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 perfectpitcher.org.”
                                                                                                               - Boston Globe

Skipper Obama’s Shameful Off-Field Game

(Posted: 3/7/11; update 3/8)

 We wrote last time of the fan embarrassment caused by the scandalous mismanagement of the Mets.  The situation is at the point where the team’s continued ownership by the Wilpons seems almost unsustainable.  A much more seriously embarrassing – no, best viagra help shameful – game is being played in a remote corner of the political field overseen by Skipper Obama.

It concerns Army Private Bradley Manning, implicated in the WikiLeaks disclosures that have discomforted Team USA and, obviously, its skipper. Manning has been held for nine months, all but one hour a day in solitary confinement and forced to remain naked much of rhe time as part of a far-fetched “suicide watch.”   Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, who has been tracking the foul game from the start, is calling the U.S. team to account:

“Is there anyone who doubts that these measures — and especially this prolonged forced nudity — are punitive and designed to further erode his mental health, physical health and will?The treatment of Manning is now so repulsive that it even lies beyond what at least some of the most devoted Obama admirers are willing to defend…The (treatment) is being carried out by the military of which Barack Obama is the Commander-in-Chief.  Yes…our Nobel Peace Prize winner is well aware of what’s being done and obviously has been for quite some time.  It is his administration which is obsessed with destroying and deterring any remnants of whistle-blowing and breaches of the secrecy regime behind which the National Security State() function(s).”

The box score shows the presumption of innocence has no place in the National Security bailiwick.  Manning stands accused, but, neither tried nor convicted, he has been locked off-field under torture-like conditions for nearly a year.   

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Phenom-Time: The Yankees’ early-season phenom Manuelo Banuelos will only turn 20 next Sunday; he’s supposed to report to Double-A Trenton soon thereafter.  But the lefthander has impressed Joe Girardi enough up to now to prompt the manager to say Banuelo should feel a “glimmer of hope” about making the big team.  But Girardi also said on YES that “young pitchers need their innings” and it’s therefore likely Banuelos will start at Trenton with a chance of being called up later in the season.   

Speedsters:  The Globe’s Nick Cafardo asked scouts about the identities of baseball’s world-class runners.  Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner headed a list that also included Carlos Gomez of the Brewers, the Astros’ Michael Bourn and Julio Borbon of the Rangers.  In a special category is Ichiro: “He’s still very fast,” a scout said, “but not in the class of the guys we’re talking about.  He used to be.  But he’s 37 years old.’’

Hopeless in Seattle? You know a team has little hope going into a season when the MLB-TV people devote much of their preview-time to reviewing its proud history.  The Mariners are a case in point:  Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and even John Olerud were names invoked in discussing Seattle.  Current Mariners (King) Felix Hernandez and Ichiro received appropriate mention as well, but the MLB team had to work hard to find much positive to say about the 2011 M’s.

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(The  Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Commentsto dickstar@aol.com are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

What’s Happened to Mets ‘Magic’ and ‘Market Democracy’?

(Posted: 3/4/11; update  3/5/11)

 Two once-popular media pitches that have disappeared: “Market Democracy” and “The Magic is Back.” Neither Washington nor Wall Street wants to remind fans of the undemocratic way the housing scandal  played out:  many who caused the scandal scoring big bucks, cialis generic stuff many innocent homeowners left stranded. Terms familiar to corporate-box holders like “oligarchy and “plutocracy” are being heard in the national ballpark today (along with “socialism”, sovaldi the warning chanted by defenders of the one-sided game). 

 The “magic” once claimed by the Mets has dissipated, leaving the team mired in pathos.  Just as the market players cut ethical corners, concealing the truth of their safety sub-prime mortgage squeeze, so did the Mets owners hide the money-related reasons the once-proud franchise had become an embarrassment.  Bob Klapisch of the North Jersey Record kept a scorecard on the deceit:

“The Mets already were lying last winter when they said they were financially insulated from (Bernie) Madoff’s arrest – the ($25 million) personal bailout from (Baseball Commissioner Bud) Selig suggested otherwise. Same goes for the assurances of an uncompromised off-season game plan. Another un-truth.  The Mets spent only $8 million, their leanest outflow in 14 years.

As for the…pledge that Madoff’s crimes took the Wilpons by surprise, consider (that)….the Wilpons were the ones who brought their friends into the scheme, with the proviso that no new client would be allowed to speak to Madoff… The… instructions sounded like this: If you want to make money, just hand it over, don’t ask questions…  According to the (NY) Times, only clients with limited understanding of investments were accepted by Madoff.  Those considered too savvy or too curious were rejected. Does that mean the Wilpons were complicit in this Ponzi scheme? If they’re not guilty, they’re at least dirty.”

