The Nub

The Stealth Game and Its Players

Baseball’s doldrums – the time between Super Bowl and pitchers and catchers – is, check this year, case a holding-the-breath period. There’s a deal-brewing sense that some suspect team – the Dodgers, Tigers, Padres, Cubs, Marlins? – is about to pounce. That feeling persists, even after the long-awaited signing of James Shields (Padres); the Tigers must find an interim replacement for Victor Martinez, the Cubs and Marlins know they could be just a quality pitcher short of making the playoffs. And the Dodgers’ operations prez Andrew Friedman is overdue to perform deal-making magic for his new team. Whoever pulls the trigger on a trade has, so far, kept his plan secret, much as the Nationals did before signing premium free agent Max Scherzer.

Secrecy is the key to avoiding last-minute bidding wars for targeted players. In politics, it’s the way elected officials obscure votes or deals that may compromise them with their constituents. New York’s senior Senator Chuck Schumer is a master of such maneuvering. Except for calling every other day for more federal money for his state, or, in the past, for improved support for our troops in Iraq, he has avoided commenting on hot potatoes like, for example, the war itself. “Don’t risk alienating centrist voters” has long been his strategic game. Huffington Post’s Richard Kirsch did this official scoring on one of Schumer’s consistent plays, advancing the winning streak on Wall Street:

“Schumer embodies the contradictions that will tear the Democratic Party apart over the next two years. He understands the need to embrace a populist, progressive narrative and program, but his ties to Wall Street and big money lead him to blunt any real moves by Democrats to take a bold stand for working people against corporate power. The budget proposal to allow more government bailouts of banks that gamble with their depositors’ money was a huge lost opportunity for Democrats to paint Republicans as being on the side of the big banks that wrecked the economy. That opportunity was negated (in part) by… Schumer’s stealth maneuvers (widely known in Congress) to keep the Wall Street deal intact. As a result, the leaders of both parties demonstrated, as they’ve done before, that government is in fact on the side of the rich and powerful.”

A tutorial on the positioning of Senator “Where’s Charlie?” Schumer, as well as many of his teammates working the vote-count in the political game.

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Sorry, San Diego: Although the signing of James Shields, on top of the additions of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton, lifts the Padres to a truly competitive level in the NL West, we offer this sobering prediction: San Diego will suffer the same fate as other dramatically reinforced teams. The recently made-over Dodgers, Marlins, Blue Jays and Oakland A’s discovered that a new mix of players needs more than a season to mesh.

Desperation: How desperate for material are the press box people during this late pre-season doldrums? One indication – the obviousness of the supposedly newsy disclosure that SF’s Tim Hudson plans to retire after this season. Hudson will be 40 this summer; he went 9-13 with the soon-to-be World Champion Giants in 2014, not including forgettable playoff performances that said “he’s through.”   Nevertheless, Hudson has had a great 16-plus-years with Oakland, Atlanta, and, to a lesser extent, with the Giants.

Sell-Off Foreseen: More drawn-out media desperation can be found in the chatter over whether the Phillies will trade Cole Hamels. The ultimate 2015 destination of Hamels has been a consistent backdrop to the Whither Lester-Scherzer-Shields drama. The consensus now is that Hamels will be dealt during the season when some contending club finds itself with an emergency need for a top-of-rotation guy. Also possible, according to the grapevine, Cliff Lee will be dealt once he proves in spring training that he’s healthy.

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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.