The Nub

‘R’-Words Plaguing Baseball and Vote-Seeking Teams

(Posted 5/3/14)

Let’s play a Baseball word game: There’s no doubt about the one word fans do not want to hear to describe their team. It begins with an “r” and ends with “rebuilding”: an unwelcome word to fans of every sport.. The Cubs and Mets have undertaken r-word programs guided by Theo Epstein and Sandy Alderson. Started by Theo three-plus years ago in Chicago and by Sandy four-plus in New York, capsule both execs tried to persuade the public that competitiveness would not be sacrificed under their new player-development approach. From what they saw on the field, store neither team’s fans was buying. Hopeful fresh starts launched in Miami and Houston more recently elicited similar responses; fans in those cities did not believe in the hype. The Marlins and Astros registered close to lowest attendances in 2013, both attracting just over a million-and-a-half spectators. The Cubs and Mets, in larger markets, drew 2.6m and 2.1m, respectively. But both were down from 2012 – the Cubs by 200,000 , the Mets by 100,000 ticket-buyers.

Attendance figures at polling places this November preoccupy the two major political teams. The challenge: to devise a pitch that will attract fans to vote for their team in sufficient numbers. The effectiveness of one delivery over the other could be decisive. For the moment, the Dem team is playing catch-up. How do we know? A team brain trust headed by pollster Stan Greenberg and strategist James Carville discovered that a Dem pitch wasn’t working when matched against one thrown on behalf of the GOP opposition. Here is the pre-season match-up they designed to be fair to both teams:

Dem: “The economy is recovering, but not for regular hardworking people. Incomes of CEOs and the top 1 percent are soaring, but in the real economy, people are working harder at jobs that don’t pay enough to live on. We have got to do something. We must raise the minimum wage, help people afford job training and college, build a 21st-century infrastructure, and stop unfair trade agreements that wipe out American jobs.”

GOP: The Obama administration has had six years to get this economy going and its policies haven’t worked. Monthly wages are going down, and there are not enough good-paying jobs to create opportunities for struggling families. We need to start making things in America again, and stop excessive regulations that are hurting the economy. It’s time to produce more energy here at home, and educate people for the jobs of the 21st century.”

The brain trust traced their team’s loss to another “r”- word, “recovery”, a fact confirmed by an NPR poll. “Recovery,” Greenberg and Carville concluded, suggests that their team doesn’t appreciate how much trouble people are in,(or) really understand…the problems they continue to face.”

 Thus, the Dem team has received a sign it should acknowledge: to hope to rally, it must pitch higher and harder on the economy. And send “recovery” to the showers.

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The RISP Recipe: One sometimes-overlooked reason the Orioles, Giants and Tigers are doing well a month-plus into the season: the team-efficiency in getting hits with runs in scoring position (RISP). Going into last night’s games, the Orioles lead both leagues with a .315 BA in that department. The Giants, with a .307, lead in scoring runners with two outs. The Tigers are impressively efficient with bases loaded; their RISP in that category is .471. The Cardinals, who finished last season with a remarkable .330 RISP BA, are struggling with a .226 this year. (Yahoo Sports)

New Leader: Baltimore, with a 3-0 win over Minnesota, while the Yankees were losing to Tampa Bay, has moved into first in the AL East by a half-game.

Bush League Time at Stadium: “Distaste” was the understated word the Daily News’ Mark Feinsand used to describe Yankee-fan reaction to the return of Robinson Cano Tuesday night. He could have said “ugly”; the booing caused embarrassment to some of Cano’s former teammates and many of us watching on YES. We saw the boos as an extension of the lack of class expressed during the infamous “roll call” in which some bleacherites demand acknowledgement from players on the field they target. Cringe-time.

Four Tool-er: Among the most frequently heard misstatements by baseball broadcasters is this: “Mike Trout is a five-tool player.” Wrong. At least one media person who covers the Angels said some time ago that Trout’s outfield arm was “average-to-above-average” but far from strong. And, earlier in the season, Trout himself mentioned that he had to improve his arm strength to raise his poor outfield-assist numbers. As promised, he’s working on it. All that said, Trout is, inarguably a great player.

Late Scores: Rockies 10, Mets 3; Astros 5, Mariners 4; Arizona 2, San Diego 0

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at 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.