The Also Rans

It’s almost time to put the television into off season mode, a lethargic semi-retirement thing that will last until the black headed grosbeaks return to us from Costa Rica or Mexico as they do every April to make their babies. There promises to be more international soccer available on the tube this winter and that is a good thing but, for the most part, the old machine will be resting.

The head and heart experts tell us that nostalgia is not a good thing to slide into, that staying in the present is best for our souls. I do not yearn for the days of Eisenhower, cars without seat belts, or Lawrence Welk, but I do miss that brief moment in time when baseball was all over the place with TBS when Ted was still around, WGN when the only thing it really had to offer was the Cubs, and ESPN before it got bought up by ABC or Disney or China or whatever. We had Harry Carey, Chip Carey, John Sterling and a host of other colorful characters entertaining us with live baseball at all hours and we got to watch all of the teams, not just the Yankees and Red Sox. I sometimes wonder how there can be a Golf Channel and yet not a Baseball Channel where we could view classic games from the past or winter ball or any number of programs to satiate the baseball glutton. Or perhaps I could, as the smart ass who came into my coffee shop one day suggested, “get a life”. Nowadays, of course, we have mlb.com, but I will save my ranting about the deterioration of that ad clustered site for another day. It ain’t the same. Boss Rupert rules the day and we are just consumers. One thing I will not miss is the commercial where the guy in the suit falls backward into the swimming pool and then drives away in his Lincoln like it’s a cool thing. I will miss the Flex Seal guy though because he is so earnest.

Now is a good time to add my thoughts about the departure of two great voices from my southern California days, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg. Scully, as even people who don’t follow the game know, was the voice of the Dodgers ever since the Whiskey Rebellion and is widely recognized as the best broadcaster of sports of all time. I was a Pirates fan when I arrived in Los Angeles in 1964 but, before long, Vin pulled me in and convinced me that, not only were the Dodgers the premier baseball organization in baseball but also that Farmer John bacon and sausage were things I could not live without. Dick Enberg tried his best to make the Angels palatable and got me listening in my car, which is where LA people spend most of their time. He also covered the Rams and UCLA basketball when those teams were very good and, despite a sort of altar boy appearance and delivery, was very good.

The season, though, is not quite over yet, although the teams that have been getting mowed by the Chicago Cubs may dispute that. What about some of those teams that are already finished? We are down to the Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers and the Wahoo Sams now, but while everybody is repeating themselves about those guys, let’s have a quick look at some of the also rans.

The best thing that can be said about the Cubs-Giants series is that it was a great advertisement against the designated sitter. Let those pitchers bat and make those hitters field! It became obvious that the Giants need a “closer” (hate to use that word) but what they also are in need of is a right side power hitting outfielder who can run and throw. It’s very doubtful that Mac Williamson will be that guy but their current crop of flychasers are all approaching Social Security days.

The Kansas City Royals’ reign as champs is over now after they succumbed, yes, to injuries but also to a serious drop in effectiveness by their starting pitchers. I think that they will return as contenders but Cleveland has become the class of that division and will not be going away.

The Houston Astros fell back a bit in 2016 but there is too much talent there to dismiss that team and the Texas Rangers will remain strong as well although stalwart veterans Adrian Beltre and Cole Hamels aren’t getting any younger. We seem to be thinking this every season, but Seattle could be threatening with a little tweaking and some luck.

The final season for David Ortiz found the roller coaster decade for the Boston Red Sox zooming toward the top before they were sidetracked by the determined Franconas. Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and gritty veteran Dustin Pedroia got surprising help from Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley but there is no telling where that erratic pitching staff will take them next time. The Orioles pound the ball in that little park and Buck Showalter is nowhere near as foolish as he looked in that last game but they are a big question mark after a somewhat bizarre season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates suddenly appeared to become committed to mediocrity this year and, if that persists, they will continue to drop back to their old ways of hoping and moping. Andrew McCutchen needs his dreads back and some serious upgrading of the infield defense. The Cardinals will be back because they just about always are. The three teams in the N.L. West not named Dodgers or Giants are considering merging into one team in order to contend. It’s unfortunate what happened to the Marlins but that division has two over rated teams at the top and Miami still has lots of talent. The Phillies will be my dark horse choice next year.

Okay, now we can all go back to watching Joe Buck try to complete a coherent sentence.

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