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Wednesday, 19 February 2020 13:47

Some sweet stanzas of spring (training)

“People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Rogers Hornsby

-

Sitting within winter's chilly deep-freeze

Our brains cry out for the spring's warming sun.

We search for signs that put our minds at ease

Like the sharp crack of a well-struck home run.

Our eager anticipation rises.

Whose legend begins with the year's first pitch?

Which unknown becomes the face of the sport?

This game will not run out of surprises.

It's the time when fans become truly rich;

The time when pitchers and catchers report.

Florida swamps, Arizona deserts,

Hosting leagues named for grapefruit and cactus.

Players damp from the efforts they exert

Sprinting and swinging their way through practice.

Veterans trying to play out the string,

Superstars at the height of their powers;

Faded prospects get that one final shot

While those hotshot rookies perfect their swings.

And we, the fans, can while away hours

As the game consumes our every thought.

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Baseball’s history is deep with detail,

Teeming with stories and numbers galore.

Legends loom largely with heroic scale

Epics greater than e’er we could ask for

Spring training's arrival heralds the season

Better than flowers or showers or grass -

The truest of our spring rites is baseball.

Our hopes and feelings overrule reason;

Everyone is first, and no one is last

And your team could wind up winning it all.

-

Spring training means flowers, people coming outdoors, sunshine, optimism and baseball. Spring training is a time to think about being young again.” – Ernie Banks

(A version of this poem appeared in a previous edition of The Maine Edge.)

Published in Sports

It might be tough to fathom, considering we’re still in the deep freeze of winter, but baseball season is just around the corner. Spring training begins in just a matter of weeks; before you know it, there will be meaningful action on the diamond once again.

But maybe you’re looking for something to tide you over, to remind you of just why we love the game as much as we do. If that sounds like you – and you’re a Red Sox fan – I might have something for you.

Martin Gitlin’s “The Ultimate Boston Red Sox Time Machine Book” (Lyons Press, $18.95) is a lovely quick-hit journey through Red Sox history, from those early days of success at the dawning of the World Series era to the incredible success of recent days, as well as the long, long, LONG stretch of championship futility that dogged the team through most of the 20th century.

This book offers a condensed timeline of the team’s illustrious history, featuring a number of classic photos to go along with the tales of tribulation and triumph. And while many of these stories will ring familiar to longtime followers of the team, there’s something here for every level of fandom, from the neophytes to the diehards.

Published in Sports

It’s a tale of two candidates in Cooperstown this year.

One was a no-doubter, as obvious a first-ballot shoo-in as there can be; the only question regarding his induction was whether he would become the second ever to be voted in unanimously. The other was a slow burn choice, an underrated player considered elite by the numbers but less so by perception, needing a record vote increase in his final years to make the cut in his last year of eligibility.

Now, they’re both Hall of Famers.

Derek Jeter and Larry Walker have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Jeter makes it to Cooperstown in his first year on the ballot and Walker in his last, but both absolutely deserve to take their respective places among the immortals.

Published in Sports

The coming of the new year tends to inspire feelings of reflection, of looking back on the year that has passed. And so, as someone who spent part of that year telling you what was going to happen in the world of sports, I feel it my duty to share with you how it ultimately went.

As per usual, the results are … let’s just call them mixed.

You’re more than welcome to judge my ability (or lack thereof) however you see fit. I’m perfectly aware of the dart-monkey levels of accuracy I usually manage; you won’t be telling me anything I don’t already know.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 19 November 2019 12:02

Who’s heading to the Hall in 2020?

Hall of Fame season is in full swing once again.

The 2020 ballot has landed, with the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) preparing to cast their votes for the players who will join the immortals of the game with plaques hanging in Cooperstown.

We’ve seen an explosion of inclusivity on recent ballots, with the writers voting in 20 players over the past six years. This has eased the glut of qualified candidates somewhat, though there remain a number of problematic names that clog the list.

