The Nub

Spotlight Playing on ‘Know-It-All’s’ in Both Pastimes

(Posted: 12/6/11; e-mail update 12/7)        

You have to love the double-play: two “know-it-all’s” – Bobby Valentine and Newt Gingrich – emerging as baseball and political headliners these past few weeks.  Both were outsiders as candidates for managerial jobs and a presidential nomination.  Valentine wasn’t even in the lineup in Boston when bosses John Henry and Larry Lucchino blindsided new GM Ben Cherington by choosing Bobby over Gene Lamont.  Gingrich, diagnosis talking a good game, built up his numbers as a backup in the GOP primary series.  As Valentine’s arrival stunned most of Boston, so Newt’s sudden surge surely surprised pace-setting Mitt Romney and his team.  Mitt had gained leadership confidence, fending off early rallies by Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry and Matt Cain. 

The Red Sox clearly brought in Valentine, in part, for his larger-than-life persona.  They had lost celebrity GM Theo Epstein after the dismaying 2011 season and needed a savvy showman to fill the gap and help Red Sox Nation forget the past.  GOP fans might be filling a similar need with Gingrich.  They’ve seen him flip-flopping all over the field on hot-potato issues like immigration, environment and lobbying ethics.  But they know he is seldom dull.  And the record book shows he was as leader of the “contract with America” GOP Congressional victory in the 1994.  He proved then to be a formidably bright competitor. 

Wash-Post’s true-believing righthander Charles Krauthammer says that fans are readier to forgive Newt’s bobbles than they are the many back-and-forth-ings by Romney:

Gingrich’s apostasies are seen as deviations from his conservative core — while Romney’s flip-flops are seen as deviations from … nothing.  Romney has no signature achievement, legislation or manifesto that identifies him as a core conservative.”

 Krauthammer suggests that, should Newt-preferring GOP voters pick Romney over Gingrich, it will be because they believe Mitt can attract more swing votes than their man.     

There are doubts in Boston, too, about Valentine’s ability to win the support of his players.  Much remembered is an interview he gave while Mets manager in which he said this about his team members: “You’re not dealing with real professionals in the clubhouse. You’re not dealing with real intelligent guys for the most part.  A lot can swim, but most of them just float along, looking for something to hold on to.” 

But Bobby hasn’t been hired to be a back-patter.  He’s been hired to win, and keep the fans happily distracted while doing it.  The Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy put it this way:

“He’s a guy who’ll wear eye-black in the dugout.  He’ll refer to himself in the third person.  He’ll have an opinion on everything and he’ll make opponents try harder to beat the Red Sox.  He will never be boring.”

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Envoi:  The loss of Jose Reyes was surely not a shock to Mets fans, only a deep wound.  The departure to Miami of their franchise player has literally left very many of them disenfranchised.  Our hearts go out to those paid to be at CitiField this summer – stadium employees, media people, etc.  It will be lonely place, except, perhaps, when Jose and the Marlins come to town.

The Murk of Metrics:  The mystery surrounding Derek Jeter is why he looks good as ever at shortstop while the equally mysterious metrics say his play is sub-par.  The official measure of “defensive runs saved” this year has Jeter last at his position, having scored a minus-18.  Brett Gardner tied for first among all fielders with a plus-22.  Tigers’ center fielder Austin Jackson and Giants’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval had the same rating.  That Sandoval finished so high while Jeter was rated so low only deepens the mystery. 

Mariano WHIPPED:  It would have been no surprise had Mariano Rivera registered the best WHIP ratio – walks plus hits per innings pitched – over the past three years.  But he had to settle for second.  The winner: Mike Adams, of the Padres and Rangers, with an 0.852 score compared to Mariano’s 0.879.

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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.