The Nub

The Nub

"If you don't think life imitates sports, you're not reading The Nub”
                                                                                                             -  Bill Moyers

“Politics and baseball.  Interesting blog…called ‘The Nub’ on”
                                                                                                               - Boston Globe

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.


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


Mega-Money, Trump’s Team and Unfocused Fans


(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.

–   –     –

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.


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.”

– – –

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





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.

–   –   –

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.)



MLB Apathy and New Skipper Have Some of Us Reeling

If any MLB fans cared, they would be primed to boo the effort of the U.S. team preparing to compete next month in the fourth World Baseball Classic. But, fans, like most news consumers, take their cue from the Media. And the Media, taking its cue from the apathy towards the Classic expressed from top to bottom in U.S. Baseball’s hierarchy, considers the world competition an annoying disruption in the sport’s pre-season preparation.

The consequence: U.S, teams haven’t come close to winning the international test of proficiency in their national sport: the Americans finished a distant forth to two-time champion Japan in 2009’s 16-team playoff: In the most recent (2013) Classic, won by the Dominican Republic, Team USA finished out of the money for the second in three tries. Will this year be any different? It’s doubtful because our assemblage of major leagues can’t match the national pride of Dominicans, Venezuelans, Puerto Ricans, Japanese, South Koreans, and even teams brought together by the Netherlands.and Italy.

We noticed the contrast in the two sports – baseball and politics: where the response to one dismal performance was an MLB shrug, and to the other – well, the Media has embraced the term “reeling” to describe (its) reaction to our new voluble president. The reality is left-of-center news sources are continually dumbfounded – er, reeling – because that sells. To the Midwest-centered mainstream Media, Skipper Trump’s occasional flummoxing statements are simply his flexing his presidential muscles. Only when members of his own national team react to his comments will he have a problem.

For the moment such a setback hardly seems imminent, especially since the Skipper is competing only with the liberal Media and not the Dem team, which, if you haven’t noticed, seems to have left the field.

–     –     –

The Japanese team reportedly has the most formidable WBC roster, but the U.S. squad includes more star players than in the past. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt, SF’s Buster Posey, Baltimore’s Adam Jones, Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, KC’s Eric Hosmer and Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutcheon – all returnees from previous Classics, head the position-player list. Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, Oakland’s Sonny Gray and Cleveland’s Andrew Miller are part of a solid pitching staff that also includes Detroit’s Michael Fulmer, Houston’s Luke Gregerson and Toronto’s J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman.

Among notable absentees: players with the Dodgers, Red Sox, and both New York teams.


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


Desire for Dominance Playing Out on Both Fields

If Baseball worried about income inequality, we know which team would be most worrisome. The LA Dodgers have made the post-season four years in a row; that is, every year since wealthy new ownership was in charge from beginning to end of the team’s performance. The Dodgers may not match the Braves’ 14 straight (1991-2005) playoff record or that of the Yankees’ 13 consecutive successes – 1995 to 2007 – but we wouldn’t bet against them. The Cubs may turn out to match the Dodgers in resources and playoff successes, in which case Baseball would have two reasons to worry. Then there are the nearly always potent Red Sox. If MLB truly cared about equality, there would be much to keep it be concerned..

We know the fear about dominance in the political field has now concerns presidential power as well as money. If there’s a consolation for opponents of the Trump Team, it’s in the hope of a term terminated after four years. In the meantime, along with the kind of money that helped make the T-Party so effective, progressives need to find a leader. In a NY Times interview Sunday, Harry Belafonte, an ally of Martin Luther King, Jr., noted that the civil rights movement dissipated when its leaders a half-century ago moved into government, leaving the community behind. Today, meanwhile, he sees a “liberal community (that) has compromised itself out of existence, (a passive)black community, and a “strangely silent” Labor movement. Whether new leadership will emerge, he’s not so sure: “Takes a lot of courage and a lot of power to step into the space and lead a holy war.”

On a less negative note,, Belafonte does see value in what our new president represents: Instead of thinking of ourselves as part of a generous nation, he reminds us “we have a parallel history that is not so (admirable).”

Available: Two not-excessively priced NL outfielders: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates; Jay Bruce, Mets. ’17 Salaries: McCutchen, $14 mil, Bruce, $13 mil. ’16 BA’s, HRs: McCutchen, .256, 24; Bruce, .250, 33. Ages, both 30. Both are signed through 2018.

