The Nub

Handicapping the Playoffs on Both Fields

Dodgers, Cardinals, seek Nationals, Giants, Pirates: as of late June, they are good bets to make the NL playoffs. In the AL, bets are off for the moment. KC has lost key starter Yordano Ventura, disabled with numbness in his pitching hand. The Tigers are the only other team in the league with what can be considered a good playoff shot. Leadership in both the AL’s East and West divisions is up for grabs, as are possible post-season berths. Scoreboard shows an interesting summer ahead.

Much of the confusion can be traced to the surprisingly sputtering Indians, White Sox and Mariners. And we can’t overlook the out-of-nowhere surge of the Astros and Twins. Confusion reigns also in the GOP’ league’s playoff of presidential contenders. More than a dozen have been accounted for – too many to keep track of. Bloomberg View’s political birddog Albert Hunt – who earned his scouting stripes at the Wall Street Journal – is helping with the job. He sees eight serious candidates -(some still unannounced) – just two fewer than the top MLB playoff teams scrambling toward October. His list: Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Mark Huckabee, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker.

Hunt’s early line on those he sees as the five favorites:

(1) Walker, a 3-1 shot. “He is the frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses and he polls well in a range of states from Pennsylvania to North Carolina…a favorite of Charles and David Koch.”

(2) Rubio, 4-1. “The Florida Senator has been gaining ground. With youth, good looks and charm, he’s the 21st century Republican answer to John F. Kennedy.”  

(3) Jeb Bush, 5-1. “Bush has had a bad year so far, marked by his inability to clear the crowded Republican field or to shake the tarnish of his brother’s presidency. He has the time and resources to bounce back but faces big tactical decisions: Should he compete in Iowa, where he could finish fifth? And does he then have to win New Hampshire?”

(4) John Kasich, 7-1. “This assumes the Ohio Governor’s charm and knowledge will trump his flakiness; it’ll be a close call. He is suspect to many conservatives — he expanded Medicaid for the poor under Obamacare — but Kasich has first-rate strategists and the former chairman of the House Budget Committee is better versed in national and global issues than Walker.”

(5) Ted Cruz, 8-1. “He’s tough, although anathema to more mainstream Republicans. If he scores an early upset in Iowa he will become a contender. If he waits for later contests, it won’t happen.”

Whether the one favorite in the Dem team league stays unchallenged in that role remains to be seen.

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Remember the Name: During Tigers-Yankees Sunday, Paul O’Neill on YES, came across a surprise as he riffled through a stat sheet: Oakland’s Stephen Vogt was co-leading the AL with 51 RBIs, tied with Miguel Cabrera. “Where did he come from?” said O’Neill. Vogt, a 30-year-old journeyman, in only his fourth MLB year, is one of the A’s few bright spots. He also has 13 HRs and a .294 BA.

A Moribund Weekend…for NYC area fans: The visiting Tigers, who lost two of three to the Yankees, were accurately described as “lifeless” by one media onlooker. A stat sheet showed that Alfredo Simon, pitching for Detroit Saturday, takes an endless 24 seconds between deliveries. Teammate David Price holds the slowness record, 26 seconds. The Mets, meanwhile, being swept in Atlanta were – again accurately – called the “Walking Dead” by the NY Post.

We Laughed…last January, when the Pecota projections of Baseball Prospectus predicted Tampa Bay would finish second in the AL East, a game behind the Red Sox. The Sox, we know, aren’t doing too well, but, look at the Rays, at the top of the division.

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About Richard Starkey

Dick Starkey handled media for former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and many other office-holders and candidates. He was sports editor of the Paris-based Herald Tribune. Perfect Pitch partner Robert Sullivan was the first to adapt focus groups to politics and has been called by Cuomo and others one of the "best" pollsters in the country.