The Nub

Reading the Minds of Players in Both Pastimes

(Posted 9/9/14)

On YES the other night, best remedy two ex-players doing color – John Flaherty and Paul O’Neill – caught our attention during a Red Sox-Yankees game. They remembered the pressure prospects feel in September: “They worry about the challenge,” O’Neill said, “of playing later in the season than they’re used to.” Then, with a camera trained on pensive Red Sox newcomer Brock Holt, who had just made out, the two imagined what he could be thinking: “I was batting .280; now that’s dropped toward .270. Suppose I stop hitting and the average keeps going down? The time when I was going good could be forgotten.”

 Holt’s BA edged up a bit since that game, but not his playing time. He only played in one of three over the weekend against Toronto. He was on the bench again last night against Baltimore. His average this morning is .281.

We’ve borrowed the YES idea, training an imaginary camera on political players as they dwell on worries of their own:

Although New York State Skipper Andrew Cuomo has big-time clout, he can’t help thinking: “Why can’t I get the many people on my side, not just to go to bat, but to like me?”

 Almost everybody likes Hillary Clinton; yet even she is spooked by the thought of an underdog clogging her baseline: “Please, God, don’t let Elizabeth leave the dugout, and this time be sure Caroline stays on my team.”

 John Kerry, almost hitless in many far-flung times at the plate, wonders: “Am I showing the strain? I can seem stiff when facing repeated rejection. I am tired. It’s thankless these days trying get anybody to play ball.”

Barack Obama, faced with charges of doing “stupid stuff”: “What can I do? I’m pitching a good game –some brush-backs, no head-hunting. But in this smack-talk season, media people feel only wimps avoid collisions.””

Vladimir Putin, on reading the corporate mainstream media: “Being blamed for everything going down in my part of the international ballpark, I guess I should be glad they’re not calling me “Rasputin.

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 The Wild, Wild Card: The Brewers’ downward spiral – they lost to Miami last night – together with a Pirates’ win over the Phillies, give the Bucs a game-and-a-half breathing room in the NL WC race over Milwaukee and Atlanta. The loss also solidifies the Cardinals’ division lead at four-and-a-half games. The only two division races that can realistically be considered still in place: the AL Central, where KC now leads Detroit by only a game, and the NL West, where the Dodgers have moved three-and-a-half ahead of the Giants.

 Who They Are? Skipper Bob Melvin thought his Oakland A’s couldn’t get much worse after suffering a four-game sweep by the Angels over the last weekend in August. But the A’s went 1-6 in the next seven games, making them 14-22 since the start of last month. That’s how they looked, going into last night’s game against the White Sox (which they lost). “It’s been embarrassing,” says Melvin. “It’s not who we are.” Now eight games behind the Angels in their division, Oakland can hope for a wild card spot, but maybe not. Seattle and Detroit only trail the A’s, the Mariners by one, the Tigers by a game-and-a-half. So even the WC could slip away if Melvin can’t get them back to being “who we are.,”

 Nobody Asked, But: Even allowing for a possible last-minute switch in ESPN’s Sunday Night dugout-interview plan, Dan Shulman and John Kruk were embarrassingly inept while talking to the Giants’ Jake Peavy. The pair tossed a long series of softballs the pitcher, recently traded to SF from Boston: “What do you think of your new team? (“Good bunch of guys, a great organization.”) “How do you like playing for Bruce Bochy?” (“The best manager I’ve ever had.”) “How do you and Tim Hudson get along?” (“We go back a long way together…We’re both Alabama boys…”) etc. That the half-inning of the game in Detroit in which the interview was conducted seemed to go on forever compounded the embarrassment. The least negative thing to be said about the Shulman-Kruk team: Their presence does not engender a sense of urgency about watching Sunday night games.

 Wake-Up Time: “Why the Brewers lost energy after leading the division for 150 consecutive days is one of those mysteries for the ages. They have (18) games remaining to get re-energized and avoid a historic late-season collapse. During this disastrous stretch, when asked about getting headed in the right direction, players inevitably have said, ’There’s plenty of time left.’ Well, one of these days they’re going to wake up and find there’s not enough time if they don’t start playing winning baseball now.” Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

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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 dickstar@aol.com. 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.