Klapisch summarizes his account with this suggestion – that the Wilpons follow the magic and “disappear”.

Unlike the embattled Wilpons, financial team owners who presided over shady risk-taking in the sub-prime scandal are getting a free pass from the criminal justice system.  The Times’ Joe Nocera contrasts the dogged pursuit of executives involved in a similar savings-and-loan scandal of the ‘80s – resulting in more than 1,000 felony convictions in major cases – with the way the game is played now:  “The federal government threw enormous resources at those (‘80’s) investigations…Over 1,000 FBI agents were involved… Today…with the FBI understandably focused on terrorism, there isn’t a lot of manpower left to dig into…the financial crisis.”

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The Slow Lane:  It may not be the last word on the Mets’ $36 million mystery-man Olly Perez, but it could ultimately be decisive: “alarming” was the word Keith Hernandez used after Perez could only reach the mid-80s on the radar gun in his second spring appearance.  Perez didn’t walk any in two innings but he couldn’t generate expected velocity.  “You can’t pitch like that in the major leagues and last,” said Hernandez, who was doing color on the YES telecast of the Mets’ game against the Cardinals. 

 Masterful Mid-Infielders:  Marshalling advanced stats that most of us have to take on faith, Baseball America’s Joe Sheehan identifies the majors’ surprisingly best middle-infield combo: Oakland’s Cliff Pennington and Mark Ellis.  Sheehan says Pennington, a rookie last year, saved 10 runs at shortstop with his glove, while the veteran Ellis saved just under 10 at second base.  Too bad we don’t get to see much of them in the East. 

 Knowing what everybody knows (and may recall sheepishly in October)…Let’s say there’s a 50-50 chance the Phillies and Red Sox will meet in the World Series.  The odds are better than even that one of the two will make it.  Remembering the sensible Curt Schilling rule that the team getting most starts from its original rotation has the winning edge, the Phils should advance to the final round.. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, and Kyle Kendrick have proved more durable through the years than Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka.  An obvious caveat: the Phillies found a way to miss the Series last fall.                                           

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Where A-Rod Fits in Resentment Against Team Labor

(Posted: Feb.28/Update 3/1)

 Alex Rodriguez, discount viagra medical poster-boy for fan hostility to players’ salary levels and their union, viagra canada was in the news over the weekend.The NYC media learned that A-Rod – he with a $275 million 10-year contract – pays virtually no real estate tax on his $6 million Manhattan penthouse.  Rodriguez is benefiting from a city tax abatement program to encourage construction of affordable housing.   Although the deal has nothing to do with A-Rod, the disclosure can’t help but add fuel to the national furor over the privileged position unions play in the American economic game. 

Eight years ago, the players union blocked a trade that would have sent A-Rod from the Rangers to the Red Sox because he had agreed to a slightly downward adjustment in his salary.  The move seemed overly protective and an outrageous example of overstepping to Red Sox fans, especially.  It reminded many fans around the country why unions had earned their resentment.  More than overstepping, corruption in the labor movement was rife, former rank-and-filers profiting illegally from the leadership roles to which they’d been elected.  Then there were widespread pension-padding practices whereby members worked extra overtime hours their final years, the resulting elevated annual earnings the basis for their retirement pay. The perception of featherbedding was also widespread, the sense that union contracts require more members than necessary to do certain jobs. Seniority rules, protecting longtime employees at the expense of well-regarded new employees was – is – another problem.  And in many parts of the country, unions were – are – known to engage in racism and nepotism, hiring preferences given to white relatives of longtime members. 

All this contributed to Team Labor’s loss of fan as well as governmental support.  At that stage of the game, some time after World War II, corporate franchises began playing hardball in an effort to drive the organized labor team from the field.  How successful the corporate-and-media game has been can be gauged in this down economy by hearing even liberal commentators talk of labor’s need to agree to a trimming of their “generous” benefits.  Those are the same benefits that were the norm when many of our parents and grandparents joined the work force.  They were benefits, including job security, living wages, etc. that made possible stable home ownership, college educations and a post-war period of prosperity throughout the country.

The current contest of interests could serve to rally and renew labor’s clout in the American workplace or further accelerate its decline.  Team Labor is certainly the underdog, but the final outcome is still unclear.  What is clear, says Wash Post-man E.J. Dionne is the potent righty-hitting game plan:”Private-sector workers are taking it on the chin, and conservatives now see a chance to cripple organized labor altogether by killing off public-sector unions, the most vibrant part of the movement. The underlying argument is actually insidious: If workers in the private sector have it bad, shouldn’t workers in the public sector have it bad, too?”

One thing traditional labor contracts provided that the players union does not: job security.  Ask respected veterans David Eckstein, Kevin Millwood, and Bengie Molina, to name an infielder, pitcher and catcher among the nearly 50 still-unsigned free agents, most of whom thought they had earned an mlb contract from someone to play another season.   

