(Posted: 3/2/12; e-mail update 3/3)
The skills to be sharpened at spring training: bunting, sale pilule rundowns, check relays, etc. And, at one of the 30 camps, anger management. Ozzie Guillen knows his Miami Marlins’ hopes of making the playoffs could depend on Carlos Zambrano keeping his cool. With quick-tempered Milton Bradley unsigned since last May, Zambrano is baseball’s last explosively angry man; he tangled with teammates, managers and umpires while with the Cubs. And when he had a ball in his hand, opponents knew enough not to make him mad.
Players, we know, express anger over close pitches, high spikes, etc, but most are wise enough to avoid doing anything risky. Their anger, mostly for show, only calls attention to what riled them. They know it’s not going to change what happened. We saw an off-field example last week when the Commissioner’s office stamped its feet over Ryan Braun winning his drug-test appeal. “No matter who tests positive,” said an office statement, “we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline… While we have always respected th(e) process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered…by (an) arbitrator.” Translation: “We can’t do anything about it beyond making noise, so don’t blame us.”
If the show-of-anger strategy sounds familiar, it could be because it’s in play on the political field as well. Team Obama and others in the western league are crying foul, and chanting for Syria’s Bashar al-Said to send himself to the showers. Robert Fisk of the UK Independent points out the emptiness of this rally:
“The mighty voices calling for Assad’s departure grow louder every time they refuse to involve themselves militarily in the overthrow of the same man. The more they promise not to ’do a Nato’ on Syria – every time they claim there can be no ‘no-fly’ zones over Syria – they get angrier and angrier at Assad. Why doesn’t he just go off to retirement in Turkey, end the theater once and for all, and stop embarrassing us all by bludgeoning his country with shells and sniper fire, killings thousands?”
Assad, we know, has Teams Moscow and Beijing watching his back. Fisk sees a mini-throwback to the cold war unfolding.
How to Win Over Adversaries: The O-Team has backed up its anger at Egypt for Cairo’s crackdown on U.S. groups promoting democracy. A threat to withhold our annual $1.55 billion in mostly military aid has gotten postponement of a criminal trial and end to a travel ban involving 16 Americans accused of “hijacking the revolution.” It’s no surprise that Egypt’s need for our money will cause its on-deck democracy to be called back to the dugout.
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In the Dark about Derek: Bobby Valentine has confirmed that he’s not a Derek Jeter-watcher. He said this week that Derek was “amazingly” out of position when he made the memorable cutoff in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS against Oakland. Attentive fans have long marveled at Jeter’s gift for being in the right place (and finding a way to get on base) at the right time. It has happened too often, Bobby, to be amazing.
Promise or Threat? “We intend to own the franchise for a very long time.” – Mets owner Fred Wilpon (this week in Florida)
Under the Radar: KC just signed a 21-year-old catcher who has played only 39 major league games to a multi-million dollar contract that could run for eight years. Sal Perez, described by manager Ned Yost as a “rare find…the total package”, batted .331, with 21 RBIs and three homers during a late-season stint with the Royals.
From the E-Mailbag (re our suggestion in the previous Nub that fans like seeing home-plate collisions): “I for one do not need the violence in the game of baseball. I have trouble watching football when it is gratuitously violent. I like great plays, grace and sportsmanship. You do not need a dangerous collision at home plate for it to be exciting. Just a great throw, a perfect tag and an elusive slide. Collisions should be penalized.” – David S, Sleepy Hollow, NY
Closing Toast: To the underrated month of March – all promise, never dull…and the time of baseball’s return.
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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper. Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)