Freelance Sports Reporter At Large
I have no doubt that every prediction I make here will be wrong. That
is not to say that I did not carefully consider every nuance of every
team, even factors not written about here. But baseball is never a
contest where the outcome is certain even on the day of the game, or
even with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. That is what we love
about this sport. The hero can be the most unlikely of players while
the goat can be the most highly acclaimed superstar. We love to see the
mighty fallen, and the lowly raised - and sometimes it becomes legend:
The Mighty Casey, Tinker to Evers to Chance, Bucky Dent. It can happen
on any day to anyone at any time. Nothing is certain. It took over 100
years of historical ballplay to come up the quintessential phrase that
describes baseball: "It ain't over 'til it's over."
Diamond Mind has a game that captures that part of our great national
pastime, and therefore even though I delve deep into the depths of my
crystal ball I cannot discern anything of certainty -- only flashes of
brilliance and despair. It is these momentary visions I interpret and
pass on to you, dear reader.
Bold prediction: The World Series will be between Homestead of the
Legends League and Washington of the Union League -- who both share the
same ballpark and the same owner. The winner of it all? The Washington
Nationals in 9 nail biting pitching duels.
But first, before even the first pitch is thrown in an exhibition
season, let us wander a bit through both leagues and take the measure
of each club.
Strength and weakness, the Legends League has both ends of the
spectrum. The dichotomy will display in the course of the season in a
stark manner. The pennant race in one of the divisions will be a
runaway. The race in the second division will be a free-for-all where
teams will fall out one at a time. The last division will be a toss-up
until the last day, a paragon of parity in a league of extremes.
Three Big Apple teams compete with one from the Iron City of
Pennsylvania. While one from New York will win the race here, the one
from Pittsburgh will fight that future down to the last games. This is
a strong division that can see everyone in first at some point in the
Predicted finish: NY Mets,
Pittsburgh, NY Giants, Brooklyn.
This is the division with the most equal spread of talent in all the
ATL, and that talent is of a superior level. The parity here equals
strength against strength. Quite possibly the winner of this division
will barely make it over .500, and will not win until the last
day. That does not mean the teams herein are weak.
Predicted finish: Chicago, Keokuk,
A uneven assortment of talent in this division, but possibly with the
strongest team in the ATL. That could make this a runaway, one-horse
race early in the going. Secretariat against Clydesdales, but watch out
if one of those Clydesdales steps on Secretariat's foot - and that is a
Predicted finish: Homestead,
Cincinnati, Houston, Havana.
Legends League Wild Card: Pittsburgh
Pitching is the key to this Brooklyn team. Elite lefty Sandy Koufax stands front and
center, but where will the rest of the staff stand behind him? A lot
will depend on whether or not Orel
Hershiser, Andy Messersmith
and Minoru Murayama can get
reliable relief help from Ron
Perranoski, Steve Howe,
Mike Henneman and Greg McMichael. That is the real
question in Brooklyn. Defense is the genuine star on this team even
with Babe Herman in the
lineup. Ee-yah Jennings, Zack Wheat, Ray Dandridge & Spot Poles
lead the way, with more able-bodied glovemen on the bench ready to put
their careers on the line. Those four will also lead the team in
offense along with the Brooklyn Babe
and the all-star bench. A decent team on the offense but not
exceptional, the main problem on this front being too many good players
at the same position. Not being able to get all the hitters in the game
at the same time will trouble the Bridgrooms manager all season long.
Defense will keep this Brooklyn club in the game, but with only one
stellar hurler and no dependable relief for the other starters the
season will get long, quick.