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Surprise Catch: Joe Girardi took some of the suspense out of the Yankees’ backup-catcher competition Sunday on YES.  Talking to Michael Kay and Kenny Singleton, he all but gave the second-string catcher’s slot to touted rookie Jesus Montero, a non-roster invitee.  “He’s improved defensively and can learn a lot from the bench,” Girardi said.  Where does that leave Francisco Cervelli? “He has an incentive to have an outstanding spring,” said Kay, to persuade the manager to change his mind.

West Coast Woe:  Mets fans may be underwhelmed by their cash-strapped team’s post-season additions.  But they have company in LA, where the Dodgers were hindered in quality recruiting by their owners’ money-eating divorce battle.  LA Times columnist T.J. Simers tells of the talent-shortfall without mincing words:

“There are so many uplifting stories to tell, like Dioner Navarro’s courageous effort to hit better than .200. He got so close last season at .194.  Here’s hoping they put Tony Gwynn Jr.’s locker near Navarro’s — Gwynn an inspiration for Navarro since he hit .204.  It’s not that hard to gush about the new guys.  How about Marcus Thames?…Maybe he’s not known for his defense, but…(he) has a career .248 batting average.  That’s almost .250.  Our new relief pitcher Matt Guerrier (is someone) whom the Dodgers are really counting on. Someone maybe youngsters might admire. He’s pitched seven years, has five saves and 16 blown saves, but he keeps on trying.  Now you know why Ned Colletti signed him to a three-year deal.”

West Coast Consensus: The Dodger will finish third in their division.  The Mets, we know, will be lucky to finish fourth in theirs.   

Slow-Weaving Webb:  Two ex-players who should know – Mitch Williams and Dan Plesac – watched on a TV monitor the other day as Brandon Webb did some long tossing at the Rangers training camp in Arizona.  How is the former D-backs ace  return from shoulder surgery going?  Both ex-pitchers said (on MLB-TV) that Webb’s stiff-armed delivery signaled he is at least many weeks away from showing if he can possibly replace Cliff Lee in the Rangers’ rotation.   

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(The  Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Commentsto dickstar@aol.com are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

Should Working Fans Rally Around Team Labor?

            (Posted: 2/25; update 2/26)

Snap Quiz: What do Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Wisconsin Skipper Scott Walker have in common? Answer: Unhappiness with labor unions.  La Russa complains publicly that the players union is pushing Albert Pujols to maximize his new-contract demands to “raise the bar” of salaries generally.  Walker thinks his state’s public employee unions have priced themselves out of business.  In effect, cialis usa healing he wants to drive Team Labor out of the game in Wisconsin.

 It is hard to blame those who agree with Walker that public employees get too much more in pay and benefits than non-union working people with similar jobs.  When your state-worker neighbor, discount viagra pharm with a similar background and tax bracket, clinic is living better than you – more paid days off, superior health care plan, pension and job security – it can’t help but make you resentful.  The resenters should recognize, however, that their real gripe is with the inadequacy of their own situation – two weeks vacation a year, no paid overtime, etc.  When, awhile ago, roughly a third of American jobs were unionized and jobs in general were plentiful, the disparity was not an issue.  Now in a bad economy, non-union workers are playing under minor-league conditions.  And, good as they are, Team Labor’s contract provisions are no match for those covering union workers in Europe, on teams the corporate media pitch as “socialistic.”

 Back to La Russa, and his resentment of the union doing its job, using superstars like Pujols to spur upward mobility in the pay scale of all players.  That was the way the non-baseball-playing public scored in the quality-of-life league on the heels of newly gained union benefits.  The Wash Post’s Ezra Klein kept a detailed scorecard: The weekend is one of those benefits, and so too are the pensions and health-care packages that many employers offer.  A lot of the safety rules that many workers take for granted were the product of union agitation and pressure.  Plenty of industries have had to increase their wages because unions took root in certain companies and the threat of their spread forced the non-unionized companies to give their employees gains similar to those made by the unionized workers.  Unions are also the most powerful lobby fighting against things like tax cuts for the rich and for things like universal health care.”  

 Adds NY Times lefty slugger Paul Krugman:  “You don’t have to love unions…to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy.  Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s…due… to the decline of …unions.”

The oft-noted irony in the latest push toward rule by the deep-pockets clubs: Conservative skippers are using the Wall Street-created budget crisis as an excuse to crush their overmatched by still-formidable union adversaries. 

