Spring is finally in the air. The scrimmage games have been played on the Blvd for several weeks now. Veteran and young players have shown up to dust off the rust off their swings in order to prepare for the new season. Other players have shown up to play with their new teammates. Scrimmages have also been played under the new rules for this year in order to get a “feel” for how they might affect a game. By the way, if you haven’t checked out the new rules, check them out in an earlier post here on the website.
As customary with every off-season, several player changes happen. Teams are always looking to improve in every sport, stickball is no different. I have created a power rankings list which will detail some of the changes each team has made and summarize their strengths and possible weaknesses.
1) Gold – We have to start with the 2011 NYESL and Labor Day Champions. This veteran team is always a contender for the season and tournament titles, this year should be no different. This team hits, runs the bases aggressively and plays defense as good as any other team in Stickball. Reuniting with their long time first baseman Raul, should provide the infield with a stronger defender. Is this season another testament to the talent on the team?
2) Leland – Last season’s #1 seed fell short of a title again and will be looking to take the next step this season. This team also is a well-rounded team. They were the 2nd highest scoring team in 2011 but seem to end up short in elimination games. The additions of Izzy and Doug will make this team better. These guys are veteran players that do not get rattled in pressure situations. Is a title in order for them this season?
3) Emperors – This team was quiet in the off-season, to my knowledge there wasn’t any additions or subtractions for the 2012 season. The team is led by “mouthy” veterans who definitely use psychological warfare every week. (Just kidding, Tito and Vido.) This team has one of the best defenses in the league, and always seem to have a highlight worthy play in just about every game. This year’s rule change about the trees should not affect this team.
4) Ravens – One of the busiest teams during the off-season has received a serious facelift. Al Jr joins the team and looks to add run production to a team that certainly needed it. Also joining the Ravens is Tim, Gil and Carlos (Rock). This team will have to gel together first before being considered a serious title contender, but the talent is there. The team should definitely improve offensively but will their defense be affected as well?
5) Royals – The lineup is just about the same as last season. Rejoining the team is Darnell. The only subtractions are Andy and Izzy, but each of them only played few games as a Royal last season. The Royals saw a decline to run production and defense last season. In my opinion, they missed Kevin, out with a serious foot injury. He is working his way back to playing and is hopeful that he can start the season on the field for his team. Can they make a serious run this season?
6) Stem – The youth experiment is no longer an experiment anymore. Their young players have made serious improvements over the past two seasons. They have certainly opened the eyes of several people around the league. They will need the veterans to assist them in carrying this team far into the postseason. I am unaware of any personnel changes with Stem for this season. Can the younger players be consistent enough to climb the standings ladder?
7) Personal – This team showed improvement offensively last season but did not settle down defensively until late into the year. Adding the veteran Andy for this season should assist the team with a consistent hitter and a veteran outfielder. The team showed improvement during the winter league and should be ready for the season after showing up each week for scrimmages. Are they ready to get out of the cellar in the standings though?
8) Saints – The team has lost several players going into this season. Al Jr, Al Sr, Gil, Doug, Darnell and Lenny are a few that come to mind. Losing that many starters would hurt any team. Pete Sr. seems confident that his team will contend and assured me that the talent is still there. Can the veterans like Lefty, Mike and Pete Jr, carry this team?
9) Bandits – Finishing in last place in 2011 won’t keep this team down. They did lose several key players such as starting infielders Carlos and Tim. That will certainly hurt the infield’s defense. They did add Lenny and a few other guys that will be new to this regular season. Although I have not seen them play during the scrimmages, word is they are ready to start the season. Are they ready to finish higher than last place?
10) Falcons – New to the league is a team headed up by John “Blaze”. All I know is that this team will also be joined by Al Sr. The team failed to show up for any scrimmages but seem serious about joining the league. I was told that this team consists of young talent that has been playing hardball and/or softball for several years. We all know that transition is not the easiest to make. Only time will tell.
See you on the Blvd!