The Nub

Sequestering: A Baseball as Much as a Political Pastime

(Posted: 3/9/13)

How uneventful has baseball’s extended hot stove season been?  The most interesting story is about inaction – the unwillingness of teams to sign an available, generic malady highly rated pitcher.  The potential ace in question: Kyle Lohse, whose salary demands have isolated him from other coveted, now-signed free agents   Money, thus, has made him the star of what, in effect, is the sport’s sequester game.

The game, we know, involves baseball super-agent Scott Boras as much as it does Lohse.   Many believe Boros set the asking price for Lohse too high, since the team that signs him would lose a first-round draft pick and pay what amounts to a value-added tax on the transaction.  Lohse averaged $12 million a season over his last two years with the Cardinals.  At 34, he – and Boros – likely considered this his last best chance at attracting a generous ($15 mil per?), long-term contract.  The sequester suggests the pair will have to settle for fewer years than they wanted and little more than Lohse made in St.Louis.

The Dem and GOP teams waved home the political sequester when, like the recalcitrant ball clubs, they refused to agree to each other’s demands on a cost-cutting game plan.  The deadlock has drawn boos from fans on left and right sides of the national grandstand. Along the left-field line, the groans concern, among others, cuts to Head Start, Special Education, emergency unemployment pay, and the WIC – women’s infants and children – program.  In the right field stands, fans don’t like seeing border security cut back, but they’re mainly worried about a 13 percent whack in defense spending.  A partial lineup of programs spared the sequester squeeze play – to applause mainly from the left – includes Social Security, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Pell Grants, and (for the most part) Medicare.

Most of the automatic cuts – those singled out, “sequestered” in advance – won’t go into effect until next month.  By then, Lohse should be back on the mound for some team, quite possibly the resistant-for-the-time-being Rangers.

Re: the Hidden Chavez:  The late Venezuelan Skipper Hugo Chavez was kept out of sight in a Caracas hospital for the last weeks of his life. He was subject to a different form of sequester over his decade-and-a-half of leadership:  Our Yanqui teams and corporate media had little or nothing positive to say about his top domestic priority: to improve the lives of the poor.  Chavez’s cardinal sin in gringo eyes:  He told us who we were – a team that cares more about power than people.

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Yankee Kicker: Mark Teixeira no sooner said he wasn’t worth a $22.5 million salary at this stage of his career than he confirmed the truth of the statement.  Teixiera, now 33, put himself on the shelf until May with a wrist strain suffered while swinging a bat.  When someone suggested Travis Hafner might fill in for him, GM Brian Cashman said no way: “He is a field-goal kicker…he hasn’t picked up a glove in seven years…He is an amazing hitter, but he has a history of injuries and we are not going to…try to put a glove on him and get him hurt. He is our DH.”

Wide Open:  With Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and A-Rod out for a month or much more – and Nick Swisher and Russell Martin gone –  the Yanks, we know, will have half a no-name lineup into May.  The playing field in the AL East is, thus, close to level as it has been in living memory.  The respected observers at Baseball Prospectus still pick the Yankees to win, and the widely favored Blue Jays to finish with a losing record in fourth place!?  No other division can match such a tight, five-team tangle.

For Non-Late-Nighters: The Brewers’ Yovardo Gallardo and the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez led Mexico to a 5-2 upset win over Team USA in the World Baseball Classic last night. Gallardo outpitched R.A. Dickey at the outset, and Gonzalez hit a long, two-run homer off  R.A. in the third to give Mexico a 5-1 lead that a string of relievers protected. The U.S.(0-1) plays surprising Italy (2-0) today, in danger of going home early.

Nothing’s Perfect:  Our continuing affection for the World Baseball Classic, notwithstanding, the games contain a built-in problem: the frequent pitching changes required by rules designed to prevent injuries from overuse.  Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne, listenable as ever, had to endure a 51-minute rain delay during the Dominican-Venezuela game Thursday night (which the DRs won, 9-3). When the teams had scored nine runs by the fifth inning, with three or four pitching interruptions, Thorne uttered what sounded like a sigh: “…And there’s still a long way to go.”  Total game time: close to five hours.              

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com 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.