Monday, March 22, 2021

Searching for meaning... as it begins to take shape

We are almost a week before, as Tom Boswell once put it, time begins.

The kids have been sent to the dirt fields. The last-chancers are monitoring rosters. Cashman is on the phone. The starters are trying to relax. The fans are drinking heavily.

Of all periods in the baseball year, this is the weirdest. 

An injury can be a season-crusher. Do you dive for a liner? Try and beat out a grounder? To flub a routine fly might mean a year in Scranton. Hits don't matter... unless they do. Box scores don't matter... unless they do. 

Lucas Luetge was a pleasant surprise. Out of nowhere, a situational lefty! Yesterday, two batters - the great Teoscar Hernandez and the eminent Kevin Smith - took him to the moon. Was it a mirage?

Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada were disappointments. Neither looked solid, chasing the last utility IF slot. Yesterday, both delivered key hits. Too little, too late? Or did nothing heretofore matter. (Note: It's number two.) 

We wallow in fear over our rotation, but Gerrit Cole still dominates. Right now, we have what no other team in the AL East has: an ace. That's not nuthin. 

Last year, right around now, time and space was ripped out from under us. Will we ever again take Opening Day for granted? Of course not. But it is getting close. If we can just survive the last nine days... 

Juju gods, that's all I'm asking. Nine days. No injuries. No outbreaks. No fights, no scandals, no ultimatums, no outfield collisions. Nine days until time begins. 

(Also, I direct your attention to Bern Baby's All-Time Yankee March Madness brackets. I am firmly predicting the 1961 Yankees, but don't sleep on 1999 or 2009, or any from the 1950s.) 


DickAllen1964 said...

The times they are a changin, from the New York Times (alleged) sports section:

This season, each level will feature a new rule designed to encourage action and limit dead time:

In Class AAA, the size of first, second and third base will increase to 18 inches square, from 15.

In Class AA, at least four defensive players must be positioned on the infield, each with both feet completely in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt. In the second half, M.L.B. may require two infielders to be positioned entirely on each side of second base.

In high-Class A, pitchers must step off the rubber before attempting a pickoff throw, and in both low-Class A leagues, pitchers will be limited to two step-offs, with a third resulting in an out or a balk.

In the low-Class A Southeast League, umpires will use an automated ball-strike system (A.B.S.) to call pitches.

In the low-Class A Southwest League, on-field timers will enforce the time between pitches, innings and during pitching changes.

What in the world is next? Beer that doesn't cost $10.00? Hot dogs that actually taste good? Tickets that you don't have to save up for?

I miss baseball. Real baseball.

JM said...

Rethinking my picks in the Bern Derby, I'm questioning 1923 as being such a good team. It was a good team, it did win the WS, but it wasn't the great team it would become a few years later.

But, I guess I have to live with my original picks. And I still don't think any Yankees team surpassed 1927. Just insane.

HoraceClarke66 said...

1923 WAS a great team, JM.

And Bill James has written that the 1927 Yankees are the reason why he's never written a book looking at "the greatest team ever." He feels the answer would be, all too obviously, the 1927 Yankees. Others who have studied the subject closely go for...the 1939 Yankees.

The '27 team may well win the tournament, too, as stats are all even in the computer ether. They dominated their moment in major-league history as no other team quite has.

But I can't truthfully call any team—even a Yankees team—that played before 1947 the greatest ever.

The color line doesn't make the 1927 team illegitimate. There's no saying that the Yankees would have been LESS likely to have great Negro League players than anyone else. Imagine the same team with, say, the great Biz Mackey behind the plate, or Martin Dihigo and Willie Wells on the left side of the infield, instead of the merely serviceable Mark Koenig and Jumpin' Joe Dugan. Imagine a 20-year-old Satchel Paige spot-starting or coming out of the bullpen.

I know I do. That's why I'm a Yankees fan.

But truth was, in 1927 all the best players didn't get to play. Not if they were Black, or came from Latin America, or Asia.

And it's not just the color line. In 1927, as in much of that era, nearly half the league was only phoning it—or telegraphing it—in. The tightwad owners of Boston, the St. Louis Browns, and the ChiSox were barely competing. This was often the case, though the punching bags might vary to include the Athletics or the Senators.

The 1998 Yanks, by contrast, had to play well-financed teams.

They had to play—and beat—National League teams during the regular season, including the Braves, the best team in the NL that year, who the Yanks took in 3 out of 4, averaging 6 runs a game against their remarkable pitching staff. They had to avoid any pitfalls in the three-tier playoff system—as the Braves, winners of 106 games in the regular system—did not.

And the kicker, for me? The 1998 Yankees, from all that we know, was not juicing. Many of their toughest competitors were. (Looking at you, Manny and Nomar.)

Don't know what the computer says, but for me, that's the greatest team what ever was.