Opening Day! Baseball Predictions

It’s Opening Day! On March 28, baseball starts up. It feels strange to say that. It’s a Thursday and we have a full slate of MLB.

The Yankees host the Orioles in the South Bronx. The Mets are in DC to take on the Nationals featuring last year’s Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom versus Max Scherzer. The newly minted deGrom with his extension signed two days ago after Noah Syndergaard spoke out.

At the Stadium, it’s Masahiro Tanaka for the Yankees on the mound while the Orioles counter with Andrew Cashner. The Birds will use the ‘opener’ a lot due to being bad. Something fans should be used to after how much success the Rays had last year. Oakland too even though it backfired last October against the Yankees in the cheesy one game wildcard.

Who’s psyched to see their favorite ballplayers and teams?!?! Everyone starts with the same record. Even the lowly Orioles, Tigers, Royals, Marlins and Giants. Who’ll lose 100 games?

Will anyone win 100 like the world champion Red Sox did with a jaw dropping 108? The Yankees hit the century mark too before bowing out in ugly fashion at home to Boston. But the Red Sox crushed everyone including the Astros and Dodgers, who are aiming for three consecutive World Series appearances. The pressure is on to win. They don’t want to become the Buffalo Bills of baseball.

Which player will have the biggest impact on a new team?

A.Bryce Harper, Phillies

B.Manny Machado, Padres

C.Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals

D.Patrick Corbin, Nationals

E.Other

It’s truly an exciting time for baseball. Mike Trout is locked up with a record $430 million extension with the Angels. Will the game’s best player see October soon in the City of Angels? They do have Shohei Ohtani due back in May to DH following Tommy John surgery. Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons too. But the rest of the roster remains sketchy. Matt Harvey is an Angel being counted on in their rotation. Justin Bour was brought in for lefty power.

The AL West remains a battle between the top heavy Astros and the Athletics. Houston boasting stars Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Justin Verlander and trendy Cy Young pick Gerrit Cole. Oakland possessing young talent Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, former Ranger Jurickson Profar, Marcus Semien and big slugger Khris Davis. Sean Manaea is back to anchor the staff.

AL WEST

+1.Astros 97-65

*2.Athletics 92-70

3.Angels 79-83

4.Mariners 67-95

5.Rangers 65-97

The AL Central is the worst in the game. Only the pitching strong Indians should top 85 wins led by Cy candidates Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Francisco Lindor will be sidelined with an ankle injury. But Jose Ramirez is ready for another big year. Does Hanley Ramirez have anything left and how much can power hitter Carlos Santana help the lineup? The outfield lost Michael Brantley to Houston. It’s not good. Only the Twins should challenge Cleveland with over 81 victories. We’ll see how much Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and CJ Cron can help a lineup featuring Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and breakout candidate Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano is due back next month. Ace Jose Berrios could be a dark horse for the Cy Young. It’ll depend on Jake Odorizzi and former Yankee Michael Pineda.

AL CENTRAL

+1.Indians 91-71

2.Twins 84-78

3.White Sox 73-89

4.Tigers 65-97

5.Royals 59-103

The Yankees will battle the Red Sox in the AL East all summer. Can James Paxton be that reliable big lefty with Luis Severino sidelined until May? JA Happ is ack. Tanaka is the ace for now with CC Sabathia entering his final year. He won’t start the season either. It’s all about MVP candidates Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who headline a lineup that still features Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Didi Gregorius won’t return until probably July. It’s Troy Tulowitzki at short for now. With Aaron Hicks on the DL, Brett Gardner shifts to center field. That weakens the outfield. Both Greg Bird (healthy) and Luke Voit are in the lineup. The bullpen also will start without Dellin Betances, who needs to get up to speed. It still has Zack Britton, Chad Green, free agent addition Adam Ottavino and closer Aroldis Chapman. DJ Lemahieu is a good utility player. It’ll be interesting to see how Domingo German and Luis Cessa perform on the staff.

Boston boasts a great lineup that includes AL MVP Mookie Betts. The outfield is the best in baseball with all three Gold Glove caliber including Jackie Bradley, Jr. Andrew Benintendi will only get better. A scary thought for AL pitchers. JD Martinez made a huge difference last year. Even though Betts won MVP, Martinez was the biggest reason for the Red Sox success. He’s a scary hitter who challenged for the Triple Crown in 2018. Expect a bug year out of Rafael Devers. Xander Boegarts could fare better than last year. Second will be Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt until Boston feels comfortable bringing back Dustin Pedroia. What does he have left? They will go as far as Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi take them. Former closer Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned. He’s priced himself out along with Scott Boras client Dallas Keuchel. So, Auston Barnes will close with Ryan Brasier setting up. Eduardo Rodriguez could be a key.

The only other team to keep an eye on is the Rays. Led by AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, they have a interesting roster that features potential breakout candidate Austin Meadows with talented infielders Willy Adames and Joey Wendle. Charlie Morton is a nice addition to the rotation. Tyler Glasnow is a big arm to watch they stole from the Pirates. Kevin Kiermaier should bounce back. He plays unbelievable defense in center. Tommy Pham is a decent bat. It’s pitchers like Ryan Yarbrough and Ryne Stanek who will be counted on in unconventional fashion under skipper Kevin Cash. Mike Zunino supplies power behind the plate. Jose De Leon could return mid summer. The Rays will challenge the A’s and possibly the Twins for the wild card.

EAST

+1.Yankees 98-64

*2.Red Sox 95-67

3.Rays 90-72

4.Blue Jays 70-92

5.Orioles 56-106

The NL East is the best division. You have four possibilities who can win it. That includes the Mets, who added Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners in a blockbuster deal made by new GM Brodie Van Wagenen. What do you know? Cano took Scherzer deep in his first at bat as a Met. You know what they say about first impressions. The former All-Star second baseman remains a terrific defensive player who should still put up good numbers even though he’s getting up there. He will hit third in a lineup that features outfield tandem Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. Adding slugging catcher Wilson Ramos was smart. Hopefully, he can stay on the field. Bust Travis d’Arnaud backs up for now with Devin Mesoraco displeased with being designated for Syracuse. He might retire. But he’s de Grom’s preferred catcher. A lot of excitement surrounds rookie first baseman Pete Alonso. He led the team in hitting this Spring. Alonso won the job over Dominic Smith. He’s penciled in batting second versus Scherzer today. Think Aaron Judge impact if he’s ready. Expect Amed Rosario to take the next step at short. Even though their lineup should improve, there are still holes. Juan Lagares in center and the third base situation aren’t great. Jed Lowrie is on the DL. Todd Frazier is a good power bat, but that’s it. They’re really counting on Jeff McNeill to hit at the hot corner. He reminds me of Daniel Murphy.

The top three of de Grom, Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler could be one of the game’s best. As long as Noah’s ark does his talking on the mound and Wheeler carries over his incredible second half in a contract year, that 1-3 is capable of carrying them. But they need more offense. That’s why they went out and got Cano and Lowrie. I still think it hinges on Alonso. Diaz closes with a nice balance that includes Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and former closer Jeurys Familia setting up. The back of the rotation is also a question due to Steven Matz, who can be good and bad. Whatever they get from Jason Vargas is a bonus.

So, are the Mets good enough to challenge the Braves, Nationals and Phillies? You be the judge. Atlanta added Josh Donaldson to play the hot corner. He’s a former MVP who if right, can put up huge numbers. I’ll go conservative and project 27 home runs and 80 RBI. Imagine the possibilities with MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and young left field future star Ronald Acuna, Jr. The rest of the lineup isn’t overwhelming, but contains solid players such as Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and Nick Markakis. I still think Johan Camargo should be a key in a utility role. He had a good 2018. I’m uncertain how much Brian McCann has left, but he’ll platoon with Tyler Flowers behind the plate. As much hype as the Mets Big Three get, Atlanta boasts young arms Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Kevin Gausman, who pitched well after Baltimore gave up on him. Kyle Wright is their big rookie to watch. Julio Teheran is hit or miss. Arodys Vizcaino closes and AJ Minter is a big arm who will miss the first week. Keep an eye on Touki Toussaint. Max Fried and Jesse Biddle are middle relievers with strikeout stuff.

The dynamic between the Nationals and Phillies is a interesting one. Bryce Harper went from Washington to Philadelphia. It took a while for the polarizing right field star to decide. It wasn’t much of a choice. He wasn’t going to sign with the White Sox or Giants. So, he decided for security. Now, he is in pressure packed Philly where the crazies boo Santa. Considering the kind of big personality he is, Harper should fit in. Think Reggie with the Yankees. But there’s a huge difference. Harper has an MVP on his resume and two big seasons. But Reggie Jackson was in a class of his own delivering for the Oakland A’s before becoming Mr. October. Bryce has yet to carry a team in the playoffs. We’ll see if he can in a potential lineup that features Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen, breakout candidate Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and new catcher JT Realmuto. They also traded for shortstop Jean Segura. A guy who can hit and run. This lineup has everything. Nick Williams is overlooked. Aaron Altherr can come off the bench.

For the Phillies, it’s all about the pitching. We know Aaron Nola is one of the game’s best pitchers. He could’ve won the Cy if de Grom wasn’t all worldly. After that, Jake Arrieta needs to be more consistent. Three through five are unproven. Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Effin are all young. They’ll get swings and misses. Adding former Yankee David Robertson was a good move. He can set up or close if Seranthony Dominguez struggles. Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter are middle relievers. If they can limit the damage, the Phillies could go from 80 wins to 90.

