 16 American “heroes,”, including Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post editor who published the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the futility of the Vietnam War.  We consider Edward Snowden and Chelsea (Bradley) Manning similarly deserving for their exposure of Team USA wrongdoing on different battlefields.  Australian Julian Assange also merits a tribute for his WikiLeaks operation.  We’ve neglected to acknowledge all such heroes – it’s hard to keep up before Team Obama has them disappear into jail.  We did, earlier this week, make reference to the work of another hero without mentioning his name. Jeremy  Hammond, a 28-year-old Chicagoan, was convicted of a series of hacking offenses and  sentenced to 10 years in prison last week.  Among his illegal disclosures was this chilling information (passed to WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone): that government and corporate contractor Stratfor teamed to try to connect non-violent dissenters to terrorism, thus making them targets for prosecution. For some reason, the corporate media waved the story away.

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The Washington-Texas Match:  Skipper Ron Washington seems to be something of a hero to the Rangers front office.  No sooner was his team eliminated from the post-season, than Texas GM Jon Daniels said it was “not a question” that Washington would return as manager.  Couple of days later, Daniels said he “preferred” to think in terms of extending Washington’s contract beyond 2014.  The extension hasn’t happened yet; it won’t be surprising if the move is put off until Daniels sees how much his skipper gets out of the Prince Fielder-enhanced version of the team next season.

Blockbuster Hay:  How desperate were pastime pundits for a blockbuster hot stove deal – i.e. Ian Kinsler for  Fielder?  Well, Bill Chuck, on Gammons Daily, ticked off ways the deal could impact on no fewer than 19 players connected to 10 teams, including Texas and Detroit – from Elvis Andrus (alphabetically) to Max Scherzer.  The list includes top free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Sin-Shoo Choo, Carlos Beltran and Joe Nathan. That opens a lot of speculation fodder between now and the next big deal.

Hopeful Upgrades: The non-explosive deal yesterday in which the Cardinals traded third baseman David Freese to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos is worthy of modest notice because both sides upgraded in positions where they felt they needed improvement.  Incumbents Chris Nelson in LA and Jon Jay in St.Louis now have the challenge of proving the feeling was wrong.

Listing in Arizona:  Fourteen of the 30 teams taking part in the Arizona Fall League had players make Baseball America’s top 20 list.  Three Cubs prospects made the list, and two each from the Twins, Blue Jays, Marlins and Red Sox.  Twins farmhand outfielder Byron Buxton was picked number one.  The Cubs’ highly rated third baseman Kris Bryant was second, Athletic shortstop Addison Russell third.  Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez and Minnesota’s Alex Meyer, both pitchers, finished fourth and fifth on the list.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome.Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. PreviousNubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

 

Insider’s Game in the Courts and on the Ballfield

(Posted: 11/5//13)

“Inside baseball.”  The term was used last week in a comment on a NYC judicial case growing out of the NYPD team’s “stop-and frisk” strategy.  A female Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin found that the tactic was overused and led to a “policy of indirect racial profiling.” She ordered changes in the way the frisky game was played. Three male Appeals Court judges not only halted the changes, viagra sales try but took her off the case.  They booed Scheindlin for what legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called a conventional “inside-baseball” play – steering the long-standing lawsuit to her courtroom.  To challenge the play, cialis canada said Toobin, was a “weird fit of pique.”

On the day that Toobin made his remarks, NY Times stat man Benjamin Hoffman wrote of a weird on-field inside-baseball incident in September involving Braves catcher Brian McCann and Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez.  The high-spirited Gomez hit a home run, celebrating as he rounded the bases; gyrating in a way old-school players like McCann consider unprofessional: “showing the pitcher up” is the term commonly used.  McCann conveyed his contempt for Gomez’s antics by – in Hoffman’s words’ – “standing in front of home plate, his mask on top of his head…body language saying clearly to Gomez ‘You shall not pass’.” (An obstruction call allowed Gomez to score.)

Most of media praised McCann for protecting the inside-baseball rule.  Hoffman was less favorably disposed, despite McCann’s leadership and “fire”: “Some observers,” he wrote, “(are) projecting a contract worth $100 million over six seasons.  But given (McCann’s) position, his recent decline in durability and an expected drop in production as he enters his 30s, he appears to be the most likely of this season’s big-ticket free agents to end up becoming an albatross for the team that signs him.”

