Monday, April 02, 2007

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Opening Day. It should be it’s own national holiday. And yes, I mean THE Opening Day. Not of trout season, or the Congressional session, or of the newest “Survivor”, but Opening Day of baseball season. Now don’t get me wrong. They played a game last night in St. Louis, and the Mets (MY Mets) beat the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1. Nine more wins to 300 for Tom Glavine. But the point is (sorry, ESPN) that it is opening DAY, not opening NIGHT. For the record, I didn’t even like it when the Yankees opened at night a few years back against the Red Sox.

Opening Day used to mean a certain thing. It meant a parade in Cincinnati, home of the first professional baseball team. Cincinnati always got the season going, with a noon start before the rest of the games got underway an hour later. Until Bud Selig and ESPN got their grimy paws on it. I like Mr. Selig because he is an historian, but sometimes he has taken the beauty of tradition and promptly urinated on it with somebody’s dollars.

So here we are, looking at the real thing. In the Bronx, the bunting will be hanging and the pinstripes will be freshly pressed. They’ll stop wearing those god-awful hats from spring training and put on the classic, can’t-nobody-top-it navy hat with the white interlocking NY. The grass will look fantastic, and I’m sure there will be a fresh coat of paint somewhere on the big ballpark, now entering it’s (SOB) second-to-last season. I will be there on Friday, with The Son in tow. Mick and the gang (and some new faces) will join us in Section 5.

Incidentally, since I’ve mentioned the Yankees hat, I must query: what the hell was going on with the Mets helmets last night? Royal blue fading into black? Must we revisit the Colin Cowherd rant again? With that said, let us have a look-see at the predictions for 2007!

We’ll start in the National League East, where it will be all Mets, all the time. The kings of Queens will roll to a second-straight National League East title, especially after the D-train (known as Dontrelle Willis) arrives at Shea. The Phillies will come in second, and contend for the wild card, while the Braves, Marlins and the awful Nationals round out the division.

In the NL Central, there are two reasons I give the Cubs the edge over the Cardinals: first – it is very hard to repeat. And where are the Cards going to get the pitching from. Chris Carpenter hardly looked good last night. Second, Lou Piniella is a very good manager, and I suspect he will get the most out of the north siders. The Brewers will contend and could even be an upset special. I’ll give the Astros a punchers chance, and Pirates and Reds will round things out. This is not a pleasant division.

To the NL West, where I think the Padres have just enough to knock out the Dodgers. If Barry Zito can live up to his money and Barry Bonds is able to mask the juice, the Giants will be third, followed by Randy and the D-backs, and the Rockies. Apparently they’re still scheduled to play baseball in Denver.

In The American League East – surprise! – the Red Sox will win the division for the first time since 1995. Dice-K seems to be the real deal. My only question is how will he get through the dog days? The Japanese season is so much shorter than the US. The Yankees should get the wild card, but I just have too many questions about their pitching. Injuries and age will be a factor – just look at the start of the season for Chien Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte. Oh, and Carl Pavano gets the ball today? Puh-leeze! The Blue Jays will finish third, followed by the Orioles and Devil Rays.

In the AL Central, we see baseball’s new best division. I was picking the Tigers until Kenny Rogers went down for four months. So now I think we could see playoff baseball in two spots in Chicago. The White Sox will win, setting up both New York and Chicago teams as post-season participants. The Tigers will finish second, followed by the Twins, Indians and Royals.

In the West, the Angels are clearly the best team. The A’s will be OK, but not good enough. The Rangers and Mariners round out the division.

In the post-season, the Yankees will meet the White Sox, and I have no faith in them getting past the first round again. The White Sox will win, and Joe Torre and Alex Rodriguez will be those heading out of New York in the aftermath. The Red Sox will finish off the Angles. The Sox will then win the American League. Wait, you say! Which Sox? The Red ones.

Back to the NL, where the Phillies will get the wild card, and beat the Padres in the playoffs, while the Mets will beat the Cubs. The Mets will then beat the Phillies, en route to the World Series.

Let’s party like it’s 1986 all over again! The Red Sox and Mets will play for the title. Everybody Wang Chung tonight! And just like in ‘86, the Mets will win, as a ball will trickle under David Ortiz’s glove at first. Big Papi will be forced to play the field at Shea, thanks to the lack of a DH.

So there you have it. In fact, with last night’s win by the Metropolitans, I boldly predict two things. First – the Mets will go 173-0 (that’s 162 wins in the regular season, plus the 11 post-season games), and will wear 173 different uniforms – all of which are on sale at Mets shop near you!

Then again, I could be wrong.

Let’s get away from major league ball for a moment. I am proud to say that The Son will make his T-ball debut this week. Our first practice (since I’m the assistant coach) will be tomorrow, and our first game is this Saturday at Noon. The Son is not happy about it, but he was drafted by the Giants. Personally I’m fine with it, but he wanted to be a Yankee. Fortunately, nobody in the Carmel Sports Association Teeball Division can be a Yankee, or a Met, or a Red Sock. They don’t exist!

Also this week, my friend, coach Mike Mora, and the Greenwich High School Cardinals will start the 2007 season against the Norwalk Bears. I will try to get to some games, but will be playing a special role for the team, as I am their official statistician, after missing last year. It’s a lot of fun for me, so I’m looking forward to it.

Lastly, I just noticed that legendary Twins broadcaster Herb Carneal died yesterday at the age of 83. Mr. Carneal died of congestive heart failure. In one form or another, Carneal broadcast Twins fames for 45 years, and was scheduled to have limited duty again in 2007. He won the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award, which recognizes broadcasting excellence, in 1996. As I note Mr. Carneal’s passing, I’m glad to note that the great Mr. Scully continues his magic in Los Angeles. Vin Scully will begin his, gulp!, 58th season as the true voice of the Dodgers. The point is that there aren’t too many of the great giants of old-time play-by-play left. We must enjoy them while we still have them. Time to pull up a chair and check them out!

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to say those two most important and happiest of words: PLAY BALL!!

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