The Nub

The Hard-to-Like Performers in Both Pastimes

(Posted 9/13/14)

What’s left of the Mets fan base learned this week that the team’s springing for offense on the post-season free agent market will be restrained. Without mentioning names, unhealthy GM Sandy Alderson told reporters the Wilpons have said money to spend for next year’s team will be “prohibitive.”

Fred Wilpon and son Jeff have overseen running of the team since the end of 2003. Thanks, discount pills mainly, to high-salary player purchases – Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Pedro Martinez, Billy Wagner, Moises Alou, to name a few – the team had one truly good year. In 2006, the Mets came within an inning of making the World Series. Since then, the big city NL franchise has slowly disintegrated. Fred Wilpon made some bad investments, including a few with Bernie Madoff. Backed by Bud Selig, the elder Wilpon has resisted selling the team; his stated intention – to leave it to his son. He sees the Mets as a family entitlement.

The two Wilpons are hard for fans to like, less because they are hanging on, despite being underfinanced; mainly, it’s that heir Jeff, now head of operations, lacks baseball savvy: he has been accused in print (NY Post) “of never hiring anyone who will not give him major input (on) every personnel decision.” Two of many bad-judgment examples: the trading of Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano in 2004; the rehiring of GM Omar Minaya for four years in 2008, soon after the team’s downward spiral. Ahead lies an outcome worse than the current mess: Alderson leaves (or is pushed out), Jeff takes charge.

While thinking of a hard-to-like lineup on the political field, the names of three players come quickly to mind: Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel leads off, followed by Skippers Chris Christie of New Jersey and NY’s Andrew Cuomo. All three are strong on savvy, but it’s doubtful they’ll be around as long as the clueless Wilpons. They can remain in place because they own it. Emanuel’s, Christie’s and Cuomo’s staying power will depend on performance and a change to a less aggressive, more likable stance.. Few political players can make that adjustment.

Emanuel, like Cuomo and Christie, orchestrated cuts in public worker pensions over the opposition of unions. They each came across as arrogant in the process. Cuomo is a shoo-in for reelection in NY this November, and Christie won a second term last year. But Rahm may be vulnerable as he seeks a second term early in 2015. His bullying approach has prompted many constituents to look for a reason to vote against him. He may go the way of the Mets, losing a crucial amount of fan support. “Rahm was too clever by half,” his electoral eulogists could soon say. The same fate may await Christie in three years, Cuomo in four, if they don’t cool the scorching drive that got them where they are. And the Mets aren’t.

A ’Hard- to- Like’ Reminder: When the Cold War ended a quarter-century ago, US presidents and policy-makers embraced the role of indispensable Goliath: America would use its overwhelming military supremacy to maintain world order. Americans like to see themselves as good guys, but lots of other people do not share that view. To many, the United States looks like an arrogant bully, a last bastion of colonialism. Furthermore, America’s claim of injured innocence has been deeply damaged by its war-fighting tactics, most obviously in its torture of prisoners.” –William Greider, The Nation  

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“We’re not the only teamthat’s not hitting,” said Joe Girardi yesterday afternoon following the Yanks’ 2-1 loss to the Orioles in 11 innings. “It’s a new game.” A night or two earlier, at Yankee Stadium, Al Leiter listed several reasons why run-scoring is dramatically down: use of performance-enhancing drugs no longer commonplace; comprehensive stats track hitters’ weaknesses; shifts make finding hitting gaps harder than in the past; every team has nasty, hard-throwing relievers. “They all pitch 95-miles-an-hour. It didn’t used to be like that.”

Salivation Time: Much salivating on the West Coast over the possibility of a Dodgers-Angels World Series, and, on the opposite end of the country, a Nationals-Orioles Series. We’re partial to the prospect, however remote, of the Cardinals and Giants tangling somewhere along the way.

Before It’s Forgotten: The season had barely started when Eric Byrnes, on MLB-TV, said of a Red Sox-Yankees matchup: “Those are two teams going in different directions.” He said he thought the Sox would have a letdown after their amazing 2013 season, and that the Yanks would be as formidable as ever. A tad over-optimistic about the Yankees, perhaps. In general, however, a prescient call.

Streakers: Angels +9, Orioles +6, Arizona -7


(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome when addressed to the skipper at 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.