Are the Nats better minus Harper? The talent is still there. Anthony Rendon headlines a balanced lineup that includes Trea Turner, slugging outfielder Juan Soto and Adam Eaton. It’s all about the health of both Turner and Eaton. Turner could be a MVP guy if he stayed on the field. He can hit, run and play defense. Eaton is a good center fielder. He’s had bad luck. They added Yan Gomes to catch and brought in Kurt Suzuki to back up. That’s a very good tandem. Brian Dozier is the second baseman. Does the former Twins 40 hone run man have something left? Ryan Zimmerman remains a good power hitting first baseman when on the field. Matt Adams is back to supply pop from the left side. Keep an eye on rookie Victor Robles. A potential five tool outfielder they expect big things from. Michael Taylor has power and speed. Wilmer Difo plays second too. When you look at a rotation headlined by Million Dollar Max, Stephen DL Strasburg and big free agent addition Corbin, this is a team that could contend. Jeremy Hellickson and Anibal Sanchez aren’t scaring anyone, but will give them innings. Sean Doolittle can close as can Koda Glover. Trevor Rosenthal once was a huge reliever for the Cards. There’s a nice balance here. Maybe they’re better off without the Harper distraction.

NL EAST

+1.Braves 92-70

*2.Nationals 91-71

3.Mets 88-74

4.Phillies 87-75

5.Marlins 54-108

The NL Central was a two horse race last year between the Brewers and Cubs. In the end, an awful September slump did in the Cubs. They didn’t hit or pitch and blew the division to the red hot Brew Crew, who were carried by surprising NL MVP Christian Yelich. It was that former Marlin of the outfield trio that included Stanton and Marcell Ozuna that put together a special season. Can he duplicate it?

The same can be asked for Cubs do everything middle infielder Javy Baez. Yelich has a three-run dinger today. What can Baez do for a Cubs team that needs a big bounce back from former MVP Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras. Kyle Babe Schwarber must improve following a disappointing 2018. He has 35-40 home run potential. But not if he doesn’t make consistent contact. Think the Rangers’ Joey Gallo. The top of the rotation should be better with a full year of Cole Hamels combining with newly extended Kyle Hendricks and veteran southpaw Jon Lester to form a formidable top three. The scary part is that excludes Jose Quintana, who is very capable of going deep. Yu Darvish was okay in Spring Training. How will he do? Brandon Morrow was missed in the second half. He could be ready to close in May. So, who closes? Probably Pedro Strop or Brandon Kintzler. Brad Brach was a good add. He’s more reliable than Carl Edwards, Jr. Don’t forget the Cubbies have Anthony Rizzo at first. He’s usually good for 30 homers and 100 RBI. Ben Zobrist is the second baseman for now. Baez is at short. Albert Almora should continue to improve. Jason Heyward is basically a fourth outfielder despite his contract. Are they really gonna bring back Addison Russell? Considering all the details of his domestic abuse against his former wife, I wouldn’t. I don’t even know why he’s not suspended for the entire year. The Cubs could be very good if the offense hits to form. The pitching should carry them.

The Brewers don’t have that kind of staff. Jhoulys Chacin is the ace. Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson are decent. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are power arms with plus stuff. Josh Hader is the best reliever in baseball. He can dominate the end of games. If the writers weren’t so insistent on voting for starters, I would seriously consider picking Hader for the Cy. He’s that good. Milwaukee can take with the best of them. A balanced lineup that features do everything center fielder Lorenzo Cain with MVP Yelich includes sluggers Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and Mr. Brewer Ryan Braun. Mike Moustakas is also back. Orlando Arcia is hoping to improve at short following a nice October. Yasmani Grandal was signed to boost the catching. Though not for his defense. Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress are still at the back to close even though Hader is way better.

After falling short for a third straight year, the Cardinals beefed up by acquiring arguably the best first baseman in the NL in Goldschmidt. Adding his big bat to a lineup that boasts Ozuna, Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong. Harrison Bader is someone to watch in the outfield. Yadier Molina is still behind the plate with Matt Wieters as insurance. It’s guys like Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong who’ll determine if the order is more than just the big boppers. Andrew Miller got big money to set up or close out of a bullpen that includes Jordan Hicks, John Gant and Dominic Leone. Jose Martinez shifts to the outfield with Goldschmidt on first. Health will be the key for Miller, who might not be the same pitcher. St. Louis is banking on him. Michael Wacha is in a rotation that has ace Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson and veteran Adam Wainwright. It’s a interesting mix.

The final two teams are the Reds and Pirates. A doormat for years, Cincinnati traded for former Dodger Yasiel Puig and veteran Matt Kemp. Puig should be highly motivated in a contract year. He doesn’t understand why the Dodgers traded him. They weren’t playing him every day. Puig is a unique talent with a plus arm and the capability of 30 homers. Something he’s never done. In a lineup that includes Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto, who will bounce back, Puig could finally reach his full potential. Jose Peraza is the speed demon. The Reds traded for Sonny Gray. Hopefully, it’ll be a sunnier disposition for him there than the Bronx where he failed miserably. Luis Castillo is a big arm. Alex Wood is solid and Tanner Roark is a decent add to the rotation. Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson must fulfill potential. Anthony DeSclafini is okay. Raisel Iglesias closes. On paper, this isn’t a bad roster. It’s no match for the upper echelon.

The Pirates won’t blow you away. They still should be a solid ball club. They took a risk trading away both Meadows and Glasnow to Tampa for Chris Archer. A strikeout guy with a proven arm. He’s never delivered the big season he’s capable of. He better in Pittsburgh. Jameson Taillon is full of potential. He won 14 games last year. He’s the ace. Trevor Williams is a decent third starter. I couldn’t tell you much about the other two starters. I know Felipe Vazquez (Rivero) closes. He’s got superb stuff. Keone Kela sets up and Kyle Crick they stole from the Giants for McCutchen. Nick Burdi once was considered a good prospect for Minnesota. He’s 26. Starling Marte is the best position player they have. He can hit for power and speed. Greg Polanco was a huge disappointment last year. Josh Bell could hit 30 dingers if he returns to form. Corey Dickerson is a solid professional hitter who kills righties. Francisco Cervelli is quietly one of the most underrated catchers in baseball. Adam Frazier is a solid utility guy and Lonnie Chisenhall is a decent fourth outfielder. How well will Colin Moran and Jung Ho Kang do? The offense could have issues scoring runs.

NL CENTRAL

+1.Cubs 97-65

*2.Brewers 93-69

3.Cardinals 87-75

4.Pirates 80-82

5.Reds 75-87

The NL West is basically a two horse race. No. The Padres aren’t quite ready to compete with the Dodgers or Rockies. The Diamonbacks are retooling. So, they eliminated themselves by trading Goldschmidt and losing Corbin as expected. Steven Sousa is also done for the year. The Giants are going to be very bad. They don’t have any superstars that can carry them. It’s just a question of when Madison Bumgarner is moved.

So, if three teams will all be under .500, what’s to get excited for? The Dodgers remain the class of the West. They dealt away Puig and Kemp in a cost cutting move with Alex Wood. They still have great talent. Walker Buehler supplants Clayton Kershaw as the staff ace who could challenge for the Cy Young. He is electric, young and will dominate. Kershaw starts on the DL. He’s expected back in two to three weeks. Last year, Max Muncy came out of nowhere to lead the Dodgers in home runs. He takes pitches and can go to the opposite field. That should bode well. Similar to the Yanks’ Voit, who got off to a quick start with a three-run blast to Monument Park in their win.

Cody Bellinger remains one of my favorite players. A versatile player who can play first or outfield due to his athleticism, expect him to improve at the plate. Justin Turner is the veteran leader at the hot corner who is a professional hitter with pop. What about shortstop Corey Seager? He’s back from Tommy John. If he rounds into form, watch out. Chris Taylor can play second and left field. Joc Pederson supplies plenty of power versus righties. Rather than pay Harper, they added solid outfielder AJ Pollock. A good ball player who can get on base, hit for a little power and run, it’s all about staying healthy for the ex-DBack. A very nice addition. Austin Barnes is catching with fan favorite Russell Martin backing up. Enrique Hernandez is a good right bat who will get starts and pinch hit. Keep an eye on top prospect Alex Verdugo. Either they’ll make room or use him as a trade chip in July.

If Julio Urias can return to form, the Dodgers pitching could be scalry. Rich Hill is a five inning lefty with pinpoint control. Hyun-Jin Ryu is a good pitcher with nice stuff. They can use Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling as starters and relievers. Pedro Baez sets up and former Red Sox flamethrower Joe Kelly should be a good fit in the pen. How does closer Kenley Jansen do following the heart procedure? He was shaky last year.

Colorado got back to the postseason in 2018. They even upset the Cubs in the wildcard to advance to a division series they lost to Milwaukee. The Rockies added Daniel Murphy to a lineup that boasts the game’s best third baseman Nolan Arenado, who got the big extension that should make Manny Machado jealous. Kidding. Arenado is all world at the plate and in the field. He’s surrounded by shortstop Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. Ian Desmond supplies pop and speed. David Dahl is a emerging slugger. Mark Reynolds made the roster out of camp. This could be it for the first baseman. Chris Iannetta catches and Tony Wolters backs up.