Teddy Ballgame, Hammerin' Hank Aaron and spark plug
are the life blood of this team. The hope of a pennant is there, bright
and effervescent. The loyal and long-suffering fans even have their
long-time heroes: Mr. Cub, Ernie
Banks, and Mr. Chicago, Ryne
What gives hope more than any combination of players, however, is the
fact that this Chicago club is in the 'Division of Parity.' That means
the pitching staff of Jim Palmer,
Don Drysdale, Gaylord Perry, Jack McDowell and Vida Blue
may be just enough to get the job done. It is also very fortunate for
the hopeful that there is a wealth of closers on the club, even if they
are all of less-than Hall of Fame talent. One of them will have to step
forward, or all of them will have to. The candidates are John Wetteland, Tom Henke, Elroy Face, Jeff Reardon and Greg Olson
-- not dominating, so perhaps it will be closing by committee. Defense
on this team is nothing to write home about in a superstar league, and
that will negatively impact the pitching.
A shot at .500 is all this Chicago club needs to have to capture the
pennant in their particular division, and a shot at .500 is all they
Power from the right, and bat skill from the left - exactly what
Crosley Park requires for its home team. Jimmie Foxx and Josh Gibson lead the charge from
the right, while Tris Speaker,
Joe Jackson and Al Simmons
take control from the left. Those five as the heart of the Cincinnati
lineup has to put a favorable aspect on any season prediction,
especially when they are backed up by glovemen Charlie Gehringer and Scott Rolen with Nomar Garciaparra to round
everything out. But does it break down once we get to the high ground?
Players like Mike Mussina, Robin Roberts, Noodles Hahn, Rube Foster and Harry Brecheen bring a certain
respectability to the pitching corps, there's no denying. And with Rollie Fingers
in the pen it looks good for the Redlegs. But with no top echelon,
elite, ace starter will they have enough legs to last the season?
If this Cincinnati club were in most other divisions their chance for
post-season glory would be good, but in this division they will be
chasing the Wild Card flag instead.
The Boys of the Caribbean don't have to emigrate in this league in
order to play pro ball, but will they win the race - that is the only
question that needs answering. Professional batsmen like Rod Carew and Roberto Clemente command a lineup
featuring Alejandro "El Caballero"
Oms, Cristobal "Cuban
Strongman" Torriente, Perucho
"The Bull" Cepeda and the incomparable Martin "El Maestro" Dihigo. In a
regular league that would be the nucleus of an unbeatable team, but in
the ATL even the addition of Tony
Perez to play third base does not make up for a pitching staff
that is questionable. Can Dolf
"Pride of Havana" Luque and Jose
"Black Diamond" Mendez lead a rotation that includes Luis Tiant, Camilo Pascual and Ramon "El Professor" Bragana into
the post season? Can Jose Mesa
clean the table on late game rallies? Some of the answers will come in
the form of the wide open La Gran Estadia they call home. Having a
pitchers park as home field will cut both ways with this club. While
they don't depend on power at the plate they could use a bit more power
pitching to keep the opponents off the bases.
The only thing hotter than the Havana weather will be the competition
in this division, which this Havana club will add to but not be able to
Speaking of wide open stadiums there is another in the same division as
Havana, but is located in Washington D.C. - the shared home of the
Grays and Nationals. But it is the Homestead crew we focus on here. Columbia Lou Gehrig is out from
under The Bambino's shadow
and standing in full sunlight. The team Lou leads is one of the best. Cool Papa Bell patrols the outfield
while Willie "El Diablo" Wells
polices the infield. Barry Bonds
and Charlie Keller defend the
corner outfield positions, while Eddie
Mathews provides a bookend to Larrupin'
Lou. Sammy Hughes
fields second base with the best of them, but then the lineup falters
when we come around to the tools of ignorance and the wielder thereof. Gene Tenace and Johnny Bassler will have a hard
time making the grade in this league, so the mask will probably fall to
Walker Cooper. Whoever wears
that mask will get a staff headed up by Cannonball Redding, Hilton Smith, Bruce Sutter and Trevor Hoffman - quality starting
and closing. But is it deep enough? Bret
Saberhagen, Harvey Haddix,
Jamie Moyer and Japanese
relief specialist Yutaka Ono
say "in Griffith we trust."
