The Nub

The Near-Parity Myth Playing in the National Ballpark

The subject of Baseball’s touted near-parity was raised on MLB Now, rx and shot down right away. Panelists noted that the Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals and Nationals – all well-heeled franchises – were pre-season favorites to, at least, make the playoffs. Lo and behold, they agreed, the four teams are vindicating the predictions. The Tigers, Royals, Cubs and Pirates will likely be in the mix as well, but securing a post-season slot is clearer for the big four than for them. Add the Angels, Mariners, Indians and White Sox to the group, yes, and the Astros and Rangers plus one AL East team, and half the 30 teams can be labelled competitive. That means half are going nowhere…along with any valid claim to parity.

The No-Parity Political Game: On day after a second candidate, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, joined Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to make the Clinton-dominated Dem presidential playoff a three-team race, the NY Times front-page headline talked of the party tapping a “Richer Roster to Rival the G.O.P.” Baseball fans in the left field stands noted with approval the play the usually centrist paper gave to news so cheering to progressives. That is, they cheered until reading further, to the point of the article: “Donors Are Pushed to Give More Than Ever for Clinton Race.”

The National Journal reported that O’Malley “took his first shot at Clinton in his announcement speech, tying her and GOP candidate Jeb Bush to Wall Street CEOs and saying the presidency shouldn’t be controlled by political dynasties ‘Recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he’d be just fine with either Bush or Clinton—I bet he would,’  O’Malley said.Well, I’ve got news for the bullies of Wall Street: The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families’.”

O’Malley, considered a centrist as a mayor, then governor in his home state, thinks a left-of-center message will score in Iowa, which, as of now, is batting lead-off when the primaries take the field next February. Sanders will surely swing away with a more lefty stance. No doubt about the way the playoff will be trending. The combined O’Malley-Sanders voting totals could signal a competitive race into the spring.

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Grudge-Free: Bobby Valentine surfaced in a TV discussion the other day, of, among other things, the woeful AL East race. Remembering that the Red Sox gave new Skipper Bobby the bum’s rush after one disastrous (2012) season, we imagined the persistence of hard feelings. Wrong: Valentine assured fellow panelists that the Sox would win the division!

Pure Gold: If the just-under .500 Arizona D’backs remain a factor in NL West playoff race, it will be because of their gem at first base. Paul Goldshmidt is the NL’s third best hitter, with a .351 BA and the MLB’s third best HR rate (fractionally ahead of Josh Donaldson) – 15 in 50 games, behind Nelson Cruz and Bryce Harper (18 each). On Sunday, Goldschmidt reinforced the gleam on his value: in a 17-inning game against the Brewers, he became the first player in MLB history to register three hits and receive three intentional passes in the same contest. Goldschmidt also became the first member of his team to reach base safely seven times in the same game.

Kemp Coup? Yes, it’s still early in the season, and, perhaps unfair to note that Dodger baseball ops President Andrew Friedman pulled off one of the best MLB deals so far when he traded Matt Kemp to the Padres. In the five-player trade, the Dodgers received catcher Yasmani Grandal. Kemp is batting .246, with a single HR in 53 games. Grandal’s stats: .284, five HRs in 36 games, and he has thrown out just under a respectable quarter of would-be base stealers.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments about blog issues are welcome. 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.