Opening Day is just a few days away and it's that time of year again. Time to separate the wheat from the chaff and rank the top ten players in the league based on my arbitrary judgments and personal biases. It took a little over fifteen minutes to whip this list together, so if you have any disagreements, post them in the comments below. I'm sure no one will read them since no one reads this site in the first place. Without further ado, here are your official opening day rankings:
1. John Cronin – No one else but the reigning league MVP should be slotted as the top dog in the season’s first set of power rankings. In 2013, John led the league with 27 W and 135 K. He finished second in HR with 64. The only slight to his overall performance in 2013 was a meltdown in the playoffs which caused his team to lose the championship. After losing the championship John vowed to come back stronger than ever. However, he spent all of his time in the offseason in front of a computer designing the BWA website and playing Backyard Baseball. It remains to be seen whether his training regimen will result in a third straight MVP performance or whether a sedentary offseason will be his downfall. The league is gunning for his spot and he’ll face fierce competition all season. Does John have the heart of a champion or is the number one ranking just a dream?
2. Joe Cronin – The second spot goes to Joe, who led the league with 80 HR, won Defensive Player of the Year, and played a key role in winning the 2013 league championship. Joe’s boomstick of a bat is his greatest strength on the field (besides his beard growing ability). He dominated the league at the plate, averaging 2.42 HR/G. His pitching leaves a lot to be desired. While he placed third in the league with 63 K, his penchant for wildness caused him to lose many games throughout the year. Is this the year that Joe puts it all together and wins an MVP award? His hitting and defense appeared to be in mid-season form during spring training, hitting multiple HR and robbing Andrew Cronin of a clear HR. Whether his pitching will hold up remains to be seen. Every time Joe steps up to the plate here comes the boom, but will he continue to walk people over and over again?
3. Patrick Cronin - Every time Patrick and his merry clan of wifflers show up at Shed Field, he seems to be on the winning side. His win percentage was .800 last year and he did his best in the championship game to pull out a victory, contributing 2 HR. Too bad John Cronin had other plans and blew the game for his team. The details of John's championship meltdown are fuzzy at the moment, but you can be assured that John was the reason his team lost and his grasp of the top power rank at the current moment is tenuous at best. Pat displayed ample power during spring training and is due for an uptick in both HR/G and K/G. We all know that Pat has what it takes to be number one, the only thing holding him back from being this season's MVP is his attendance. Is this the season that he shows up enough to wrest the MVP trophy from John's grasp?
4. Howard Cronin - Last year's Cy Young Award winner fell down to the fourth spot due to his absence during spring training. Howard's greatest strength is his curve ball, a sneaky terror of a pitch, which appears to be behind the batter as it leaves his hand and then curves in to catch the inside edge of the strike zone. Howard's offseason work remains a mystery. No one in the league knows if he has been working on new pitches to throw into his repertoire. Howard hits well to contact, but his power numbers are still a bit low. Did Howard work on his strength during the offseason? Is this the year that he makes the leap and begins planting balls over the fence on a regular basis? These questions are still unknown at this point, but what we do know is that Howard's favorite phrase to hear when he takes the mound is "batter up" as he peers down his next victim.
5. Sarah (Nelson) Cronin - As you can see, the top of my power ranking list leans toward the proven players who have received awards or shown stellar postseason performance. Sarah was 2013's GIANTS Most Improved Player of the Year. She began the year with little batting or pitching abilities but by the end of the season she had developed deadly pitching accuracy. She painted the corners of the strike zone with ease and rarely walked any players. She began hitting well to contact and found a power stroke, hitting her first HR in August and finishing the regular season a month later with 4 total HR. Sarah will start the season on the DL as she recovers from surgery, which is a bit of a dilemma for this ranking bit, but for now she has earned her spot and will remain here until other players prove themselves on the field.
6. Joe Hubly - Joe is one of the most solid all-around players in the league. In 2013 he averaged an excellent 2.3 K/G and a respectable 1.26 HR/G. Joe's strengths are his switch-hitting ability and night vision. He logged the most games after sun-down of any player in the league last year. He failed to display the infamous "clutch gene" that all mediocre television announcers proclaim to be important during the final moments of close games. When the stage was the biggest, Joe was not able to perform last year. His team lost both playoff games last year and he also lost a few games in dramatic walk-off fashion while he was on the mound. Will lady luck shine on Joe this year and bring him victory in his close games or will she merely just walk away?
7. Andrew Cronin - The buzz around Andrew Cronin is building as the season opener approaches. The pitching genius behind the league's only perfect game, Andrew put in a strong spring training performance. He had multiple HR and his pitches had some good zip on their way to the plate. League sources are projecting his power totals to fall somewhere between 10-20 HR, which is impressive considering any HR total over 9 will be more than his current age. His pitching numbers will not be flashy, he is an accurate pitcher who pitches to contact, but as long as he has a teammate with a strong defensive presence (for example, Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joe Cronin), he will win more games than he loses and has a strong chance to be the champ.
8. Thomas Randolph - An imposing figure at the plate, Thomas averaged 2 HR/G in the games he played last year on his way to a championship run in the postseason. Thomas dominated the postseason with a walk-off solo HR in the first round and another HR in the championship game. Like Pat Cronin, Thomas's biggest weakness is his tendency to not show up on a regular basis. Will this be the season that Thomas shows up on a regular basis or will he mostly be gone?
9. Rose Cronin - Rose is a steady presence on any wiffleball team. She hits well for contact and pitches accurately with minimal walks. She posted a regular season winning percentage of 0.58 last year and was on the championship winning team. The biggest question facing Rose is whether her preseason hiking trip will develop an insane amount of leg strength and cause a jump in her HR numbers. If this happens, she is due for a fast climb up the power rankings. Whatever the case may be, the undisputed fact is that Rose and her friends are party people and they bring a fun and raucous atmosphere to every wiffleball evening.
10. Karen Cronin - A preseason proclamation that her intent this season is to set a single season strikeout record, while batting, wasn't strong enough to keep Karen from the top ten in the opening day power rankings. Karen competes well in every game she plays and she keeps her team in every game. She is an excellent team captain and does a great job of delegating tasks while on the field. She might be heard proclaiming that the field is "my place", if not because of her dominance while on it, then because it is also in her backyard. She cracked the top ten due to her competitive nature and postseason performance, in which she led her team to the championship game only to have John Cronin blow it all. She also is the most likely out of any player in the league to drop out of the top ten, especially if she stays true to her determination to strike out as many times as possible while at bat.
Honorable Mention: It remains to be seen who will crack the top ten, but the following list of names contains players who will most likely show up a few times and put up the kind of performances which will vault them into the top ten power ranks: Sarah (Malone) Cronin, Leonard Cronin, John K Hubly, John L Hubly, Joe Marier, Mary Beth Redmond, Paul Cronin, Travis McKinley Rachel Igo. There are other names floating around, but they will not be added to any list until they step onto the field for the first time. Power Ranks are awarded based on real performance, not speculation, and they should be taken as seriously as you believe me to be.
Happy Wiffling Til Next Week,