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Royal Flush: One team placed five of the top 19 prospects on the list compiled Baseball America: the Kansas City Royals.  Only two teams – the Braves and the Rays – have more than one player among the top 19, each placing two.  The Yanks’ catching hopeful Jesus Montero earned third place on the list, behind the Nats’ Bryce Harper and the Angels’ Mike Trout, both outfielders.  First baseman Eric Hosner, third baseman Mike Moustakas and outfielder/catcher Wil Myers – all Royals prospects – were eight, nine and 10 on the list. 

 The Loner: In his first group interview as a Milwaukee Brewer, Zack Greinke acknowledged to experiencing social anxiety and occasional depression.  He told media people, including Journal-Sentinel columnist Tom Hunt he’d rather that people left him alone: “I don’t like talking bad about fans, but they annoy me a lot of times, like the autograph guys out here. The ones who annoy me the most is when we get to the hotels.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t go outside because there are fans downstairs.”

Dynamic Duos:  After MLB-TV teammate John Smoltz interviewed Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youklis, described as two Red Sox indispensables, Billy Ripken, Mitch Williams and Dan Plesac picked whom they considered key duos in the NL: Ripken chose Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun of the Brewers; Williams selected the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales, Plesac picked Ryan Howard and Chase Utley of the Phils.  “What about Albert Pujols and Matt Holiday?” said someone.  “Yes,” came the reply: “We could go on all night.”

Those 89ers:  Larry Bowa, on why managers give first-string catchers minimal playing time during spring training:  “You never know when number 89, trying to make a name for himself on the other team, is going to come barreling into home and send your key defensive player to the DL.”

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           (The  Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments

           to dickstar@aol.com are welcome, as are subscription requests. 

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The Wishful Baseball and Political ‘Ifs’

(Posted: 2/21; update 2/22)

The Wishful Baseball and Political ’Ifs’

 It’s a familiar theme to Mets fans:  “If we can stay in it until…”  Two seasons ago, discount viagra unhealthy the team publicly hoped to stay competitive until summer, best cialis when Carlos Delgado would return from the disabled list; last season, the hopeful waiting had to do with injured Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.  It’s started already this unpropitious year:  “If we can stay in it,” said manager Terrry Collins the other day, “look who we’re getting in June (Johan Santana).” The waiting for saviors to propel the Mets to victory didn’t work in ‘’09 and ’10.  We know for certain it will not work this year.

 Nor is it working on another field: the Democratic team in Congress seems to be saying “If we can hang in there with Team GOP, causing minimal offense, until 2012, we can regain our numerical clout with a better economy and Skipper Obama at the head of our ticket.”  The Dems, with a Senate majority, should be able to turn back the aggressive play of their loaded lower House rivals.  Instead, there’s a constant danger of their responding with a punch-and-judy game.  That’s  especially true in the current budget deadlock. 

Watching from the press box, the Wash Post’s E.J. Dionne says the feisty GOP conservatives have effectively bullied their moderate Dem opponents: “By saying they will never, ever, ever raise taxes, conservatives intimidate moderates into making concession after concession…You would think that moderates could at least hold out for a 50-50 split.  But no, they’ll do anything to (be conciliatory).”

How crucial is the role of taxes in our present budgetary bind?  Dionne points out that, if we allowed all the tax cuts scheduled to expire in 2012 to go to the showers, the $4 trillion in revenue gained would clear the “d – (for deficit) word” from the competitive field.  That’s a case the Dems have been reluctant to make, and their fans know the hope that they will do it, should they win big next year, may be akin to the Mets waiting for Santana to save their season.

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Spring Clouds: For an upbeat time, spring training this year has a spate of downbeat stories: Joba Chamberlain, reporting to the Yankees camp overweight is one.  Joba’s weakness for food and drink in excess was first noted when he became involved in a 2009 off-season DWI incident near his Nebraska home.  His bright star began to blur at that point.  A DWI episode has marred the start of Miguel Cabrera’s season; it’s seen as a possible sign he’s still fighting an alcohol problem that could derail a potential Hall of Fame career.     

Restraint: The Twins’ Joe Nathan is cautious about his recovery from elbow surgery.  He sounded tentative about his condition in speaking to the Globe’s Nick Cafardo:   “ It’s been a long process and I still have a long road ahead of me…We’ll see how I bounce back (after pitching in games).”

 What We Know (and they know in Chicago, too): From the Chi Trib’s Phil Rodgers: “The Mets… are dying on the vine while majority owner Fred Wilpon is being sued for as much as $1 billion.”

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(The  Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Commentsto dickstar@aol.com are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

Looking Over the ‘Overlooked’ in Both Fields

(Posted: 2/18/11; update 2/19)

Looking Over the ‘Overlooked’ in Both Fields

“Overlooked” was the theme of an MLB-TV group workout the other night in which regulars picked teams that should be taken more seriously going into the new season. The Twins topped the list; defending AL Central champions, viagra sale pharm they’ve been largely ignored because of uncertainty about how well first baseman Justin Morneau and closer Joe Nathan will rebound from their 2010 injuries. The Marlins and A’s, cialis sales treatment two teams only Larry Bowa went out on a limb for – he predicted a month ago they would win their divisions – were two others chosen to be surprise contenders.

