Every team has a bad week. Good teams, however, go through it less often. It all play out over the course of the season, so don’t pay too much attention to where good teams are listed in the standings early on.
The big question in the American League this season is how far behind the Red Sox the Yankees will finish. In the National League the big question is how the Mets’ financial state will affect the team’s on-field performance.
Boston is expected to get to the World Series. Anything less will be a disaster for Red Sox Nation. We’ve heard numerous times that new slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, even though he’s a left-handed batter, has a swing made for Fenway Park’s cozy, close left-field wall.
Computer geeks have gone through games played in Petco Park last year when A-Gone was with the San Diego Padres and came up with eight fly balls that would have been off or over the tall wall at Fenway. BoSox management decided to add more seats where part of the right-centerfield wall used to be, creating more revenue and a more inviting target for their new first baseman.
Carl Crawford, signed as a free agent over the winter, gives Boston another great bat, excellent defense and outstanding speed. You have to remember, though, that Boston lost two .300 plus hitters: Adrian Beltre played an outstanding third base, belted 28 homers and hit .321, but opted for free agency and Texas, while catcher-first baseman Victor Martinez (.302, 20 homers) was signed by the Tigers, leaving catching as Boston’s weakest link in the lineup.
The biggest reason the Red Sox will be much better this year is that they were devastated by injuries last year. Speedy center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury missed most of the season while main men of the infield Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis sat out a combined 147 games on the disabled list.
Besides weaker pitching, the Yankees also have more age. Their big stars – third baseman Alex Rodriguez and shortstop Derek Jeter – may show diminished range in the field. A-Rod will be 36 in July while Jeter turns 37 in June.
Jeter’s contract was big news in the off-season, as was his mansion in the Tampa area (the Yankees’ spring training home). The swanky Yankee has a 30,875-square foot mega-mansion overlooking Hillsborough Bay. The estate doesn’t have its own zip code but is known as St. Jetersburg.
As the season progresses, the Yankees will fall farther behind the Red Sox but Jeter will gain on the 3,000 career hit total. Jeter, who began the season 74 hits shy of the milestone, will be the first Yankee player in history to collect 3,000 career hits. The shortstop’s march to the mark will take some heat off the performance of the team.
While the Yankees are flush with cash, the Mets need an influx of big money. Management placed the blame for poor advance ticket sales on the ticket department and released some employees. But top baseball management deserves all the blame.
The Mets are loaded with unproductive players who are hard to trade because of rich contracts. The ticket department on any ballclub needs victories by its team in order to sell tickets. Promotions and giveaways will lure some customers, of course, but the late Bill Veeck, who owned a couple of American League teams, said it best: “The best promotion is to score one more run than the other team.”
My advice to Mets management is to sell stock to the public. As stockholders, fans would take a greater interest in the fortunes of the Mets and would attend more games to help the team’s bottom line.
New York teams will come up short this year as Boston and Philadelphia will top the Eastern divisions of their respective leagues. Chicago is my choice for both Central divisions – the Cubs in the National League and the White Sox in the American League.
Even without Cliff Lee (now with the Phillies), Texas should repeat in the American League West while San Francisco will do it again in the National League West.
The biggest race will be for the American League Wild Card (the second-place team with the best record). The Yankees, Tigers and Minnesota Twins will battle it out, with the Tigers finishing on top because of a pitching staff superior to those of New York and Minnesota.
Atlanta will be the Wild Card winner in the National League but will come up short, in the very last game of the second set of playoffs, against the Phillies. Boston will prevail over Detroit in the playoffs and vanquish Philadelphia in a six-game World Series.
Editor’s note: Don’t bet on any of the above, but for a good bet on a good read, order Irwin Cohen’s book on how an Orthodox Jew got into the baseball field by sending a check for $19.95, payable to Irwin Cohen, to 25921 Stratford Place, Oak Park, MI 48237.
Irwin Cohen serves as president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mets need a good showing on the field to generate healthy ticket sales at Citi Field.