And Down the Stretch They Come

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Four weeks from today, baseball’s regular season will end,  and the playoffs will commence with the two wild card games. Now seems like as good a time as any to take a look at where things are and how I see things a month ahead.

Making any wagers based on what you read in this column would be ill-advised, since a month before I began this column I didn’t see myself up early on a Sunday morning writing a baseball column.

For starters, I don’t understand how the Yankees can be as close as they are, and I’m a lifelong Yankees fan. Too many of their games are like the game they played yesterday, where they got behind, rallied but fell just short. They may have gotten lucky, in that C. C. Sabathia isn’t finished for the year, as it appeared when he limped off the hill early in his last start. But their offense is in trouble if Mark Teixeira can’t come back from his most recent injury. And once he’s injured, he tends to stay injured. However they’ve done it, they’re 75-59 and just a game and a half behind the Bluejays. From the start, everybody knew the Jays would hit. They hit so much they make their opponents feel like Ray Rice’s fiancee in an elevator.  The question was if they had enough pitching. And unlike their rivals from the Bronx, the Canadians took the aggressive approach, getting David Price to buttress their rotation if it needs it-and whose staff doesn’t need it right about now. Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Boston have been out of it for some time. If the Yankees have a shot to catch the Jays, it is because they play somewhat better away from the Bronx than the Jays do south of the border. The Jays are actually two games under .500 when they play in the States. The Yankees are five games over .500 away from their home.

The American League Central is more lopsided than the 1973 Belmont when Secretariat won by over 30 lengths. What I wonder is-why. How is this year’s Tigers team the worst Detroit  team since 2008? I lack the answers. So do the folks down on Woodward Avenue. Without the Tigers, the Royals have no competition, and have a lead of a dozen games over the Twins.

The Astros are in the midst of their best season in a decade, since they faced the White Sox in the 2005 World Series. They lead the American League West by 2 over, surprisingly, the Rangers. The Angels were the favorite going in, but they’re five and a half games behind. one advantage the Rangers have is, they play better away from home than either Houston or the Angels. And why not? Between the opressive heat and the knowledge that they can’t compete for ink with the Cowboys in their own town, why wouldn’t the Rangers do better away from the Dallas Metroplex? Oakland is the underachiever of that division. They were half an inning away from making the Division Series a year ago, and are 16 games behind now.

The best division in baseball is as close to a sure thing as you can get. It’s the National League Central, with St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh at the top. The Cardinals should win their  90th game this week, and when they do they will be the first team in baseball to pull it off this year.  Neither the Pirates or Cubs are bound to catch them, which is why if Washington means to have a chance they need to derail the Mets. The wild card is nearly a certainty to come from the Central division.

The Dodgers, with Greinke and Kershaw playing the roles of Koufax and Drysdale have a large lead over the Giants and the rest of the west. Surprisingly, as good as their pitching is they don’t do as well away from Chavez Ravine. They are 30-37 away from home and a dominating 47-21 at Dodger Stadium.

Last and certainly least we come to the National League East, baseball’s saddest division. While the Mets are in first, only one first-place team has fewer wins than they have-Kansas City has 74 wins to the Mets’ 75. While none of the other 5 divisions has a team with 80 losses, the NL East has 3 such sorry squads-Miami with 80, Atlanta with 82 and Philadelphia with 83. I know Satchel  Paige said not to look back, but if the Mets, with their insane pitching staff, had the bats in May, June and July that they have now, they’d be so far ahead you couldn’t see them with a telescope. Washington hasn’t been this much of an embarrassment since their rotation included Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell and Dean. Both last year and this, they were picked before the season opened to get to late October. It didn’t happen last year.  It would take divine intervention-maybe by Scott Boras, who is auditioning for the role of God-for the Mets to yield to their neighbors from the Beltway.

How Do You See It?

Did I say something to make your blood boil? Did I point out something you can drop on somebody and make you look smarter than you are? Am I missing something you’d like to hear my take on.  I may not be a Vulcan, but I’m all ears. You can comment on this page or send me a private message on Facebook to tell me your opinion, and request what you’d like to see in this forum. Especially if you have a favorite announcer you’d like to know more about, write me and I should be able to do an announcer profile on the mouthpiece of your choice.

Happy Birthday Fran Healy

If you live in the New York area, or your satellite gets SportsNet New York, you’ve probably heard Fran Healy on the air. He was a .250 hitter, starting with the expansion Kansas City Royals in 1969, then the Giants, the Royals again and finally the Yankees, where he played his last in April, 1978. He caught both of Steve Busby’s no-hitters for the Royals, one each in 1973 and 1974. He picked up a World Series ring in 1977 when the Yankees beat the Dodgers, and served as referee keeping Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin at a safe distance long enough for the team to win the World Series.  But he wouldn’t be in this column if that were the end of his story.

Francis Xavier Healy was born on this date in 1946, in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the home town of Hall of Fame broadcaster  Jack Buck. When he was done playing, he broadcast for the Yankees on radio between 1978 and 1981. He was on radio during the playoff game between the Yankees and the Red Sox in 1978, known to fans of both teams as “The Bucky Dent Game.”  Healy did TV as well as radio with the Yankees starting in 1979, and stuck to TV only for his final 2 Yankee seasons, 1982 and 1983. He worked on TV with the Mets between 1984 and 2005. Healy, Tom Seaver and Tim McCarver hold the distinction of broadcasting for both the Mets and Yankees. To this day, when the Mets are in a rain delay or when their network needs to fill time for some other reason, one of Fran Healy’s “Halls of Fame” shows can still be seen. Happy Birthday, Fran Healy.





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