The bases seem to be covered with Griffith Stadium smoothing out the
rough spots in the roster, so it will be hard not to place this
Homestead club at the top of the standings.
Nolan Ryan, Johnny Bench, Tony Gwynn, Kirby Puckett and Japanese
superstar Ichiro Suzuki
frontpage a hot time for the Texas fans. But is there any depth after
we get past these headliners? The supporting cast includes such
notables as Paul Molitor, Tony Fernandez, and Brooks Robinson. Several relief
specialists are also evident in Rick
Aguilera, Bobby Thigpen,
Dave Smith and Todd Jones, and in fact continues
on to include Norm Charlton, Dave Veres and Gary Lavelle.
And there, dear ATL fan we see the fatal weakness of this club exposed:
a frightening lack of quality starters. The GM has banked on a
wide-ranging relief corps to make up for a questionable group of
starters that include Fernando
Valenzuela, Mike Cuellar,
Mike Torrez, Mike Hampton and Jerry Reuss. Given the fact that
even the star of the group, fireballer Nolan Ryan, has a questionable side
it seems that 'long season' will be a phrase well understood in Minute
Too many holes litter the field and pen for this Houston club to
compete all season long, and I have to predict a mid-season plummet
that will keep them out of the race.
Cocky Eddie Collins has a lot
to be brash about in regards this Iowa club. Besides teaming up
in the Double Play Combo with the legendary Honus Wagner, and having George Sisler and George Brett holding down the
corners, there's Gabby Hartnett
to control the defense and Lefty
Grove and Ol' Peat Alexander
to be the front lines of the pitching corps. Lest the reader think the
flash of the previous names is but a thin veneer hiding a pockmarked
lineup, consider that we haven't yet mentioned Turkey Stearnes, Goose Goslin or Steve Carlton. However, there are
some serious question marks, and they come to the forefront with the
mention of Kent Tekulve as
the primary force in relief. Tekulve
has his work cut out for him, and he will get only Jesse Orosco for help and it is
sure they both will be overwhelmed. Grove,
Alexander and Carlton are big names, but even
they will need plenty of relief help in this league. Where will Keokuk
get relief from?
This Keokuk club looks good at first blush but an in-depth analysis
reveals a kryptonital lack of depth that will assert itself as the
determining factor over 154 games.
Leading the charge from Canada is Ferguson
Jenkins and the Royales of Montreal. Fergie teams up with Japanese
superstar pitcher Kazuhisa Inao,
whose exploits are legendary in the Land of the Rising Sun. Along with
that one-two pitching punch this team is depending on a quartet of
closers to shore up a lack of starting depth. Dan Quisenberry, Jeff Montgomery, Tim Burke and Doug Jones give the team four
right-handed closers - which exposes another deficiency: Jimmy Key, Dave McNally, Nap Rucker and David Wells are the only lefties in
town. On the other hand the offense features Mark McGwire and Mike Schmidt at the corners of the
infield, and one presumes a platooning outfield consisting of Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Roy Thomas, Dom DiMaggio, Andre Dawson and Enos Slaughter. Joe Gordon provides a good glove
and a power bat at second base, and Alex
Rodriguez at shortstop is no slouch in any department. Mike Piazza certainly provides
power from behind the plate, but the only arm back there comes from a
light-hitting Japanese import (Masaaki
Mori) who will be lucky to see the Mendoza Line if he gets a
chance to play.
Canada has two teams in the same division, which means the competition
between them will be the highlight of their season, and this Montreal
club is picked to eke out that consolation prize.
