Stan Fischler: Some early baseball predictions – The Daily Freeman
‘Way, ‘way back — before computers, e-mails and social media came along to dominate our lives — there was a very special sports writer named Dick Young.
When I was a teenager and the Brooklyn Dodgers were winning pennants and even a World Series,Young was the best baseball journalist in the world.
He worked for the New York Daily News and was a hard-nosed, occasionally nasty critic — ask Tom Seaver — but as readable as you ever want from a beat man.
Whether you liked Young’s work or not, you had to read him if you appreciated pungent prose about baseball.
But that was when print was king — fortunately it still is in Kingston — and nobody knew how to spell wifi, let alone knew what it meant.
Nowadays many of us still read the papers but also depend upon electronic sources for information.
And since I’m a baseball fan (Oakland Athletics first and foremost) I rely on one — and primarily one — website as my baseball bible.
It’s called BaseKnock MLB (www.baseknockmlb.com) and it’s produced by a young man named Justin Birnbaum whose opinions I respect as I once did when Young was spinning baseball yarns.
And since it’s time to throw another log on the hot stove — as in Hot Stove League — I conferred with buddy Birnbaum and peered through his periscope for an early look at the 2017 MLB season.
For purely easy-reading reasons Justin and I have come up with six significant categories for you ball fans to digest as we brush the diamond dust from our eyes.
Best offseason moves
METS — Sandy Alderso did what he needed to do in the off-season, re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. Controversial though he may be YC has brought fire power to a stagnant offense. With his bat in the lineup — along with the stellar pitching rotation — Terry Collins’ club is in good position going into the season.
YOUNGER YANKEES — At the deadline last season, the Bombers traded Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs for young prospects. One of them was infielder Gleyber Torres, the reigning MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Now that old, expensive players like Texiera, A-Rod, McCann and Beltran have either retired or have been traded the Yankees are getting younger and have more financial wiggle room.
Managers to keep studying
METS — Collins has accomplished a lot — leading the team to a National League pennant — but has yet to win a World Series. The Mets championship window is closing and the fans are hungry. If Collins can not make a significant push towards a Series this year, his job may be up for grabs. The Mets have a lights-out pitching rotation and lineup headlined by Cespedes. If not now, when?
YANKEES — Every year Yankees fans want a team in contention. Last year the franchise missed the playoffs despite having a good push toward the end of the season. Joe Girardi’s job is mostly safe because the Yankees are a young team coming into 2017. While the expectations are reasonable, ownership will not sit back and tolerate a bad season. Girardi needs to get the most out of his players this year to at least contend for a Wild Card spot or else his job could be bye-bye.
Biggest surprises of 2017
METS — A combination of his defensive prowess and his right handed bat makes Juan Lagares prime to be an eye-catcher. In 2014, Lagares won a Gold Glove award, the first of his career. Coming into this season Lagares is healthy and should continue his defensive dominance, leading the Mets outfield in 2017.
YANKEES — Last year Didi Gregorius surprised many of us by hitting 20 home-runs for the first time in his career. Following the iconic Derek Jeter was a humongous challenge but Gregorius has performed commendably. Going into the new season, Gregorius will pick up where he left off and produce even more for the Bombers’ offense. Justin Birnbaum predicts, “Didi will land his first All-Star appearance for the American League in 2017.”
Biggest letdowns of 2017
METS — Michael Conforto was very important to the Mets in 2015, when he was imported. That year the Mets brought home a National League pennant. In 56 games Conforto posted a .270 average, and appeared to be a stable hitter in the Mets lineup. Last season Conforto went through a terrible slump and ended up with a .220 batting average. The Mets outfield has a lot of talent and if Conforto does not improve, he could be spending a lot of time in Triple-A.
YANKEES — Greg Bird will disappoint for the Yankees in 2017. Last season Bird suffered a torn labrum which kept him off the field. The power hitting lefty could have some trouble recovering from this injury. In 2010, Adrian Gonzalez suffered the same injury and has not hit over 30 home runs since. While Bird is expected to be a developing power hitter, he may not be able to meet expectations due to this injury.
Around the league
RED SOX “SUPER TEAM”
After being swept by the Indians last year in the playoffs, the Red Sox are primed and ready to contend this year.
With such high expectations, John Farrell will have to do better than last year in the post-season. Beantown fans won’t stand for less.
INDIANS ARE THE FAVORITES FOR THE WORLD SERIES
After losing a dramatic World Series to the Chicago Cubs in seven games last season, the Indians are hungry for a ring. During the off-season, they signed Edwin Encarnacion for lineup depth.
With Michael Brantley returning and fortified with a stellar pitching rotation, the Indians should be World Series champions in 2017.
WHITE SOX ON THE RIGHT PATH
Rick Hahn has done an excellent rebuilding job. By trading key players in return for impressive prospects the White Sox farm system is getting stronger. Six of these are among the best 100 prospects, including the top pitching prospect and also the most appealing position player prospect.
Having Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito, the White Sox will contend for years to come.
• • •
As an extra added attraction I asked Birnbaum to throw in a few more items that came to mind. Here — in Justin’s own words — is the postscript:
Most overrated team
Washington Nationals — In a year (2015) touted with high expectations, the Nationals not only wasted the performance of 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper, but had to watch their division rival New York Mets ascend to baseball glory.
Behind the bat of Mets defector Daniel Murphy and perennial ace Max Scherzer, Washington bounced back in 2016, winning an impressive 95 games and securing the NL East crown. The Nats put up a valiant postseason effort, but were felled by the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the NLDS, once more displaying their post-season futility.
Texas Rangers – The Rangers have been a regular in the post-season since winning back-to-back American League pennants in 2010 and 2011.
After failing to best the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants on baseball’s highest stage, Texas has slipped into playoff futility. A Wild Card Game loss to Baltimore in 2012 and losing to the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS in back-to-back years have left them competitive, but questionable as a true title contender.
Most overrated player
Jose Bautista — He’s over the hill.
WHO PLAYED FOR THE KNICKERBOCKERS, BROOKLYN DODGERS AND RANGERS?
Answer: Gladys Goodding, house organist at Madison Square Garden from 1939 through the 1960s. Ms. Goodding also was organist at Ebbets Field baseball game and wrote the Brooks anthem: “Follow The Dodgers.”
Author-columnist-commentator Stan “The Maven” Fischler resides in Boiceville and New York City. His column appears each week in the Sunday Freeman.