The Rockies pitching was a reason they made October. Ace Kyle Freeland was one of the Senior Circuit’s best pitchers. German Marquez won 14 games and fanned 230 in 196 innings. Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray and Chad Bettis are 3-5. Wade Davis is the closer. The former World Series hero saved 43 games, but had over a 4.00 ERA. They lost key set up man Ottavino to the Yankees. Bryan Shaw was lousy in 2018. Jake McGee will be a key factor.

The Padres should finish third by default. They gave Machado big money. Now, we’ll see if he can be an impact player on a young rising team. It’ll be interesting to see the moody slugger in that big ballpark. Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers have good power. So, the middle of the order should be solid. Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe are key players. Austin Hedges does the catching with former Indians top prospect Francisco Mejia having huge power. He had a big Spring. Most exciting is number two MLB prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr. made the team and will be the starting shortstop. He’s only 20 and considered to be a can’t miss prospect. Let’s see how he handles it. Ian Kinsler is a upgrade at second. The pitching isn’t good enough to compete. Best of luck to Adam Warren.

The Diamondbacks still have ace Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray headlining the rotation that includes Zack Godley and ex-Cardinal Luke Weaver, who came over in the Goldschmidt deal. Taijuan Walker isn’t ready yet. They signed Adam Jones to play right field and hit leadoff. A solid player who was disrespected by the lowly Orioles. He’s a guy you root for. David Peralta hit a career high 30 homers last year. Was it due to Goldschmidt? Jake Lamb returns, but they added Eduardo Escobar to play third. Former Met Wilmer Flores is a utility playing second today. Ketel Marte has shifted to center. Ex-Yankee John Ryan Murphy might be the worst starting catcher. Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano set up veteran Greg Holland.

The Giants are basically Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Evan Longoria. They’re all in decline. Though Bumgarner isn’t 30 until August 1. If he can find whatever he had before the injuries, then the Giants should get a huge return for the proven winner. His Spring was worrisome. Johnny Cueto is out until September. They added Drew Pomeranz. Dereck Rodriguez had a good rookie season. Chris Stratton is okay. Infielders Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are good defensively. All three underachieved last year with bad finishes for Belt and Crawford. Yangervis Solarte is the only newcomer at third with Pablo Sandoval the backup. Mark Melancon makes a ton of money to not save games. I’m a fan of him due to covering the Staten Island Yankees in 2006 when they won a Penn-League Championship. He was on the same team as Cervelli and popular former Giants reliever George Kontos. It’s Bruce Bochy’s last year as manager. He’s going to Cooperstown.

NL WEST

+1.Dodgers 95-67

2.Rockies 89-73

3.Padres 76-86

4.Diamondbacks 75-87

5.Giants 68-94

OCTOBER PREDICTIONS

American League

Wildcard

Red Sox over Athletics

Division Series

Yankees over Red Sox in 5

Astros over Indians in 4

ALCS

Yankees over Astros in 7

National League

Wildcard

Nationals over Brewers

Division Series

Cubs over Nationals in 4

Dodgers over Braves in 5

NLCS

Cubs over Dodgers in 7

WORLD SERIES

Yankees over Cubs in 6

MLB 2019 AWARDS

AL ROY Eloy Jimenez, White Sox

AL Cy Young Trevor Bauer, Indians

AL MVP Aaron Judge, Yankees

NL ROY Victor Robles, Nationals

NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom, Mets

NL MVP Trea Turner, Nationals

Hank Aaron Award Mike Trout, Angels

HR King Giancarlo Stanton (52), Yankees

RBI Leader Nolan Arenado (125), Rockies

Highest Batting Average Jose Altuve (.333), Astros

WS MVP Didi Gregorius, Yankees

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Opening Day! Baseball Predictions

It’s Opening Day! On March 28, baseball starts up. It feels strange to say that. It’s a Thursday and we have a full slate of MLB.

The Yankees host the Orioles in the South Bronx. The Mets are in DC to take on the Nationals featuring last year’s Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom versus Max Scherzer. The newly minted deGrom with his extension signed two days ago after Noah Syndergaard spoke out.

At the Stadium, it’s Masahiro Tanaka for the Yankees on the mound while the Orioles counter with Andrew Cashner. The Birds will use the ‘opener’ a lot due to being bad. Something fans should be used to after how much success the Rays had last year. Oakland too even though it backfired last October against the Yankees in the cheesy one game wildcard.

Who’s psyched to see their favorite ballplayers and teams?!?! Everyone starts with the same record. Even the lowly Orioles, Tigers, Royals, Marlins and Giants. Who’ll lose 100 games?

Will anyone win 100 like the world champion Red Sox did with a jaw dropping 108? The Yankees hit the century mark too before bowing out in ugly fashion at home to Boston. But the Red Sox crushed everyone including the Astros and Dodgers, who are aiming for three consecutive World Series appearances. The pressure is on to win. They don’t want to become the Buffalo Bills of baseball.

Which player will have the biggest impact on a new team?

A.Bryce Harper, Phillies

B.Manny Machado, Padres

C.Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals

D.Patrick Corbin, Nationals

E.Other

It’s truly an exciting time for baseball. Mike Trout is locked up with a record $430 million extension with the Angels. Will the game’s best player see October soon in the City of Angels? They do have Shohei Ohtani due back in May to DH following Tommy John surgery. Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons too. But the rest of the roster remains sketchy. Matt Harvey is an Angel being counted on in their rotation. Justin Bour was brought in for lefty power.

The AL West remains a battle between the top heavy Astros and the Athletics. Houston boasting stars Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Justin Verlander and trendy Cy Young pick Gerrit Cole. Oakland possessing young talent Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, former Ranger Jurickson Profar, Marcus Semien and big slugger Khris Davis. Sean Manaea is back to anchor the staff.

AL WEST

+1.Astros 97-65

*2.Athletics 92-70

3.Angels 79-83

4.Mariners 67-95

5.Rangers 65-97

The AL Central is the worst in the game. Only the pitching strong Indians should top 85 wins led by Cy candidates Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Francisco Lindor will be sidelined with an ankle injury. But Jose Ramirez is ready for another big year. Does Hanley Ramirez have anything left and how much can power hitter Carlos Santana help the lineup? The outfield lost Michael Brantley to Houston. It’s not good. Only the Twins should challenge Cleveland with over 81 victories. We’ll see how much Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and CJ Cron can help a lineup featuring Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler and breakout candidate Byron Buxton. Miguel Sano is due back next month. Ace Jose Berrios could be a dark horse for the Cy Young. It’ll depend on Jake Odorizzi and former Yankee Michael Pineda.

AL CENTRAL

+1.Indians 91-71

2.Twins 84-78

3.White Sox 73-89

4.Tigers 65-97

5.Royals 59-103

The Yankees will battle the Red Sox in the AL East all summer. Can James Paxton be that reliable big lefty with Luis Severino sidelined until May? JA Happ is ack. Tanaka is the ace for now with CC Sabathia entering his final year. He won’t start the season either. It’s all about MVP candidates Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who headline a lineup that still features Gary Sanchez, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Didi Gregorius won’t return until probably July. It’s Troy Tulowitzki at short for now. With Aaron Hicks on the DL, Brett Gardner shifts to center field. That weakens the outfield. Both Greg Bird (healthy) and Luke Voit are in the lineup. The bullpen also will start without Dellin Betances, who needs to get up to speed. It still has Zack Britton, Chad Green, free agent addition Adam Ottavino and closer Aroldis Chapman. DJ Lemahieu is a good utility player. It’ll be interesting to see how Domingo German and Luis Cessa perform on the staff.

Boston boasts a great lineup that includes AL MVP Mookie Betts. The outfield is the best in baseball with all three Gold Glove caliber including Jackie Bradley, Jr. Andrew Benintendi will only get better. A scary thought for AL pitchers. JD Martinez made a huge difference last year. Even though Betts won MVP, Martinez was the biggest reason for the Red Sox success. He’s a scary hitter who challenged for the Triple Crown in 2018. Expect a bug year out of Rafael Devers. Xander Boegarts could fare better than last year. Second will be Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt until Boston feels comfortable bringing back Dustin Pedroia. What does he have left? They will go as far as Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi take them. Former closer Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned. He’s priced himself out along with Scott Boras client Dallas Keuchel. So, Auston Barnes will close with Ryan Brasier setting up. Eduardo Rodriguez could be a key.

The only other team to keep an eye on is the Rays. Led by AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, they have a interesting roster that features potential breakout candidate Austin Meadows with talented infielders Willy Adames and Joey Wendle. Charlie Morton is a nice addition to the rotation. Tyler Glasnow is a big arm to watch they stole from the Pirates. Kevin Kiermaier should bounce back. He plays unbelievable defense in center. Tommy Pham is a decent bat. It’s pitchers like Ryan Yarbrough and Ryne Stanek who will be counted on in unconventional fashion under skipper Kevin Cash. Mike Zunino supplies power behind the plate. Jose De Leon could return mid summer. The Rays will challenge the A’s and possibly the Twins for the wild card.

