Archive for Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Opinion: A banner year for Major League Baseball

April 5, 2017

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It could be “back to the future” for the New York Yankees in 2017.

And their arch rival from Bean Town, the Boston Red Sox, is loaded with riches of young talent, too.

As the new baseball season opens expect to hear and see much about the Yanks and their cast of promising kids headed by catcher Gary Sanchez, first baseman Greg Bird, who is long on offensive skill, and Aaron Judge, who has massive power with the bat. New York pitching could sail a long way with Masahiro Tanaka, relievers Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances.

Boston should excel with pitchers Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello, and a battle-proven outfield led by Mookie Betts. One cannot overlook the troublesome outfield at Fenway. But the AL East is loaded with possibilities, the Blue Jays, the Baltimore Orioles and the Rays in Tampa. Any one these could challenge in the East if things break right, but most likely the Bostonians will finish ahead of the New Yorkers.

Major League baseball could be headed into its finest season — ever. The commissioner smiles when talking about young talent in both the American and National leagues. The leagues are certain to have turnstiles spinning at a record clip in 2017 and cable, television and radio audiences will shoot up.

Early odds favor a return of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central, and a Texas battle between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers for the AL west title. But the Seattle Mariners seem poised to challenge in a formidable way after an imposing spring. Unless something goes really haywire, the Indians, under the watchful eye of Terry Francona, will prevail. Much rides on the right arm of Corey Kluber, a star of stars in MLB. And the Texas teams are truly gifted, hungry, and well managed and they have deep pockets with cable income.

Before moving on, it should be pointed out that a dozen former owners, team officials, players, writers and broadcasters gave us the benefit of their views. More than a few fans did also.

In the NL chase, the Nationals and the Mets are positioned to compete for the flag in the East. No one knows the strength of Bryce Harper’s shoulder, an essential component for the Washington team. His bat carries massive strength. Much relies on the endurance of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, gifted athletes on the mound. The Mets have a real shot in the NL East with Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson. Health could be a problem for both. The Atlanta Braves might surprise with their hungry players and a new ballpark.

Most thought the Cubs would repeat in the NL Central, if their aging pitching can repeat or be close to last year’s over the top performances. Kris Bryant needs to repeat his MVP season and his manager, Joe Maddon, thinks he can. St. Louis and Pittsburgh have the tools to make things competitive. The Cardinals will field a better defense and much rests on the shoulders of Andrew McCutchen, the perennial all-star in Pittsburgh.

With Clayton Kershaw returning in good health, the Dodgers seem set for a winning run in the West and a favorite to be the ultimate NL winner. Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen resigned and kept the core in place. The new manager, Dave Roberts, seems right for Los Angeles and the players.

A warning for our readers: All managers mention the importance of avoiding injury. Nothing new there, however.

— Gene Budig was the last president of baseball’s American League and a former chancellor/president of three major state universities, Illinois State University, West Virginia University and the University of Kansas. Alan Heaps is a former vice president of the College Board in New York City.

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