The NYC media treated the Appeals judges more gently than did Toobin.  He believes, by the way, that, after the city’s likely next skipper, lefty Bill de Blasio, takes charge, the Appeals ruling will “go away.”

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Worth Noting: Carlos Gomez had a breakthrough 2013 season – 24 HRs, 73 RBIs, 40 SBs in 47 tries, and a BA of .284.  He’s the lone standout of the five players the Mets traded for the Twins’ Johan Santana in 2008.  Minnesota gave up on him after two seasons, trading him to Milwaukee, where he has blossomed.  Brian McCann played in only 102 games, owing to injury.  He batted .256, with 20 HRs and 57 RBIs. His caught stealing percentage was a respectable 24 pct.  The Braves have made him a $14.1 million qualifying offer for 2014, an offer he’s almost certainly expected to reject.

Tribute to Someone with More than Speed: “Jacoby Ellsbury has hit as many as ten home runs once in his career. His arm is below average. Fine. The man is a superb center fielder playing in a home park where the game from right center field to the 420 corner, with walls and angles at every turn, is a vital part of building a home field advantage…Anyone and everyone in New England should thank him, wish him luck, and if the Seattle Mariners or the San Francisco Giants or Washington Nationals want to give him what the Red Sox gave (Carl) Crawford, give him an appropriate sendoff for all that went into two rings and an extraordinary career.” Peter Gammons, Gammons Daily

Five Reasons the 2013 Giants Fell to a Fourth-Place Tie (with San Diego): Matt Cain – innings 184, 8-10, ERA 4.00;  Tim Lincecum – innings 197.2, 10-14, ERA 4.37; Barry Zito – innings 133.1, 5-11, ERA 5.74.  Angel Pagan – games 71 of 162; BA .282, HR 5, RBI 30; Marco Scutaro – games 127; BA .297, HR 2, RBI 31. All but Zito will be back with SF next season.  The Giants decided not to exercise his contract option and will give him a $7 million buyout.  Zito was 63-80 over seven seasons with the Giants.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome. Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. PreviousNubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

Playing the Indifference Game in Both Pastimes

(Posted: 10/29/13)

The hot stove season won’t start until the World Series ends, cialis sale prescription but already there are signs of a heated Dodger-Yankee spending race to stock their 2014 teams.  The Dodgers have already signed Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero to a four-year $32 million contract.  The Yankees, find meanwhile, patient have leaked a plan to spend $300 million to shore up a roster they hope will be headed by Robinson Cano.  It shapes up as a return to Yankee-dollar-dominance days with a sharing twist: the Dodgers are already on what was a uniquely NYY field.

This post-season reminds us there’s no guarantee that rich teams and their pricey reinforcements will make it to the Series.  But they do have a better-than-fair shot – witness the Dodgers and Tigers – at making  the playoffs. Baseball, thus, must accept this top-weighted inequality as the price it pays for what is a largely free-enterprise system.  Fans of the top-tier teams don’t care about the dollar disparity separating the rich from the less-so.  Nor should they.  Unaligned fans, however, might reasonably have an interest in a fairer arrangement.

The not-caring stance on the political field is familiar to most of us: we can’t summon strenuous objection to widespread government wiretapping, since we have nothing to hide.  In the same way, we find it hard to critique Team Obama’s rough-and-tumble game abroad, the lethal effect it is having on opposing clubs and their fans. The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart elaborates on the indifference:

Part of the reason America is struggling as a superpower: (many of us) don’t give a fig about…  anyone else…(We) believe in the nation as the sole legitimate source of authority in international affairs.  And that’s true when defending our nation’s prerogatives…NSA spying on foreign leaders is only the latest example. In Colorado, they’re now issuing drone-hunting licenses so Americans can shoot down any airborne spy planes that trespass their property.  And yet there’s scarcely any sympathy…for the Pakistanis and Yemenis who are upset that the U.S. sends drones over their countries, though those drones regularly kill people…This isn’t American ’exceptionalism’ – the belief that the U.S. is fundamentally different, and better, than other nations. It’s what the international relations scholar John Ruggie has called American ’exemptionalism’ – the belief that America need not play by everyone else’s rules.”

