A huge Mets fan from Brooklyn moved to my town (Oak Park, Michigan.) and settled in a few houses from me. Walking home from shul the other day, he took issue with my picking, in last month’s column, the Mets to finish fourth in the National League East.
As I told him and other Mets fans, yes, I know the Mets have some good bats and a top starter in Johan Santana (13-9, 3.13 ERA last year before he was shut down to remove multiple bone fragments in his left elbow), and a top reliever in Francisco Rodriguez, but it’s just not enough to challenge the Phillies over the 162-game season. While the Mets have Jason Bay and David Wright and a couple of other big-name batters, they’ll have their hands full trying to overtake the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves.
The Marlins, Braves and Mets will also have to contend with the much improved Washington Nationals. Washington may also have mazal on its side this year. Jewish pitcher Jason Marquis signed with the Nats as a free agent and in his 10-year career in the big leagues, the teams he’s played for have always found themselves in the postseason. And that, chevra, is a major league record.
My predicted National League division winners, as I noted last month, are the Phillies (East), St. Louis Cardinals (Central) and Los Angeles Dodgers (West). My American League winners are the Yankees (East), Detroit Tigers (Central) and Texas Rangers (West).
Now for the second-place team with the best record that takes the Wild Card spot in the post-season: It will be the Chicago Cubs in the NL and the Boston Red Sox in the AL.
My World Series choices are the Phillies and Tigers. Yes, the Yankees and Red Sox will win more regular season games than the Tigers, but in a playoff setting with some off-days, a team with three good starters and a good bullpen could take it all. The Phillies, though, will take the Tigers in a six game World Series.
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The first day of 2011 will mark the 100th anniversary of Hank Greenberg’s birth. Most of us (myself included) started to follow baseball after Greenberg’s final season as a player in 1947. I did, however, spend some time with Greenberg 36 years later in 1983 (three years before his passing).
There are many books about Jewish baseball players that only serve to repeat errors contained in previous books on the subject. Finally we have something worth buying – a collection of biographies in two volumes.
Volume One of Jews and Baseball (1871-1948) was published in 2006 by McFarland. Its authors, the husband and wife team of Burton and Benita Boxerman, scored again with the recently published volume two.
The St. Louis residents are an impressive team. The Mr. taught history for 30 years and has written numerous historical journals. The Mrs. is also a writer and researcher and worked in the public relations field. Passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans, they are members of the Society of Baseball Research (SABR) – as am I and as are some of the readers of this column.
Complete with thorough notes, bibliography and numerous photos, the hardcover 7×10 volumes total over 500 pages. (For more information go to www.mcfarlandpub.com or call 800-253-2187.)
Another of McFarland’s offerings, Baseball Visons of the Roaring Twenties, caught my fancy. Also 7×10 and a whopping 492 pages with 412 photos, it’s mainly a collection of photos of players who experienced more fame in the minors than the majors over 80 years ago. The author, George E. Outland, who would go on to become a professor and U.S. congressman, also took numerous photographs of major and minor league ballparks of the era.
I found the limited amount of ballpark photos far more interesting than those of the players of the 1920s. But it’s the kind of book I keep nearby and leaf through from time to time.
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Buoyed by Alex Rodriguez’s $33.9-million salary, the average big league salary this year is $3.2 million. Last year A-Rod hit 30 home runs, which works out to $1.1 million per homer.
Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander compiled a 19-9 record with a 3.45 ERA in 2008. He was rewarded with a new five-year $80-million dollar contract. If he wins 16 games a year for the next five years, it works out to a million per victory.
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Target Field, the new home of the Minnesota Twins, is open-air with no retractable roof, which means many games will be played in the frigid Minnesota air. However, 41 miles of cable underneath the field will keep the temperature of the playing surface no less than 40 degrees. Fans in the 39,800-seat baseball-only facility will be cooler but they’ll have a beautiful view of the Minneapolis skyline behind right field.
Irwin Cohen, the author of seven books, headed a national baseball publication for five years before earning a World Series ring working as a department head in a major league front office. Cohen, whose column appears the second week of each month, is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul and may be reached in his dugout at [email protected].