On Sunday, Feb. 12, Bob Klapisch, baseball writer for the Star Ledger and online at NJ.com, made his annual appearance at Congregation Beth Aaron in Teaneck to discuss the upcoming baseball season, the Yankees and Mets in particular. Among all the shiurim, lectures and schmoozes that take place at Beth Aaron, this is always one of the more eagerly anticipated.
Dividing his subject matter into four segments, Klapisch addressed this year’s Hall of Fame candidates and how he voted. He analyzed the new rule changes to take effect at the start of this year’s season, his feelings about the Yankees, and his expectations for the Mets.
Klapisch differentiated between steroid use before and after the rule officially mandating punishment for its use was established in 2005. A player violating that rule should not be allowed entry into the Hall of Fame. But Barry Bonds, who was caught using steroids during the 1990s, did not break a punishable rule. Although a consistent user of PEDs (performance enhancing drugs), Bonds got Klapisch’s vote for entry into Cooperstown based on the outstanding statistics compiled during his career, including a 73 home run season in 2001.
Conversely, Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod), who was not only caught using steroids with the rule in place but never owned up to it, should be nowhere near the Hall of Fame, according to Klapisch. However, he became more nuanced in his endorsement of Andy Pettite, who retired in 2013 because he used HGH growth hormone as opposed to steroids and is a personable gentleman with good values. Agree or disagree, Klapisch seemed to place significant value for eligibility on character: Bonds and Pettite, yes; A-Rod and Carlos Beltran (a leader of the illegal sign stealing scandal of 2017), no.
There are various new rules on which baseball fans will be passing judgment this season. The most significant of these is that a pitcher must release the baseball from the mound no longer than 15 seconds after receiving the ball. Klapisch emphatically noted that his belief is that this will negatively impact the pitchers more than the hitters, because pitchers have to muster a lot of energy with each pitch they deliver, while it is easier for the batter to prepare himself for the next pitch during that abbreviated period. Another rule change disallowing three infielders on either side of second base undoubtedly accrues to the benefit of the batter.
Klapisch said that he expects both the Yankees and Mets to have very successful seasons, but feels the Mets have a better chance of appearing in the World Series. Much to the frustration of Yankees fans, despite the team’s improvement during the winter by outbidding the competition for pitcher Carlos Rodon, the team is not yet equipped to overtake the Houston Astros, who they must beat in order to qualify for the World Series. However, the re-signing of Aaron Judge, whose personal qualities match his exceptional prowess as a baseball player, ensures the Yankees will be a major force this season. While their manager, Aaron Boone, is a nice guy and a calming influence, his on-field managerial skills remain questionable, shared Klapisch, who contended that Boone’s taciturn nature is one of the reasons the Yankees last year signed Josh Donaldson, one of baseball’s more fiery players.
In contrast, the experience, baseball intelligence and savoir-faire of Buck Showalter, manager of the Mets, are not only far superior to those of Boone, but Klapisch opined that Showalter is the most gifted manager he has seen in the course of his baseball journalism career.
Commenting on the departure of Jacob DeGrom from the Mets, Klapisch was not surprised. Given an offer by the Texas Rangers he simply couldn’t refuse, DeGrom took the money. Moreover, Klapisch felt that DeGrom was never fully comfortable in the New York spotlight as he frequently denied the media any more commentary than the minimum the Mets required him to deliver as a representative of their organization.
Klapisch shared that he anticipates a season for both the local teams that should extend well into October. Steve Cohen, the owner of the Mets worth $16 billion, will spend any amount of money to put the Mets over the top, not caring one bit how his fellow owners are affected by his profligacy. Above all else, Cohen has been waiting since 1986 for his favorite team to win a championship. Yankees fans have been waiting since 2009 and are growing increasingly restless.
Given the competitiveness of these two teams and how close they are to being the best, the ultimate for most fans here, no matter their allegiance, would be to see the Yankees and Mets face each other in the final battle to win it all. That’s a really feasible possibility.
David Hes has written articles for The Jewish Link in the past and hopes to do so more frequently. A skilled writer, he has also written freelance about other events and causes. He can be contacted at: [email protected]