EAST

+1.Yankees 98-64

*2.Red Sox 95-67

3.Rays 90-72

4.Blue Jays 70-92

5.Orioles 56-106

The NL East is the best division. You have four possibilities who can win it. That includes the Mets, who added Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners in a blockbuster deal made by new GM Brodie Van Wagenen. What do you know? Cano took Scherzer deep in his first at bat as a Met. You know what they say about first impressions. The former All-Star second baseman remains a terrific defensive player who should still put up good numbers even though he’s getting up there. He will hit third in a lineup that features outfield tandem Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. Adding slugging catcher Wilson Ramos was smart. Hopefully, he can stay on the field. Bust Travis d’Arnaud backs up for now with Devin Mesoraco displeased with being designated for Syracuse. He might retire. But he’s de Grom’s preferred catcher. A lot of excitement surrounds rookie first baseman Pete Alonso. He led the team in hitting this Spring. Alonso won the job over Dominic Smith. He’s penciled in batting second versus Scherzer today. Think Aaron Judge impact if he’s ready. Expect Amed Rosario to take the next step at short. Even though their lineup should improve, there are still holes. Juan Lagares in center and the third base situation aren’t great. Jed Lowrie is on the DL. Todd Frazier is a good power bat, but that’s it. They’re really counting on Jeff McNeill to hit at the hot corner. He reminds me of Daniel Murphy.

The top three of de Grom, Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler could be one of the game’s best. As long as Noah’s ark does his talking on the mound and Wheeler carries over his incredible second half in a contract year, that 1-3 is capable of carrying them. But they need more offense. That’s why they went out and got Cano and Lowrie. I still think it hinges on Alonso. Diaz closes with a nice balance that includes Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and former closer Jeurys Familia setting up. The back of the rotation is also a question due to Steven Matz, who can be good and bad. Whatever they get from Jason Vargas is a bonus.

So, are the Mets good enough to challenge the Braves, Nationals and Phillies? You be the judge. Atlanta added Josh Donaldson to play the hot corner. He’s a former MVP who if right, can put up huge numbers. I’ll go conservative and project 27 home runs and 80 RBI. Imagine the possibilities with MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and young left field future star Ronald Acuna, Jr. The rest of the lineup isn’t overwhelming, but contains solid players such as Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson and Nick Markakis. I still think Johan Camargo should be a key in a utility role. He had a good 2018. I’m uncertain how much Brian McCann has left, but he’ll platoon with Tyler Flowers behind the plate. As much hype as the Mets Big Three get, Atlanta boasts young arms Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Kevin Gausman, who pitched well after Baltimore gave up on him. Kyle Wright is their big rookie to watch. Julio Teheran is hit or miss. Arodys Vizcaino closes and AJ Minter is a big arm who will miss the first week. Keep an eye on Touki Toussaint. Max Fried and Jesse Biddle are middle relievers with strikeout stuff.

The dynamic between the Nationals and Phillies is a interesting one. Bryce Harper went from Washington to Philadelphia. It took a while for the polarizing right field star to decide. It wasn’t much of a choice. He wasn’t going to sign with the White Sox or Giants. So, he decided for security. Now, he is in pressure packed Philly where the crazies boo Santa. Considering the kind of big personality he is, Harper should fit in. Think Reggie with the Yankees. But there’s a huge difference. Harper has an MVP on his resume and two big seasons. But Reggie Jackson was in a class of his own delivering for the Oakland A’s before becoming Mr. October. Bryce has yet to carry a team in the playoffs. We’ll see if he can in a potential lineup that features Rhys Hoskins, Andrew McCutchen, breakout candidate Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and new catcher JT Realmuto. They also traded for shortstop Jean Segura. A guy who can hit and run. This lineup has everything. Nick Williams is overlooked. Aaron Altherr can come off the bench.

For the Phillies, it’s all about the pitching. We know Aaron Nola is one of the game’s best pitchers. He could’ve won the Cy if de Grom wasn’t all worldly. After that, Jake Arrieta needs to be more consistent. Three through five are unproven. Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Effin are all young. They’ll get swings and misses. Adding former Yankee David Robertson was a good move. He can set up or close if Seranthony Dominguez struggles. Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter are middle relievers. If they can limit the damage, the Phillies could go from 80 wins to 90.

Are the Nats better minus Harper? The talent is still there. Anthony Rendon headlines a balanced lineup that includes Trea Turner, slugging outfielder Juan Soto and Adam Eaton. It’s all about the health of both Turner and Eaton. Turner could be a MVP guy if he stayed on the field. He can hit, run and play defense. Eaton is a good center fielder. He’s had bad luck. They added Yan Gomes to catch and brought in Kurt Suzuki to back up. That’s a very good tandem. Brian Dozier is the second baseman. Does the former Twins 40 hone run man have something left? Ryan Zimmerman remains a good power hitting first baseman when on the field. Matt Adams is back to supply pop from the left side. Keep an eye on rookie Victor Robles. A potential five tool outfielder they expect big things from. Michael Taylor has power and speed. Wilmer Difo plays second too. When you look at a rotation headlined by Million Dollar Max, Stephen DL Strasburg and big free agent addition Corbin, this is a team that could contend. Jeremy Hellickson and Anibal Sanchez aren’t scaring anyone, but will give them innings. Sean Doolittle can close as can Koda Glover. Trevor Rosenthal once was a huge reliever for the Cards. There’s a nice balance here. Maybe they’re better off without the Harper distraction.

NL EAST

+1.Braves 92-70

*2.Nationals 91-71

3.Mets 88-74

4.Phillies 87-75

5.Marlins 54-108

The NL Central was a two horse race last year between the Brewers and Cubs. In the end, an awful September slump did in the Cubs. They didn’t hit or pitch and blew the division to the red hot Brew Crew, who were carried by surprising NL MVP Christian Yelich. It was that former Marlin of the outfield trio that included Stanton and Marcell Ozuna that put together a special season. Can he duplicate it?

The same can be asked for Cubs do everything middle infielder Javy Baez. Yelich has a three-run dinger today. What can Baez do for a Cubs team that needs a big bounce back from former MVP Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras. Kyle Babe Schwarber must improve following a disappointing 2018. He has 35-40 home run potential. But not if he doesn’t make consistent contact. Think the Rangers’ Joey Gallo. The top of the rotation should be better with a full year of Cole Hamels combining with newly extended Kyle Hendricks and veteran southpaw Jon Lester to form a formidable top three. The scary part is that excludes Jose Quintana, who is very capable of going deep. Yu Darvish was okay in Spring Training. How will he do? Brandon Morrow was missed in the second half. He could be ready to close in May. So, who closes? Probably Pedro Strop or Brandon Kintzler. Brad Brach was a good add. He’s more reliable than Carl Edwards, Jr. Don’t forget the Cubbies have Anthony Rizzo at first. He’s usually good for 30 homers and 100 RBI. Ben Zobrist is the second baseman for now. Baez is at short. Albert Almora should continue to improve. Jason Heyward is basically a fourth outfielder despite his contract. Are they really gonna bring back Addison Russell? Considering all the details of his domestic abuse against his former wife, I wouldn’t. I don’t even know why he’s not suspended for the entire year. The Cubs could be very good if the offense hits to form. The pitching should carry them.

The Brewers don’t have that kind of staff. Jhoulys Chacin is the ace. Zach Davies, Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson are decent. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are power arms with plus stuff. Josh Hader is the best reliever in baseball. He can dominate the end of games. If the writers weren’t so insistent on voting for starters, I would seriously consider picking Hader for the Cy. He’s that good. Milwaukee can take with the best of them. A balanced lineup that features do everything center fielder Lorenzo Cain with MVP Yelich includes sluggers Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and Mr. Brewer Ryan Braun. Mike Moustakas is also back. Orlando Arcia is hoping to improve at short following a nice October. Yasmani Grandal was signed to boost the catching. Though not for his defense. Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress are still at the back to close even though Hader is way better.

After falling short for a third straight year, the Cardinals beefed up by acquiring arguably the best first baseman in the NL in Goldschmidt. Adding his big bat to a lineup that boasts Ozuna, Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong. Harrison Bader is someone to watch in the outfield. Yadier Molina is still behind the plate with Matt Wieters as insurance. It’s guys like Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong who’ll determine if the order is more than just the big boppers. Andrew Miller got big money to set up or close out of a bullpen that includes Jordan Hicks, John Gant and Dominic Leone. Jose Martinez shifts to the outfield with Goldschmidt on first. Health will be the key for Miller, who might not be the same pitcher. St. Louis is banking on him. Michael Wacha is in a rotation that has ace Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson and veteran Adam Wainwright. It’s a interesting mix.

The final two teams are the Reds and Pirates. A doormat for years, Cincinnati traded for former Dodger Yasiel Puig and veteran Matt Kemp. Puig should be highly motivated in a contract year. He doesn’t understand why the Dodgers traded him. They weren’t playing him every day. Puig is a unique talent with a plus arm and the capability of 30 homers. Something he’s never done. In a lineup that includes Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto, who will bounce back, Puig could finally reach his full potential. Jose Peraza is the speed demon. The Reds traded for Sonny Gray. Hopefully, it’ll be a sunnier disposition for him there than the Bronx where he failed miserably. Luis Castillo is a big arm. Alex Wood is solid and Tanner Roark is a decent add to the rotation. Amir Garrett and Robert Stephenson must fulfill potential. Anthony DeSclafini is okay. Raisel Iglesias closes. On paper, this isn’t a bad roster. It’s no match for the upper echelon.