Stan "The Man" Musial, Lefty O'Doul, Willie
"Pops" Stargell, Harry "Slug"
Heilmann, Harmon "Killer"
Killebrew and The Polo Grounds. That will give the reader a
sense of the Giants of New York. Bill
Dickey, Ozzie Smith,
and Edd Roush give the NY
Giants up the middle defensive strength, and Ghost Marcelle
at the Hot Corner is an exceptional choice, but there are still
brownouts in the fielding of this high-powered club even after bringing
Wild Bill Wright in to join Lloyd Waner in the defensive
outfield bucket brigade. Hal Newhouser and Rube Waddell are certainly two
quality lefties in tandem with Kid
Nichols and Sal Maglie,
who are two quality righties. All four are a proud centerpiece to any
pitching staff - but we come back the The Polo Grounds for 77 games and
that can make any pitcher gun-shy. Any pitcher except maybe
knuckle-baller Hoyt Wilhelm.
The opposing batters can't park what they can't hit. Wilhelm will get support from Sparky Lyle and Bob Locker, and the starters will
get support from such able-bodied arms as Ewell Blackwell, Spud Chandler and Red Ruffing. They even went out and
made a pre-season trade to bring Amos
Rusie to town in the same deal that brought Wright. But we always come back to
The Polo Grounds, and there are not many pitchers who like this
Which way the wind is blowing will become very important for this New
York club for every home game, and the prediction here is that the Polo
Grounds will not see post-season play this year.
The Metropolitans have The Mick
to play center field for them, and Bernie
Williams to back him up. A (hopefully) healthy Mickey Mantle, imagine that! That's
not all, there's world class Arky
Vaughn at short, the undeniable Joe Morgan at second, a robust Ross Youngs in right, the amazing Jesse Burkett in left, the quiet
gentleman Gil Hodges at first
and showman Louis Santop at
catcher. That is an impressive lineup even in this league. So who's
pitching, you ask? How's about Greg
Maddux for Number 1 Ace? Remember this is the Maddux of his best 8 year stretch,
and that is a great stretch any which way you count it. Billy Pierce, Dennis Martinez, John Smoltz and George Stovey
- workmen pitchers for this league, and with the lineup and the Ace in
the Number 1 slot these workmen are all that's needed. With a little
relief help, of course, and that is where this team breaks down. Not a
single relief specialist in the bunch. Someone will get thrown into the
position, but this is definitely a weak spot on an otherwise ritzy team.
This Mets club has the potential to to go a long way, and in fact I am
picking them to get to the post-season by winning the division.
Marvelous Mel Ott, Rogers Hornsby and Pop Lloyd. A brilliant triumvirate
of superstars that together is the soul of this team. Biz Mackey, Joe Adcock, Johnny "Big Cat" Mize and Henry Kimbro. Capable and able
supporting players in key and indispensable roles. Billy Francis, Willard Brown and Gil McDougald. Rounding out the
lineup and utility slot with class. Bob
Feller, Ed Walsh and Willie Foster. Three solid starting
pitchers able to put some good innings on the board. Troy Percival, John Franco and Jeff Nelson.
Relief crew well represented for setup and closing. It all looks so
good. What could possibly be wrong? Well, there's Forbes Field for one.
This team is not a comfortable fit for Forbes, and Forbes is a force
all unto its own. All season long it will be the 600-lb gorilla in the
room that everybody is trying hard to ignore. Sure, this bunch is good
enough to win even in Forbes, but there will be a few important games
that will slip by because a Punch-and-Judy slap hitter bested the
Pittsburgh Power Boys.
No doubt about it, this Pittsburgh club will give the other teams a run
for their money, but in the end they will fall a scant game or two
Sadaharu Oh is the leader of a
baseball club that at first glance looks fairly impressive. Larry Walker and Sammy Sosa platooning in right
field is a good way to give Oh support. Home Run Baker at third base has to
be a plus. Can't get much better than Ivan
Rodriguez behind the plate.
