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In Praise of Jonathan Schwartz's Special Super Bowl Sunday Broadcast on The Verge of Pitchers and Catchers 2013

Am listening to famed music dj Jonathan Schwartz host his annual WNYC.FM Salute to Baseball on Super Bowl Sunday. Great idea that never loses its importance. Just heard Mandy Patinkin sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in Yiddish. And now the score of the classic 1940s movie musical of same name with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra lift my spirits.

Best thing about the Super Bowl is that the two weeks of largely repetitive buildup will at last be over. And “pitchers and catchers” will actually report to spring training in about 10 days. Hallelujah!

Recently have learned thanks to a comment by veteran sportswriter/radio commentator Frank Deford that the late columnist Mary McGrory coined the memorable sentence that I use on this website: “Baseball is what this country used to be, football is what it has become.” A great insight to be sure but soon baseball will be returning and that is always a cause for celebration.

As I write this, Jonathan Schwartz is playing George Carlin’s classic riff on the difference between baseball and football:

“Baseball is pastoral, football is technological. . . . In baseball you make an error. In football you pay a penalty. . . . Football is the bomb, . . . the blitz, [marching] in enemy territory. . . . Baseball is the sacrifice . . . going home.”

Don’t need to convince readers of this blog about these essential differences.
But harder than ever to handicap the upcoming MLB races. And I have to laugh at all the new-fangled pundits with their incomprehensible statistics who are already ranking teams before the first rust of spring training has even been worked off.

Love Vin Scully's comment that "statistics are often used like a drunk uses a lamppost - for support not enlightenment."

So I’ll just offer these brief comments: Every team in the AL East could contend or flop. Toronto is a fashionable pick because for minimal major league-ready players they stripped the Florida Marlins of star pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson and shortstop Jose Reyes and obtained from the Mets knuckleballer R. A. Dickey and two catchers who can handle his capricious pitch.

Blue Jays also re-hired former manager John Gibbons (who BTW was included nearly 30 years ago in the Mets trade to Montreal for the late Hall of Famer Gary Carter). I remind people, however, that sometimes a team can make too many changes.

The Yankees look very old with question marks all around and no experienced regular catcher. But they still play in the homer-friendly new Yankee Stadium and can intimidate less mentally strong teams.

The Tampa Bay Rays may rue trading veteran ace James Shields and another strong righthander in Wade Davis. And they only have under their control for two more seasons incumbent ace David Price. But I don’t think any Rays team managed by positive-thinker-technologically-hip Joe Maddon will fade away.

The Red Sox vowed to up their payroll after shedding late last season the huge contracts of Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Remains to be seen if their new additions and their new manager John Farrell, who did not win in Toronto, will make a big difference. At least new first baseman/occasional catcher Mike Napoli and shortstop Stephen Drew are on one-year contracts and will have something to prove.

Finally, the Orioles did not add much and subtracted Mark Reynolds who was a revelation as a first baseman but struck out much too often and didn’t supply consistent home run power. The Orioles are banking on a left field platoon of Nate McLouth, rescued from the Pirates scrap heap, and the oft-injured Nolan Reimold to bolster its spotty offense. And for the pitching to continue its resurgence of last season.

We may know about the Orioles of 2013 early on. Remarkably, they never were under .500 all last season after sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the first series. This year's schedule has them playing Tampa, Boston, the Yankees, Dodgers, and Athletics before April is over. i

One other point about the upcoming season: There will be a surprise team who shines early and gives the local fans some fleeting hope. The Pirates have done it the last two seasons only to fade miserably.

The Indians might do it this year. I like their double play combination of Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis but I doubt the big ticket free agnet Nick Swisher will deliver all year. If Shields and Davis deliver early for Kansas City, they may have a good enough core - catcher Salvador Perez, doubles-machine Alex Gordon, powerful dh Billy Butler, and hopefully recovering from bad year first baseman Eric Hosmer - to make some waves.

Who knows? That’s what they play the games.

That's all this time. Always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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