The Pirates won’t blow you away. They still should be a solid ball club. They took a risk trading away both Meadows and Glasnow to Tampa for Chris Archer. A strikeout guy with a proven arm. He’s never delivered the big season he’s capable of. He better in Pittsburgh. Jameson Taillon is full of potential. He won 14 games last year. He’s the ace. Trevor Williams is a decent third starter. I couldn’t tell you much about the other two starters. I know Felipe Vazquez (Rivero) closes. He’s got superb stuff. Keone Kela sets up and Kyle Crick they stole from the Giants for McCutchen. Nick Burdi once was considered a good prospect for Minnesota. He’s 26. Starling Marte is the best position player they have. He can hit for power and speed. Greg Polanco was a huge disappointment last year. Josh Bell could hit 30 dingers if he returns to form. Corey Dickerson is a solid professional hitter who kills righties. Francisco Cervelli is quietly one of the most underrated catchers in baseball. Adam Frazier is a solid utility guy and Lonnie Chisenhall is a decent fourth outfielder. How well will Colin Moran and Jung Ho Kang do? The offense could have issues scoring runs.

NL CENTRAL

+1.Cubs 97-65

*2.Brewers 93-69

3.Cardinals 87-75

4.Pirates 80-82

5.Reds 75-87

The NL West is basically a two horse race. No. The Padres aren’t quite ready to compete with the Dodgers or Rockies. The Diamonbacks are retooling. So, they eliminated themselves by trading Goldschmidt and losing Corbin as expected. Steven Sousa is also done for the year. The Giants are going to be very bad. They don’t have any superstars that can carry them. It’s just a question of when Madison Bumgarner is moved.

So, if three teams will all be under .500, what’s to get excited for? The Dodgers remain the class of the West. They dealt away Puig and Kemp in a cost cutting move with Alex Wood. They still have great talent. Walker Buehler supplants Clayton Kershaw as the staff ace who could challenge for the Cy Young. He is electric, young and will dominate. Kershaw starts on the DL. He’s expected back in two to three weeks. Last year, Max Muncy came out of nowhere to lead the Dodgers in home runs. He takes pitches and can go to the opposite field. That should bode well. Similar to the Yanks’ Voit, who got off to a quick start with a three-run blast to Monument Park in their win.

Cody Bellinger remains one of my favorite players. A versatile player who can play first or outfield due to his athleticism, expect him to improve at the plate. Justin Turner is the veteran leader at the hot corner who is a professional hitter with pop. What about shortstop Corey Seager? He’s back from Tommy John. If he rounds into form, watch out. Chris Taylor can play second and left field. Joc Pederson supplies plenty of power versus righties. Rather than pay Harper, they added solid outfielder AJ Pollock. A good ball player who can get on base, hit for a little power and run, it’s all about staying healthy for the ex-DBack. A very nice addition. Austin Barnes is catching with fan favorite Russell Martin backing up. Enrique Hernandez is a good right bat who will get starts and pinch hit. Keep an eye on top prospect Alex Verdugo. Either they’ll make room or use him as a trade chip in July.

If Julio Urias can return to form, the Dodgers pitching could be scalry. Rich Hill is a five inning lefty with pinpoint control. Hyun-Jin Ryu is a good pitcher with nice stuff. They can use Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling as starters and relievers. Pedro Baez sets up and former Red Sox flamethrower Joe Kelly should be a good fit in the pen. How does closer Kenley Jansen do following the heart procedure? He was shaky last year.

Colorado got back to the postseason in 2018. They even upset the Cubs in the wildcard to advance to a division series they lost to Milwaukee. The Rockies added Daniel Murphy to a lineup that boasts the game’s best third baseman Nolan Arenado, who got the big extension that should make Manny Machado jealous. Kidding. Arenado is all world at the plate and in the field. He’s surrounded by shortstop Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. Ian Desmond supplies pop and speed. David Dahl is a emerging slugger. Mark Reynolds made the roster out of camp. This could be it for the first baseman. Chris Iannetta catches and Tony Wolters backs up.

The Rockies pitching was a reason they made October. Ace Kyle Freeland was one of the Senior Circuit’s best pitchers. German Marquez won 14 games and fanned 230 in 196 innings. Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray and Chad Bettis are 3-5. Wade Davis is the closer. The former World Series hero saved 43 games, but had over a 4.00 ERA. They lost key set up man Ottavino to the Yankees. Bryan Shaw was lousy in 2018. Jake McGee will be a key factor.

The Padres should finish third by default. They gave Machado big money. Now, we’ll see if he can be an impact player on a young rising team. It’ll be interesting to see the moody slugger in that big ballpark. Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers have good power. So, the middle of the order should be solid. Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe are key players. Austin Hedges does the catching with former Indians top prospect Francisco Mejia having huge power. He had a big Spring. Most exciting is number two MLB prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr. made the team and will be the starting shortstop. He’s only 20 and considered to be a can’t miss prospect. Let’s see how he handles it. Ian Kinsler is a upgrade at second. The pitching isn’t good enough to compete. Best of luck to Adam Warren.

The Diamondbacks still have ace Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray headlining the rotation that includes Zack Godley and ex-Cardinal Luke Weaver, who came over in the Goldschmidt deal. Taijuan Walker isn’t ready yet. They signed Adam Jones to play right field and hit leadoff. A solid player who was disrespected by the lowly Orioles. He’s a guy you root for. David Peralta hit a career high 30 homers last year. Was it due to Goldschmidt? Jake Lamb returns, but they added Eduardo Escobar to play third. Former Met Wilmer Flores is a utility playing second today. Ketel Marte has shifted to center. Ex-Yankee John Ryan Murphy might be the worst starting catcher. Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano set up veteran Greg Holland.

The Giants are basically Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Evan Longoria. They’re all in decline. Though Bumgarner isn’t 30 until August 1. If he can find whatever he had before the injuries, then the Giants should get a huge return for the proven winner. His Spring was worrisome. Johnny Cueto is out until September. They added Drew Pomeranz. Dereck Rodriguez had a good rookie season. Chris Stratton is okay. Infielders Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are good defensively. All three underachieved last year with bad finishes for Belt and Crawford. Yangervis Solarte is the only newcomer at third with Pablo Sandoval the backup. Mark Melancon makes a ton of money to not save games. I’m a fan of him due to covering the Staten Island Yankees in 2006 when they won a Penn-League Championship. He was on the same team as Cervelli and popular former Giants reliever George Kontos. It’s Bruce Bochy’s last year as manager. He’s going to Cooperstown.

NL WEST

+1.Dodgers 95-67

2.Rockies 89-73

3.Padres 76-86

4.Diamondbacks 75-87

5.Giants 68-94

OCTOBER PREDICTIONS

American League

Wildcard

Red Sox over Athletics

Division Series

Yankees over Red Sox in 5

Astros over Indians in 4

ALCS

Yankees over Astros in 7

National League

Wildcard

Nationals over Brewers

Division Series

Cubs over Nationals in 4

Dodgers over Braves in 5

NLCS

Cubs over Dodgers in 7

WORLD SERIES

Yankees over Cubs in 6

MLB 2019 AWARDS

AL ROY Eloy Jimenez, White Sox

AL Cy Young Trevor Bauer, Indians

AL MVP Aaron Judge, Yankees

NL ROY Victor Robles, Nationals

NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom, Mets

NL MVP Trea Turner, Nationals

Hank Aaron Award Mike Trout, Angels

HR King Giancarlo Stanton (52), Yankees

RBI Leader Nolan Arenado (125), Rockies

Highest Batting Average Jose Altuve (.333), Astros

WS MVP Didi Gregorius, Yankees

Everybody Hurts

When your day is long and the night

The night is yours alone

When you’re sure you’ve had enough

Of this life, well hang on

Don’t let yourself go

Cause everybody cries

And everybody hurts sometimes

We’ve all experienced pain inside. We’ve all hurt at one time or another over something. Whether it’s heartbreak and heartache, or even worse, sometimes our emotions get the best of us.

I’ve been moved to tears throughout my life. I’ve also had that uncomfortably numb pain inside that wouldn’t go away as I lied awake in bed. It’s not always anxiety driven either. Sometimes, it’s something as touching as a great scene in a movie that sticks with you. Or maybe it’s a beautiful video tribute to a favorite player you love, who no longer plays for your team. It could be when you find out sad news on someone close. Even a star athlete you idolized.

Mets fans are going through this tough time after finding out the sad news that legendary Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver is suffering from dementia. In what’s supposed to be a special year where they commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the ’69 Miracle Mets, they find out that the greatest player they ever had won’t be able to physically attend the tribute to that remarkable championship team.

It sucks. I may not be a Mets fan. However, I rooted for them in ’86 as a nine-year old to come back and beat the Red Sox in a memorable World Series. Game Six will always stand out for what happened in that miraculous 10th inning with two outs. Down to their last strike, the Amazin’s wouldn’t die at Shea Stadium. Gary Carter started the epic rally with a line drive single. Kevin Mitchell followed with another base hit. Then, Ray Knight drove in Carter. You know what happened next. The wild pitch allows Mitchell to score the tying run with Mookie Wilson up. Then, a little roller bouncing so slowly towards Boston first baseman Bill Buckner, who puts his glove down to field it, only to have the roller go “BEHIND THE BAG,” as Vin Scully emphatically described before screaming, “Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”

I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was all excited in my pajamas going crazy like any kid. Back then, I hadn’t chosen my New York team. But Don Mattingly was my favorite player followed by Dave Winfield. It became the Yankees even though I still hold a special place in my heart for Doc and Darryl. We know them as Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Their career paths were eerily similar. So much God given talent for each. Done in by alcohol and substance abuse. First, Doc hooked on cocaine. Strawberry was an alcoholic. He didn’t fall until after Gooden when he made the terrible mistake of signing with the Dodgers. It was a nightmare. While he was falling apart, I can still recall my father telling me that Gooden relapsed when he drove me home from college orientation at Fairleigh Dickinson in Madison, New Jersey. I was saddened by the news.

