That some baseball fans are thinking of Carlos Delgado this off-season should be no surprise. They remember the former Blue Jay, Marlin and Met first baseman who conducted a one-player protest against the Iraq war in 2003; he did it by refusing to stand during the pre-game performance of the National Anthem. Delgado was Puerto Rican and could have gone along with the game’s militant musical tradition. (The Mets eventually persuaded him to make his point by staying off the field during the Anthem).
We can thank (or blame?) a product of the National Football League for the reminder. Forty-Niner quarterback Colin Kaepernick, born bi-racial, adopted by white parents, felt the need this season to call attention to America’s treatment of people of color. Where Delgado chose to remain seated, Kaepernick kneels during the Anthem. We know the choice MLB players have been making since the Delgado days: play the patriotic, support-the-military game without a whimper. Why risk alienating the people who pay your generous salaries?
The Players Union, on the other hand, has enough clout to generate activism among its members; it can organize major league involvement in issues like a raise in minimum wages nationally and campaigns to keep blue collar jobs from being exported abroad. Fan-exerted pressure could perhaps make it happen if enough avid spectators cared. Speaking of caring, the Lords of Baseball should care enough about fan-feeling to invite their suggestions on how to make the sport more spectator-friendly. Earlier start-time of playoff games would be at least one popular East Coast idea.
By the same token, attentive followers of Team USA’s political policies must recognize the need to challenge the government and media’s simmering cold warrior stance toward Russia. Attentive spectators remember it was Vladimir Putin who spared Skipper Obama the error of setting a “red line” to curb Syria’s President Assad, then hesitating to cross it; also, that NATO pledged to keep its distance from Russia’s doorstep, then staged war games near its borders, and that our State Department colluded with far-right factions in Kiev to move western Ukraine away from the Russian and into the European Union’s sphere of influence.
In the words of co-authors John Maxwell Hamilton (LSU) and Kevin Kosar (Woodrow Wilson Center) in a recent (NY Times-covered) report on “Government Information and Propaganda” ”Democracy is distorted when the government uses our tax dollars to shape our opinions about…how it is performing.” That caveat is surely worth considering when the CIA and FBI are our news sources, their accusations of cyber-hacking from abroad based on “assessments” rather than fact.
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Reason for Doubt: MLB-TV reported yesterday that Edwin Encarnacion had agreed to a four-year, $80 million deal with two additional option years. The arrangement was surprising because Encarnacion, despite his about-to-be 34 age, has greater apparent value. Enter, Encarnacion’s agent, who reportedly said that until the deal was finalized, Edwin had other suitors, like the Rangers.
Skeptics: Measuring outfield defense stats has recently become a scrutinized metrics focus. Looked at closely by the Hardball Times’ Jesse Spector recently, the system, based on a fielder’s reaction to a ball hit in his direction , and the route he takes to make a play, was found to be flawed. It rewards the performances of fielders like Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier and Toronto’s Kevin Pillar, who play deep, and penalizes ones like Baltimore’s Adam Jones, known for playing shallow. Kiermaier summed up the skepticism many players feel about the system: “How is Adam Jones not in the top five center fielders in baseball. I watch him play 19 times a year, and I think he’s a stud. It just doesn’t make me a firm believer in all the research.”
More Than a Cloud: Why has Brewer outfielder Ryan Braun not drawn interest on the trade market? As a slugging right-hand hitter and more-than acceptable fielder, he should be a hot off-season item. On MLB-TV the other day, the lack of interest was attributed to the “cloud” he’s under and his “past.” Carefully avoided is the remembrance (per Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan) of Braun’s accusing the man who collected the urine sample that showed him PED positive; he said in 2012 he was framed because the man was anti-Semitic. Braun did apologize for the outburst around the time he was suspended for part of the 2013 season. But his willingness to publicly denounce an innocent working man perhaps explains the unwillingness to add Ryan to a non-Brewer roster.
Among No-Doubt Signings: Justin Turner, re-signed by the Dodgers for four years; Ivan Nova, re-signed by the Pirates to a three-year deal. Clay Buchholz, traded to Phillies by Red Sox, one year left on contract; Jimmy Rollins, signed by Giants to a minor-league contract.
(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)