Don’t you just love the commercial now being shown during the major league baseball playoffs with the kids taunting each other to “prove it” about being real baseball fans? The way to prove it, according to the ad, is by buying stuff from MLB like caps, jerseys, and who knows what else. There was a time when you “proved it” just by playing ball, but there’s no money in that, is there? If a young player had shown up at the field sporting an “authentic” Cleveland jersey with Colavito on the back in my youth, he would have been unmercifully mocked until deciding to wear something else. If he continuously threw runners out at the plate from right field, however, some of us may have started calling him Colavito or Clemente in admiration. Of course, there is also currently running a series of ads encouraging us all to “play ball”. That would not have been necessary back in the day, and it makes one wonder where we are all headed with this. With an administration in power in D.C. these days that worships money for its own sake, it is understandable that only people with extra cash are worthy of attention or able to “prove it” but I suspect that we are not all that superficial. Now that the sermon is over, let’s get back to talking about teams not in the playoffs from the superior, or National, League.
The Atlanta Braves have been making strides toward once again becoming an N.L. East contender. They have youth and strength up the middle with second baseman Ozzie Albies, shortstop Dansby Swanson, and center fielder Ender Inciarte. That should help them build up a young starting rotation as Mike Foltynewicz continues to develop. Matt Kemp still has a power bat and Freddie Freeman is a great all around player.
Cincinnati appeared to be making progress for a while. The lineup is looking fairly good but it is going to be difficult to develop confident pitchers with that hitter friendly yard and the Reds appear to be stuck far behind the likes of Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee in the Central. It would be nice to see Joey Votto playing meaningful games but it may have to be somewhere else.
We can all celebrate the departure of Jeffrey Loria from baseball in Miami and perhaps welcome the new ownership of the Marlins that put Derek Jeter in charge. Already they have talent, especially in the outfield of Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, and Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton reached his full potential this season, smacking 59 home runs. Considering his home ballpark, that is more difficult than it would have been for Dick Gregory to have gotten laughs at a Trump rally. As with most teams, the Marlins need some quality pitchers, although Dan Straily was a pleasant surprise.
Apparently either ICE agents or Al Qaeda kidnapped most of the New York Mets’ roster during the Summer and we don’t know where they all went, although one of them is reportedly a Dodger now. Anonymous sources tell us that Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes have come out of hiding but all of those Hall of Fame bound pitchers are off somewhere collecting bone chips. This, as they say, is a work in progress.
Philadelphia should not lose faith in their 66 game winning Phillies just yet. Yes, the pitching staff is full of question marks but the lineup is chock full of youth and talent with the likes of Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and Maikel Franco. You’re not supposed to pick the same dark horse two years in a row but I’m sticking with the Phils. Let’s just get young guys like Mark Leiter and Mark Appel going.
The cynic in me says that organizations like the Pittsburgh Pirates are often content to spend a bit of money and develop a good young team that looks like World Series material for a couple of years and then sit back and sell season tickets for a couple more years without really going all out for the title. That’s how it seems when a team like the Cubs goes out and pursues what they need to win it all and the Pirates, who were so good there for a while. opt to take their chances with journeymen like David Freese, Sean Rodriguez, and Jordy Mercer. At the same time, the Pirates put a big load of pressure on some very young starting pitchers and, whereas in the recent past they had a strong core of relief pitchers to get them through the close games, the veteran leadership with able pitching coach Ray Searage suddenly is absent. They still have that great outfield (provided that Starling Marte is back for real) and Josh Bell seems to be a find at first, but it will probably be another long season in 2018 for these guys.
St. Louis has been known as the model of consistent contention, but the wheels came off that bus in 2017 for the Cardinals. It seemed at times that manager Mike Matheny was drawing names from a hat to make out the lineup as different players auditioned at every position. Who do we like? Grichuk, no Pham. Diaz, no DeJong. Piscotty, no Grichuk. It was weird. And Matt Carpenter, who was always hitting but never comfortable in the field, wasn’t hitting so much either. And Yadier Molina is not getting younger. So, I have no clue what will happen with the Cardinals, who, unlike the Orioles in the other league, at least have respectable looking images of the bird on their uniforms and not the cartoonish goony birds like Baltimore.
The San Diego Padres have reason to feel good about their progress in 2017. For next year, the task will be to come up with better pitching. Youngsters like Carlos Asuaje, Manuel Margot, and Jose Pirela give them hope for a brighter future.
A bright future seems a bit distant to fans of the San Francisco Giants. There are enough elements to allow for a glimmer of hope: Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Joe Panik. However, Denard Span is not a center fielder anymore and the odds are good that the Hunter Pence we saw this season will not revert to stellar form at age 35. The pitching in general was ragged and there do not appear to be encouraging prospects looming. They may not finish last again but there will be no unseating the Dodgers in 2018.
Okay, gotta go. I heard there is a good chance for a good price on a John Farrell jersey at MLB.com.