The Nub

Tough Times for a Couple of Crowd-Pleasing Lefties

(Posted: 3/12/12; e-mail update 3/13)

Two tough little lefty hitters – Johnny Damon and Dennis Kucinich – have left the field, generic buy rejected either by their former teams or by fans. Damon could not get the Rays or Yankees, as well as other clubs, to sign him at a salary he felt he had earned. Kucinich was forced to the political showers when he lost a one-on-one playoff last week with a Congressional teammate in Ohio.

Damon may well get an acceptable deal before spring training ends. He and Vladimir Guerrero – in a similar situation – would provide valuable offensive depth to a number of teams who could come up short in bench strength. Damon is 38, but he still had enough quickness last season to steal 19 bases in 150 games for the Rays while batting .261. He also hit 16 home runs. Someone should snap him up, but that will only happen, apparently, if Johnny and agent Scott Boros back down on his basic asking price. The Rays paid him $5.25 million last season. Guerrero, 37, hit .290 with 13 HRs in 145 games for the Orioles. They paid him $8 million. In the current down market, it looks as though both Johnny and Vlad will have to accept less than half of their 2011 salaries.

Kucinich has served in Congress for 14 years, just a couple of years short of Damon and Guerrero’s service time in the majors. But he is remembered by most fans for his at-bats in the Dem team’s ’04 and ’08 contests for the right to run for national skipper. Fans in Ohio’s left field and beyond cheered him throughout his career, beginning in the late ‘70’s, when was the boy mayor of Cleveland. A swing-from-the-heels southpaw who consistently batted against big business and its military-industrial affiliate, Kucinich came to be considered a political oddball by many pressbox observers. One of several exceptions, TruthDig,com’s Robert Scheer, paid him this tribute:

“Kucinich…has been a national symbol of resistance to excessive government power and waste. He also has been a champion of social justice. His has been a rare voice, and one way or another it must continue to be heard. Simply put, when it came to the struggle for peace over war, Dennis was the conscience of the Congress. And he was always at the forefront in defending the rights of unionized workers who once formed the backbone of a solid middle class and who are now threatened with extinction.”

Team GOP engineered Kucinich’s defeat this year through redistricting: it combined a small part of Dennis’s Cleveland-based bailiwick with that of the strong Toledo base of teammate Marcy Kaptur. After Dennis considered running instead for a vacant seat in Washington state, Kaptur likened him to a non-national-pastime ballplayer, the NBA’s LeBron James, who left Cleveland to play in Miami.

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All About Mo: Responses to Mariano Rivera’s one perfect spring training inning Sunday – “Any time you can get the ball to Mo, you feel pretty good about it” – CC Sabathia; “He gets tunnel vision and it’s just like him and me in the ballpark.” – Russell Martin; “We will never see anything like him again in baseball” – Eric Chavez; “I just try to get people out and then go home.” – Mo.

Getting Joey’s Vote: How straight-talking is Joey Votto, Cincinnati’s star first baseman? After signing a three-year contract in 2011, he was asked if he hoped to spend the rest of his career with the Reds. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said then. Now, asked how he felt about new teammates, Ryan Madson, Ryan Ludwick, Sean Marshall, Mat Latos and Wilson Valdez, Votto said he approved of them: then he volunteered a personal prejudice: “I don’t want to play with a bunch of jerks.”

Getting His ‘Numbers’ Called: Cubs’ color broadcaster Bob Brenly never called Aramis Ramirez a jerk, but he wasn’t shy about knocking the ex-Cub third baseman. Among other things, he called Ramirez a “numbers gatherer,” more interested in his own stats than in the good of the team. Ramirez has no interest in confronting Brenly: “He’s a broadcaster. He should just worry about calling the game…”The coaches, the manager, the GM, they should take care of that other stuff.’’

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey. Comments to dickstar@aol.com 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.