By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Baseball is back, and let the prognostications begin.
With just 60 games, every one is crucial and there may not be predictable winners in each division. In the American League, the safe picks would be the Yankees, Twins, and Astros coupled with National League version of Nationals, Cardinals, and Dodgers.
Still, anything could happen. A team can get hot at the end of August and ride the wave. How about a Philadelphia-Los Angeles Angels World Series? Or better yet, Pittsburgh-Texas? Uh..nah..
For our sakes, let’s envision the Yankees and Dodgers meeting in the Fall Classic for the first time since 1981. Yes, you are wondering why I wouldn’t propose a Yankees-Mets series, but a coast-to-coast series would be better for the game. Seeing some of the games from that series on recent YES reruns should provide some fodder. It was an interesting and captivating series.
The two teams have met more than other any other in the World Series, and the Yankees have won eight of 11 contests, the Dodgers winning the last one in 1981 in six games. On paper, these are the two best teams in the game playing in their iconic ballparks.
With fans unlikely in the stands, this could be a TV rating bonanza. You have the aging Dodgers’ star pitcher Clayton Kershaw reaching back for one of his final hurrahs with rising superstar Mookie Betts squaring off against top free-agent acuisition pitcher Gerrit Cole and the Bronx Bash Brothers Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez. Needless to say, there will be plenty of subplots along the way.
Ironically, the 1981 Yankees’ and Dodgers’ seasons had some uncanny comparisons.
The 1981 year was a split season due to a strike and the Yankees won the first half comfortably with a 34-22 mark then they slipped to fifth in the second half with a 25-26 mark.
They faced the Milwaukee Brewers, winners of the second half, in the divisional series, and the Yanks outlasted them in five games. From there, the Yanks silenced Oakland in three straight in the AL Championship series.
These Yankees didn’t have the glaring offensive stats, but the likes of steady Bob Watson, Rick Cerone and Jerry Mumphrey along with stock stars Dave Winfield, Graig Nettles, and Reggie Jackson, who was in his final year of pinstripes.
The current Yankees lineup of Judge, Sanchez. DJ LeMahieu, and Gleyber Torres could garner a slight edge based on power and average.
Ron Guidry still had some of his late 70’s magic left and he was joined by Tommy John, Rick Reuschel, Rudy May, and Dave Righetti. Goose Gossage was nearly unhittable and registered 20 saves.
Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ would have more overall depth than their predecessors. The current Yanks’ bullpen also gets the check mark with their interchangeable parts.
In case you forgot, legendary Gene Michael managed the team until Sept. 5, and then Bob Lemon took over and won the pennant.
The ’81 Dodgers followed a similar script to the Yankees’ log, as they finished first in the opening half with a 36-21 mark and then fourth in the final section with a 27-26 record.
However, the Dodgers’ still had a leftover productive 70’s pack of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, and Dusty Baker paired with upstarts Mike Scioscia, Pedro Guerrero, and Ken Landreaux.
Grizzled veterans Burt Hooton and Jerry Reuss blended perfectly with budding Bob Welch and lights-out rookie Fernando Valenzuela. Steve Howe was on top of his game in the bullpen.
Baseball is back, and the games soon will begin. It won’t take long before each of us is entrenched again.
A Yankees-Dodgers World Series can rekindle plenty of memories from fans from 40 to 80, as well as showcasing some of its younger stars to same generation.
Baseball needs to mend its fracture, and it can regain its popularity with its two biggest pieces on the top shelf.