Among political teams, Connecticut’s new state Skipper Dannel Malloy has been overshadowed by neighboring governors, fellow Dem Andrew Cuomo in NY and Team GOP’s Chris Christie in NJ. Both C-men have taken their cuts to right while playing budgetary hardball. Their targets: programs for the poor like Medicaid, and for the masses, like public education. While taking swipes at social spending, they’ve also backed away from reducing the pain through even a modest hike in taxes. Malloy, meanwhile, has produced a different game plan – pitching for a raise of $2.9 billion in taxes on residents, businesses and labor unions in an effort to spare the most vulnerable of the state’s residents. “The alternative,” Malloy said in his budget message, “would require us to completely shred the safety net… Which is to say there is no alternative.”

Malloy aims to maintain spending at last year’s level and overcome a 20-percent deficit through making judicious cuts as well as demanding sacrifices from everyone including his union supporters. It’s a big-time challenge he’s set out for himself. If he meets it, his days of being overlooked will be over.

An Overreach? Impossible to overlook what is happening in other state capitols and throughout the country as the conservative team and the corporate media effectively swing inside-out to right field. Veteran lefty slugger Noam Chomsky, who has seen many bush-leaguers riding high over the years, is nevertheless awed by the effective game being played by the right. Here is how, taking a bemused cut with his verbal bat, Chomsky described the opposition game on “Democracy Now”:

“There’s been a wave of propaganda over the last couple of months, which is pretty impressive to watch, trying to deflect attention away from those who actually created the economic crisis, like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase…to (those allegedly) responsible…teachers, police, firefighters, sanitation workers, their huge pensions, their incredible healthcare benefits… and their unions, who are the real villains, the ones who are robbing the taxpayer by making sure that policemen may not starve when they retire. And this is pretty amazing.”

The extreme-right stance of so many elected members of Team GOP could ignite, with Skipper Obama’s help, a massive national pro-social democracy rally of the type Wisconsinites staged in Madison this past week. As The UK Guardian’s Michael Tomasky put it: “What ends up happening in Madison will set a template for other states and determine how hard other Republican governors press their (argument)”. If they press it too hard, signs of the reaction spreading are sure to get stronger. An exciting few days, or weeks, may be in store.
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Wither the Mets: Everyone who follows the already-out-of-contention Mets knows that the only hopeful aspect connected with the team is a possible change of ownership. Everyone, that is, except the boss’s son Jeff Wilpon who has a gift for dashing hopes and fan interest. Instead of keeping quiet and letting fans dream – however unrealistically – of a post-Wilpon era, Jeff had to say the other day that sale of a majority share of the Mets was “off the table.” Three words perfectly designed to discourage the team’s once-loyal followers and accelerate their departure.

What We Know about the AL East: The Red Sox are the team to beat; the Yankees will give the Sox a run for division dominance; the Rays have a good enough rotation to remain contenders; the Jays are improved enough to cause trouble; the Orioles have a better roster than last year and Buck Showalter back for all of this year. On NESN the other night, Peter Gammons said that potentially win-producing five-team lineup means one sure thing: “No way” does the wild card come from the AL East.

The Pujols Problem as seen by SI’s Tom Verducci: “If the St. Louis Cardinals are not prepared to pay Albert Pujols more than the Phillies pay Ryan Howard — that’s $25 million per year – then… he is as good as gone….’The problem the Cardinals have,’ said one baseball executive,’is the math doesn’t work. They probably can’t get to 120 [million dollar payroll] in that market, so they only have so much to give Albert and still have a competitive team around him’.”

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For Baseball Fans, Sunday Far From Super

If you’re a politically lefty baseball fan, cialis sale diagnosis you have more than the usual reasons (excess of hype, advice sterile playing conditions) to want to look away from the Super Bowl.  For all its fat-cat backdrop, generic the match-up, pitting the Packers against the Steelers, exemplifies economic equality non-existant in our national pastime.

 Consider that, if the Packers win, the NFL champion will represent a town of 100,000; Green Bay is the smallest city in either major league sport, yet its team has as much a chance of winning each year as do richer franchises from New York, Chicago, Dallas, etc.  The grid league’s policy of spreading the wealth, such a non-starter with baseball owners, has made pro football the country’s most popular spectator sport.    