This year, however, sees just one no-doubt candidate – Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. It’s a departure from recent groups that have almost all featured multiple first-ballot talents. Will this allow for some deserving candidates, heretofore stuck on the fringe, to make their way into these hallowed halls?

We shall see.

Published in Sports

While the official BBWAA Hall of Fame ballots won’t be officially released until next week, there is some Cooperstown news to discuss.

The Veterans Committee process has been overhauled a number of times in recent years, landing on a current format that includes dividing the history of the game into distinct eras and having committees devoted to delving into various candidacies of players who, for whatever reason, missed out during the writers’ balloting process and warrant further attention.

This year is the purview of the Modern Baseball Era Committee, which looks at players and other figures whose greatest contributions to the game occurred during the 1970-1987 timeframe. We’ve got 10 nominees – nine players and one contributor – who are going to get another look at potentially making their way into Cooperstown.

The list consists of: Dwight Evans; Steve Garvey; Tommy John; Don Mattingly; Marvin Miller; Thurman Munson; Dale Murphy; Dave Parker; Ted Simmons; and Lou Whitaker.

The voting for this honor will take place in December during MLB’s annual winter meetings. A 16-person panel, made up of Hall of Famers, executives and media members, will decide; a candidate needs 75% - 12 votes – to be elected.

Let’s have a closer look at a few of the names on this list, men whose Hall of Fame cases never really received the attention that they deserved.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 22 October 2019 13:35

Astros-Nationals: A World Series preview

And then there were two.

We’ve reached the end of the Major League Baseball season. Where once hope sprung in springtime for many of the league’s teams, a long season and arduous postseason have culled all but two squads. The World Series is upon us.

The Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals will face off in the Fall Classic.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 15 October 2019 21:01

A Boston Red Sox All-Decade Team

The 2010s have been a bit of a roller coaster for the Boston Red Sox.

There were two World Series titles – one in 2013 and another in 2018. But there were also a few last-place finishes (2012, 2014, 2015). In 2016 and 2017, the Sox won the AL East, only to fall in the ALDS both seasons; to Cleveland in the former (swept in three) and Houston in the latter (in four games). Oh, and they began the decade with a pair of third-place division finishes in 2010 and 2011.

Good, bad and ugly – that was Boston’s decade. To celebrate the end of this ten-year period, we’re taking a look back and picking out a team made up of those who made the biggest mark over the course of that stretch. Some of the picks are no-brainers, while others require a little more thought.

Enjoy our Red Sox All-Decade Team.

Published in Sports

And here we are. Another MLB regular season has come to an end. The playoffs are in full swing, with the handful of remaining teams doing everything within their power to make it to the World Series.

However, the league’s individual honors aren’t predicated on playoff performance. These awards are for the regular season. And while there was a fair amount of up-and-down over the course of the year, a lot of these names are ones that aren’t the least bit surprising. There are arguments to be made – there always are – but I’m comfortable with the selections that I’ve made. As always with this sort of thing, your mileage may vary.

Here we go: 2019’s final Clubhouse Leaders.

Published in Sports
Tuesday, 01 October 2019 16:24

Road to the 2019 World Series

Another long MLB season has come to an end. All 162 regular season games (and a couple of 163s) have been played. And as of this writing, just 10 remain with a chance to take home a World Series championship. Two-thirds of the league’s teams have packed it in and headed home for a long winter of wondering what might have been and awaiting the arrival of next spring and the ever-present hope that that season brings.

But now, it’s time to look ahead to what this postseason might have in store for us.

Rather than trying to put together a series-by-series breakdown, let us take a general look at the respective championship chances of all 10 remaining teams, ranking their World Series likelihoods in ascending order.

It’s all guesswork, obviously – heck, if I knew anything, I’d have gotten more than six out of the 10 playoff teams right in our MLB season preview back in March. I feel reasonably good about these new rankings, so this list will almost certainly turn out to be laughably inaccurate.

But hey – fortune favors the bold.

(Note: As of press time, the two wild card games had yet to be played. Thus, all four Wild Card teams are included on this list.)

Published in Sports
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