Fans who don’t belong to either the indifferent or exemptionalist teams, can fume and put their complaints in writing.  But indignation, their default stance, produces a familiar double play – ineffectiveness and frustration.  Meanwhile, we know that like-minded elected players, are, with few exceptions, pursuing a strategy of silence.

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Coming Through:  No sooner did Joe Buck say John Farrell’s offense wasn’t getting enough from the bottom of the Red Sox order last night, then numbers six, seven, and, especially eight, came through last night.  With the score tied, rookie Xander Bogaerts singled in the seventh, Stephen Drew walked, then David Ross hit the crusher, a base-clearing double.  That put the game away, 3-1.  The Cardinals still had nine outs left.  But the combination of superb starter Jon Lester and remarkable reliever Koji Uehara didn’t give them a chance.

Punditry: Miracles can happen, but, clearly, it will take a miracle for the Cardinals to take games six and seven from the Red Sox at FenwayPark.  The Sox haven’t been in the habit of losing back-to-back games at home this season.  And, with Mike Napoli back in the lineup as DH, double-losses are much less likely than they were in St.Louis.

Tee Time:  If the Cardinals lose, chances are the decision skipper Mike Matheny will rue  most came in game four.  It was when he called on reliever Seth Maness to pitch to Jonny Gomes with the score tied, 1-1, and two men on in the sixth.  Maness had yielded a run in a third-of-an-inning in game one, and blown a save in game three.  Now he threw a pitch to Gomes that was – in his words – “up, right down the middle, on a tee for him.” Gomes, we know, didn’t miss it.

Monster:  David Ortiz, with an unbelievable Series BA of .719, (quoted on Fox): “I was born for this.  Before I was born, I was hitting in my mother’s belly…”I’m just swinging, not thinking.  I try not to let myself think.”

Beards Came Later:  Times Baseball columnist Tyler Kepner summing up what Red Sox GM Ben Cherington accomplished during the last off-season: (He put together) “a team that could play to its talents and have fun doing it, with reasonable contracts and minimum long-term risk.”

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome. Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

 

can be found at perfectpitcher.org)

 

Reason for Hope on Two Fields? Time Will Tell

(Posted: 10/18/13; e-mail update 10/19)

When, cialis healing after falling behind 3-1 in the NLCS, case Don Mattingly said he trusted Josh Greinke and Clayton Kershaw to pitch the Dodgers into a seventh game, for sale one reporter had this comment:  “Hope is a fickle strategy.”  We know now that Mattingly’s faith in the pair he considers Baseball’s “best” pitchers has so far paid off.  The faith – and its accompanying hope – will be tested again tonight when Kershaw tries to even the series in St.Louis.

On the national ballfield, to even pitch the word “hope” in the face of Team USA’s endless war on terror and its fallout – its innocent victims, the rally against whistleblowers and all adversaries of the security/surveillance state – is to deny our permanent condition.  The instructors who taught us that is so: members of the corporate media, ever ready to go to bat for government, accepting whatever it tosses their way as a perfect strike.

If, despite the gloom, hopelessness has eluded us, it’s because of hitters willing to swing out against Team Obama’s game plan – grand slammers like Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.  They have had to flee the field, we know, to escape head-hunters.  A prominent exception still openly holding his adversarial stance: Glenn Greenwald, slugging lawyer and civil liberties author who helped Snowden expose the government-surveillance game through the UK Guardian.

Greenwald is preparing to launch an on-line mass media venture financed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.  “A dream journalistic opportunity,” Greenwald calls it – one, that with a quarter-billion-dollar bankroll, will enable him and his teammates to dig, not just skim. His lineup will include author Jeremy Scahill, who independently dug out the extent of the Blackwater scandals in Iraq and the blowback-causing Drone efforts in Yemen.  The project still has to choose an opening day; it plans to field a system with squads in New York and San Francisco, as well as in Washington. Greenwald himself is based in Rio de Janiero.  There is no guarantee the new team will score big, or last.  Nor does it even have a name.  A good one might be “Hope.”