Derek Jeter or Dave Concepcion
or Travis Jackson at
shortstop may be a hard decision to make. Catfish Hunter, Whitey Ford, Curt Schilling and Bill Byrd are mighty fine starting
pitchmen. Robb Nen is good as
a closer. Frank White at
second base, Jim Edmonds in
center field, Joe Kelley in
left - not bad. So what is wrong? Depth, depth, depth. The
end result when all is said and done is a little weak up the middle
with no help from the bench. That can be a heartbreaker for fans, and
these Toronto fans will be singing a sad song this season. Perhaps if Concepcion is the shortstop choice
the fielding around the Keystone with Frank
White will pump the team up a notch.
This is a very tough league, and this Toronto club will stay close all
year with its superb pitching rotation but when the season closes they
will find no joy.
The Union League is definitely the league of parity in the DMBATL, and
that probably also designates it as the 'weaker' league simply because
the strongest teams are not here. It has its share of great players,
and even the greatest of them all, but it also has an abundance of
middling talent for this level of play. "Middling" in this case meaning
'simply star level.'
The toughest division in the league. Quite possibly all four teams will
end the season with winning records, records that would be even better
if they were alone in other divisions. Think about the ramifications of
that. A slugfest until the end. No quarter given, no quarter asked.
Excitement all season long.
Predicted finish: Newark,
Philadelphia, Boston, New York.
The middle division in every sense of the word. Relatively evenly
matched across the board, the end results won't look so good but
mediocre won-loss records will hide the all-round competence of the
teams. A .500 record here means more than it does in most other
Predicted finish: Washington,
Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago.
Weak but wild. There is a lot of unusual character in this division,
but unfortunately that is not a necessary ingredient for strong teams.
The winner may come out with the best record in the league, but it
won't be because it is the best team. This division also has the most
chance of surprising everyone with its results.
Predicted finish: San Francisco,
Tokyo, Seattle, Orix.
Union League Wild Card: Tokyo
The Sultan of Swat is looking
forward to taking the measure of the short porches at The Huntington
Street Grounds. Opposing pitchers will have a tough time when the
Beaneaters are on home turf. Not only does the lineup feature The Bambino, but also Ralph Kiner, Duke Snider and Eddie Murray -- as well as Japanese
retread Tuffy Rhodes. But
power is not all the Boston lineup will feature, speed is there also
with the likes of Lou Brock
and Maury Wills.
The weak spot? Pitching and defense. The defense is decidedly average,
and not much more can be said about it. The pitching corps, well they
don't have the sheen that the batsmen possess. With the ball
having a tendency to exit the playing field at home, the pitching might
come into question as often than the defense. Leading the staff
from the right side is The Dominican
Dandy, Juan Marichal,
and he has Bob Lemon in
tow. On the port side The
Junkman Eddie Lopat enters the fray alongside Tom Glavine. Randy Myers and Rod Beck will try to nail things
down if given the chance.
The defense and pitching will keep this Boston club firmly anchored
with the pack throughout the season, but The Bambino will keep them close to
Hammerin' Hank Greenberg, Campy Campanella, Richie Allen and Wally Berger will try to keep the
Pale Hose of Chicago in competition with the Beaneaters of Boston as
regards home run clout. Then with Dick
"The King" Lundy and Nellie
patrolling the Keystone Corner, the ChiSox plan to help their pitching
crew out of many jams with a twinkle-toed, double play combo. A
staff of pitchers, not hurlers, headed up by Tom "Terrific" Seaver, Bert Blyleven, Dazzy Vance and knuckleballer Phil Niekro, with Scott McGregor, Red Faber and Knuckles Cicotte
as backup looks good on paper - however, the lack of an elite
left-hander in the crew may keep the emphasis on defense. When the
Chicagoans need relief, Goose Gossage
will, no doubt, be the main stopper out of the pen, but he'll need
ample setup help from Mike Marshall
and John Hiller.
The lack of a quality left-hand pitcher will put this Chicago club
behind the eight ball against key Union League teams, and make it
difficult for them to win consistently.