Never did I believe that both Gooden and Strawberry would get second chances with the Yankees, contributing to the ’96 championship team thanks to The Boss. Even crazier, I attended Gooden’s no-hitter with close friend Ivan for free due to us getting two tickets because we braved the elements on a snow Opening Day against the lowly Royals. I also wound up at Strawberry’s three home run game against the White Sox. I guess I was just lucky.

The point of the story is that there are all these tales full of sadness, which shows the human side. Fortunately, both Doc and Darryl have survived and turned around their fragile lives. That’s what we all are. Day to day, anything can happen. It can all be taken away. Appreciate every day you got because nothing is guaranteed. I know this well.

Tom Seaver won 198 of his games with the Mets. A dominant ace, who combined with Jerry Koosman and a young Nolan Ryan to help those Mets win their first World Series in 1969, and make a miracle run in ’73 by upsetting the Big Reds machine before losing to the Athletics, he won a major league best 25 games while pitching to a 2.21 ERA with 208 strikeouts in 273 and a third innings to take his first Cy Young. All three of those Cy Youngs came as a Met with the following two in ’73 and ’75.

Go look at some of the big seasons Seaver put up in Queens. It’s jaw dropping. This is a man who finished with 311 career victories in a brilliant 20 year Hall of Fame career. In fact, after he retired from ironically the Red Sox following that wild ’86 Series that saw him seated next to a young Roger Clemens in the Boston dugout, he received 425 of 430 votes for 98.8 percent on the ballot to get elected to Cooperstown in 1992. That’s how well respected Terrific Tom was.

Of course, I’ve heard all the horror stories of how the Mets foolishly traded the franchise to the Reds in 1977. A regrettable move that set the team back, angering the loyal fans. It’s worth noting that this is the same team who gave up on Ryan, sending him to the Angels where he became a dominant starter right away. We know what the Ryan Express accomplished by winning 324 games, striking out a major league record 5,714 over an incredible 27 seasons. He threw a record seven no-hitters. Something that used to be a running punchline due to no Mets pitcher ever accomplishing the great feat until Johan Santana on a memorable early summer night that left former manager Terry Collins in tears due to how many pitches Santana threw on June 1, 2012. Unfortunately, Collins’ concern was right. His ace was never the same after needing 134 pitches to get the only no-no in Mets history.

Imagine if they’d kept Ryan with Seaver and Koosman. My God. They could’ve been a dynasty. Of course, the same has been echoed about those Mets teams in the 80’s. They certainly had the chance to win a couple of more, and nearly did in ’88. Don’t mention Mike Scioscia to Mets fans. Of course, the Dodgers had no business winning that NLCS. Then again, who had them stunning the powerful A’s in the Series, aided by a hobbled Kirk Gibson hitting perhaps the greatest pinch hit home run in World Series history off Dennis Eckersley.

I can remember Seaver winding up on the White Sox following one year back with the Amazin’s. He won his 300th career game against the Yankees in style by going the distance with seven K’s. I actually remember that because the ballgame was on WPIX called by Phil Rizzuto and Bill White. Those were the glory days where you could turn on your classic black and white TV and get the game on regular channels. Pretty cool.

I may not go as far back on Seaver like my Dad, who admitted to being pretty bummed out when the news came down. Seaver is now retired from public appearances due to the severity of dementia. It’s sickening. Why does he have to be in pain for the rest of his life? It really hurts. I’ve seen loved ones suffer and it left me pretty down. I wish it could be different for him.

At least he’ll be surrounded by his family and loved ones while tending to their vineyard. The thought of wine at least is soothing. Seaver will have plenty of help from those who love him. For Mets fans, it’s a bitter moment because they’ll never get to see him again in the public eye.

Of course, now we get the news that the Mets are planning to unveil a statue dedicated to Seaver this summer. Mike Francesa revealed the news on his show yesterday. For some fans, they can’t understand why they didn’t have it in place already at Citi Field. It’s only been in existence for a decade. Considering that the Wilpons have a nice tribute to baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson, who was a Dodger, I get the frustration.

It’s ashame Seaver won’t be able to attend the special ceremony along with some of his former teammates to honor those ’69 Mets. If only there was a way to include him via satellite. But I doubt it could work even with today’s advanced technology. Nobody knows what Seaver is going through daily.

I want to point out that some people have already talked about him in the past tense. That’s not right. He’s not dead. Let’s still think if him in terms of present. He’s a legend and legends are forever. My heart goes out to him.

Those exhilarating Winter Meetings

Remember all those big trade rumors that involved the Mets and Yankees attached to the Marlins over 24 hours ago?!?!?!?!?! Well, it’s come and passed as quickly as all the heated discussion over a BLOCKBUSTER between the crosstown rivals involving Noah Syndergaard, Miguel Andujar, J.T. Realmuto and top prospects.

So much for Syndergaard landing in the Bronx with Realmuto and Andujar going to Queens. It would’ve been juicy like a good steak that’s medium rare with all the trimmings. It would be like going from Emily Ratajkowski to Heather Locklear. You get the picture.

Instead, baseball fans in this town are left with the fantasy over reality. Syndergaard a Yankee with the Bronx Bombers pursuing him aggressively would be intriguing because it involves a favorite Mets starter that hasn’t quite delivered on his lofty potential. He’s an ace in name only. If he can stay healthy in 2019 and pitch to expectations, then Syndergaard becomes Synder- God in Citi Field.

As for Andujar and Realmuto, their names remain mentioned at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, which has been more fold than royal flush. The chips remain hot as GM’s work the phones and speak to teams and free agents at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Sin City.

The Marlins know they must trade Realmuto. The much coveted NL All-Star catcher who has so much value due to his defense behind the plate. Plus his bat is good for a batting average around .300 with double digits in home runs and between 70 to 80 runs batted in.

There aren’t many more complete backstops in the game. So, I understand why there are so many suitors. Derek Jeter drives a hard bargain. He was a lot of positive things as a Yankee in the Big Apple. But that was as a heady future Hall of Famer on the field. As a owner, Number 2 is ruthless. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Even if that means ruffling a few feathers with the potential threat of dealing Realmuto to a Mets rival inside the NL East, that’s who Jeter is now.

Call it heartless, but he won’t be doing anyone any favors after not getting enough in return for the All-Star outfield that now features two MVPs with Christian Yelich taking home the award in the NL by carrying the Brewers to the Central Division title and beyond. Giancarlo Stanton will enter Year Two with the Yankees knowing there will be more pressure from the fans following a disappointing October. It happens. See Rodriguez, Alex.

Marcell Ozuna was a little underwhelming in his first year with the Cardinals. Now, he’ll get help in the middle of the order with former Diamondback first base slugger Paul Goldschmidt joining St. Louis due to Arizona’s sell off. They also lost Patrick Corbin to the Nationals for a hefty price of $140 million over six years. They beat out Brian Cashman and the Phillies, who rolled the dice on Andrew McCutchen for three years and $50 million. Why? I would’ve gone only two on him. He’s on the other side of 30 and won’t get better.

So, is that the big move that MLB Network insiders Jon Heyman, Mark De Rosa, Ken Rosenthal and eternal kill joy Joel Sherman had on their phantom deck of cards? To say it’s been more like a bad day of craps than hitting it big at the slots would be putting it mildly.

Where will big fi$h Bryce Harper and Manny Machado land? It’s doubtful we’ll know until mid to late January. Both want to get paid. Plus Scott Boras is involved with Harper. They’re dreaming of the sucker who’ll give the former NL MVP $40 million per over 10 years. I say sucker because those type of long-term investments usually don’t end well. Especially for that length. Only Mike Trout is worth it with maybe Mookie Betts right behind. Max Scherzer is a rarity. Think Albert Pujols and newest Met Robinson Cano.

Harper is a enormous talent who can potentially hit 45-50 homers in the right situation. It’s amazing to think he’s only topped 40 once, doing so in his MVP year back in 2015 at age 22. He’s driven in 100 once and gone over .300 twice in his career. The soon to be former National will break the bank. Whether it’s in Philly, Los Angeles with the Dodgers or even a surprise franchise like the White Sox unless Cashman’s denial of interest was a smokescreen, there’ll be a lot more scrutiny at his next stop.

He is still only 26. There should be quite a few peak seasons ahead for the big lefty bat with the gigantic Vegas ego and personality to match. In some aspects, he reminds me of a former Yankee who played right field when I was too young to realize that the Bronx was Burning. Yes. I went there. But Reggie Jackson had a lot more credentials before he arrived in New York and stirred the drink to become Mr. October. He was big time for the Athletics dynasty in the early 1970’s.

George Steinbrenner admitted his biggest mistake was letting Reggie leave around the time Dave Winfield arrived following the crushing World Series loss to the Dodgers in ’81. Speaking of The Boss, it’s ashame he’ll never make Cooperstown while a biased Veteran’s Committee elects Harold Baines. A good professional hitter that never reached 30 home runs or won a batting crown. He didn’t even get 3,000 hits like Craig Biggio, who could play five different positions as a jack of all trades.

Nothing against Baines or the more deserving Lee (Arthur) Smith. But if they’re gonna put good players in over very good to great ones who dominated for a period like Don Mattingly, then it’s time to put the Hitman in along with Keith Hernandez and the disrespected Albert (Joey) Belle.

