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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘National League’

Baseball’s Back! Predictions For The 2011 Season

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011


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 irdav@sbcglobal.net.


 


 


 


 


The Mets need a good showing on the field to generate healthy ticket sales at Citi Field.

Another Season Goes Into The Books

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Forget the results. The 2009 World Series featured the two best teams in baseball. In the old days, the Series always had the best team in the American League against the best team in the National League. But with the advent of two rounds of league playoffs, a good but not great team that has a hot week or two can find itself in the World Series.

 

This year not only were the Phillies the best team in the National League, they were the second best team in all of baseball – better than the Red Sox and almost as good as the Yankees over the 162-game season. The Yanks, Phils, BoSox, Angels and Twins would be my top five teams for the year.

 

Besides the best teams, the best players showed just how good they are. Alex Rodriguez hit .286 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI despite missing the first month of the season. A-Rod’s home runs and runs batted in give him a record 13 seasons in which he’s amassed at least 30 homers and 100 RBI.

 

With his 2,722nd career hit, Derek Jeter broke Lou Gehrig’s all-time hit record for a Yankees player. Jeter hit .334 for the season, third best in the American League. The popular shortstop’s mark was 18 points behind Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki and 30 points behind Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer’s league-leading .364.

 

Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena was leading the league with 39 home runs with 25 games to go when an injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. While Pena was on the mend, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira hit six round-trippers to tie for the lead at 39.

 

The Yankees had plenty of other run-makers, such as second baseman Robinson Cano (.320, 25 home runs), to help them post the majors’ best record at 103-59. All told, the Yankees had seven players with at least 20 home runs, an all-time record. Another big-league record was posted by Jeter and Cano when they became the first double-play combination to each have 200 hits.

 

While Jeter had a great year, Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez bested him. Ramirez led the National League with a .342 average (six points better than Jeter) while clubbing 24 home runs (six more than Jeter) and driving in 106 runs (40 more than Jeter).

 

 Other National League leaders were Albert Pujols with 47 home runs and Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard who tied for the RBI leadership at 141. Besides Pujols, St. Louis had two pitching leaders – Adam Wainwright topped the league with 19 wins and Chris Carpenter’s 2.24 ERA was the finest in that department.

 

   The best one-two punch in the National League in my book are Milwaukee’s Fielder (.299, 46 homers, 141 RBI) and Ryan Braun (.320, 32, 114). But until the Brewers get two more good starting pitchers they won’t – as they proved in ’09 – be able to jump over the Cubs and Cardinals.

 

   What a matchup the Yankees and Red Sox were during the regular season. Boston won the first eight and the Yanks took nine of the next 10. The run total was almost even, too, as the Yanks had 101 and the Red Sox 99.

 

*     *     *

 

If you like baseball and Israel, you’ll like “Holy Land Hardball.” The one hour, 23-minute DVD traces the trials and tribulations of trying to bring professional baseball to Israel in the form of the Israel Baseball League (IBL). Even if you’re not a baseball fan (according to the legendary writer Red Smith, “Baseball is dull only to those with dull minds”), you’ll enjoy the insights into launching a new business venture in Israel.

 

Israelis who were interviewed about the prospects of bringing professional baseball to their country seemed to be divided into two camps – pessimists and skeptics. League founder Larry Baras and his crew were blindsided by Israeli bureaucracy more often than not as they tried to make the league a reality.

 

Former Jewish big leaguers Ron Blomberg, Ken Holtzman and Art Shamsky managed three of the six teams. Shamsky is the trimmest of the trio and the years have robbed much of the hair under the caps of Blomberg and Holtzman.

 

Rabbi Paysach Krohn appears in the documentary in the role of mohel and offers a great baseball analogy at a bris. The DVD uses impressive graphics and interesting music.

 

For information on group showings and availability, go to www.holylandhardball.com. I’d like to see a sequel and find out if another attempt will be made to bring pro baseball to Israel.

 

It would take a baseball fan/philanthropist willing to lose a lot of money in order to have the satisfaction of bringing Hashem’s favorite sport to Israel. After all, the first word in the Torah, “bereishis,” means “in the beginning” – or, as most of us pronounce it, “in the big inning.”


