This Winter has been particularly cold in Philadelphia. Freezing (32 degrees) has been an been an unreached goal many days –eg, today. Many years ago, in a weather spell like this one, my brother and I decided we had had enough of Winter. Rather than rely on Punxsutawney Phil to tell us how long Winter would last, we took matters This Winter has been particularly cold in Philadelphia. Freezing (32 degrees) has into our own hands. Since we both loved baseball, we decided to declare (for us, if no one else) that Spring will begin annually when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. For those of you who don’t already know, the Mets and Pirates will start the special occasion on February 12 in 2018, even though Phil has “said” that is about 4 weeks too early.
In anticipation of my Spring, I purchased a MLB preview magazine on Thursday, February 1. At present, I am going through its 224 pages and preparing myself for my arbitrary Spring discussions of “the National Pastime.” (Yes, I know you could present an argument for football and basketball being the National Pastime, but when it comes to baseball, I’m old school.)
Such magazines all cover the same ground. You can find the players’ stats from the previous year, the ratings of players at each position (to help you stock your Rotisserie League team), evaluations and predictions for every team, and at least a dozen other baseball articles to generate interest in the approaching season. This year, topics included: “Whatever happened to baseball cards,” “Fifteen things to watch” (eg, how will Derek Jeter do as a team owner), and “Will the Astros repeat” (as MLB champions)? No team has done so since the 1999-2000 Yankees.
Now the tough part. Without boring you to tears (I’m talking to the baseball lovers reading this—both of you), here are a dozen topics I’ll be following this season. First: everyone will be watching Shohei Ohtani and asking: Is he the next Babe Ruth? Really? Who started that rumor? Supposedly, the Angels will use him in a 6-man pitching rotation and on (how many?) off days use him as a DH. OK; how about 10 wins, a .300 batting average, and 15 homers? Too much/little to expect?
Madison Bumgarner. Three months away due to a dirt bike injury ruined his (and the Giants’) season. How much can he rebound from a 4 and 9 season? Is 15 wins, 200 IP, and 200+ strikeouts realistic?
Miguel Cabrera. I don’t want to think such a great hitter has bottomed out. If his injuries have healed, I hope this 2-time MVP and 4-time batting champ can continue his march to 3,000 hits…and Cooperstown.
Mike Trout. This year, with 2 good thumbs, I’m looking forward to his playing 150+ games and reminding fans this is as close to Willie Mays as anyone can come. Fingers crossed.
Jake Arrieta. Where will he sign and how will he pitch? Is 18 wins, 200 IP, with 200 strikeouts too much to expect. At 32, I don’t think so.
Marcell Ozuna. Coming off his best season, he gives the Cardinals the offensive punch they need (.312, 37 HRs). Will he be enough to get the Cards back to the playoffs? (Yes.)
What is the over/under in home runs for Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge? 60, not enough; 80, minimum expected; 100, what the Yankees are counting on. Why not? They had 111 in 2017.
Who is better: Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer? If Kershaw’s back lets him, he’ll get 30 starts and 200 IP, and the wins and strikeouts will follow. If not, Scherzer will get a 4th Cy Young first.
Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. Both in their early 20s, and the best 2 shortstops in the game. Lindor found HR power last year; Correa already had it. Flip a coin on who is better: you can’t go wrong.
Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. Who is next NL MVP? They were 4th and 3rd in 2017. Arenado: has averaged 41 HR and 131 RBI for last 3 years, and hit .309 last year. Goldschmidt averaged 31 HRs, 100+ RBI, and .299 last 3 years. Have 5 Gold Gloves between them. If they were in NYC…I’m just sayin’.
Mets’ Pitching staff. Remember when the Mets’ pitching staff scared the NL. Last year, the Mets used 29 pitchers, tied for their most ever. deGrom had a great year (201 IP with 239 K, 15 wins). But Syndergaard, Matz, and Wheeler had 37 games between them (injuries). Harvey’s ERA was 6.70 –worst ever by a Mets’ starter. Ouch. The future is ……
Teams in the Playoffs: NL = Nationals, Cubs, Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers. AL = Astros, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, Indians. World Series: Dodgers v. Indians. Winner: Indians. I like Terry Francona.
And, finally: I’ve been a Phillies fan since 1950. (That’s not a misprint.) Times have not been good. Three 90+ loss seasons in a row. And 89 losses in the 2 years before that. Good news: The Phils have enough major leaguers to create a line up. Bad news: they have one good starter (Aaron Nola). He led the team in wins and losses (12 – 11). Most major pitching prospects have spent time in the majors –with mixed results at best. In 2017, Rhys Hoskins, in 50 games hit 18 home runs. Will that project to 150 games and 54 homers in 2018. Not likely. Still too early to buy World Series tickets.
What story lines will you be following this season?