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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Wild Card’

Play Ball!

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

The 2012 baseball season should be a most interesting one.

Every game is important. No longer can a team just play for the Wild Card spot and have an equal shot with the three division winners at participating in the World Series (as St. Louis did last year).

This year, as you may know, there will be two Wild Card teams in each league fighting it out in a one game winner-take-all for the right to advance with the three division winners to the playoffs.

Every game means something as the Wild Card club with the most wins will have home field advantage for the one-game playoff. But teams will play hard to win their division as that will assure them of a postseason playoff spot. Plus, with a couple of extra days’ rest as the Wild Card clubs battle it out using their best pitchers, the three division winners will be resting their top starting pitchers.

In my opinion, the six top clubs among the 30 major league teams are the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.

In the American League, Detroit has the biggest advantage as they have by far the best team in the Central division. In the East, the Yankees have to contend with Boston, the great young pitching staff of Tampa Bay, and an improved Toronto team.

In the West, the Texas Rangers added the much-publicized pitching star from Japan Yu Darvish. However, the Rangers lost free agent pitcher C. J. Wilson to the Angels and the California club also added superstar Albert Pujols via a mega-contract his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, couldn’t match.

In the National League East, the Phillies will have to fight off young and talented Washington and Miami teams that could easily top Philadelphia if injuries to veteran players linger too long. And, of course, there are the always-contending Atlanta Braves.

In the N.L. Central, the Milwaukee Brewers lost free agent Prince Fielder to the Tigers and replaced his bat, somewhat, with free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez from the Cubs. St. Louis is weaker without Pujols, and the Cubs and Houston Astros can only hope to win as many games as they lose. The Cincinnati Reds strengthened their pitching staff and have a potent lineup that should dominate the weakened division.

Out west, catcher Buster Posey is back from missing most of last season with a broken leg and should push the Giants higher. The Arizona Diamondbacks are capable of winning more than they lose; Colorado, while not as good, should be in the middle of the pack, while the southern California clubs battle it out to stay out of last place.

Here’s how I see the final standings:

American League East: New York Yankees; Boston Red Sox; Tampa Bay Rays; Toronto Blue Jays; Baltimore Orioles.

American League Central: Detroit Tigers; Minnesota Twins; Cleveland Indians; Kansas City Royals; Chicago White Sox.

American League West: Texas Rangers; Los Angeles Angels; Seattle Mariners; Oakland Athletics.

National League East: Philadelphia Phillies; Miami Marlins; Washington Nationals; Atlanta Braves; New York Mets.

National League Central: Cincinnati Reds; St. Louis Cardinals; Milwaukee Brewers; Pittsburgh Pirates; Houston Astros.

National League West: San Francisco Giants; Arizona Diamondbacks; Colorado Rockies; Los Angeles Dodgers; San Diego Padres.

As stated above, I wouldn’t be surprised if Miami and Washington finish ahead of the injury-riddled Phillies. And, of course, injuries at the end of the season will play a major role in determining which teams advance to the World Series.

Enjoy the season, and as always, it’s nice to hear from Jewish Press readers.

Author, columnist and lecturer Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before earning a World Series ring while working in a major league front office position. Cohen, the president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net. His column appears the second week of each month.

A Pair Of Pitchers… And Some Welcome Changes

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Craig Breslow and Jason Marquis will be wearing different uniforms this season.

The two pitchers also share a unique trait among those labeled “Jewish players” by the media: Breslow and Marquis both have two Jewish parents.

Most of today’s so-called Jewish players just have one Jewish parent (usually the father) and had no real connection with Judaism while growing up. Assimilation has taken its toll on baseball, too.

Marquis, pronounced Mar-kee, grew up in a family that attended a Conservative synagogue, and he had some Hebrew education and a bar mitzvah. Marquis made his baseball reputation playing ball in the Staten Island area and made his big league debut at 22 in 2001.

He dreidled around with six National League teams since then before signing as a free agent with his seventh – the Minnesota Twins. Last year Jason had a good start with Washington, going 8-5, with a 3.95ERA before being dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He didn’t impress his new team, losing his only decision and posting a high ERA of 9.53 before an injury shelved him for the rest of the season.

Breslow,31, has never started a major league game while with five big league teams. A valuable lefty reliever, he was traded by Oakland to the Diamondbacks, his sixth team. He’s equally tough against right-handed and left-handed batters, with righties hitting a combined .224 against him and lefties just .227

Breslow grew up in Connecticut and attended a Reform temple in Bridgeport before heading to Yale. He majored in biochemistry and molecular biophysics and is considered by most as the smartest player in the big leagues.

Breslow has talked about going to medical school after his playing career. He’s been particularly interested in childhood cancer research since his sister was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 14.

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Baseball finally got it right: Fifteen teams in each league; three divisions of five teams each in both the A.L. and the N.L.

Moving the Houston Astros from the National League to the American League’s West division rights a longtime wrong. The A.L. West had only four teams and the American League had one fewer team than the National.

And Houston’s being in the same division with the Texas Rangers will create an instant rivalry in the Lone Star State.

MLB also created another Wild Card slot for the postseason, with a one game winner-take-all for the right to be the Wild Card team in the playoffs. The one game gives the division winners an extra day off. Sure, the one game means the team with the inferior record might beat the Wild Card club with a better record, but that’s why teams have to try harder to win the division.

Before, a team – such as St. Louis last season – just had to win the Wild Card to get into the postseason. Now managers have to shoot for winning their division.

It should translate into much more interesting Octobers. But we will have to wait until 2013 for its implementation.

Author, columnist and lecturer Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before earning a World Series ring in a front office capacity. Cohen, the president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Postseason Picks

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

    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 irdav@sbcglobal.net

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/postseason-picks/2010/04/08/

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