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Hopeless?  The consensus after David Ortiz’s slam helped Boston overtake Detroit in game 2: the Tigers would need a shrink to regroup and take the ALCS from the Red Sox.  Now, after losing game 5 Thursday night at home, Detroit clearly needs a magician if it hopes to sweep games 6 and 7 from the Sox at FenwayPark.  That’s the reality, even with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander ready to work their magic for Jim Leyland.

Neighborliness:  Tim McCarver (on Fox) was prepared to forgive an egregious umpiring call in the third inning Thursday night.  Austin Jackson, running from first on a ground ball, was forced at second even though Sox shortstop Stephen Drew completed the force while several feet from the bag as he tried for a double play.  “It was a neighborhood play,” said McCarver. “The umpires sometimes call it so the infielder can avoid being hit and hurt by a sliding runner.” We don’t want to see anybody hurt, but the call snuffed out a possible Tiger rally.  Here’s hoping the video replay arrangement next year eliminates the dubious neighborly practice.

A Cardinal Flaw:  Stats sometimes surprise; this one was a shock: Ron Darling (on TBS) noted that the Cardinals went 4-50 in the regular season when trailing after seven innings.  He said it Wednesday, as the oft-flawless Redbirds fell behind the Dodgers in the third and never caught up.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome. Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

‘Cool’-ness: What Baseball Lacks and U.S. Military Has in Excess

(Posted: 9/16/13; e-mail update 9/17)

The post-season heroics of David Price, cialis ambulance Andrew McCutchen, viagra generic Marlon Byrd, Delmon Young, Desmond Jennings, et al, suggest that the African-American presence is alive and well in baseball.  We know that’s not the case: American blacks account for only eight percent of major leaguers.  That so many of our best athletes (proportionally) are absent from the national pastime while they stand out in basketball and football, is more than just a sports-related anomaly.  The absence speaks to the national scandal involving allocation of resources, part of the mega-problem of inequality.

Of more crucial concern to Baseball people, the comparatively few blacks in their sport diminishes its popularity – and therefore its profits – in the competition with the NFL and NBA.  In last Sunday’s NY Times, Jonathan Nailer noted that the NFL’s TV ratings “exist in a whole other stratosphere” from those of MLB.  Furthermore, the 2012 NBA ratings on ABC “were nearly double those of MLB on Fox.”  Viewers like to see home-grown stars – like LeBron James and Adrian Peterson – performing in sports that are more physical, and often more violent, than baseball.  As for the role of blacks on a broader popular basis, Nailer has this to say:

“Much has been made of the declining participation of blacks in baseball.  Less has been said about the trickle-down effects of this in an era when hip-hop is such a powerful tastemaker in American culture.  Baseball is not cool.”

What can be done?   Instant replay next season will help generate a bit of new interest.  In the long run, to get cool young blacks involved, Baseball must be prepared to help bridge the inequality gap. How? The commissioner, the owners and the union must be prepared to provide money to support baseball programs at underfinanced public schools, including arrangements for places to play.  African-Americans in low-income urban areas have, we know, much readier access to hard-top basketball courts and confined strips of touch football space at local playgrounds. Baseball is doing a little of that work now. But the current aid it offers through the RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner cities) system is spotty, and far from adequate, given the scope of the challenge.

There’s your game plan, Bud Selig: Make it happen – as your prime legacy – before you retire in 2015.

The U.S. military has an opposite problem involving blacks: their number – 20 percent – exceeds the percentage of African-Americans in our population.  The title of a column by Al Hunt on Bloomberg.com points to the problem: “THE WIDENING GULF BETWEEN AMERICANS AND THEIR MILITARY.”  Economic inequality has filled the services with low-income men and women – Latinos and whites, as well as cool blacks – who joined the military for a paying job.  Hunt quotes General Stanley McChrystal lamenting how “unrepresentative of the population” are members ot the volunteer army.  A return to the draft would be a remedy, but that, like a proportional raise in taxes, Hunt notes, is a “non-starter.”  In the meantime, the attitude of many of us toward the military, as described by author and Vietnam vet Andrew Bacevich: “cordial indifference.”