N.B. Pirates have announced McCutchen will be switched from center to right field this season to allow Starling Marte to shift from left field to center.


(Comments to

For a Baseball Fan on Super Bowl Weekend

No guarantee, but tomorrow, in advance of pro-football’s climactic event, Red Sox fan Jonathan Schwartz usually devotes much of his Sunday disc jockey show to taped accounts of interesting baseball moments. Noon WNYC, in the New York area, on line via The Jonathan Channel.


The Braves, Rockies and Twins, three of the five top teams in MLB’s farm system rankings (at two, three and five), are on the rise. The ratings say they can assure fans they will soon be playoff-competitive after long doormat-level dry spells in their divisions. As such, they’re much like supporters of currently bumbling Team Trump: “It will pass,” said a GOP legislator about the travel-ban flap a few days ago. That reality is bad news for progressives and for the news media whose readership and audiences have soared during the first two weeks of Trump-time.

The cabinet appointees will settle into their jobs, and some of us will grudgingly acknowledge that the absence of the familiar revolving-door Ivy League business people is not unwelcome. What is troubling, however: the likely departure over the next four years of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turns 83 next month, and of ”swing-seat” occupant Anthony Kennedy, who will be 80 in July. Then there are the 15 (nerve-wracking for Democrats) competitive Senate seats at stake in 2018. The Dem team needs to win nine of them to regain control of the Upper House. A tall order, even if Team Trump finds itself embattled.

–     –     –

The Dodgers and Rangers are one and three on the MLB top-five list. The Dodgers have replaced the Red Sox in the number 1 spot. The Sox are now rated sixth. Phillies, Pirates, Brewers, Astros fill out the 10 highest rated teams. Mets and Yanks? 15th and 17th, in that order.

Something to cheer about: arrival of the year’s first baseball month. Welcome, February.


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

Pouring Out Pre-Season Cold Water

A few days before the 20002 World Champion LA Angels began a gradual downward curve, more than 100,000 east coast marchers took part in what was becoming a desperate losing game of their own: challenging a Team USA-spurred “run-up” to a war with Iraq. How solidly did the media join the run-up effort? Well, the march occurred on a Saturday; the NY Times grudgingly acknowledged it the following Thursday.

The Angels, then one of the MLB’s richest teams in a weak division, took six AL West titles over the next 12 years, but by the end of 2014, they had plenty of financial competition – from the Rangers and the AL West, and the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers in the MLB, as a whole. Despite a lineup that included Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, the Angels, with an unproductive farm system, sunk to third place in 2015 and next-to-last in their division last year.

The anti-war movement in late 2002 and early 2003 had to rally game-changing support without either the help of financial angels or the vocal backing of shallow-bench elected officials.. The most prominent speaker to address marchers in D.C. that January was Jesse Jackson. Under the circumstances, anti-war sentiment could make only minimal impact by the time the war began in early March of ’03.

That experience suggests how difficult will be the touted task of taking on Team Trump as did the T-Party in the first and successive years of Barack Obama’s Skipperdom. Journalist/author Jane Mayer cited this from a book by Harvard’s Theda Skocpol on the role of T-Party-aided money: “The Tea Party movement was a ‘mass rebellion… funded by corporate billionaires, like the Koch brothers, led by over-the-hill former GOP kingpins like Dick Armey, and ceaselessly promoted by millionaire media celebrities like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.”

Progressives today have neither access to big money, nor the expectation of help from a Dem team dependent for leadership on the likes of Chuck (Make Noise, Not Waves’) Schumer. To be remembered with trepidation, too: It was the “liberal media” that cheered Team Bush into the most grievous of recent “dumb wars.”


Productive Vagabond: Brandon Moss, who has played for six teams over a 10-year period – the Red Sox, Pirates, Phillies, A’s, Indians and Cardinals – will be joining the seventh, the Royals, on a two-year deal this coming season. Moss, now 33, hit 28 HRs for the Cardinals in 2016. He is expected to DH most of the time with KC.

Back to Sleep: The All-Star game, revised to be a simple exhibition and no longer to decide which league wins home-team advantage in the World Series, won’t be played until mid-July. But already, press-box pundits are expressing regret for what has been lost. The other day, two members of an MLB Now panel talked of the opportunity the nothing-at-stake contest will afford for a late-innings nap. It should be noted that the players union was complicit with Commissioner Rob Manfred in the decision to free its members from any serious effort the previous arrangement may have required.