 


 


   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. His Baseball Insider column appears the second week of each month in the Jewish Press. Cohen, who is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Ball Fields And Battlefields, 1948

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

      The year was1948 and a great baseball season was unfolding. In the American League, Joe DiMaggio was on his way to a league-leading 39 home runs and 155 RBIs, while Ted Williams would win the batting title with a .369 average.

 

      In the National League, Stan Musial would come close to winning the Triple Crown. He led in average (.376) and RBIs (131) but would finish one shy of the 40 home runs posted by Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize.

 

      But at this time 60 years ago, Jewish baseball fans were watching the front page more than the sports page. Newspapers in major league cities told of the end of British rule in Palestine, and of Jews around the world celebrating as the State of Israel was proclaimed.

 

      In my hometown of Motown, an estimated 22,000 people gathered on May 16, 1948, at an athletic field of a Detroit public school about three blocks from where my family lived at the time. Older yeshiva students walked to the site while I obediently piled into the yeshiva bus along with the younger kids.

 

      Skywriters outlined the Star of David in white against the blue sky. Hundreds upon hundreds of blue and white flags with the Star of David in the center fluttered gently. I remember shofars blowing and animated dancing, but was really too young to realize the scope of the occasion and wanted the people off the field quickly so our class could play baseball.

 

      For those old enough to follow events through the newspapers, Detroit Free Press staff writer Sam Petok opened his article with the following:


 



       A mournful bray of resolution from Detroit’s Jewry was sounded Sunday and hurled across the seas to the bloodstained soil of a newborn state.

 

       The Shofar, the ram’s horn blown only at sacred holidays, sent its sonorous notes floating into the cloud-flecked skies.

 

       In a hushed moment, 2,000 years of wanderings through the world, of being pilloried, of turning the cheek and of national ignominy flashed through the minds of the throng.

 

       Israel, the Jewish state, had been proclaimed.


 


      A front-page story byWallace R. Duell in the Detroit News provided a sobering reminder of what was ahead:


 



       After almost 2,000 years of aspiration and striving, the new state was being prematurely born. It was not ready for life. Its contours were not yet complete as they had been hoped for and designed. Its organs were not yet fully functioning. Yet it must spring to arms, in the very moment of its birth, for the millions of surrounding Arabs were implacable and would destroy it if they could.

 

       The new Israel was a cartographer’s – and a defending general staff’s – nightmare. It was three almost entirely separate territories, rather than one each touching only one of the others and only at one small point: a narrow coastal strip; a wedge inland in the north at the Sea of Galilee; and a rough triangular shard of a piece of desert in the south pointing to Akaba.

 

       Immediately at hand were the more than 30 million Arabs of seven adjacent states.


 


      While the defenders of the Jewish state fought on, the 1948 baseball season in the United States saw the midseason debut of Negro League superstar Satchel Paige at the age of 42 with the Cleveland Indians. In August, Babe Ruth died at age 53.

 

      As the baseball season wound down, fans of New York teams gave up hope that one of their teams would be in the World Series. The Boston Braves wrapped up the National League pennant by six and a half games over the St. Louis Cardinals, while Brooklyn finished third and the New York Giants came in a distant fifth.

 

      In the American League, the Yankees won 94 games but the Red Sox and Indians finished tied for first with 96 victories, forcing a one-game playoff at Boston’s Fenway Park.

 

      Beantown fans were rooting for a Red Sox victory, which would mean the World Series sites would only be blocks apart. Many Braves players were secretly hoping the Indians would win, as the capacity of Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium was more than twice that of Fenway Park – and more seats meant more ticket sales translating into higher World Series shares for players.

 

      Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau, who also was the Indians’ regular shortstop, would be named the American League’s Most Valuable Player based on his .355 batting average, 18 home runs and 106 RBIs. Boudreau’s two home runs in the playoff game helped defeat the Red Sox.

 

      Johnny Sain, who led the majors with 24 wins, beat Bob Feller 1-0 in the Series opener. Game 5 at Cleveland’s huge stadium drew a then-record attendance of 86,288. The Indians took the Series four games to two. Jewish rookie Al Rosen shared in the excitement but was hitless in his one Series appearance as a pinch-hitter. Jewish superstar Hank Greenberg, who had retired in 1947 with a .313 career average, was in his first year as an executive with the Cleveland Indians.

