The Nub

Patience, the ‘Right Way’ in Baseball and Pressure Politics

(Posted: 12/16/11; e-mail update 12/17)

 New Cubs president Theo Epstein has a one-word request for the team’s fans: “Patience.” He and GM Jed Hoyer are going to put together a winning team, sale buy he promises, buy “but we want to do it the right way.” That’s the way he did it in Boston, the way Brian Cashman is doing with the Yankees, the way Sandy Alderson hopes to do it with the Mets: giving priority to developing players within the system, filling holes, either through trades of home-grown prospects, or the signing of free agents. (In truth, most MLB teams, many following the MoneyBall lead of Oakland’s Billy Beane, are playing the patient, right-way game.)

Political players in NY state who pitched against Skipper Andrew Cuomo’s decision to let a millionaires’ tax expire had no choice but to be patient during most of the 2011 season. But their persistence during the waiting game finally paid off last week when Cuomo delivered a tax-reform bill that gave the adversarial team a partial victory. Upper-level millionaires (making more than $2 mil) will now be paying around 50-percent more in taxes than they would have had the surcharge on their earnings been allowed to leave the field with no change in rates. Of course, the truly wealthy will be saving tens of thousands, while the ultra-high-“middle class” – $300,000 to $2 million – will be pocketing thousands in saved tax dollars.

As for the average $50-100,000 earner, he or she will save about $40. Ron Deutsch, of New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness (quoted by Syracuse Post-Standard’s Teri Weaver) puts it this way: “The average taxpayer will get a night out…It’s not exactly the middle-class tax relief everyone is talking about.” Still, the deal will net the state $2.4 billion additional dollars and reduce the taxes of 4.4 million people. That’s a political win for Skipper Andrew as well as for the patient opposition leader, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver. Occupy Wall Street gets an assist, too. When the OWS team in Albany began labeling the skipper “Governor One Percent”, it got his attention.

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Reason for Hope: News that the under-funded NY team took out a $40 million bridge loan to help meet its obligations has gotten the attention of Mets fans. Particularly intriguing is the possibility that some would-be minority-stake investors will not be in place next spring. Then, says the NY Times, “(Fred) Wilpon and (Saul) Katz might have to confront the possibility of selling the team entirely.”

Red Sox in the Red? The chatter on MLB-TV the other night was the reluctance of usually big-spending Boston to spring for elite free agents. The suggested reason: Team owner John Henry’s $481 million investment in the Liverpool soccer club of Britain’s Premier League. Panelists concluded that the outlay, purportedly from a separate funding source, has had an impact on the team, nevertheless. Said one: “When they tell you, in answer to whether they have an interest in Carlos Beltran, ‘yeah, for‘$3 million for one year’, “you know money is tight.”

A.J. to Stay? The equally quiet Yankees are waiting until just before spring training, team insiders say, to do some major wheeling and dealing. They say A.J. Burnett will probably not figure in the envisaged transactions. The amount of his salary they’d have to eat has so far proven too big an obstacle.

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

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.