Baseball and blizzards mean spring is coming

Ken Morse

Old Man Winter does not want to go quietly. We hunkered down on Tuesday and endured the third Nor’easter in the ten days, while New England’s three local MLB teams — the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets — are basking in the sunshine at spring training in balmy Florida.

That can only mean Mother Nature will have the last word, and blizzards will soon have to give way to spring and America’s favorite pastime — baseball.

This MLB season will mark just the second time in baseball history that the Yanks, Sox and Mets all opened the season with new managers.

Aaron Boone stepped out of the ESPN booth to take over the Yanks. Alex Cora came from the World Series champion Astros as a bench coach to take over the Sox, and Mickey Callaway came out of the Cleveland bullpen as a pitching coach to take over as manager of the Mets.

The last time all three teams had new managers in the same year was 1992 when Buck Showalter (Yanks), Butch Hobson (Sox) and Jeff Torborg (Mets) took over their respective clubs.

The results weren’t flattering back then as all three teams wound up 20-plus games out of the playoff picture. Somehow I don’t see that happening this year. Not with the talent that resides on our local favorite teams.

This season, the Yankees boast their most dangerous hitting duo since 1961 when Mickey Mantle (54 homeruns) and Roger Maris (61 homeruns) graced the lineup.

Aaron Judge, last year’s A.L. Rookie of the Year, broke the all-time rookie record with 52 homers and finished second for the A.L. MVP award. New York then went out and signed the N.L. MVP Giancarlo Stanton (59 homeruns). The two sluggers can form the most feared one-two punch in baseball.

The Yankees can only add to their MLB-best 241 homers last year with catcher Gary Sanchez (33 homeruns), Didi Gregorius (25 homeruns) and Brett Gardner (21 homeruns).

Pitching may be an issue, though, with the 4-5 starting pitching spots up in the air. The bullpen, especially closing, will also need to be more consistent. Luis Severino, C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka make for a solid three top starters. But it was the 22-save season by closer Aroldis Chapman and his ballooning 3.22 ERA that raises questions.

The Mets went from the World Series in 2015 to 27 games out of first place in 2017.

Their pitching staff is young, talented and deep, but often injured. Callaway comes in to try and turn it around after helping Cleveland assemble a staff that reached the playoffs in three of his five years with the Tribe, including a 2016 World Series appearance.

Much will depend on the health of the pitching staff, led by Jacob deGrom, who posted a career best 15-10 with 239 Ks last year. Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey and Steve Matz have all shown signs of dominance when healthy, and that will be the Mets’ biggest question mark heading into the season.

The Mets do have a few bats in the lineup. Jay Bruce (29 homeruns) is a long ball threat as is Mike Conforto (27 homeruns). If Yoenis Cespedes can come back from injury, there can be fireworks in Queens this summer. New York also added local favorite Todd Frazier and brought in Adrian Gonzalez from the Dodgers.

Boston is the two-time A.L. East champions, and in order to make it three in a row the “Big Three,” as they have been dubbed Chris Sale, David Price and Ricky Porcello, will need to lead the way.

Drew Pomeranz won 17 games last year giving the Sox the deepest pitching staff, in the A.L. at least. Craig Kimbrel, with 35 saves and a 1.43 ERA, closes the deal. It’s safe to say if pitching wins championships, then the pot is cooking in Beantown.

The Sox were 10th in runs scored and will need to ramp it up if they plan on staying with the Yanks. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are some of the most talented homegrown players in the league, but a team average of .250 and only 168 homers often left the Sox without enough power.

Boston signed J.D. Martinez (45 homeruns), their first legitimate long ball threat since David Ortiz retired, and have Hanley Ramirez (23 homeruns) and Mitch Moreland (22 homeruns) in the mix.

At least on paper it would appear the Yankees are primed to run away with the A.L. East, while the Red Sox will be a distant second. The Mets will rise back to the top of the N.L., baring any health setbacks.