[The Tokyo Dome. March 20th, 2019, 5:32 a.m. EDT. The A’s Mike Fiers threw a ball to the Mariner’s Dee Gordon. Photo: David Kramer from the ESPN broadcast]
For the last three years, Bill Pruitt has offered us poetic roadmaps on where baseball will take us; he is the GPS of prognosticators. 2017 was “The Pennant Races in Rhyming Couplets”. 2018 was “Pennant Race 18: Curses Laid and Lifted“. This year Bill was on target to complete his poem by the first pitch of opening day; he never misses a deadline. Then, I jolted Bill with some news. MLB had arranged to start the season a week early with two games in Japan!
Purist that he is, Bill was appalled at the thought of a March 20th opening game on a neutral field with the first pitch at 5:30 a.m. (For which, for you readers, I rose early.) Undaunted, Bill finished “Pennant Race 19 in Eight Sestets & a Couplet” on Thursday, March 21st at 3:35 p.m. — well ahead of the “real” opening day.]
Pennant Race 19 in Eight Sestets & a Couplet
Ok, we’re talking about the pennant races for 2019,
that’s the one that opens on March 28, Opening Day
except it already opened unofficially a week before?
Yeah, that’s the one. I’m sure the Splendid Splinter’s
Turning headless in his grave to know
That Opening Day took place in Tokyo.
Let’s start with simple truths. Can’t buy a championship.
Steinbrenner tried and tried and tried and tried. Whoops,
there go the eighties and halfway through the nineties
till the Yanks found another way to win besides
free agency. Lesson: forget the Cherubs and the Phils
Who’ve spent more bucks than Big Pharma has pills
And if Trout can’t hoist a pennant for the Angels,
you can bet Yasiel Puig won’t bring one for the Reds.
And let’s eliminate the Stros of course since
their ill-advised White House visit in ‘17
has set them on a losing course
until they’ve moved, as stated, far far north.
So who remains? In the Junior Circuit,
The A’s surprise everyone again and play
the Yankees for the Wild Card since all
the home runs in New York fall short
when faced with Price, Porcello and Sale
and five-tool players that can ding and steal
So the A’s expend all to get trounced by the Sox
while Cleveland and Seattle play each other
for the honor of losing to the Twenty-First Century
Title city, maybe it’s in the water or Belichik’s smarts
or Brady’s diet regime, it’s not that hard
to see the wisdom in renaming Yawkee Boulevard
In the NL Wild Card the upstart Brewers
upend the Nationals who themselves had been
displaced by Atlanta’s power and speed,
strong arms like Newcombe and Foltynewicz
good enough to beat the Rockies who came
roaring out of the west to pummel the Bums
But the Cards play the Wild Card winner
having the best record in the National League
having lucked into a manager who lets his players play
having gotten Paul Goldschmidt who releases
Marcel Ozuna from pressure, so they keep
surpassing each other going deep
With a mix of young pitchers and vets like
Mikolas and Wainwright, throw in Andrew Miller
they throttle the Brewers, then face down
a good Braves team that has beaten the Rockies.
and presto: it’s Cards and Sox like 67 and 46
the Cards (in seven) empty Boston’s bag of tricks
Unlikely yes, but if the Redbirds beat the Sox this way
You’ll know Beantown took that fatal White House trip in May
My prediction for 2019 is the New York Yankees vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers, a prediction grounded in both empirical fact and nostalgia. Empirical fact because Vegas says an NY/LA series is the most probable outcome; nostalgia because during the height of my fandom, the Yankees battled the Dodgers three times: 1977, 78 and 81.
As seen in Kramer & Kramer’s Official 2016 Yearbook, 1977 and 1978 were extraordinary seasons in their identicalness. In both years, the Yankees, Royals, Phillies and Dodgers won their respective divisions. In both years, the Dodgers and Yankees won the pennant and the Yankees the World Series. Remarkably, the post season results were almost identical: Yankees over Royals, 3-2 and 3-1; Dodgers over Phillies 3-1 and 3-1; Yankees over Dodgers 4-2 and 4-2.The 1977 series is most notable for Reggie Jackson’s four home runs on four swings in games 5 and 6. In the 8th inning of game 5, Reggie hit an 0-1 pitch off Don Sutton for a home run. In game 6, in the second inning, Reggie walked on 4 pitches off Burt Hooton. In the 4th, Reggie hit Hooton’s first pitch for a home run. In the 5th, Reggie hit Elias Sosa’s first pitch for a home run. In the 8th, Reggie hit Charlie Hough’s first pitch for a home run. In memory’s eye, I can still see that one crashing into the unoccupied center field bleachers. The 1978 season is most known for the one game playoff between the Yankees and Red Sox who tied in the American League East Division. Many claim this, but I actually did sneak out of school a tad early to watch the game on tv.
Despite my delinquency, I wasn’t home in time to see Bucky “F…. ing” Dent — as Red Sox fans call expletive Bucky — slip his three runner over the Green Monster. But, etched in memory’s eye is Yaz popping up in the 9th against Goose with two men on. Recently, I watched the game on Youtube, marveling at its pace of play and yearning for the days of two-and-a-half-hour ballgames.
In the World Series, the Dodger’s avenged the two previous six game defeats with a six game victory. In the series, Yankee’s reliever George Frazier somehow registered three losses — equaled only by “Black Sox” Lefty Williams who in 1919 allegedly lost his three games on purpose. The Yankees’ superstar Dave Winfield — then paid an astounding 1.3 million a year — was a bust, going 1 for 22. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner promptly dubbed Winfield, “Mr. May,” in contrast to his clutch teammate Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October.”