Back in the 70s and early 80s, every late winter my father brought home — usually bought at World Wide News — the annual baseball bible and torah rolled into one, Street & Smith’s Official Yearbook. I spent hours pouring over Player’s Targets, Averages, The Minor Leagues, Series Recap and the infallible Season Predictions.
Apparently a victim of the digital age, 2007 would be the last edition of Street and Smith’s. In its irreplaceable place, we are humbly offering Kramer [David] and Kramer [Eugene]‘s Official 2016 Yearbook with infallible predictions you can take to Vegas.
To match wits we reviewed two rival rags, Athlon Sports MLB Preview and 2016 Major League Yearbook.
Right off the bat, we didn’t like how Major League touts itself as “The # 1 Rated Fantasy Guide.” Guys, this is baseball not porn. More to our purist taste, Athlon only devoted 15 pages to fantasy, properly relying on articles over splashy centerfold pics.
Speaking of fantasy, our approach relies less on strict and numbing stats crunching. Instead, our choices are — to a degree — based on who we want to win. Or rather, who the baseball gods ought cast favor upon. And perhaps you will join the bandwagon.
First I wanted to see how S & S fared in 1978. And upon opening the ur-text, out fell an autographed picture of Willie Stargell, long forgotten!
In 1977, the four division winners were: the Yankees, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
For 1978, in the AL East S & S predicted that Jax & Co. would pick up where they left off — Reggie hitting four home runs on four swings in games 5 and 6 of the Series.
In the AL West, they anointed the Texas Rangers. For me, this was a watershed historical moment. Since ’74 when Billy Martin became manager, I had become a passionate follower of the Rangers, listening to their games on clear summer nights when the radio signal reached Rochester from as far away as Minneapolis.
But in ’74 and ’75 the A’s beat us. As did the Royals in ’76 and ’77. But, finally, in ’78 S & S promised us the promised land. Our owner Brad Corbett had signed free agent Richie Zisk to a 5 year deal for the then astounding sum of 1.5 million.
In the NL East, the Phillies behind Carlton and Schmidt were the favorites. In the NL West, the Reds who had won the Series in ’75 and ’76 were expected to regain the division title from the Dodgers.
And the results. In ’78 was actually completely identical to ’77. New York, KC, Philly and LA. Next year in the Promised Land for the Rangers. But here was a redux prognosticating strategy. Pick the exact same teams that won the year before.
I did notice that S & S shied away from predicting the postseason champions. No such timidity at K & K where we boldy handicap the entire playoffs.
2016 American League East
1st Toronto Blue Jays (Athlon and Major League: 3 votes Boston; 1 vote Toronto)
The Jays have always been a litte bit Rochester’s team. Frontier Field is only about 8o nautical miles from the Rogers Centre. It’s a shame the Red Wings are not the Jay’s farm team. I wasn’t here in’92 and ’93 when the Jays won their title, but I know a few Rochestarians became fans. If the Fast Ferry had continued, the baseball bond would have grown stronger. (Note: during the heyday of the Ferry, my dream was to open in Rochester a Canadian cuisine restaurant, Canada, Oh! : breakfast is British style ala southern; lunch is French Canadian ala Quebec; dinner is aboriginal ala the Territories.)And, with my father in ’77, I saw my 2nd, 3rd and 4th major league games, Toronto v. Texas at old Exhibition Stadium. During the 2009 World Baseball Classic, my friend Dean and I watched Canada v. USA at the Rogers Centre that became an article for the Brighton-Pittsford Post That’s good karma to sway the baseball gods.
Also, the Jays have a secret weapon: artificial turf. Only one other team in the majors, division rival Tampa Bay, has a synthetic field. This gives the Jays a home field advantage. Also, the turf’s oddities — “Word is already out: the new Rogers Centre turf is some sort of living, breathing, bringer of erratic stuff (2015)” — benefit the Jays who are accustomed to its vagaries.
Boston Red Sox (Athlon picks them second and gaining a wild card)
I should be a Red Sox fan. I lived in Rhode Island — the Queen State in Red Sox Nation — for about 15 years. I covered the Pawtucket Red Sox (PawSox) for the Providence Business News. I watched game 6 of the ’86 Series in long gone Spat‘s on the East Side of Providence when the ball went through Billy Buck’s legs and a man at the bar broke his beer bottle in despair and the shards cut his hand drawing blood. I’ve spent summer afternoons at Narragansett Town Beach near corpulent beached middle aged men wearing Red Sox caps with the radio playing the game perched on their oiled bellies.