 HBO humorist Bill Maher did a further comparison on his “Real Time” show:

It’s no surprise that some 100 million Americans will watch the Super Bowl…that’s…85 million more than watched the last game of the World Series, and in that is an economic lesson for America.  Because football is built on an economic model of fairness and opportunity, and baseball is built on a model where the rich almost always win and the poor usually have no chance.  The World Series is like ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’. You have to be a rich bitch just to play. The Super Bowl is like (cheap)Tequila.  Anyone can get in.

That the political variation of the we’re-in-this-together policy hasn’t caught on with most Americans attests to the power of the corporate media; a media quick to amplify the mantra that any redistribution of wealth, no matter how miniscule, amounts to socialism. The media and players in right field identify taxes – investment in public services and programs – as a badly disguised socialistic spreading of the wealth. 

Maher links the NFL approach to the way the progressive Dem team plays the game: “The NFL share(s) the wealth, through salary caps and revenue sharing – TV is their biggest source of revenue, and they put all of it in a big commie pot and split it 32 ways. Because they don’t want anyone to fall too far behind.  That’s why the team that wins the Super Bowl picks last in the next draft.  Or what the Republicans would call ‘punishing success.’  Baseball, on the other hand, is exactly like the Republicans…their economic theory is every man for himself.  The small market Pittsburgh Steelers go to the Super Bowl more than anybody – but the Pittsburgh Pirates… payroll $40 million, (while) the Yankees’ is $206 million? They have about as much chance at getting in the playoffs as a poor black teenager from Newark has of becoming the CEO of Halliburton.”

A Timely Hit:  The NY Times’ comment on NY state Skipper Andrew Cuomo’s anti-progressive budget - “Mr. Cuomo’s refusal to consider any new taxes, or even extend a surcharge on the state’s highest earners, means that his budget — his first — is harsher than it needs to be with the heaviest burden borne by some of the most vulnerable citizens.       

Pitch from a Savvy Veteran: “This is not a soccer match.  The crowds are part of the picture, but they will not decide the outcome.  Mubarak has been with us for 30 years; he will not disappear overnight.”  – Longtime Egyptian journalist on Al Jazeera                                            

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Good Bet:  Smart money says that, in response to Andy Pettitte’s retirement, the Yanks will make a major move, trading for a solid, middle-of-the-rotation starter.  Two names most buzzed about: Joe Blanton and Fausto Carmona, of the Phils and Indians.  We know the matter is urgent: The Bombers can’t depend on any of their current crop after C.C. Sabathia performing Pettitte-like to keep them in the hunt.  This 10-month-old statement from Pettitte, quoted in the latest Sports Illustrated, tells how hard it is for him to hang up his spikes: “I think the tough part is you’re never not going to enjoy what we do … Like, I don’t think we’re ever not going to love jogging out to the mound, you know what I’m saying?”

Catch-Time:  On MLB-TV, Todd Zeile, who caught for the Cardinals before being converted to a third baseman, said this about the adjustment required:  “You’re expected to a call a good game, play good defense as a catcher.  You’re not expected to do much hitting.  At third base, you feel the pressure to be an important part of the offense.” Mike Piazza, on what he worked hardest on behind the plate: “As a catcher, you can’t turn a ball into a strike; but you can turn a strike into a ball.  I made sure to set myself up to stop the ball from carrying out of the strike zone.”                                             

Baseball and (More) Football Talk:  SI’s Tom Verducci suggests that Larry Walker and Todd Helton were helped to become hitting machines by “premium conditions” at Coors Field.  He says similar conditions inside Domes have helped the Colts’ Peyton Manning and Saints’ Drew Brees rack up impressive stats.  The downside for both of them: They don’t do well in cold weather.  Manning’s record in below-freezing playoff games: 0-2; Brees has the same mark in below-50-degree post-season contests.  The Patriots’ Tom Brady has the best record both in below-50-degrees and below-freezing playoff games, 11-3 and 7-2.

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(The  Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Commentsto dickstar@aol.com are welcome, as are subscription requests. Previous Nubs can be found by scrolling below.)

The Nub will be away on a pre-spring training road trip, returning two weeks from today.

Fred and Eddie: Out of Control in Two Fields

You’re Fred Wilpon. You own the National League’s richest franchise, cialis canada clinic the Mets, cialis sale lately one of baseball’s poorest-run teams. You let it happen. You don’t know baseball, but you do know money. Or maybe not. You’re about to lose total control of the team because of what looks like a big-bucks bobble.

You have a fellow bumbler in your home county, NY state’s richest, Nassau. The county’s Skipper Edward (Eddie) Mangano has done such a poor job with his gilt-edged franchise that he, too, is losing control of it. But the sports pages give you top billing in the sloppy-play department.

When Bernie Madoff got caught stealing, you knew it wouldn’t hurt for people to think the Mets’ owner had taken a hit. Among other things, it gave you an excuse to cut the team’s 2010 payroll. In fact, you had scored as a Madoff investor. But if losers in Bernie’s game show in court that you should have known not to play ball with Madoff,, you and the Mets could lose close to a billion dollars. That means you must find a partner to help pay the bills.