As for the big meet up in Vegas, it’s been more glow than show. Unless a big name signs or a Corey Kluber gets moved, then it is a big letdown.

Look. This isn’t the old days where the Yankees and Mets gambled on Danny Tartabull and Bobby Bonilla. I’ll never forget it because of that ultracool cover on Sportscard Trader when I was getting into collecting baseball cards as a teenager. Only back then, $25 million over five years was a lot.

Neither player ever lived up to the hype. Bobby Bo showed ’em da Bronx at Shea while Tartabull was dealt for Ruben Sierra around the time the Yankees were becoming good. Only Bonilla still collects deferred payments of $1.19 million until July 1, 2035. Yikes.

That was back in 1992. Not even three full decades later, it’s insanity. That’s the cost of doing business these days in sports. There will always be someone that overpays. Will it be worth it in the end? Whether it’s Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, Harper or Machado, it’s up to them to earn the πŸ’°.

Fun 80’s Metal Wacky MTV Videos and Cubs banner raising 108 years in the making

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The Cubs line up during player intros on banner night before defeating the Dodgers 3-2 in an NLCS rematch at Wrigley Field. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Cubs.

So, I was sitting downstairs in the entertainment room with the TV on. A flat screen like so many other spoiled people. But we’re a family. So, we take turns watching and share.

I was mostly locked in on the Cubs epic banner raising ceremony 108 years in the making. Rain delayed the game about an hour at Wrigley Field. Once it got going, boy was it something to behold. I’m not a Cubs fan. I’m not from Chicago and have never been there. But watching the festivities along with the nice scenery at one of the oldest ballparks, I concluded I need to get to Wrigley. Bookmark that.

My favorite part was following the awesome player introductions for both the Dodgers and Cubs in an NLCS rematch, seeing all-time Cubs greats Fergie Jenkins, Billy Dee Williams and Ryne Sandberg help raise not one banner but two. They first did a banner for 1908. The last one before they came back to defeat the Indians from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series in 2016. Then as every great sports movie soundtrack played including favorite themes from Rudy and The Natural, up went the 2016 World Championship banner by the ivy on ESPN. Wow.

Maybe it’s the historian in me. When it comes down to it, I appreciate the history of sports. Seeing the Cubs finally get to do a banner raising was one of the coolest moments. I can only put it on par with the Rangers finally raising the Stanley Cup banner honoring ’93-94 after waiting 54 years for their fourth championship. Think about this. That is half as long as Cubs fans waited. That defines crazy and explains the fandom. They have a great team capable of repeating. We’ll get into that another time.

What’s great is that you had Anthony Rizzo marching out the World Championship trophy as the Cubs all came down the stairs following the ceremony in from the outfield. It was really well done. Even more appropriately, Wayne Messmer performed an unreal edition of the star spangled banner. He used to be a regular at Blackhawks games along with the White Sox and Bears. To hear Dad tell it, there was no one better than Messmer when it came to our national anthem. I had never seen him perform live. But watched classic videos on You Tube. My favorite current anthem singers are John Amirante and Jim Cornelison. Amirante used to do O Canada and the Star Spangled Banner frequently at MSG before being phased out. He’s 82. Cornelison replaced Messmer at Hawks games. He is terrific.

If there is one more thing I loved, it was the organ playing during the intros. It really gave it an old school feel. The organ is something that isn’t used enough at games. I have always enjoyed it. Now, arenas and stadiums blast music through the sound system as if it’s some deejay event or concert. It’s a game. The organ has a nice touch. It’s soothing and whispers to you that a good event is coming, building anticipation.

As for the game, eventually it was played. The Cubs won 3-2 over the Dodgers on Rizzo’s walk off single in the home half of the ninth plating Jon Jay. His first run batted in of the season was a clutch two out game-winner. What you’d expect from one of the National League’s best players. He finished in the top four for MVP last year. An award won by teammate Kris Bryant, whose double plated the game’s first run off Alex Wood.

The Cubs scratched out an unearned run too due to an E9 from Yasiel Puig. Chicago ace Jon Lester’s RBI fielder’s choice put them ahead 2-0. But the Dodgers were able to come back late. Corey Seager’s RBI double scored Joc Pederson in the sixth. They would tie it in the eighth with an unearned run due to an E6 from Addison Russell. Two of the game’s best teams combined for five errors.

Seager is an emerging star who won NL Rookie Of The Year and finished third for MVP. He’s a unique talent at short with great bat speed and terrific instincts. He’s everything Pederson isn’t. I would know. I drafted Joc in the first year of my Franchise League in the minors before trading him and then getting him back and keeping him. I keep thinking he’ll figure it out. But he still can’t hit lefties batting way down in the lineup when he starts. He also had a key at bat with the bases loaded and nobody out against Justin Grimm. Pederson let Grimm off the hook missing his pitch on a 3-2 count with a weak pop up to short right which prevented a run from scoring. He should’ve crushed it. Instead, Grimm escaped a bases loaded no out jam getting Carl Edwards, Jr. off the hook when he induced an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.

While Pederson remains an unfinished product, leave it to me to not insert Michael Pineda on the one day he pitched up to his talent. On Yankees Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in the home opener, Pineda was the story taking a perfect game into the seventh inning. Yankee killer Evan Longoria broke it up with a double down the left field line. Pineda was brilliant pitching into the eighth inning allowing only one earned run on a solo shot from Logan Morrison while fanning 11. That is the kind of quality outing that can get Yankee fans on his side. It’s about finding consistent. The talent is there. Let’s hope this gives him the confidence boost he needs.

The Yankees had plenty of offense. Aaron Judge went yard for the second straight day for home run number two, driving a hanging curve into left field 10 rows back. With Gary Sanchez officially sidelined a month, the Bronx Bombers need Judge to produce along with Greg Bird, who should be good to go in a couple of days. For now, quality backup catcher Austin Romine is starting with prospect Kyle Higashioka up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Down two starters on the infield with shortstop Didi Gregorius also missing April, the Yanks have gotten nice contributions from 24-year old utility man Ronald Torreyes. He’s filled in admirably at short while hitting a home run and driving in eight to lead the team.

For now, skipper Joe Girardi has gone back to the 1-2 of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order. They’re both off to good starts with Gardner swiping two more bases to hike his total to five while scoring two runs. Ellsbury is hitting .348 with a homer and two RBI’s. Matt Holliday, who recently became a member of the 2,000 hit club, had a pair of hits and his fifth RBI. So far, so good for the proven veteran. Starlin Castro went yard for the first time parking one to right center. One of three long balls the Yanks hit. Chase Headley got the other for number two. With two straight wins, the Yanks are 3-5 and at least can cool off some of the panic from the April Mattahs crowd.

The Mets won in Philadelphia 4-3. Jay Bruce continues to swing a hot bat going deep twice. That included the go-ahead game-winning two-run bomb for his fourth dinger. Remember all that talk about them dumping him in the off-season. Sometimes, the best moves are the ones you don’t make. Even though Terry Collins must fit Michael Conforto into the lineup when he can. Jacob de Grom got a no decision despite grinding out six innings while allowing two earned with two walks and three strikeouts. Addison Reed earned his second save in two nights pitching around a solo home run from Brock Stassi in the Phils’ ninth.

Among the notables, Bryce Harper went 4-for-4 with with two runs and three RBI’s along with six total bases in a Nationals’ 14-6 win over the Cardinals. Stephen Drew had three hits and four RBI’s. Seriously. Khris Davis is up to four homers already as Oakland shutout Kansas City 2-0. Wil Myers became just the second Padre to hit for the cycle highlighting a 5-3 win over the Rockies. He hit his third home run and is up to seven RBI’s.

As the Cubs and Dodgers moved at a snails pace, I flipped on MTV Classic between breaks to catch Metal Mayhem. Just your classic hour of cheesy and classy metal videos full of electric guitar shredding, drum beats and edgy lyrics. I still can’t believe they mixed in Suicidal Tendencies in a weird video where the lead singer talked in gibberish like a pre-Henry Rollins. It had its moments. A throwback Guns N’ Roses live concert from 1988 with the original band performing a stirring rendition of “Welcome To The Jungle.”

There also was the underrated “Fallen Angel” from Poison along with “Youth Gone Wild” from Skid Row in their debut album with Sebastian Bach screaming his lungs out. I had never seen this one from Twisted Sister before. It was released as a single in 1987. It’s called “Hot Love” featuring Dee Snider’s hot wife Suzette:

What would a Metal Mayhem be without an appearance from Diamond Dave? You betcha! David Lee Roth when he went solo after a bad break up with Van Halen. It’s Yankee Rose. A hilarious satirical look at immigration in the intro along with stereotypes. Imagine if this video aired now. The ridiculous overreaction it would get. Music shouldn’t be censored. That whole thing with Tipper Gore and Snider testifying in court was crap.

Anyway, you get all these crazy characters in a convenience store with an immigrant behind the register. Then David Lee Roth recites the classic line:

“I’ll take a bottle of anything and a glazed donut to go!”

Of course, the scene shifts to Diamond Dave on stage shouting, “Whoa!!!!! She’s beautiful!” What a comedian he was. Great presence. He had fun. Eddie Van Halen didn’t. Remember that reunion disaster as presenters at the VMA’s? Here is the song from Mr. Roth:

Yeah. 80’s metal was epic. πŸ˜€

Hard Hits talks big October Football Weekend

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Clayton Kershaw will be facing Max Scherzer in a battle of aces in a great match up between the Dodgers and Nationals in the NLDS. That and plenty more was covered on Hard Hits from Derek, Colin and John. AP Photo by Jeff Chiu/Getty Images

Hard Hits is my internet show that can be heard on the airwaves of BlogTalkRadio. Originally started in February 2007, the Hard Hits Network has been around for nine years in some format or another. A sports themed show that also mixes in the current events and music from time to time, it’s our way to express ourselves.

