“You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” – Lou Gehrig
Baseball is back. That means green grass, warm weather, the smell of stadium food, the sound of ball meeting oak, the return of web gems.
The game said goodbye to all-times greats Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter, and Todd Helton.
Some more of the all-time greats will return this season including Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Adam Wainwright, and Cliff Lee.
Now of course, we already know we will be saying farewell to Jeter at the end of the season, and I’m sure many more will be to follow as the season develops, but that doesn’t mean baseball’s future isn’t bright.
One of the biggest story lines I will be following this year is the farewell tour for Jeter, one of the games greatest shortstops to ever play the game. These past two years, we have seen the emotional roller coaster with Braves great Chipper Jones and Jeter’s career long teammate, Rivera.
Another big headline will be the AL West. The Angels and Rangers both are considered to have deep line-ups and the hot seats are ready for both managers Mike Scioscia and Ron Washington . If their teams underperform for another season, expect to see them both gone quickly. The additions of Prince Fielder to Texas and Robinson Cano to Seattle will only add to the mass amounts of talent already on display in the AL West.
A big question I can’t wait to see answered is whether or not both the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates are legitimate playoff teams. Both made a great run last year and had many baseball fans rooting for them. Unfortunately, both teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. They enter this season being overlooked by teams that made late playoff pushes last year.
If the Indians would like to avoid the wild-card game, they will have to overthrow the Detroit Tigers who represent three consecutive Cy Young and MVP awards. The Pirates will have to compete with two great teams, the defending NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds.
The Yankees went out and got some of the biggest names on the market all while losing arguably the greatest second baseman Cano to the Mariners. The Yankees missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1995 last season, and they are looking for the bats of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran to help get them to the playoffs. It should also be worth noting the addition of Masahiro Tanaka. Will he be as accomplished as Yu Darvish or will he falter like Daisuke Matsuzaka? Oh and did I mention the richest man in baseball in the name of Alex Rodriguez is suspended for an entire season? You can say goodbye to his daily drama for one season and watch a team of players play for a new team identity.
Cinderella teams do not only exist in college basketball. The Rays and Milwaukee Brewers once played that role in 2008, followed by the San Francisco Giants in 2010, the OaklandAthletics pulled it off in 2012, and last year we saw the Pirates pull it off. This year could be anybody’s year, and don’t you dare rule it out. Keep a close eye on those Kansas City Royals.
With all that said, let’s forget all that we know and expect nothing less than a season full of excitement. The game continues to open doors to a new generation and I know I will enjoy what I see out of the players remaining from my childhood in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Arthur’s Pick ’em:
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Texas Rangers
Wild Card: New York Yankees & Kansas City Royals
NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card: Arizona Diamondbacks & Pittsburgh Pirates