Skipper Eddie has an oversight board as a partner for the moment. He was a tea-party player who upended Team Dems’ Tom Suozzi in November 2009. On his opening day that January, Mangano cleared his ballpark of an unpopular energy tax. Pressbox observer Steve (Washington Monthly) Benen describes what Eddie promised next:
“Mangano would slash taxes, cut spending, and create a nice little utopia. Voters loved the sound of it. A year later, (he) had slashed taxes as promised, but struggled to limit public services that the community had grown to appreciate. (Last) week, the consequences of Tea Party economics became clear — Nassau County, facing a full-fledged fiscal crisis, saw its finances taken over by the state.”
Mangano can get out from under state control if he revises his budget realistically before the 15th of the month. Wilpon’s only recourse, pending the lawsuit’s outcome: get used to having a partner looking over his shoulder. Fred’s team is in a variation of the Knicks’ futile “Waiting for Lebron (James)” stance last year. The Mets are counting on the extra multi-millions they’ll have to spend in 2012 when the salaries of, among others, Carlos Beltran, Ollie Perez and Luis Castillo, come off the books. We know that’s another way of saying this: “Wait ‘Til Next Year.”

The Bottom Line on Egypt’s Immediate Future:   With Team USA providing close to a billion dollars in military aid to Cairo, “We are calling the shots.” (Democracy Now)

Talk About Precautions: The Yankees-wary Red Sox included a clause in Carl Crawford’s contract with this stipulation: Should the Sox trade him, Crawford’s new team must first agree NOT to send him to the Bombers.

Wells (almost) Worth It:  MLB-TV’s Mitch Williams on the Jays’ Vernon Wells’ switch to the Angels: “After playing in the AL East and knowing his team didn’t have a chance, he’ll be rejuvenated. Will he be worth $23 million a year? No. But he’ll hit and field like the near-All Star he is, and be great in the clubhouse.”

Won’t Be Long Now:   On the first day of the month, baseball is back in the air: we can look forward to the opening of spring training in a little over a week and half: seven teams – the Cardinals, D-backs, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates and Tigers – will see pitchers and catchers report on Sunday, the 13th. By the 18th, when the Marlins open camp, every team will have battery mates in action. Who cares about the snow?

Yanks Taking Cue from Deficit-Conscious Congressional Team

A post-season shocker: For the first time in years, cialis buy online the Yankees have become budget-minded!  The Steinbrenners clearly want to reduce the payroll from the $215 million spent last season.  Their attitude and that of most other clubs mirror our deficit-conscious political team in Washington.  Without the Yanks’ spendthrift habits to discuss, pills pressbox observers are fixated on the money spent in exceptional deals like the ones for Carl Crawford, sovaldi Vernon Wells and Jayson Werth by the Red Sox, Angels and Nationals.  There is much talk, too, about the many millions saved by the Rays and Blue Jays in ridding themselves of their high-salaried players.

The cost-containment trend has made players more security-minded than is commonly the case   Of 419 players tracked in the post-season by MLB.com, only five – the Twins’ Clay Condrey, the Phillies’ Greg Dobbs and Jamie Moyer, the A’s’ Gabe Gross, and the Mariners’ Casey Kotchman –  rejected off-roster assignments by their teams, opting instead for freedom to hit the open market.  So far all remain unsigned.

Team GOP, we know, wants to return health care to a wide-open market and send Obama-care back to the Dem clubhouse from whence it came.  Anticipating the skipper’s appeal last Tuesday night, the National Journal’s Ron Brownstein said the GOP’s effort, if successful, would have a liberating effect that might not be well received:

“With (last) week’s vote to repeal President Obama’s health care reform, House Republicans struck a blow for freedom.

“They struck a blow for the freedom of hospitals to avoid financial penalties, no matter how many Medicare patients develop infections under their care.  They struck a blow for the freedom of hospitals to avoid consequences, no matter how many Medicare patients are re­admitted soon after treatment.  And they struck a blow for the freedom of health care providers to receive unending annual increases in their Medicare reimbursements, even if they fail to improve their productivity by even a fraction of what’s occurring in other industries.

 

“Take that, Big Government.”    

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More on Money:  The nearly unanimous pressbox boos for the Angels’ deal for Wells is the puzzlement of the week.  Sure, the LAAs are tying up a lot of money for the next few years, but the immediate payoff is what fans care about, and it should be large.  In Wells, Tori Hunter and Bobby Abreu, the Angels have three big sticks and two ballhawks.  Put Peter Bourjos in center (if he starts to hit) and you have one of, if not the best defensive outfield in baseball.  What’s a few dollars if it’s not coming out of the pundits’ pockets?  Add the returning Kendry Morales to the Angels’ offensive mix and you certainly have a title contender in the AL West.

