Michael R. Stevens

Baseball Review 2016, Part 2

Auguries and predictions (with an eye to 1983).

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Now, to the American League, and the additional X-factor which I must add to the mix, namely, who were the starting DH's on Opening Day of 1983, the tenth anniversary of the DH, and at this time (and maybe always) the place for aging sluggers to extend their arms and their careers? In the AL East, the Orioles are off to a strong start, clearly fueled by the vapors of their 1983 World Championship—a youthful (was he ever really young?) Cal Ripken went .318/27/102 that year, while his fellow Hall of Famer Eddie Murray went .306/33/111. Whatever Rich Dauer and Gary Roenicke contributed was gravy at that point. Mike Boddicker and Scotty McGregor finished in the top five in ERA and won 16 and 18 games, respectively. Okay, there is a strong edge from the past, but what about the 2016 Birds? Manny Machado is hitting .350 with 7 HR's and stellar defense at third, and Mark Trumbo has come over from the Angels, switched to RF, and is currently .337/8/22—and this with sluggers Adam Jones and Chris Davis not heated up yet. If Chris Tillman emerges as a bona-fide ace, this is a team to reckon with. That being said, the Red Sox are right alongside, with old guys like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz doing damage, and up-and-comers like Xander Bogaerts contributing as well. Former Tiger young-gun Rick Porcello has come into his own, while David Price, also late of the Tigers (and Rays and Blue Jays), has been inconsistent, suffering a couple of shellackings. The Bosox should compete with the Orioles, especially when I weigh in 1983 DH's Carl Yazstremski vs. Ken Singleton—I'll go with the Hall of Famer, and predict that the Red Sox will overtake Orioles in the last week. Last year's division champs, the Blue Jays, appear on the road to struggle, despite the powerful presence of Josh Donaldson with his MVP numbers in the middle of the order and an outfield of Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar, and Michael Saunders, all solid offensive producers. Could the 1983 outfield of Terry Collins, Lloyd Moseby, and Jesse Barfield buoy this up? What about Dave Stieb's stalwart 17-12 campaign? Maybe. But the tipping point of Butch Johnson as the 1983 DH? Despite the formidable mustache, I don't think it's enough. Tampa wasn't around in '83, and they appear to be fading this year as well—sign of the times, another former Tigers lefty, Drew Smyly, had a 2.60 ERA after his first 5 starts but a win-loss record of 1-3. No pop. And the Yankees look worse. Even their invulnerable bullpen for 100+mph arms has been roughed up (though now Aroldis Chapman is back from his suspension), and the aging knees of A-Rod, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Texeira can be heard creaking throughout the Bronx. Starlin Castro has emerged as a top-of-the-order hitter and fleet second baseman, but darkness has begun to descend. Can 1983 help, despite the fiasco of the pine tar game and the implosion of the Steinbrenner-Martin 're-re-re-re-marriage'? Don Baylor was the opening day DH, so that's something—and Ken Griffey, Sr., and a peaking Dave Winfield were in the lineup on Opening Day—but Don Mattingly wasn't yet in the everyday mix, which has augury written all over it—it hurts to say it, but the Yankees feel George Brett's wrath once more, and cellar-dwell.

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