The start of the high school spring season for some teams fell victim the weather, but Major League Baseball would have none of that nonsense. America’s favorite pastime went off without a hitch this week as it has done for the past 170 years ever since the Knickerbockers and the New York Baseball Club in Hoboken, N.J. ran onto the field on June 19, 1846.
That was well before salaries reached earth-shattering proportions. Today, the game of baseball is almost unrecognizable from the game that Abner Doubleday is said to have created.
MLB kicked off the 2017 season on Sunday looking for the next curse to slay after the Chicago Cubs broke their 108-year hex by beating Cleveland in the World Series last year.
Our three local teams — the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the New York Mets — all have their own agendas as the new season offers hope of glory and fame.
The Red Sox have fortified their pitching through trades and the free agent market, securing what is quickly becoming known as the “Big Three” — David Price, Chris Sale and last year’s Cy Young winner Ricky Porcello.
Boston’s batting order has been pieced together over the years the old fashion way — a very productive farm system. The lineup boasts Xavier Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia with this year’s new addition, Rookie of the Year candidate Andrew Benintendi.
Only time will tell if that will lead the Sox to their second A.L. East crown in the last four years and push them toward another World Series.
The Yankees have taken a page out of Boston’s success by developing talent within their own farm system. A team that was typically built on the mighty dollar during the George Steinbrenner-era relented and saw the results of their patience.
Last season, Gary Sanchez took the league by storm in a late-season call up from AAA ball to belt 20 home runs and drive in 42 runs in just 200 at bats. September call-ups Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge hit a couple of moon shots that brought a sigh of relief as the aged Yankees instilled some new blood in the lineup.
The menacing 6-foot-7, 275-pound Judge won the right field job in spring training, and newcomer Greg Bird sewed up the first base job with a .429 and seven-home run spring at the plate.
Whether the Yankees’ upstarts can handle the day-to-day challenges that Major League Baseball can bring will determine how far the Yankees go, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction and a breath of fresh air.
It’s no secret that the New York Mets have more arms than an octopus with the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steve Matz, Zach Wheeler and Robert Gsellman in the starting rotation. But the Mets are just one doctor’s visit away from falling out of playoff contention with the fragile aspect of pitching mechanics versus the anatomy of the appendages that can deliver a baseball at 100 mph.
Another aspect of the game that could muddy the waters for the Mets is they are a little top heavy in the outfield. With five guys vying for three spots once the rust sets in from lack of use the odd guys out are just wasted spots on the roster.
The left side of the infield is starting to show its age with David Wright and Jose Reyes being just a shell of the players they once were. That kind of deficiency in the lineup could cause slumps that can take a team out of running before the real race actually begins.
One thing about baseball, though, is it’s not a race won by the swiftest. Those who can withstand the ups and downs of the season and have the wherewithal in the end will survive.
Ken Morse is a contributing writer to the Citizen’s News.