 

      Each winning player’s share was $6,772 while the losers pocketed $4,571. Now, of course, most players earn more than that for each regular season at-bat. Our national pastime has exploded since Israel fought for its independence. Unfortunately, so has the national pastime in Arab countries – hating Jews and developing ways to destroy Israel.

 

*     *     *

 

      Last month I gave my pennant predictions. My choices to top their divisions in the National League were the Mets, Cubs and Diamondbacks. My wild card pick (the team with the best record other than those topping their divisions) was the Braves.

 

      In the American League, I picked the Yankees, Tigers and Mariners to top their divisions and the Red Sox for the wild card. Of course, I can’t predict the future any better than you can, but I base my predictions on the many hours I spend watching baseball along with the knowledge that a season is full of ups and downs.

 

      I see the Mets and Tigers getting hot in the latter stages of the playoffs and advancing to the World Series. The Tigers have a better lineup and would outpace the Mets over the long daily grind of a season with few days off. In a World Series, however, with an off day after the first two games and another after the fifth game, a team only needs three starting pitchers and the Mets will defeat the Tigers in a thrilling seven-game Series.

 

      Chaim Shapiro, a red-hot Cubs fan who grew up in Chicago and is now living in New York, would disagree. Chaim, a knowledgeable guy who reads The Jewish Press, estimates he’s seen more than a thousand games at Wrigley Field and avidly watches the Cubs from New York through MLB.com.

 

      Chaim says this is the year the Cubs will be in the World Series because they have a good team – not because it’s exactly a hundred years since they won a Series. By the way, the team the Cubs beat in 1908 was Ty Cobb’s Tigers.


 


 


      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. His Baseball Insider column appears the second week of each month in The Jewish Press. Cohen, president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Play Ball!

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

      The 2008 baseball season is finally here. These are my predictions:

 

National League East


 


      Led by Johan Santana and a diminished version of Pedro Martinez – both in terms of innings pitched and talent – the Mets still have the arms to top the division. Atlanta, though, has old hands Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and an improved bullpen. Third baseman Chipper Jones and first baseman Mark Teixeira anchor a lineup that’s better than that of the Mets, who’ll need a good year from first baseman Carlos Delgado to stave off the Braves.

 

      Philadelphia has the most balanced lineup in the league but can’t match the starting pitching of the Mets and Braves. The Phillies did bolster their bullpen with the addition of Brad Lidge (acquired from the Astros). Washington has the division’s best stadium in new Nationals Park, and underrated manager Manny Acta will get his players to land above the Florida Marlins.

 

      Marlins fans are suffering through yet another dismantling of their team and can only wonder when baseball’s best offensive shortstop will be traded. Compare Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez’s 2007 numbers to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Amazingly, both had 639 at-bats, but Ramirez outpunched Jeter -.332 average (Jeter, .322); 29 home runs (Jeter, 12); 89 RBIs, (Jeter, 73) and 51 stolen bases (Jeter, 15). So pencil in the Marlins for last and even though they’ll be last in attendance, they may be first in profits as the team collectively earns less than A-Rod.

 

National League Central

 

      The Cubs topped this division last year with only 85 victories and have enough punch to do it again. Their pitching is only adequate but no worse than that of other clubs in the Central. Milwaukee lost free agent closer Francisco Cordero to a better offer from the Reds and signed has-been closer Eric Gagne for the role. The Brewers’ young hitters will score runs but a leaky bullpen will give up a lot as well.

 

      Cincinnati should be the dominant team in the division by next year as top-notch prospects gain experience. Houston has a good young outfielder in Hunter Pence but not much more to brag about and will have a hard time bettering last year’s 73-89 record.


      St. Louis won’t match last year’s 78-84 record, and even if Albert Pujols stays healthy, the Cards may shuffle to the bottom. Pittsburgh has a great ballpark but the league’s worst team. 2008 will be the 16th consecutive season the Pirates will finish under .500 (tying a major league record).

 

National League West

 

      Arizona has strong starting pitching and good enough hitting to finish on top. Colorado has Matt Holliday and a better lineup but can’t top the pitching of the Diamondbacks. Los Angeles has a mixture of veterans and good young players, so new manager Joe Torre has the tools to compete.