And in ’04 I did my fair share of looting and car burning. I was on the roof of the Shaw’s Market at the Providence/Pawtucket line after midnight partying with the rest of Rhode Island.
But since ’04, the Sox have become just another team. And last season they came in last. That’s bad karma. Any team coming in last should pay penance for at least one year.
New York Yankees (pick: second and the wild card)
I was not always a Yankee fan. Started out with the Mets. But Rochester is Yankee Country and I am a patriot if nothing else. My fandom solidified in 2012 when the Yankees farm team, Scranton-Wilkes Barre, played home games at Frontier. The crowds were not that big; after the 5th inning you could walk in for free. But I liked hanging out with the Yankee hard cores wearing Jeter, Gehrig and Ruth.
And that season, with my father and friends Dean and Ed, we went to the May 6th, 2012 Andy Pettite game who was pitching a rehab start. I know Pettite might have been HGHing but he still picked off a Red Wing with his vintage lefty move to first. If you don’t believe me, we all signed the ticket stub swearing we were there.
As for this season, A-Rod still has ethanol in the tank. I’d like to see him back at third base if possible. Speaking of which, baseball historians will have a difficult question: was A-Rod the greatest third baseman or shortstop off time? Probably his split time at both positions will leave Mike Schmidt and Honus Wagner still on top.
American League Central (Athlon and Major League: 3 votes Kansas City; 1 vote Minnesota)
Kansas City Royals
After Remembering 30 years ago when George Brett won the World Series (And Morganna the Kissing Bandit), I fell in love again with the Royals again (and Morganna). Their comeback after comeback in the AL Divisional and Championship series and then quick dismantling of the Mets brought me full throated into their choir. And I am preaching them to get back to the series a third straight time.
The Royals face an interesting history. In recent times, two teams have lost their first series, won their second, and then went to a third: Yankees lost to the Reds in ’76 then beat the Dodgers in ’77 and ’78; the A’s lost to the Dodgers in ’88 then swept the Giants in the ’89 Earthquake Series then lost to the Reds in a sweep in ’90. Sorry, George, but K & K’s Krystal Ball says you will be the A’s.
Major League has the Twins as the “Surprise Team of 2016.” That would be good as Tom Nieto (then Wings manager) and Tom Brunasky (then Wings hitting coach) signed my cards at Frontier.
American League West (Athlon and Major League: 2 votes Seattle; 1 vote Texas; 1 vote Houston)
Mariners because Talker now has a Pacific Northwest sports commentator. “Scoop” Janet will be filing reports all season.
I am picking the Rangers to be the wild card as I still have their pennant from back when I was their zealous fan.
National League East (Athlon and Major League: 2 votes Mets; 2 vote Washington)
Picking the Nationals as I have a vested interest in the success of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.
On April 27th 2012 I went to Bryce Harper’s last minor league game and got his autograph. You don’t have to believe me (admittedly I haven’t yet paid to have the signature authenticated). You don’t even have to believe I was at that April 27th game. But I did swear before a Notary Public at the Rochester Public Library that I was there, and showed her the autograph. The point of doing so was to roughly prove the date of the signature: no later than October 1st, 2013. Also, a friend said he saw me on Time Warner Cable which was covering the game.
As for Strasburg, the memorabilia — the scorebook — probably won’t be as valuable as Harper’s signature, but the evening was dramatic.
With my father, Dean and Ed again, we went to watch Stephen Strasburg pitch for the Syracuse Chiefs against the Red Wings, the famous “Hat Gate” game (D & C) As you recall, Strasburg did not tip his hat to Red Wing fans who gave him a standing ovation as he left the game, Strasburg said he wasn’t used to opposing fans cheering for him; he didn’t mean to not tip. Too little too late. Strasburg is a bum for not tipping. But I am still picking Washington to win the division.
Oh, you might think I wasn’t at the game and just now recreated the scorecard. Alas, we didn’t sign the ticket stub. But we were there, I swear.
New York Mets (pick: wild card)
As for the Mets, after On Yogi Berra and Dale Berra and Willie Mays and the 1973 World Series and my father, I fell in love with them again. You never forget your first girl or your first baseball team.
I am, however, worried. This year I sense 2000 all over again. In 2000, the Mets lost also in 5 games to the Yankees, and in 2001 were 82-80 and finished 3rd in the NL East On the other hand, the Mets have a staff of great young arms. Let’s hope those arms will be shades of Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, Ryan for a little, and McGraw and who won two NL pennants from ’69 – ’73.
