Where does the time go? This is the 19th year that the Naugatuck newspaper has graciously allowed me to pen my favorite column — the opening of the Major League Baseball season — bringing you my insight on our three favorite local teams, the Red Sox, Yankees and Mets.
Just like clockwork, in 17 of those years it has snowed when I sat down to compose these words of wit. The other two years I was actually sitting on Longboat Key Beach in Sarasota, Fla. enjoying spring training the way it was meant to be under bright sunshine.
So I guess I’m partially to blame for what I hope is the last snowstorm of the season that wrecked last weekend. However, my editor, Elio Gugliotti, has to take partial blame since he’s the one who scheduled this column to come out at this time.
Does history really repeat itself? Maybe not, but it certainly has a way of raising its head from time to time just as a reminder. With that being said, it leaves some interesting questions for our local teams as we head towards opening day on April 6.
The Red Sox are the only team in history to have gone from worst to first and back to worst in three consecutive seasons. The San Diego Padres achieved history on the other end of that spectrum going from first to last and back to first from 1996-1998. Boston will try and take it one step further and make it back to first this season with a batting order that was bolstered by the signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.
The Beantowners appear to have all the tools in the shed even though some of those tools may be rusty with a pitching staff that lacks a true number one or an ace in the bag. Picking up Ricky Porcello, Wade Miley and Justin Masterson filled a void after they unloaded John Lester, John Lackey and Felix Doubront; but will it be enough to back up Clay Buchholz, only time will tell.
What the Red Sox have or haven’t accomplished in the past three seasons is really not that unusual. Eight teams have done the first to worst scenario and eight teams have done the opposite. So if history does repeat itself, I’m banking on the Sox to rule the A.L. East and make another serious run at a World Series title, ace or no ace.
The Yankees put together the most impressive stretch in baseball history making the playoffs 17 times in an 18-year stretch that garnered them seven World Series appearances and five titles. The Yankees can also boast the last three-peat in baseball 1998-2000.
However the boys from the Bronx haven’t made a peep in the last two seasons finishing 12 games back two years in a row and missing the playoffs.
The retirement of Derek Jeter will certainly take its toll and the return of Alex Rodriguez will only add to their misery. The mainstays are getting older and trying to come back from injuries so how far the Yankees will go will depend heavily on staying off the disabled list.
Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and C.C. Sabathia are all experienced but in the young man’s game of baseball that may not bode well. Losing Dave Robertson to close games won’t make the bullpen job any easier, but the emergence of Dellen Betances may be their diamond in the rough.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardiner are still young enough to provide a spark in an aging lineup but with no clear leader in the clubhouse, like Jeter, it may become a free-for-all and send the Yankees tumbling further down the ladder. My take is the Yankees will endure their first losing season since 1992 and finish out of the playoffs for the third straight season.
It’s been eight years since the Mets received their last invitation to the postseason party. In fact they have only been to the playoffs just five times since they defeated the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series almost 30 years ago.
Following four straight fourth-place finishes in the N.L. East, the Mets have shown signs of life. A third place showing in 2013 was followed by a second-place finish, which still left them out of the playoff picture.
Bolstered by their Minor League farm system, New York has assembled without a doubt the most formidable pitching staff in the National League. Jon Niese and Dillon Gee are the most veteran of the group. Matt Harvey is returning from Tommy John surgery and Zach Wheeler was the next one to take a stand but a recent injury will shelve him for the season.
Ageless Bartolo Colon is the senior of the staff and last year’s surprise Rookie of the Year, Jacob deGrom, took the league by storm. The Mets are loaded in pitching even with the injury to Wheeler. Now if they can only cross the plate on a consistent basis they may make a run at the playoffs.
I don’t even have to look up this statistic as the Mets are no doubt the only team in the history of baseball that have two players who’s last name begins with a small ‘d’ simply unheard of in deGrom and catcher Travis d’Arnaud. How that fact plays out into a playoff run is ‘d’ question. My take is the Mets at least make it to the one game playoff round.
Ken Morse is a contributing sportswriter to the Citizen’s News.