On Sunday, we did two live broadcasts. Each was 30 minutes live with 15 minutes of overtime. Until we go back to Premium, it’ll be a shorter format. Once we do renew for Premium, longer shows shall return. Featuring John “JPG” Giagnorio, Colin Cannaday, Rob “Retirement” Davis, Brian David Sanborn, Justin “JNF” Felix and hosted by yours truly, Derek “Flex” Felix, it’s always entertaining back and forth banter. No matter what the topic, it is “hard hitting.”

In Part 1 of a two show special edition, the guest of honor JPG showed up to discuss his relocation to Las Vegas. Naturally, he stopped in Chicago for hometown before completing the trip with his Cubs primed for a big October run. Derek predictably figured out what John ordered for dinner. Plus more interesting discussion from the statmastah who joined Derek and Colin for both college football, NFL and baseball wildcard predictions.

Who will win? The Orioles or Blue Jays. The winner gets the Texas Rangers. The other AL Division series is set between two evenly matched teams with the Indians hosting the Red Sox in Big Papi’s final year. Can Cleveland overcome Boston’s lethal lineup?

Meanwhile, the Giants are back in in another even year. Can they make another improbable run? They’ll visit the Mets Wednesday with a great match-up between Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard. Find out who Colin and John like. Also why Derek went against his original prediction. The winner takes on JPG’s Cubs.

In the other NL Division match-up, it features two of the game’s best pitchers with the Nats’ Max Scherzer taking on the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. It shapes up to be a great series. For more breakdown on this series, tune into Part 2 where Derek, Colin and John made their predictions.

Catch Part 1 of Hard Hits A JPG Tribute here:

Hard Hits Part I: A JPG Tribute

Among the topics covered were two unbelievable college football games including the hail mary which allowed Tennessee to stun Georgia. Plus a pro style classic with Clemson and Louisville going toe to toe with Heisman quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson putting on a show.

NFL Week 4 highlights are discussed with Colin pretty pumped about his Falcons led by record performances from Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in a dismantling of the suddenly struggling Panthers. Plus why Derek feels sorry for Phil Rivers following the Chargers’ latest collapse. The Bills pull off a shocker in New England. They’re back.

Derek also makes a prediction into the future on baseball.

Teixeira channels Roy Hobbs

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One Final Tex Message: A jubilant Mark Teixeira rounds the bases celebrating an emotional walkoff grand slam with two outs in the ninth to beat the Red Sox. AP Photo via Getty Images

Picture the setting. It’s the bottom of the ninth. The New York Knights are trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0. They’re one out away from losing the pennant. The rest is the perfect ending to a fairy tale with a two out rally allowing a injured Roy Hobbs facing his younger self.

A tall lefty with a blazing fastball, Youngberry enters to face the flawed aging rookie superstar. Hobbs nearly takes him deep just missing down the right field line only to see his symbolic bat he made as a kid, Wonderboy break. A emotional moment takes place between him and the bat boy Bobby.

“Pick me out a winner, Bobby,” Hobbs tells him.

Then Bobby unveils his own homemade bat called Savor Special. Made similarly to how a younger Hobbs made his following a storm where a lightning bolt cut a tree in half. The moment where Bobby presents the bat to Hobbs is one of my favorite scenes from The Natural. The look from both. There is a happiness and excitement over a kid’s game even with the stakes so high.

Either Hobbs delivers the knockout blow and wins the pennant for Pop or the sinister Judge buys Pop out and celebrates with crooked gambler Gus and Harriet Bird clone Memo.

Down to his final strike, the plate umpire notices blood coming through Hobbs’ jersey. He asks, “Roy, are you okay?” To which Hobbs replies, “Let’s play some ball.” The Pirates catcher picks up on it and puts down the number 1 sign for Youngberry.

In the novel, Hobbs strikes out and the game ends. But in the movie, that can’t happen. It’s not storybook. A flawed Hobbs, who has the silver bullet removed at the hospital for pregnant woman after Memo put something in his drink, knows he is risking his life. The doctor warns him that it wouldn’t be wise to play. But Hobbs needs to. He knows it’s his final game. A last chance to be a heroic figure and win one for Pop after they lost three in a row without him. The Judge notes that as he tries to pay off Hobbs with another “key person” part of his contingency plan. He leaves an envelope with $20,000.

Of course, Hobbs pays a visit to The Judge and returns the envelope which causes a stir. Gus calls him a loser. As they argue, Memo pulls a gun and fires a shot after Gus says, “I like the action.” Hobbs then replies, “Then let it ride.” Then comes the gun shot. She then cries and says she hates him. That’s how much not playing and having Gus stake them to a lot of money and buying into a company meant to her. This is Pop’s niece. Someone he refers to as “a jinx.”

Hobbs struggles throughout the game to get his timing back striking out badly twice. When his former girlfriend Iris pens a letter with her son at the game having an usher get it to Hobbs in the dugout, it reveals the truth. That it’s his son watching from the stands. An emotional Hobbs looks around at the crowd in the dugout. As that happens, a Knight tries to stretch a single into a double but gets pegged at second to end the seventh.

They have one last chance. Following a Knight just beating a long throw from third by jarring the ball loose, the Pirates’ ace gives up another hit putting runners on the corners. It sets the stage for Hobbs’ final at bat. One last chance to be the hero or goat according to the annoying Max Mercy. Poetically, Hobbs fouls off a pitch through the press box shattering the glass where Mercy is perched. This movie is all about symbolism. The acting is top notch and the characters are excellent. It is my favorite baseball movie and ranks second all-time in sports behind Hoosiers.

Down to the final strike, Hobbs steps back in bloody uniform and all. Youngberry delivers a heater that Hobbs crushes. You can hear the radio announcer saying, “It’s still going…He did it! He did it! Hobbs did it! The Knights have won the pennant!”

The best part is when he came up, a lightning bolt struck. As the ball carries, it hits the lights turning an epic scene into fireworks as a stunned Judge and his cronies watch helplessly. Hobbs touches all the bases and is mobbed by teammates. The scene then darkens and shifts to a father having a catch with his boy on a farm with his wife. Just the way it once was for him with his Dad.

So, what does all this have to do with Mark Teixeira hitting a dramatic walkoff grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off the beleaguered Boston bullpen to give the Yankees an exciting 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium? Just this. It’s Teixeira’s final season. It’s been a tough year for the once great first base slugger who has been tremendous throughout his career which has included the final eight years spent in the Bronx, including a World Series title in ’09.

There haven’t been many magical moments for Teixeira in his last year. When he decided this would be it at a press conference, injuries were a factor. Still an above average defensive first baseman, he just can’t stay healthy. The thing is he hit over 30 home runs last year before an injury ended his season. So, he didn’t look done. But injuries have a way of changing things for older players. Case in point, a now retired A-Rod.

Not everyone has a happy ending. But on Wednesday night in the Bronx, Teixeira gave Yankee fans something to remember. Most notably, he gave himself one final big moment he will never forget. The Red Sox were ready to celebrate clinching the AL East on the field. Toronto had already lost to Baltimore. But if Boston held the 3-0 lead in the ninth, they would’ve gotten to celebrate some on the field before popping the cork in the locker room, which they still did.

It was bad enough that Boston basically ended the Yankees’ season with that four-game sweep at Fenway Park. A Yankee loss combined with an Oriole win would’ve officially eliminated the Yankees. However, they showed tremendous character rallying off Jekyll & Hyde closer Craig Kimbrel. He didn’t have it giving up a base hit and walking three including a bases loaded RBI walk to Brian McCann that made it 3-1.

That was enough for manager John Farrell, who pulled Kimbrel for Joe Kelly. A flame thrower who can hit 100 on the radar gun and has a good breaking ball. The last time Farrell replaced Kimbrel with Kelly, it worked. It almost did again with Kelly striking out Starlin Castro on three pitches and then getting Didi Gregorius to pop out to third for the infield fly rule. He had one man left to get. Up stood Teixeira.

Watching the final half inning on TV, I was hoping for Teixeira as well as wanting to see the Yankees finally pull one out and not strand runners. They’ve left a village on the base paths all season. The Red Sox were one out away from getting out of it. But then Teixeira took a hard swing and connected for a deep drive to right center. The ball kept carrying and carrying until Jackie Bradley, Jr. ran out of room. It was gone. Teixeira did it! He did it!

You may as well have cued Randy Newman’s theme from The Natural. Something WFAN’s Steve Somers made sure to do. When it comes to production, nobody is as good as The Schmoozer. Always dripping with sarcasm but also using the well produced clips to provide even more entertainment to the listener.

Seeing an emotional Teixeira mobbed by excited teammates and get a Gatorade bath was awesome. You felt good for the guy. He is up to 15 homers with dingers in consecutive games. Something that hasn’t been a frequent occurrence. He believed it was his last home run. If it was, what a way to go out.

Here’s hoping he’s got at least one more Tex Message against the Orioles this final weekend. Teixeira channeling Roy Hobbs. That’s what makes baseball great.