The Nub

The Gap-Filling Game on Two Fields

(Posted 5/31/14)

The end of May: when teams with glaring roster holes recognize this competitive reality – if they hope to be playing “meaningful” games beyond June, sale order they must find a way to fill those holes.  The Astros, advice the only team near the bottom in MLB hitting and pitching categories, diagnosis have no pretensions (their current streak notwithstanding) of competing close to the top in what for them is a rebuilding season.  But the Rockies, Rangers and White Sox – all marginally competitive and bottom-fishing (22, 26 and 29) in pitching, know that they must find new arms to retain playoff hopes. The Braves, 26th in hitting, are spared any urgency to reinforce by a general weakness in the NL East (albeit, for the moment it is the tightest of the six divisions).  The Mets, treading water in that division, will need a miraculous infusion of batsmen to avoid meaninglessness by early July.  

A similar filling of holes is under way on the political field.  Just as ball teams seek a lefty-righty balance in their lineups, major office-holding prospects act to make their stance more acceptable to a wider range of fans.  The Dem team’s prime candidate for national skipper, Hillary Clinton, put such an adjustment on display in a rhetorical batting practice early this month.  Having preferred hitting to center rather than to left in the economic inequality game, Hillary led off with a new approach at the speech-making plate:   

“Canadian middle-class incomes are now higher than in the United States, “she told a gathering of progressive fans. “They are working fewer hours for more pay than Americans are, enjoying a stronger safety net, living longer on average, and facing less income inequality.”

An unfamiliar expression of shared views with populist fans  it’s one centrist-Dem game plan.  NY Skipper Andrew Cuomo, lined up behind Clinton as a White House prospect, has another. Cuomo, booed by progressives for cutting taxes that mainly affect the wealthy, hopes to win liberals’ support for his re-election this year. How?  By going to bat for campaign finance reform, an issue he’s pitched before, but without heat.  Cuomo can win without left-of-center fans, but he needs their backing to win big and thus enhance his reputation nationally.

The New Yorker’s economic columnist John Cassidy spoke for many conflicted pressbox observers when he wrote this about Cuomo’s status in a key progressive endorsement vote scheduled for today: My bet is that the governor, who has already persuaded almost the entirety of the Democratic establishment… to endorse him publicly, will somehow convince the Working Families Party to go along with him, too.  But I have to admit part of me is hoping he doesn’t manage it.”

If Hillary doesn’t manage to hold on to her no-contest lead in 2016 Dem presidential contest, the Washington Post may have provided a clue as to why that can happen: the paper chose her and three other prominent Democrats as hypothetic dinner guests.  It asked 11 party activists in Iowa which of the four they would invite to the imaginary gathering.  Only one named Clinton. An obvious explanation: Many fans are “all-Hillary-ed out” and would welcome an alternative.

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Popular Cubs: The Cubs’ Jeff Samardzjia is considered the most available top-line pitcher almost certain to be traded to a contender.  Yankee fans are hearing their team will do what it takes to get him. But the Orioles, latest team said to have an inside track, may beat them to Samardzjia. Jason Hammel, another talented Cubs righthander, is expected to be some team’s consolation prize acquisition.  Meanwhile, the resurgent Red Sox have become the first AL East team to fill a perceived hole, with the re-hiring of shortstop Stephen Drew.  

Unquiet in Queens: It’s an old story, and a predictable one:  when it’s offense is sputtering and a team sinking, the hitting instructor is fired.  It happened  this week to the Mets’ Dave Hudgens.  The move has serious implications for key personnel but especially for what’s left of the fan base.  The boss’s son Jeff Wilpon reportedly ordered GM Sandy Alderson to fire his friend Hudgens (something Alderson felt constrained to deny).  Alderson is in the last year of his contract.  Jeff Wilpon has already expressed impatience publicly with the team’s level of play in this, Alderson’s fourth season.  Now this happens.  If owner Fred Wilpon approves of his son’s muscle-flexing, fans know possible changes ahead could make the team’s long dark stretch longer and darker.

Streakers: Astros +7, Red Sox +5

Late Friday Scores:  Pirates 2, Dodgers 1; Oakland 9, Angels 5; Tigers 6, Seattle 3; Reds 6, Arizona 4; Astros 2, Orioles 1                                                              -o-

(More of The Nub, a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey, can be found at perfectpitcher.org)

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.