Finally! Baseball. Is. Back.
I don't know about some of you, but most of you are probably just as elated as I am. There aren't enough words to express how great it is to have another baseball season starting up.
God must truly be a baseball fan because despite the fact that spring officially started March 20, it wasn't until these last few days, on the eves of the 2013 baseball season, the weather has really reflected that springtime feel and ambiance of cool winds, beautiful shiny days and the seduction of being outdoors to do many things. But most of all watch, play and admire the great American game.
Who is going to win the 2013 World Series? Who will win the Cy Young awards? Who will be the MVPs? I don't know, no one knows. And that's one of the great beauties baseball possesses. All the guesses in the world can be made, but in baseball you just don't know how it's all going to turn out. Football, hockey, basketball — that's all stuff that can be analyzed in such a way where accurate predictions hold water, but in baseball — thanks to the way it's played, with unique elegance and suspense — knowing how things will look come October just isn't possible.
Now, with that said, it doesn't mean you can't have an idea as to how teams will compete this year and who's going to be better than who.
No doubt the central division is going to come down to the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. They're the two best teams in the division, and while Milwaukee may pose a threat and get in on the mix here and there, it's ultimately going to come down to which red cap becomes the division champion. It's not only a battle on the field, it's a battle of general managers too. Reds GM Walt Jockety was in St. Louis for quite some time and made a name for himself in the Gateway City. On the other side of the spectrum you have Cards GM John Mozeliak, who worked under Jockety, and can, and has, made moves that have improved the team statistically — despite many critics. Advantage, however, goes to the Cardinals. St. Louis has better players in their farm system with major league experience who can be called up and take on almost any role.
The most fun division to watch is going to be the NL East. It's going to be a serious battle for the division crown and both Wild Card spots. The Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are more than likely going to have their fair share of first place throughout the season, but only one can prevail as champion. The only question is, who takes the division and where do the other two teams land in the Wild Card? Washington is for sure the team to beat, they've got a great team under a great manager, Davey Johnson. As for the Braves and Phillies, they both improved in unique ways. Atlanta went out and got the Upton brothers, Philly is bringing back Ryne Sandberg and Wally Joyner as coaches which could have bigger impact than anyone could ever expect.
Page 2 of 3 - As for the NL West, it's the San Francisco Giants' to lose. Their biggest competition will come from longtime rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers, yet since 1996 LA has had this rhythm of just running out of luck and energy by the time they get to the crucial games at the end of the season and decisive games if they're lucky to make the playoffs. The Arizona Diamondbacks may step up and be competitive within the division, maybe even the Colorado Rockies will have a great winning streak a few times, but the Giants have a diverse lineup and really a new traditional force that's tough to beat. They're a dynasty that will finally be noticed during the regular season despite national media interest and coverage of the West Coast.
Fun times lie ahead for the AL Central. I'm just going to go ahead and call this the tightest division race for the 2013 season.
First of all, how about those Cleveland Indians? They went out, got a productive manager in Terry Francona, spent some money, made some moves and got names and talent. They're really going to be a fun team to watch, it's going to be teamwork and unison at its best. But they're not going to be on top the whole way through. The Detroit Tigers are a very experienced team who would want nothing more than to get back to October, win the pennant and win their first World Series since 1984. Just for the record I was two months old the last time a World Series parade was held in Motown. The Chicago White Sox aren't really a threat as much as they are a team to not turn your back on. They basically ran out of gas last season, but Robin Ventura proved in his rookie season as manager he's got the skills to lead the organization into the postseason. The only downside is that the White Sox depleted in talent this year, especially with the loss of AJ Pierzynski to the Rangers. Ventura has his work cut out for him, however, the White Sox have instilled in Cleveland and Detroit.
The AL East only looks good on paper for now. Each team in the division is nothing but a bunch of popular names and stats.
I like the Baltimore Orioles because they're more of a spread out team. They don't have one star or stand out guy who's going to lead them, it's all or nothing. Tampa Bay is honestly a tough call because I wonder how they're going to come together this season. They could be good, they could be bad. They're more of a team that's left in the hands of fate than themselves. The Red Sox and Yankees will get publicity, but the big question is do they have enough to go on to even make the postseason. The Yankees don't appear to have the oomph they once had and Boston may have more lows than highs under new manager John Farrell. There's all this talk about the Toronto Blue Jays because of that big trade with the Marlins that sent all the best players from Miami to Canada and then there's the whole R.A. Dickey signing. But that's just something that looks good on paper right now. A majority of these guys clicked in Miami, but will they click in Toronto? Can they handle artificial turf for 81 games? Will the winds of Rogers Centre (aka SkyDome) work for or against this group of guys? Tough to say. I wouldn't root for the Blue Jays just yet, but keep an eye out if they catch an early groove.
Page 3 of 3 - And just how will the West be won?
Well, I'd say the teams to watch are Oakland and Los Angeles. Oakland still has a group of guys that are going to come together and give every effort to win. And it paid off last season when they won the division and knocked out the Rangers into the Wild Card. Once again, the Angels have a lot to prove, but all they've shown in the last year is they can spend money.
The Rangers don't have the jolt they used to, Seattle is once again nothing to talk about and Houston is going to be the worst team in baseball.