People who live in the northeastern part of the US – say from North Carolina through Pennsylvania and up to New England – will relate to this comment better than some others.
Enough with this winter. It is time for Spring!
Yesterday, it snowed in the DC area. The planet Earth thinks it is Spring since we have passed the vernal equinox; the stupid rodent weather prognosticator in Punxutawney thinks it is Spring since it has been more than 6 weeks since his emergence from his burrow. So, maybe the third harbinger of Spring is what we need to get rid of snow/slush and move forward to warm weather. What is the “third harbinger”? It is Opening Day for baseball season – ignoring of course the lunacy of starting the season in Australia about 10 days ago.
And so, in order to usher in the baseball season, let me pepper these remarks with observations about baseball from folks easily recognizable to fans of baseball. Such as:
“When you start the game, they don’t say ‘Work ball!’ They say ‘Play ball!’ “ — Willie Stargell
Let me begin with my overview of those teams that helped themselves over the winter:
The Orioles helped themselves with signings of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez. When Manny Machado returns to action, the O’s will be a better team than they were last year.
The Angels acquired some pitching over the winter – and that was something they needed desperately.
The Yankees improved – if Michael Pineda is ready to give them a full season in their starting rotation even if he cannot possibly live up to the stats he generated during Spring Training.
The Rangers added offense in the persons of Prince Fielder and Shin Soo Choo. Do they have pitching? That is not nearly so clear…
The Mets’ additions of Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson make them a better team than they were at the end of the 2013 season.
The Nationals’ addition of Doug Fister is a huge plus.
The Cards’ signing Jhonny Peralta and Peter Bourjos should be a plus since those guys appear to be guys who play baseball the “Cardinals’ way”.
Here is an observation about an important baseball coincidence:
“Bob Gibson is the luckiest pitcher I ever saw. He always pitches when the other team doesn’t score any runs.” — Tim McCarver
Here are teams that did not do so well over the winter hot stove league:
The Tigers’ trade of Doug Fister for a “bag of hammers” – one of which they subsequently traded away – is not a good omen.
The Reds lost Shin Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo over the winder and that is not a plus.
The Phillies were an old and tired team last year and they added plenty more age in Marlon Byrd and AJ Burnett over the winter. The Phils will likely do promotional events with AARP sometime this season.
For some people, baseball games are milestones in their lifetimes. Consider:
“All I remember about my wedding day in 1967 is that the Cubs lost a doubleheader.” — George F. Will
Before the season starts, let me put three managers on the hot seat – and mention another one who will be on a hot seat if his team does not excel this year:
John Gibbons (Toronto): The Jays were supposed to be REALLY good last year but they finished last in the AL East and never really threatened to do much more than that. Absent significant improvement this season, Gibbons will likely take the fall for that lack of success.
Robin Ventura (White Sox): This team just plain stunk last year. Ventura’s great playing career will not shield him from the axe if the White Sox are not improved this year.
Ron Washington (Rangers): His contract is up at the end of the 2014 season. Given their additions during the offseason, I suspect that Washington will be gone if the Rangers fail to make the post-season.
Don Mattingly (Dodgers): Yes, the team stormed from behind to make the playoffs last year. Yes, Mattingly just got a new contract during the offseason. Nonetheless, if – I said IF – the Dodgers stumble from April to June 15, I would not be surprised to see Mattingly out of a job.
Here is an example of baseball pragmatism:
“A man once told me to walk with the Lord. I’d rather walk with the bases loaded.” — Ken Singleton
I mentioned the Dodgers and Don Mattingly just above. I also read a report that said the Dodgers have sold 35,000 season tickets for this year and that the team has sold more than 3 million tickets for all its home games before Opening Day. I wonder if this level of euphoria will get the rabid Dodgers’ fans to show up and watch more than 6.5 innings per game this year.
Henry Aaron had an interesting observation about baseball vis á vis golf:
“It took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits in baseball, and I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.”
Here are my projected standings for the 2014 season:
In the AL East:
Toronto – sorry John Gibbons.
In the AL Central:
Chicago White Sox
In the AL West:
Texas – they will win lots of high scoring games
Seattle – there is a tad of sentiment included in this pick
Houston – they lost 111 games last year and may lose 105 this year.
In the NL East:
Miami – going out on a limb here
Philadelphia – assuming the Grim Reaper does not visit that aging team
In the NL Central:
Pittsburgh – assuming they find a starter to replace Burnett
Chicago Cubs – still waiting for Starlin Castro to become a star.
In the NL West:
Los Angeles Dodgers
Finally, let me close here with two observations regarding baseball – one from an admirer and one from a detractor of the game:
“If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there is a man on base.” — Dave Barry
“The baseball mania has run its course. It has no future as a professional endeavor.” — Editorial in the Cincinnati Gazette in 1879
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………