Boys of summer are back

Ken Morse
Ken Morse

There is something about the spring season that sparks hope of a new beginning as Major League Baseball opened up camps in Florida and Arizona.

Every team has an equal chance — at least that is the feeling at this time of year.

The New York Mets are looking to get back to the World Series to finish what they started last season.

The New York Yankees are trying to fend off Father Time and make another run at the playoffs.

The Boston Red Sox are hoping to end a string of last-place finishes that has found them in the A.L. East cellar in three of the last four seasons.

Last season marked the first time the Mets appeared in the World Series in 15 years, and boasting one of the best pitching staffs in baseball New York should once again be a contender for the National League crown.

They did lose Dan Murphy to free agency after he put on a Roy Hobbs display in the playoffs, homering in six consecutive games. He is now playing for division rival Washington Nationals.

The biggest boost to the everyday lineup was resigning Yoenis Cepedes, who came in last year and tore it up with 17 homers in 57 games ending the season with 35 out-of-the-park blasts.

Neil Walker, who has averaged 18 homeruns over the last three seasons, came over from Pittsburgh to take the place of Murphy at second base. A healthy David Wright at third base and resurgence from Curtis Granderson should provide all the runs the Mets will need.

The Yankees are a year older with six players in the everyday lineup that are over 32 years old. How long will they be able to hold off Father Time? Only time will tell.

The last time the Bronx Bombers looked this old was in 1968 when a 36-year-old Mickey Mantle led the team with 18 home runs in his last season. That year, the Yankees finished fifth in the ten-team American League circuit before divisional play began in 1969.

Starlin Castro has come over from the Cubs. He is no Derek Jeter but is certainly the best replacement they’ve had since Jeter retired. Aroldis Chapman and his 100 mph fastball came from the Reds to give New York one of the strongest bullpens in all of baseball.

They may need it if C.C. Sabathia doesn’t return to form as his career has been on the decline the past three seasons. Masahiro Tanaka will need to be healthy if the Yankees have any chance of fending off all suitors in a very competitive A.L. East.

The Red Sox haven’t seemed to learn their lesson. Every time the team signs a big name free-agent the team falls on its face. Remember the Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford debacle in 2011 when Boston finished third behind the division champion Yankees?

How about the 2006 Josh Beckett signing when he posted a 5.01 ERA and the Sox finished, you guessed it, third behind the division champion Yankees. Does anyone recall the 1983 signing of the Athletics 28 year-old home run hitter Tony Armas and Boston finished sixth, 20 games out?

Here’s a wakeup call. When the Red Sox won its first World Series in 86 years they did it with guys named Doug Mientkiewicz, Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller — not really household names. They did it again in 2013 with the likes of Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino.

Obviously David Ortiz was a catalyst, but the point is well served. When the Red Sox filled out the roster with middle-of-the-road players they won. When they opened the bank vault they were robbed.

Signing David Price a year after writing blank checks for Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval doesn’t really leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. It only amounts to another frustrating season in Beantown where Boston will be out of the race before the first turn.

Ken Morse is a contributing writer to the Citizen’s News.