The True State of I-95 Baseball

The future of baseball is unclear.  There is a tremendous international base from which to draw players and fans.  Arguably, baseball is more popular elsewhere than in the United States, where it is played.  Along the I-95 corridor, baseball is still an integral part of the sports universe.  Baseball’s rules and roots are based in New York, Boston and Philly.  Given the economic realities, Boston and Philadelphia seem to be setting themselves up for dominance in the coming decade.  There are challenges for both but I expect them weather the fiercest storms and win consistently.  Look toward a decade of Red Sox and Phillies division titles and numerous World Series appearances.  The trendlines for these two teams are up.  Rich times are ahead for two cities that vie for attention in a world where New York’s gravitation pull attracts everything.  An easy or difficult path to the Commissioner’s Trophy lies mostly with the fortune of an I-95 rival, the Yankees.

The best dynastic analogy for these New York Yankees is to the Pinstripers of the early ’60s.  The Mantle era was coming to an abrupt end as those heroes aged considerably and began retiring.  1962 was the last championship they would see for 15 years.  Two consecutive AL pennants in 1963-4 were the final nails in the coffin.  A dynasty which stretched back 40 years, to the days of Babe Ruth, was over.  Today, the Yankees are on the brink of another dynastic collapse.  Though this dynasty has been less impressive than the Yankee successes that preceded it, in the modern age of free agency, 15 playoff appearances in 16 seasons is the measure of success.

What will define the Yankees in the coming decade is whether they can steer a way forward, without Jeter.  The Yankees were able to begin anew in the mid-90s.  I believe they can do so again.  It may take a few years after Jeter’s departure but I have no doubt that the Yankees, holders of more titles than any other franchise, have the capacity to see those changes through and then thrive.  A far cry from their National League neighbors in Queens.

I have documented my distain for the current situation in Flushing.  As a Mets fan, I am embarrassed by ownership, management and their on-field play.  It is fitting the Mets will celebrate their 50th season in turmoil.  If GM Sandy Alderson can keep order, in an otherwise chaotic circumstance, I will be impressed.  He has a near-impossible task if he stays for a long period.  The Madoff PR disaster will remain a stain that will be a deterrent to good play.  David Wright has said it will be a distraction.  It will scare off potential free agents and could effect the franchise’s financial viability.  There is nothing more than can be said.  The trajectory of the Mets is downward.  As long as the Wilpons are in control, don’t expect much.

Despite the powers to the North, the teams around the Chesapeake are doomed.  For the Orioles, failure is a foregone conclusion.  The previous decade saw the O’s worst performance since they were the St. Louis Browns.  By no means is it the complete fault of their competitors in the division, the Yankees and Red Sox, as others have been able to accomplish winning seasons while those two were consuming all the talent.  The Orioles management has been inept in many cases and conveniently use Boston and the Bronx as an excuse.  Camden Yards, at almost 20 years of age, is a beautiful park.  Baltimore’s baseball traditions are well known.  Baltimore must seek out better executive talent and stop using the their division counterparts to the North as a scapegoat for bad management.  Like the Mets, don’t expect much here either.

Lastly, poor Washington.  The Nats, unbelievably, will begin their seventh DC season in April.  The Nationals are, in many ways, an expansion franchise.  Establishing an identity has been difficult but the Strasburg effect has taken hold even though he will sit out 2011.  If the free agent changes the Nats made this off-season show tangible benefits, it may carry through until next season and the season after.  Washington has a youth plan.  If that strategy works is still a matter on how well these young players were scouted.

What happens to DC largely depends on the other teams in the NL East.  The southern members, the Braves and Marlins, will make their cases.  The Miami Marlins, as they will be know in 2012 when their new stadium is completed, will have a renewed spirit because of that ballpark.  The Braves have stated their case to win the NL East.  If the Phillies remain superior, the Nats will need to build a wild card winner.  A task that is not as onerous as building a world champion.  The Nationals could insert themselves into the wild card hunt eventually but it could be years before a playoff berth is had.

What Awaits Us in 2021

Baseball inevitably will rely on its regional rivalries to survive.  There has been talk of radical realignment for a decade or two.  I suspect that to save itself from the NFL, realignment along regional lines will happen.  It is only a question of when?  My guess is by 2021, a division will exist containing the Red Sox, Mets, Yankees and Phillies.  But before that time, this decade will consist of successes for Boston and Philadelphia, slowly consolidating their power in their respective divisions.  The Yankees will struggle reestablishing themselves after Jeter departs but will find new life by decade’s end.

Meanwhile, the I-95’s Second Division will struggle.  Baltimore and Washington will try to gain a foothold against their richer counterparts.  The Mets are the proverbial wild card.  Their fate rests solely with ownership.  Mark Cuban has recently stated he is interested in purchasing them.  The outlook is currently negative for the Mets.  If ownership changes or their fortunes on the field change, all bets are off in what is, and will continue to be, the center of baseball’s universe.  That center being the Northeast.

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3 Responses to The True State of I-95 Baseball

  1. Pingback: Building Trends… Ten Year Baseball Outlooks Are Relevant « The I-95 Guys

  2. Michael Ventimiglia says:

    Stop it with the Yankees and Phillies envy. The Yankees will always spend money, but to ignore their ownership problem, too much interference, is naive. For the Yankees, winning, and winning it all, are two very different things. I like most of what you write, but you are dead wrong on the Phillies. They are built to win NOW… I normally hate that phrase, but, it fits this team. The moves they’ve made, have shown they are very aware of their closing window. Rollins is no spring chicken, neither are Utley and Howard— they came to the big leagues late. As for their staff, Halliday, Oswalt, and Lee are all well over 30, and Hamels is overrated— he’s a #2, at best. Their minor leagues have been depleted, via the trades they’ve made over the last few years. It was a stocked system, due to them being so bad, for so long— they haven’t been able to restock, due to success. A decade of dominance? I think not— 3 years, at best.

  3. Billy Tagg says:

    The Phillies are making a play for the here-and-now. That is not lost on me. Once the current lineup and rotation exhausts itself, the Phils could be done. What is clear is the apparent weakness in the NL. The National League has come to a point where, if the Phillies fell, there would be a huge power vacuum. No team stands out. I agree the current regime has a limited window but I think, if the trend continues in the NL East, the Phillies can retool for the following five years. Where Pujols goes could shift power?

    Now, there are some NL team’s windows opening. If the Phillies can use this window well, win a championship or two, they could shut out some of the up-and-comers, limiting their windows and enhancing their own position to restock their farm system and sign younger stars. If they want that to occur, they need to start now.

    I wrote a second manifesto on the state of these teams. The front office is my main argument. Once the Core Three leave, the Yankees need major leadership changes in the clubhouse. Throwing money at new talent does nothing if the team doesn’t gel. Hell, there are doubts how long Girardi will stay? George threw tons of money at the most coveted free agents after the Subway Series and won a single World Series, taking a decade to get. The Yankees had a small window in the late 70s with George but what happened? He tried to buy talent in the 80s but got him nothing.

    I’m from New York and I know winning it all was the Yankees mantra while the Boss was alive. But now he’s gone and I feel his sons are don’t have the same zeal as their old man did. The Yankees front office will undergo a transition sooner rather than later. Of course, that means Cashman leaving. I wasn’t ignoring the ownership stuff nor interference issues. If the Pinstripes are to weather the post-Jeter era, my point was they need a clear vision. They could make the right moves and they continue winning. My suggestion was that Yankees management should be aware of the challenges ahead.

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