 

      San Diego has better pitching than the Rockies and Dodgers, but not enough hitting. San Francisco has the worst lineup in the league and at times the defense makes it look like Harpo and Groucho are in the field. Without Barry Bonds, the Giants won’t even match last year’s dismal 71-91 record.

 

American League East

 

      The Yankees are a more talented and settled team this year. A-Rod is signed and the young pitchers proved they can win often in the big leagues. Second baseman Robinson Cano got better as last season wore on, hitting .343 with 57 RBIs after the all-star break.


      Boston is blessed with good starting pitching, great relievers, and strong hitting. Even though boppers David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Manny Ramirez combined to hit 391 home runs over the past five years with the Red Sox and there are a couple of other pesky hitters in the lineup, I’m going with the Yanks to top the division.

 

      Toronto is a good team that should be better this year. Adding veteran infielders David Eckstein and Scott Rolen improves the offense and Roy Halladay tops a pitching rotation that could beat the Yanks and Red Sox more often this season. Outfielder Vernon Wells had a bad shoulder last year (.245, 16 homers), and his numbers should be much higher this year. Look for a three-team race for the top spot.

 

      Tampa Bay might just be good enough to beat out most National League teams for the top spot. The Rays have several players tagged for stardom and should be even better next season. Baltimore needs to get better at several positions before it can compete in this tough division.

 

American League Central

 

      Detroit started the season missing leadoff man Curtis Granderson, who often started games with a double or triple. When their star center fielder returns from a hand injury and gets his timing back, the Tigers will be back to winning more often. Even though closer Todd Jones is not as dominant as others in the division, the Tigers will get better as the season wears on and their two top set up men, relievers Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya come off the disabled list.

 

      Cleveland is a tough, experienced team and would dominate any division in the National League. But a talking fish from Monsey tells me the Tribe will finish behind Detroit, and Boston will take the A.L. wild card spot. It will be a tough off-season for Indians fans if free agent pitcher C. C. Sabathia signs elsewhere, and especially hard to take if Detroit lands him. (The Tigers are swimming in cash after selling 2.6 million tickets before the season even began.)

 

      The White Sox upgraded their offense with shortstop Orlando Cabrera (.301 last year with the Angels) and outfielder Nick Swisher (22 homers for Oakland), but Chicago’s pitching isn’t as strong as Cleveland’s or quite as good as Detroit’s.

 

      Minnesota will try to compete without Johan Santana and Torii Hunter. Twins fans showed they were behind their newcomers by trekking through seven inches of snow to fill the Metrodome with its largest opening day crowd in 15 years. The Twins always seem to come up with nobodies who end up becoming somebodies.

 

      The Kansas City Royals outplayed the Tigers in the season’s opening series, proving they aren’t pushovers and can beat any club at any time.

 

American League West

 

      Seattle has five good starters and some solid finishers. Even though the lineup led by Ichiro Suzuki isn’t as good as the Angels’, the Mariners have enough to land on top. Los Angeles won six more games than Seattle last year, and the Angels have added Torii Hunter’s bat and glove. On paper, this is the best club in the division but games aren’t played on paper. On the field, I’m going with the Mariners.

 

      Texas has some good prospects but they’re mostly in the low minors and if they ever make an impact, it won’t be for several seasons. Oakland has some good pitching prospects who may make an impact as early as late this season. The Athletics are clearly a club on the rise; look for the rich clubs (Yankees, Mets, Tigers, Red Sox), to make a pitch for some of the A’s pitchers as the season wears on.

 

*     *     *

 

      So, I’m picking the Mets, Cubs and Diamondbacks to top their divisions in the National League and the Yankees, Tigers and Mariners in the American League.

 

      My wild card picks are the Braves in the National League and the Red Sox in the American League.

 

      The last time the Cubs won a World Series was one hundred years ago, in 1908; the last time the Cubs participated in a World Series was in 1945. Both times they played Detroit.


      Will it be the Cubs and Tigers in this year’s Fall Classic? Will the two New York teams play each other? Will only one New York team make it? If so, which one?

 

      I’ll give you my World Series choices and winner next month.

 

      Which teams are you picking?


 


      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. His “Baseball Insider” column appears the second week of each month in The Jewish Press. Cohen, who is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.   

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/play-ball/2008/04/09/

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