Fireballers Smokey Joe Wood
and Sudden Sam McDowell
give the Spiders power from both sides of the mound to the dismay of
Union League batters everywhere. Taken together with pinwheeling hurler
Addie Joss and Mel "Dusty" Parnell,
the Clevelanders have a balanced starting rotation that should provide
the strength an unspectacular lineup fails to deliver. The Cleveland
lineup is not a bad one; there is "Hit'em
Where They Ain't" Wee Willie Keeler, Earl "Rock" Averill and Elmer Flick as a very reputable
outfield trio. They have the knack for getting on base, no
denying. Nap Lajoie
adds a fourth leg to that table to keep the lineup on solid ground, and
combines with Lou Boudreau
for strong defense in the field. But the lineup built for League Park's
long dimensions may not hold out so well in some of the bandboxes
situated elsewhere around the Union League. Can Hal Trosky and Albert "Joey" Belle compete in this
league's power department? Time will tell.
The lack of an elite power-hitting presence will hurt on the road, and
will keep this Cleveland club longing for homestands. Power pitching
will keep them close, but no cigar for this bunch.
The Tigers have a take-no-prisoners attitude led by the intimidating
play of The Georgia Peach, Black Mike Cochrane, Rocket Roger Clemens and Newk Newcombe. Along with such
notables as Al Kaline, Stretch McCovey, Hondo Howard, Chief Bender and Jim Bunning,
the Motor City Crew have a solid game plan to back up their aggressive
style of play. A solid defense leaves few holes for opposing teams to
exploit, and a bullpen of Roberto
Hernandez, Tug "Ya Gotta
Believe" McGraw, Todd Worrell,
Stu Miller and Mark Wohlers
means the Black and Orange has plenty of arms to trot out onto the
field if the need arises -- and at Briggs Stadium the need will
definitely arise. The defense here is mostly solid with some
softness around the edges. It is led by the unexcelled expertise of Kaline in right field, but breaks
down around the Corners with Stretch
& Hondo at first and Gary Sheffield & Bob Horner at third. Oh, did I
mention Ty Cobb? He won't let
opposing pitchers forget who is the fighting leader of this club.
Nestled in a park like Briggs the Detroit club will find itself held
back because they can't get all their best bats into the same lineup,
but they'll get enough in the game to pace the top teams most of the
'Colorful' does not fully describe this team. Any team that includes Wahoo Sam, Yogi, Rickey, Scooter, Crow, Pudge, Maz, Donnie Baseball, The Kentucky Colonel, The Dutch Master, Louisiana Lightning, Superchief, The Monster, Duke, The Knight of Kennett Square, Gettysburg Eddie, Wabash George, Ol' Stubblebeard, Rags, Kitty, A.O., El Sid, Kooz and Cletis LeRoy Boyer
has got to reach the maddeningly giddy heights of incandescent,
polychromatic individuality. Either that or this is the apex of the
Motley Crew pyramid. Personalities aside, this team has some very
distinct strengths on the mound, but there is a definite lack in the
lineup. Warren Spahn leads a
stellar left-handed staff that also includes Guidry, Vander Meer, Plank, Fernandez, Kaat, Pennock, Righetti and Koosman. Don Sutton, Lee Smith, Allie Reynolds, Mel Stottlemyre, Burleigh Grimes, Paul
Derringer and George Mullin
hold down the fort on the right side. An intriguing and interesting
mix. But who is the cleanup hitter here? Rafael Palmeiro?
This New York club has some definite ideas of how to disarm the rest of
the league, but the strategy has left itself disarmed as well in the
toughest division of the Union League.