I would pick the Phillies because their Hall of Fame manager Ryne Sandberg signed my card at Frontier Field. But the Phillies this year might resemble the notorious 59 – 97 last place ’72 squad
National League Central (Athlon and Major League: 4 votes Cubs)
St. Lous Cardinals (pick: 1st)
Know the Cards will miss Heyward and Lackey. But I have a hunch St. Louie will repeat. The theory is now that the football Rams have gone back to Los Angeles, the baseball Cards will have St. Louis and those parts of the Midwest all them to themselves. The Cards — way back to radio days when the Cards on KMOX dominated the Mississippi Valley — have as huge fan base. And this season — with no footballers with whom to flirt — those fans will give all of their love to the Redbirds.
Chicago Cubs (pick: wildcard)
Everyone picks the Cubs this year. But the Cubs have sucked since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. They haven’t even been in the Series since the Truman administration. Actually, I haven’t cared about the Scrubs since they ruined Wrigley by putting in lights.
More than that, the Scrubs played disgracefully losing to the Mets four straight last year in the NLCS. I was there watching game four at ButaPub. The Scrubs quit! Their gutless tails were turned before the first inning was over. VERY BAD karma.
I was born in Pittsburgh. So I may be genetically programed to root for Clemente’s boys. But I sense a down year for the Bucs. My head — not my heart — says third place.How can I justify this pick? Hmm, in October 1960 my mother, recently moved to Pittsburgh, was pregnant with my sister. At the time, we (so I am told) had a convertible car that still had New York license plates. After Maz hit the 7th game home run to beat the Yankees, some drunk Pirate fans saw the NY plates and threw beer bottles at my soon enough to be be mother who was driving alone (except for my unborn sister) , and evenstarted to shake the car! SERIOUSLY BAD KARMA. Walk the plank, Pirates. It’s third place for you.
National League Central (Athlon and Major League: 3 votes San Francisco; 1 vote Los Angeles)
San Francisco Giants
Easy to be on this bandwagon. My sister, her husband and my niece (our crack staff photo editor) live south of San Francisco. My father and I watched from the upper deck at Oakland Alameida County Stadium the A’s intentionally walk Barry Bond fours times. (Unforgivably, we left early and had to listen on the radio in the BART train that Bonds was not being intentionally walked his last at bat as he promptly tripled.)
More so, if the ‘Gints win the Series, it will spark a great hot stove debate. Are they a dynasty? They won in 2014, 2012 and 2010. Would 2016 make the McCovers legendary?
World Series (Athlon and Major League: 2 San Fran; 1 Washington; 1 Toronto)
Here’s how we see it. In the AL, Tanaka beats the Rangers in the Wild Card game. The Royals beat the Yankees in 4 games in the Div Series; Toronto over Seattle (sorry Janet) in 4 games. Royals beat Toronto in 7 in ALCS.
In the NL. Back at the ButaPub, I watch the Scrubs choke AGAIN to the Metropolitans in the wild card game. In the division series, Nationals over Mets in 5; San Fran over St. Louis in 5. In the NLCS, Giants over Washington in 5.
In the Series, the Royals run out of magic. Giants in 5. Dynasty.
Eugene is still recovering from his April stroke, and thanks all for their well wishes. A stroke did not prevent him from telling us who will really win. More from Eugene: The “Jackie Robinson Mystery” Eugene Kramer was there. (Almost)
New York Yankees
The Yankees will come in first. Eugene says, “Good Pitching.” Pressed for details, it’s “Good Pitching.” He’s right. Tanaka is primed for a career season. C.C. should be sharper mentally and physically since quitting alcohol. The bullpen is deep. The new fireballer Chapman is the Goose Goosage of our day.
As for A-Rod, Eugene doesn’t think he’s done at all. A-Rod will be 90% of last year.
Boston Red Sox
I tried to convince Eugene that David Ortiz must have been juicing during the 2013 postseason, especially as he hit .688 with 2 HR and 8 RBI in the Series. Eugene, however, pointed to an article in our rival rag, Athlon, statistically proving “1. NO, REALLY, DAVID ORTIZ IS CLUTCH” (not on steroids).
He says they have great pitching. Their speed reminds him a little of Robinson’s Dodgers. But, in the Series they were more lucky than dominant.
To my surprise, Eugene picks the Mets to not only return to the Series but to win! And only a few years ago, he was cursing out Willie Randolph for his pitching changes.
So, you heard it here first. Eugene predicts another Subway Series.
One caution on my predictions. They might be “cursed.” Ever since I caught this ball at Frontier Field on 6/6/6, all my predictions have been wrong.
Happily, summer softball is just around the snow melted corner!
ALSO ON BASEBALL