Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Talking baseball with Pittsfield legend Tom Grieve
PITTSFIELD >> If the American League playoffs were starting today, Baltimore and Toronto would be Wild Cards, the Red Sox would win the American League East and the New York Yankees would be home for the winter.
"I think everybody expected the [American League] East would be a great race between the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Orioles and Toronto," said Tom Grieve.
Grieve was in Pittsfield this weekend. He was the keynote speaker at Saturday's ceremonies dedicating Buddy Pellerin Field at Clapp Park. Friday night, he gathered with several former Pittsfield High School teammates to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pittsfield's 1966 baseball state championship. That PHS team is still the only Pittsfield public school team to win a state baseball title.
As to what is going on with two weeks left in the regular season, one thing is starting to become clear — the Yankees made a nice run, but they're likely done. Losing three games to Boston this weekend didn't help. That put the New Yorkers seven games behind the Red Sox in the AL East and 4 1/2 behind current Wild Card Leaders Baltimore and Toronto.
Remember one thing, the Yankees were sellers at the trade deadline, and many of us thought they were finished then.
"That's a good point. When you look at the Yankees at the beginning of the year, you saw an old team and I had a hard time imagining it would stay healthy," he said. "You thought [the deals] were a good decision for the future, but it would be hard to imagine they would make such a comeback this year."
If you live in Red Sox Nation, to say this has been a roller coaster of a year would be an understatement. It kind of felt like a play on the lyrics of the Sinatra song "That's Life."
The lyrics are: "You're riding high in April, Shot down in May. But I know I'm gonna change that tune, When I'm back on top, back on top in June."
In fact, when Grieve's Texas Rangers arrived at Fenway for a three-game series in early July, the Sox were 45-37. Now, they are 84-64.
"One thing that surprised me is that they weren't a great team" back then, he said. "They've put together as good a group of players between the ages of 21 and 26 as any team I can remember."
While the Red Sox are a rival, talking about the young players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts brings a smile to the face of the former Rangers general manager, who tried to build his teams the same way.
"They have a chance to have five players knock in 100 runs. It's almost impossible to pitch to that team," Grieve said. "When you look at that team, it's not a one-time thing. These guys are young.
"There are several of them that won't go into salary arbitration for a couple of more years. This is a team built for now and built for the future"
Grieve said he is excited to see what his Rangers will do in the post-season. Admittedly, I picked Houston to repeat as AL West champs, but the Rangers have been the dominant team. They were 9 1/2 games ahead of Seattle in the division and the Rangers' 88-60 record would give them home field throughout the American League playoffs — if they keep winning.
"I expected us to be a very good team," Tom Grieve said. "If there's any surprise about our team, it's how dramatic our victories have been. "We've won something like 35 one-run games.
"So, I guess you'd have to say that's a little bit of a surprise."
The unfortunate part for Tom Grieve is that when the regular season ends, he gets to sit back and watch. All of the local TV broadcasters cede their booths to the national broadcasts, which dominate postseason play.
The guy many call Mr. Ranger is optimistic about his team's playoff possibilities.
"Anything can happen in a short series. It's frequent that the team that looks the best doesn't win, because it actually boils down to they're all good teams," he said. "It's who gets hot at the right time."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.
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