This is a team of chemistry. All the proper ingredients are there, but
not too much of any one ingredient. Is it in a masterful mix of talent
but will it prove to be of the correct proportions? 154 tests will
tell, but the preliminary results are favorable. Chester Williams and Pete Hill provide ample speed. Willie Mays and Buck Leonard anchor the outfield
and infield defense, with Pete Hill
showing everyone what a rifle arm can do. Mays and Leonard also lead an offense
capable of sustained attack with the likes of Larry Doby and Home Run Johnson. Satchel Paige and his carnival
cavalcade of pitches leads a staff that includes Japanese curve ball
artist Juzo Sanada, crafty
Cuban lefty Luis Tiant Senior,
and underhander Iron Man Joe
among several others of noteworthy and unusual talent. There is only
one extraordinary relief artist in the bunch, but when that name is Mariano Rivera
. . . not much else needs be said. Perhaps the one ingredient missing
on this team is the catalyst: depth. If a major injury happens they
might not find the replacement needed to stay on top.
A little of everything can take a team a long way, all the way to the
top in the Atlantic Division unless lightning strikes. Making it
further will be a stretch they may not make.
A team that has taken the road less traveled. An unusual assortment of
power hitters and glovemen led by a switch hitting catcher of unequaled
defensive presence. Iron Man Brown
can block the plate like nobody's business, call a game like a master
musician and throw a rope you can hang laundry on. And he is not
without company behind the plate with his backstop colleagues Del Crandall and Chappie Johnson. This trio of
on-field commanders lead a rugged group of workmen into the season. Cal Ripken, John Olerud, Joe Carter, Roger Maris, Bobby Bonds, Andy Pafko and others can get the
job done, if not with exceptional flair. The staff has the venerable Cy Young as its ace along with one
of Japan's greatest, Hideo Fujimoto.
But then falls into question with the likes of David Cone, Pat Hentgen, Frank Viola, Mark Eichorn and Osamu Higashio. If the Blue Wave
get to closing time, Steve "Bedrock"
may be able to shut the door. But the most important factor for this
bunch is the foreman: a manager with an uncanny sense of streaks and
slumps, of playing the right guy at the right time, can turn the
predictions around and put this team on top.
Workmanlike is good but not good enough even in the weakest division of
the weaker league unless this Orix club can find some pitching the
equal of its top two pitchmen.
Pitching, pitching and more pitching is the name of the game on this
Philadelphia team. A rotation of Pedro
Martinez, Randy Johnson,
Bob Gibson, Mordecai Brown and Carl Hubbell
doesn't leave much room for mediocrity. Even the second-line corps is
stocked with stellar stars from Japan and the Negro Leagues. True,
there is not a world class closer on the team, but Steve Farr and Mike Timlin
might still be able to get the job done considering the quality
starters and the rest of the supporting class. The defense is solid
through and through. The team can even field an exceptional defense if
it desires, though it must give up some offense to do it. Speaking of
the offense, it is led by Wade Boggs
and Bill Terry
- which indicates that the solid defense will see more time than the
exceptional one because they can't afford to downgrade the offense.
Others with the bat in hand for Philadelphia are Carl Yastrzemski, Max Carey and Matty Alou. Playing in Shibe Park
can help their power numbers, but there is not an honest-to-goodness
slugger in the bunch except Jim Rice
to benefit from it. But with a pitching staff like that, will it matter?
In either of the other divisions this Philadelphia crew would be
odds-on favorites to take the pennant, but here the best that can be
said is they will be in the hunt until the last days.
Joltin' Joe DiMaggio leads a
strong assortment of players from all walks of baseball history. Oscar Charleston and Jelly Gardner will keep Joe company in an olympian outfield
that also includes Reggie Smith,
Sherry Magee, and Ken Williams waiting in the dugout
for their chance. The more down-to-earth infield is held together by
second tier stars Jeff Bagwell,
Roberto Alomar, George Davis and John Beckwith. Schnozz Lombardi behind the plate
is in control of a pitching staff whose most obvious weakness is a lack
of lefties - with only Lefty Gomez,
Bobby Shantz and Tommy John. However, right-handers
like Smokey Joe Williams
& Christy Mathewson might
be able to take the heat. When Armando
Benitez avoids the base on balls there is none better anywhere,
but the walk haunts him relentlessly. Benitez
may or may not be a weakness as a closer, but the real weakness there
is that there is nobody behind him in the closer role.