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Intimidated:  It was only NLDS openers for the Pirates and Braves, but they both looked outclassed by the Cardinals and Dodgers.  Adam Wainwright and Carlos Beltran propelled the Cards over the Bucs, 9-1; Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez played similar roles with the Dodgers.  On the basis of the first meetings, both winning teams seem to have more of two key assets – talent and depth – than their opponents.

Unintimidated:  Rays Skipper Joe Maddon (quoted by the Times’ Tyler Kepner), on the positive rush his team gets, playing as visitors before charged-up home-town fans: “We like playing in front of big crowds.  I think our guys are really good at breathing in the moment.”

Debacle:  There was lots of disbelief to go around last Monday night, when both the Rays and Rangers had rosters of 37 players for their wild card tiebreaker.  The rationale: It was the 163d regular-season game, so the stupid September call-up rules applied.  Each year, press box people and broadcasters express the hope “that’s going to change.” When, Bud Selig, when?

Plain to See:  John Smoltz (on TBS) on one seldom-mentioned way a manager knows it’s time to yank his pitcher: “Facial expressions.  They can tell when a pitcher has lost confidence.”

Quiz:  The most beautiful park east of San Francisco,” Wash Post columnist Tom Boswell (among others) calls it.  Which baseball stadium is he referring to? No, not Busch Stadium, Camden Yards, Chase Field, CitiField, Citizens Bank Park, Nationals Park, Target Field, Turner Field, nor Yankee Stadium.  Answer:  PNCPark, Pittsburgh.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome. Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. PreviousNubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

September Slump for Team Obama, But Not the Red Sox

(Posted: 9/20/13; e-mail update 9/21)

Last Sunday night, generic viagra buy viagra John (“Theeeeeee Yankeeeeees WIN!) Sterling hailed the Red Sox on WCBS as “the best team in baseball.”  He was particularly admiring of their balance:  “They can field a lefty-hitting team, generic or a righty-hitting team, both good…They’ve got excellent starters and a terrific bullpen.”  It was a glowing tribute to GM Ben Cherington, (without mentioning his name) and to Skipper John Farrell’s leadership.  The Red Sox, doormats a year ago, are today, we know, a smooth-running machine with the best record in both leagues.

The contrast between The Nation’s Sox and Chicago’s last-place White Sox is remarkable. Nothing has gone right for Robin Ventura’s South-Siders.  Eerily, the Chisox’s most prominent fan has had a parallel problem, some are calling a “September slump.” Skipper Obama’s foreign policy team bollixed its little-ball plan for Syria.  Even the friendly NY Times joined the press box critique that, on Syria, Team Obama is “in disarray.” In defending the changeable strategy of threatening, then delegating, and finally putting his “unbelievably small” attack plan on hold, the Skipper suggested to us a baseball analogy:  “Had we been like the Red Sox,” he might have said for starters, then added what he actually said: “and rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined…(the press would have) graded it well.”   

The Skipper’s defensiveness and his coach John Kerry’s bellicose bench-jockeying have prompted many lefty (and other) fans to disappear into the upper deck when either of them sound forth on the field. “At some point people make a collective decision and they don’t listen to the president anymore.  That’s what happened to both Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush,” says presidential biographer Lou Cannon . “I don’t think Obama has quite gone off the diving board yet… but he’s close to the edge.  He needs to have some successes…”

The Skipper’s fans worry that his slump will continue into October, when the playoffs and debt-limit noise will cause many to tune him out more than they already have.

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Wild AL Outlook: If the pressbox consensus proves to be correct, the AL wild cards will go to the Indians, and either the Rangers or Rays.  The reason: strength (or lack) of schedule.  Cleveland has three games left with last-place Houston, two with the last-place White Sox and four with next-to-last-place Minnesota.  The Rangers and Rays have similar-strength skeds: Texas plays Kansas City, Houston and the LA Angels, while the Rays battle Baltimore, the Yankees and Toronto.  The Orioles face an uphill climb against the Rays, Toronto and the Red Sox.  KC, if it gets by Texas, finishes with Seattle and the White Sox, so has an outside shot.