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


Barack and Baseball Have Left the Building

We remember that Team USA’s former Skipper declared himself a White Sox fan more than once in his first term eight years ago. We remember, too, that, as the team showed itself less competitive than fans hoped, supportive words from the White House all but disappeared.. Switching his stance at the fading of his final season, Skipper Barack found his voice, not in berating the Sox or in support of the Cubs, but on issues about which he had been satisfied executing a safety squeeze:: race and police violence, to name just a couple..

Progressive fans are grateful for the image of decency as well as wisdom the retired skipper conveyed at home and to the world (with particular gratitude centered on his survival). But they regret that he chose to add extra innings to what he once called “dumb wars”, and they (we) acknowledge the possible validity of the view that his reticences at home helped elect his successor..

Skipper Trump is unlikely to do likable things, such as embrace his hometown Yankees or Mets, or any ballteam. Nor can we expect compassion for those whose meager incomes rule out their attendance at most stadiums.. But, in truth, we have only vague ideas of how his game plan will play out. There is so much “carnage” to be addressed.. Still, he has touched on relations with Russia, NATO and the need to return factory work to our rust belt: priorities suggesting this long-shot reason for hope:. That, amid much bad sportsmanship, he could be remembered in four years as the Skipper who brought jobs and peace to the home team.

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Chirps of Relief in Oriole-Land: Why? Baltimore has finally re-signed 2016 HR champion Mark Trumbo, without whom, most observers agree, the Birds would have been dead ducks this season.

The Guru Speaks: Bill James, Baseball historian, founder of sabermetrics, and Red Sox senior advisor, provided a shot of optimism for Boston fans this coming season. Speaking of David Price’s problems pitching in nine playoff games for the Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays and the Sox – 2-8 over seven years, James said he doubted it would happen in 2017. Why? Price no longer has the burden of being team ace. Boston traded for White Sox ace Chris Sale in the post-season. James said he’d be surprised if Sale did not assume the pressure pitching role at playoff time.

Realism: While appearing on MLB Now, James had this advice for fans wondering if their teams would be part of the upper level competition this season. “If the question is ‘Are they in or out?,’ “ the answer is they’re out.”



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


A Focus on the Competitive Realities in Both Fields

To our recent stated belief that only a single NL East team, the Nationals, would be among the league’s four clubs with a genuine shot at its 2017 pennant – the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants were the others – came this howl from several NYC fans: “What about the Mets?” Our answer: the Mets, like the Cardinals and Pirates, are also-rans; their only hope the lead team in their division collapses, as the Nats did two seasons ago. Attentive fans know that few MLB teams have both the resource$ and focus to be truly pennant-level competitive.

Speaking of Focus…Alert spectators following the Political league have watched as only a single club – Team GOP – took charge of what once was a spirited competition. The surest sign of the demise of the once-dominant Dem team is its newly named public spokesperson: Chuck (“Where’s Charlie?”) Schumer. New Yorkers know that Senator Schumer has been a noisy non-combatant on any issues that carry risk – such as offending Wall Street, supporting Israel, questioning Team USA’s belligerence abroad. Indeed, a year after the Iraq war began, we asked Chuck’s Washington office for his statements on that conflict. “There are none,” we were told. As other pundits have noted, Schumer has re-emerged as a progressive. Indeed, Chuck’s frequent scripted statements attest to his unfamiliarity with the role.

We know the party made the mistake of backing another centrist – Hillary Clinton – in the election. As dubious as the choices of Hillary and Chuck for leadership positions, the problem has been less their non-progressive stance than the blindness of the shallow-bench Dem team itself.

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A Retrograde New Order: The decision of Joey Votto not to play in the World Baseball Classic with Team Canada led to a depressing discussion on MLB Now the other day. The panel’s consensus: the meager participation of American players, and the lack of enthusiasm for the Classic in the 30 U.S. team front offices, mean the WBC will not survive much longer. If so, former Commissioner Bud Selig’s two games-that-count innovations – the Classic and the newly meaningful All-Star match-up – will have been sacrificed out of an organizational wish to “keep things simple”…fans (like many of us) be damned!


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