Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball today.
The world of sports has seen it time and again, with both teams and individuals. They are underdogs, sometimes prohibitive underdogs who pull off the impossible upset, then they’re never heard from again. In boxing,, the world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson was knocked out in 1959 by an unknown from Sweden named Ingemar johansson. The Swede lost his next two bouts to Patterson and failed to emerge thereafter. In 1990 James Buster Douglas went to Japan to fight Mike Tyson because no other country wanted to host such a mismatch. Douglas shocked the world by knocking Tyson out in 10 rounds. Only 7 months later Douglas was knocked out. Following that he ballooned to 400 pounds and has rarely made a ripple since. In team sports, the 1967 Red Sox and 1969 Jets shone for one brief shining moment, then faded to oblivion from which the Jets in particular have never emerged.
So are these Mets more capable of bouncing back than the other former underdogs mentioned above? I wonder. It isn’t just because they’ve started with 2 wins against 4 losses. It isn’t even because of their poor spring. Wins and losses in spring training are meaningless, as players, especially pitchers try to get their work in. But other factors worry me about this team. Their hitting, which was never a strong point of the Mets has been just plain brutal. Curtis Granderson has one hit in 24 atbats, and may be realizing that 36 isn’t the new 26 in the post-steroid era of baseball. While Yoenis Cespedes’ bat is slowly coming around he continues to demonstrate the steel glove he showed in the last World Series. Every pitcher in 2015 threw more innings than they ever had with the exception of Jonathan Niese (gone to Pittsburgh,) and Bartolo Colon. Over the marathon that is baseball they may start to feel the cumulative effect. Jacob DeGrom is already hurt and Steven Matz has been nothing short of awful, both in spring and in his first regular season start against the Marlins-yes, the Marlins. The Mets have lost 3 out of 4 to a pair of the worst teams in existence-the Phillies and Marlins. The hitting hasn’t even seen Jake Arietta, much less the pitching Los Angeles and San Francisco have to offer. If the Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts could get out of his own way the Dodgers would already have a no-hitter under their belts. Other than the Mets, the west has the best pitching in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Arizona. The Giants and D-Backs appear to have the hitting to back up their pitching, a commodity the Mets sorely lacked last year until the trading deadline and which they will need to be a factor in 2016.
The undefeated Orioles came into Fenway Park for the final home opener featuring David Ortiz. Theyy managed to spoil the party with a 9-7 win on a 9th-inning home run by Chris Davis off Craig Kimbrel. The outlook wasn’t pretty for the Oriole 9 that day, at least not early on. The Red Sox jumped ahead 3-0 before O’s starter Yovanni Gallardo got his first man out. But a 3-run home run by Mark Trumbow made it 5-3 Orioles against the Red Sox’ prize acquisition David Price. Both starters gave up 5 runs in 5 innings. Each team put one up in the sixth. In the 9th of a tie game Kimbrel walked two men before giving up the Davis home run. The Red Sox would put up one in their half but the Orioles barely held on.
At Wrigley Field the Cubs had no hits at all entering the 7th inning against Brandon Finnegan of the Reds. The visiting RedLegs had a 3-0 lead, with one of their runs being driven in by the lefty starting pitcher. The Texan Finnegan will be 23 Thursday and a no-hittter, or even a win would have been a sweet birthday gift. But the Cubs had other ideas for the pitcher the Reds got in the Johnny Cueto deal. First, the wily veteran David Ross singled, breaking up the nono. Ross turned 39 3 weeks ago and was drafted in 1998 when Finnegan was all of 5 years old. Finnegan then walked the next man he saw, after which he walked the long mile from the mound back to the dugout. His bull pen did him no favors at all. Jason Heyward singled home Finnegan’s two runners making it 3-2. An inning later, after a walk and a hit batsman Addison Russell crushed a 3-run dinger and crushed Finnegan’s hope for victory with it.
Hisashi Iwakuma is 35 today. Last August 12, he threw a no-hitter for the Mariners against the Orioles. The only other Japanese pitcher to do this was Hideo Nomo, who threw a pair. Iwakuma had a decade of pitching in Japan on his arm before he came to America. He was 107-69 in Japan and is 47-25 here. In 2008 he won the Japanese Cy Young Award, called the Eiji Sawamura Award. He’s been an All-Star twice in Japan and once here. Since the Eiji Sawamura award has come up the last two days, I thought I’d mention just who he was. He was a Japanese pitcher killed during World War II at age 27. He had been 63-22 with a 1.74 ERA in 8 seasons with 3 no-hitters on his record. As more Japanese players come here, American fans ought to come to know what the Eiji Sawamura Award is and hope pitchers who get it pitch as well in our country.
Johnny Antonelli is 86 today. He pitched for the Giants in 1954, the year they swept the Indians who had taken 111 games in the regular season. He was an All-Star 6 times beginning in 1954, his first year with the Giants after beginning as a Boston Brave. The Giants got him in exchange for Bobby Thomson-yes, that Bobby Thomson, (The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the Pennant,) who broke an ankle and was a non-factor for the Braves. He started game 2 and relieved in game 4 of the 1954 World Series. After baseball he ran a chain of tire stores in his home city of Rochester, NY.0