Your Turn: Baseball brings welcome diversion from politics

Lawrence Journal-World opinion section

What America needs is a respite from the rough and tumble world of presidential politics and ample time to refocus on Major League Baseball, 2016. After all, it does remain the national pastime.

There is much to ponder: the tantalizing smells of the national pastime, hot dogs with mustard, peanuts, soda and beer and the freshness of a manicured infields and outfields. Stats are a must.

So away we go.

Chicago is filled with optimism as the Cubs return an array of young talent to Wrigley Field led by Kris Bryant and Joe Maddon. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf will provide more than a few noisy salvos from the South Side with an enviable group of pitchers and skilled position players. There will be buzzing turnstiles at both venues.

You can expect the teams in both the American and National leagues to use more and more pitching arms to win. The richest teams in the game, the Dodgers and the Yankees, have adopted the theory and they are counting on it to deliver success. More and more, starting pitchers will consider six innings a full day of work.

The Bronx Bombers and their chief rivals, the Red Sox, will offer the AL East an interesting ride. New Boston president Dave Dombrowski, a proven winner in both leagues, has added one of game’s finest pitchers, David Price. He will enjoy the return of veterans Hanley Ramirez (if he can learn to play first base), the ageless designated hitter, David Ortiz, pesky second baseman Dustin Pedroia and a surplus of young talent.

The Yankees will sail again if Alex Rodriguez can repeat last year’s remarkable season and rookie outfielder Aaron Judge can live up expectations. He is a 6-foot-8 outfielder who hits the long, long ball. Also add perhaps the finest relief corps in the AL.

Baltimore has the makings of an excellent competitor in 2016, as does Tampa Bay.

The Mets deserve to be favored in the NL East, but Sandy Alderson must be sensitive to the aging process. Keeping slugger Yoenis Cespedes was a crowd pleaser in New York, and Washington should challenge in the NL East if Dusty Baker can get the team off to a solid start.

Many see the Royals as having a real chance to repeat but that is no small task. Few have done it. But David Glass has signed the finest catcher in baseball, Salvador Perez, to a long-term contract. And you can expect the Astros to do quite well, proving that last year was no fluke. They have a wealth of serious talent. Pittsburgh has real opportunity in the NL Central with arguably the best center fielder in the game, Andrew McCutchen.

On the West Coast, the two teams from the Los Angeles, the Angels and the Dodgers, seem poised to rumble. They remain two of MLB’s big spenders. But it would be a serious mistake to discount San Francisco, a skilled and winning franchise. The Giants have won a lot of games in recent post seasons.

You can count on record attendance at both major and minor league parks this season.

Whatever happens will be exciting and entertaining, a great and much needed diversion in these turbulent times.

— Gene Budig is a former American League president (1994-2000) and a former Kansas University chancellor. Heaps was vice president of the College Board in New York City.