This San Francisco club must be set as the odds-on favorite to win
their pennant, but going farther than that may be beyond their reach.
Baseball started out as a haven for tough guys, wise guys, rubes,
drunks, gamblers, bums and general ne'erdowells . . . and with this
Seattle club many have come home to roost. Hack Wilson leads a gang that
includes The Straw Man, Baby Bull, Prince Hal, Charlie Hustle, Wild Thing, Wild Bill, Oil Can, Plunk, Crab, Doc, Dizzy, Sub, Bobo, Old Hoss and a guy who likes to
race horses . . . around the bases, Hans
Lobert aka Honus.
They have the ability to play when not indulging in their favorite
obsession, but can they put it together long enough to play against the
level of competition found in this league? With a starting rotation
that includes Dwight Gooden, Dizzy Dean, Carl Mays, Denny McLain & J.R. Richard, with a relief platoon
headed up by Wild Thing Mitch
Williams - all bets are off.
The league has got an offer the Seattle club can't refuse, but the fix
is in and those in the know say this gang can't shoot straight . . .
but that's not a requirement for winning, as any old-time gambler will
Most of the Japanese League's all-time baseball greatest are assembled
here, with the notable exception of the best of the best: Sadaharu Oh. However, in his stead
is the The God of Batting himself, Tetsuharu
Kawakami with his famous red bat. Speed is represented by the
all-time base stealer Yutaka Fukumoto,
and the Hawaiian who brought modern baseball to Japan, Wally Yonamine. The most popular
player to ever don a Japanese baseball uniform, Mr. Baseball, Shigeo Nagashima, holds down the
corner opposite Zen master Kawakami.
Around the Keystone Corner roam The
Formidable Buffalo, Shigeru
Chiba, and Mr. Shortstop
himself, Yoshio Yoshido.
Behind the plate are the greatest catchers Japan has ever seen: Katsuya Nomura, Atsuya Furuta and Tsutomu Ito. The pitchers mound has
its own constellation of stars orbiting around it with the brightest
being all-time Wins leader Masaichi
Kaneda, fan-voted all-time greatest Yutaka Enatsu, Jiro "Iron Man" Noguchi, dominant
power-pitcher Tadashi Sugiura,
The White Russian, Victor Starrfin and the other half
of the Hawaiian Hall of Famers, Bozo
Here assembled in this Tokyo club are the best Japan has to offer, and
they just might find it within their power to compete successfully here
in the weakest division of the weaker of the two Leagues.
Big Train, Big Hurt, Big Ed . . . Griffith Stadium . . .
this team is big enough to take on everything the Union League can
throw at it. Walter Johnson
heads up a well rounded staff of pitchers that can do it all. Bullet Joe Rogan comes in as the
top lefty, and then Japan's last 30-game winner, Mutsuo Minagawa, round things out
along with Babe Adams and Frank Tanana. Wilbur Wood knuckles his way into
the setup position for Dennis
Eckersley to mow them down in the ninth. At the plate and on the
field the Little Napoleon, John McGraw, commands a team and
has at his disposal Ed Delahanty,
Frank Thomas, Sliding Billy Hamilton, Ken Griffey Junior, Thurman Munson, Bingo DeMoss and Barry Larkin.
They will play in a Griffith Stadium with the left field line 407 feet
long and a 31-foot wall across all of right field. This park is the
10th player on the field. This team is custom built for Griffith, and
when it is at home there will be no other team in this league more
This Washington club will not dominate its league or division, but it
will win consistently against all comers and will end up the top team
of the Union League, and perhaps even the entire DMBATL.
And now, from where I stand behind
the ivory dish in the hallowed grassy shrine of Mudville, I say "Play