Still More:  The Cardinals are either going to give Albert Pujols an NL-record salary or lose him after this season.  If it’s the former (as is likely), the team will be thin financially and in blue-chip prospects.  The Cards didn’t  place a single player among last season’s 28 Triple- and Double A All Stars listed by Baseball America.  The St.Louis farm system is rated close to the bottom of the 30 monitored annually.  GM John Mozeliak is finding his predecessor Walt Jocketty a hard act to follow.  From 1995 through 2007, Jocketty’s teams won seven Central Division and two NL championships and one World Series title.  During Mozeliak’s three seasons, the Cardinals made the playoffs once – in 2009 – only to be swept by the Dodgers in the first round.  Jocketty, meanwhile, has quickly built the Reds into an NL Central power.  After Cincinnati reached the playoffs last season, Jocketty was named baseball’s Executive of the Year a third time.  

                                – o –

(The  Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments

to dickstar@aol.com are welcome,

Baseball and the High Court: Final Score Is Not Game’s End

The man whose sacrifice freed baseball players from a form of servitude would have been 73 this week.   Curt Flood’s name should rank with that of Jackie Robinson.  As a pioneering black major leaguer, cialis usa buy viagra Jackie faced prejudice, help even hatred, rx in the fight for racial justice.  Flood fought a long, less dramatic battle for economic justice, and, when it was won, could not benefit from the victory.

Flood took his case, challenging the Cardinals’ right to trade him to another team and city, to the Supreme Court in 1972.  The Court turned Flood away, upholding baseball’s power to treat players like private property.  Much like their reaction to the High Court’s Citizens United ruling a year ago, some of the media attacked the ’72 decision as a victory for corporate rights over human rights.  The outcry, also voiced in Congress, eventually forced baseball to negotiate player-liberating reforms that led to the free-agent system.

Are similar reforms possible now in reaction to Citizens United?  With Team GOP in control of Congress, it’s a long shot.  But strong public support for legislation that would require corporations to show how they spend money on elections could rally enough bipartisan backing for such a “people’s” initiative.  Still another remote, but not unreal, possibility: passage of a law setting up a public financing system that would give clout to small donors.  The system in NYC is a model of what could happen nationwide.  The city matches small donations at a 6-1 ratio, making grass-roots fundraising competitive in importance to the seeking of corporate money.

If nothing else, greater disclosure and public financing could become potent populist   issues in the 2012 election. 

Aftermath:  Back to Flood, who sat out the 1970 season (for which he would have earned almost $100,000) and the one in ’71 while his case moved slowly to the Supreme Court.  Without a paying job, he was nearly destitute when the legal game ended.  Flood wound up scrimping, drinking, suffering a series of marital breakups and experiencing always a sense of ostracism from the game he loved.  He couldn’t get employment with a team or even with the players union, which had financed the case.

And when, at 59, Flood died of cancer – 14 years ago last Sunday – not a single active player attended his funeral.  Union reps David Cone and Tom Glavine issued a prepared statement instead, acknowledging the loss.  Brad Snyder, a Washington, D.C. lawyer, paid proper tribute to Flood.  Snyder sidelined his legal career to tell Curt’s story in a moving 2006 book called “A Well-Paid Slave.”  This is how the book ends:

“(Jackie) Robinson and Flood took professional athletes on an incredible journey – from racial desegregation to well-paid slavery to being free and extremely well paid.  Robinson started the revolution by putting on a uniform.  Flood finished it by taking his off.”

  Warmth for the Rays and A’s:  The Rays may have slipped as AL East title threats with the departures of Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, etc., but they still rank high in one way in Boston, NY and elsewhere.  Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez may both be over the hill, but the excitement they bring gives the Rays at least as much fan appeal as they had with their former stars.  And, since it’s always fun for NYY fans to see old friend Hideki Matsui, the A’s should be more welcome than usual at the Stadium this year.

A Minnesota Chill Ahead?  The Twins as a rule are more efficient than colorful.  This season their effectiveness will depend in large part on the contributions of two returning convalescents: Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan.  The Twins were content to keep two other key performers this post-season, re-signing Carl Pavano and Nathan.  But they lost relievers Jesse Crain to the White Sox and Matt Guerrier to the Dodgers, so they could wind up skating on thin Minnesota ice. 

The Mets, we know, have their Morneau-medical-equivalent in Jason Bay.  Justin and Jason, both Canadians from British Columbia, are returning after suffering concussions. Morneau had an infield-impact incident, Bay collided with an outfield wall.  Both profess to be healthy again.  Comparing their play will be an interesting statistical sidelight this season.