In the NL…The Cardinals play three with the Brewers, Nationals and Cubs.  Unless the Nats make trouble – a legitimate possibility – the Cards must be considered favorites in the division.  The Pirates and Reds go mano-a-mano six times, a sandwich that has the Bucs playing the Cubs, the Reds the Mets, in between those two crucial series. Barring a sweep by either team – which might open the door for the Nats – Pittsburgh and Cincinnati should be meeting in the NL’s play-in game the week after next.

Naysayer:  Most baseball fans are thrilled with the wild card scramble just games from season’s end; most, but not all.  Dennis Eckersley, on NESN the other night, called the tight races “lame.”  At least one of the contending teams, he said, should break away and “show it deserves to make the playoffs.”  As it is, he suggested, it’s hard to think any of the 10 or so clubs are of playoff-caliber.

O, Those Orioles:  Despite losing the finale, Baltimore left Boston Thursday night with a sixth series win in its past seven trips to Fenway.  The O’s have won 14 of their past 20 games at the Sox’s home park.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com, as well as requests for e-mail updates, are welcome. Note that only e-mailed comments can be addressed by the skipper. PreviousNubs may be found by scrolling below.)

 

The Screw-Up Season on Both Fields

(Posted: 7/16/9/13)

The additions of Ricky Nolasco to the Dodgers’ already rich roster, buy viagra purchase and Matt Thornton to the Red Sox relief corps, remind us of why this is baseball’s screw-up season.The home-free trading permitted prior to the July 31 deadline skews whatevercompetitive balance exists at the halfway mark. Those who cheer the “excitement”the one-sided deals inject into the sport’s dailyness are sheep, led by the media’simpatience for a change of pace in their coverage.

That most fans shrug at the pastime’s annual misplay is insensitive, given thesudden new insecurity imposed on the many others who root for the Yankees, Rays, Orioles, A’s, Phillies Reds, Pirates, Giants, Rockies, D-backs, etc. Or on Clevelanders, skittish at the thought the Tigers will acquire the closer to close out the AL Central race. Indifference generally is mindless; we have a duty (damn it), a right to get riled up when game-changing errors are made by those in charge.

Team Obama has been following a traditional, insulting game plan in the world ballparks that, we believe, warrants an all-fields rhubarb. The other day, a Long Island lawyer challenged our razzing the O-team for remaining outside the baseline on whether to challenge the military coup in Egypt: “Isn’t it in our interest,” he wrote, “to insure that Egypt remains on friendly terms with Israel?” While conceding that point, we said, it was not the play we mainly resent: “It is the pro-democratic uniform we wear,” we said, “while upsetting how the game is played.”

The corporate media prefer to go along with the deceit, ignoring the now-familiar signals: our Yanqui-style O-team believes in democratic elections, only if the winner is willing to play ball. That would be almost tolerable, if, in the spirit of Ty Cobb, the Skipper says bluntly, “We don’t expect everyone to like it, but that’s our game; get used to it.” Isn’t candor better than refusing to own up to something the world has figured out.

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Unminced Words: Let’s be straightforward about this: the naysayers who wish tonight’s All-Star Game was nothing more than an entertaining exhibition are way off base. They’ve been consistently wrong on the subject since Bud Selig decreed that league home-field World Series advantage would be at stake. Selig made the game matter. We should be grateful any time we can watch professional teams play, as most of us play: to win, and to have it count.

 Reality Bites:  It’s hard not to root for the Phillies, who, despite key injuries, have stayed in the NL East mix with a 48-48 record at the break.  You don’t lose players like Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard, and then last week, Ben Revere, and not feel the hurt at multiple levels. Still, Charlie Manuel, anything but a pie-in-the-sky skipper, believes in his team.  Phillie Inquirer columnist Bob Ford prefers unpopular realism.  Here is his nutshell assessment: “Once the Phils lost Halladay and then Howard, their chances of contending went with them.  It is too long between starts for Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, and there are too many empty at-bats in the middle of the lineup.”

Paging Pagan: When the Giants gave Angel Pagan a four-year, $40 million contract last winter, the consensus was they overpaid for a fairly good player who had bounced around. In his absence since a May 28 injury, the Giants’ season has taken a bad bounce: they’ve gone 15-28 without Angelpatrolling center field. Despite a successful three-of-four weekend against the Padres, SF seems to be missing Pagan’s fire.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)