The Nub

The Red Sox Connection to a Crucial Political Game

(Posted: 12/12/11; e-mail update 12/13)     

 Baseball and politics.  The record book shows them connecting at a distance, drugstore as is happening now in Red Sox Nation, where control of the U.S. Senate could hinge, thumb however remotely, on a candidate’s baseball knowledge.

First, a look back: A Team GOP player who hit to left, John Lindsay, was re-elected NYC mayor in 1969 shortly after the “Miracle Mets” won the World Series.  Lindsay won without his party’s support, and despite the Dem team holding a three-to-one registration advantage.  The media suggested that the Mets’ upset victory over the Orioles had made the city “feel good about itself” setting the stage for Lindsay’s upset electoral win. 

 Yankee fan Rudy Giuliani’s eight years as NYC mayor (1994 – 2001) coincided with the team’s six-playoff-five-World Series appearances, and four world championships.  His TV-reinforced identity as the city’s number one Yankee fan helped keep him popular for most of his two terms.  Projected Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (her status won’t be official until September), although not considered a rabid fan, knows as much about the Red Sox as an average Bay Stater.  But a slip-up about the team’s history at a recent public forum caused a rhubarb that normally wouldn’t hurt her chances.  Still, since baseball is involved, you never know.

Here’s what happened: The moderator at a forum of five Dem Senatorial candidates asked them to name the years in which the Sox won the World Series in this century.  Warren answered “2004 and 2008.”  A minor mistake (we know she should’ve said 2004 and 2007), except to some press box observers.  Said ABC News political editor Rick Klein:  “If (incumbent GOPer) Scott Brown wins a full term, this (s)lip will be the opening anecdote on how.”

Bizarre bounces can occur in bluest-of-blue Massachusetts: Unruffled Team GOP righthander Scott Brown was elected to succeed the late feisty southpaw Ted Kennedy.  And polls say line-drive lefty Warren is losing fans that put her ahead because of her support for Occupy Wall Street.  Voter reaction to the Sox-related error has not been tested.  The main test will pit Warren’s left-of-center swing against Karl Rove-financed TV pitches on behalf of Brown. They depict her as pro-banker instead of the fiery pro-consumer slugger that made her too politically hot for the White House front office to keep on its team.   It will be a classic match-up of a monied moderate GOPer – Brown – versus an economic populist whose timing should be right.

At stake: a vital Senate seat (one of three the Dems need to add to regain command in that chamber); and, as the contest unfolds, it will provide a grandstand weathervane of how strongly fans feel about the way the pro-Wall Street political game has been played in recent years.     

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Designated Impact:  How do teams feel about the “all-or-nothing” designated-hitter plan, whereby, as of 2013, the DH will be used in both leagues or none?  The Tigers’ Jim Leyland doesn’t care which way the decision goes.  Mets people have not weighed in, but the plan surely impacts on the value of position-less Daniel Murphy.  Teams wanting to beef up their offense have inquired about Murphy’s availability.  Defensively, Larry Bowa (on MLB-TV) calls Murphy’s play at second base “scary.”  Murphy has already proven he can’t play the outfield.  If the solid lefty hitter has a future with the Mets, it clearly depends on baseball bringing the DH to the NL. 

Nothing’s the Matter With Kansas:  Betcha don’t know how well the Royals have been doing these past few years.  Sure, they haven’t won anything yet.  But Slate’s Greg Fehrman has a little noticed progress report that is eye-opening: “The Royals invested $45.2 million in draft bonuses from 2007 to 2011, an outlay that ranked third in baseball (and remains impressive even after you adjust for their consistently high draft order). But the strategy paid off. This year, Baseball America declared the Royals’ farm system the best in the game—the best, in fact, of the last two decades.  The team’s prospects, by one rough measure, project to be worth $245 million.”

Rarin’ in Chicago:  Theo Epstein, on fans of his new team, the Cubs: “They’re ready…they’re not interested in tearing the team down.”  What he implied, but didn’t add: “Not like in Boston, where the team’s success has made fans beyond-ready and hyper-critical.”

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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.