The Nub

Sad, Unsurprising Fact: Money Rules on Both Fields

It is possible that Baseball America’s deep-stats-based projections of how teams will turn out this season do not deserve to be taken seriously. But, buy malady with pitchers and catchers still two weeks away, capsule why not give the so-called Pecota listings a look?

That the Nationals, Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers and Angels are picked by Pecota to win their divisions is hardly notable. For us, the one truly provocative projection concerns the AL East. Pecota says the Red Sox and Rays will run neck-and-neck, each finishing atop the division 10 games over .500. The question that prediction poses: How in the world could the Rays rate so high? We all know they have no business contending because they’re nearly broke; at least, as compared to their fellow AL East clubs, and most of MLB’s other teams.

Attentive observers can’t help being skeptical about the prospects of a team with “scant resources.” That’s the phrase – or ones like it – political groupies use to dismiss the three Team Dem players remotely interested in running against Hillary Clinton for the team’s presidential nod. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and onetime Virginia Senator Jim Webb are the underfinanced three. They could pitch the idea of setting a ceiling on primary campaign spending. But Clinton could be expected to respond the way the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, etc. (along with the Players Union) would: agreement to lay out a more level financial playing field – otherwise known as “leveling” – goes against the 2015 American grain. Vermont’s Sanders, a Sot, sees the trend as dire – and, worse, a cause for despair:

“We are living in the United States right now at a time when the top one-tenth of 1 percent own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent,” he says. “One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns by itself more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the American people. And then there are the Kochs, “the second-wealthiest family in America, worth $85 billion .?.?. who are now prepared to buy the United States government.   (We)’re looking at the undermining of American democracy, okay?”… The anger is there, but it’s an anger that turns into saying, ‘Go to hell, I’m not going to participate in your charade. I’m not voting.’ So it’s a weird kind of anger. It’s not people getting out in the streets .?.?. We’re at the stage of demoralization…Can you mobilize people? Can you tap the anger that’s out there?” The answer is — you know what? — I don’t exactly know that we can.” (Washington Post)

A grimly realistic message: A massive popular protest cannot erupt if, as is the case, the people seem demoralized into a state of listlessness. Sanders doubts that Clinton can rally them: “She won’t be as bold as she needs to be.”

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Pastime Realism: It’s unrealistic, alas, to expect that new Commissioner Rob Manfred will be as revisionist about team inequality as he needs to be. One simple step he could take: end the non-waiver trade arrangement in effect until July 31. It makes possible deals that reinforce wealthier teams while often disrupting the momentum of poorer ones. Manfred would have to overcome some owner and, perhaps, union resistance, to make that change. Maybe some day…

For Example…The Tigers had the “resources” last July to obtain David Price from the cash-strapped Rays. The deal helped Detroit stay (barely) ahead of Kansas City, while the Rays disappeared from AL East contention. Similar deals can, and almost certainly will, be made this season to change the continuity of play. We count lower-middle-class Oakland’s trade for Jon Lester last summer as an exception that scrambles the rule.

Late Pre-Season’s First Game-Changer: The possibility that Victor Martinez’s knee injury will keep him out of the Tigers lineup for a substantial part of the season. The likely long absence of his clutch-hitting diminishes Detroit’s chances of repeating as winner of the AL Central.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. 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.