The sun is shining, flowers are blossoming, and birds are chirping. That can only mean one thing… it’s baseball season, folks!
Opening Day is this Sunday! Feeling woefully unprepared? You don’t have to quietly stuff your face with peanuts and Cracker Jack at the game. Here’s your Opening Day guide to 8 major story lines to watch this season.
- The Cubs could win it all! That was not a typo. Everyone is amped to see what the Chicago Cubs can do this year! They are starting the season as the odds on favorites to win the World Series. I know, I know. The Cubs have not won the World Series in 107 years, which gives them the longest championship drought of any North American professional sport. But after last year’s impressive 97-win season and some key off-season trades to add 2B Ben Zobrist, CF Jason Heyward, and P John Lackey to their roster, they are stacked. Die-hard Cubs fans are daring to get their hopes up yet again. Maybe this will finally be the year their hearts don’t get ripped out, stomped on, and run over. You know what they say, the 108th time is the charm.
- The Royals are trying to start a dynasty. The Kansas City Royals are the defending World Series champs and they’ve won the American League pennant 2 years in a row. They are so hot right now. The great news is that the gang’s all back in action to try and repeat last year’s success. Let’s see if this young team with an elite bullpen can pull off another World Series win. Some haters like to point out that they don’t have a great starting rotation and that they haven’t been particularly impressive during the regular season, but that didn’t seem to matter last year…
- Everyone deserves a second chance. Last year the New York Mets made it all the way to the World Series. Sure they lost 4-1 to the Royals, but now maybe they are older and wiser. They still boast the best starting rotation in the biz, with their young and elite pitchers Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, who are all age 27 or younger. In the off-season, they also re-signed LF Yoenis Cespedes to keep up their offense. Now, we’ll just have to wait and see if they can bring it all home this year.
- Old School meet New School. You’re going to hear a lot this year about young players changing the culture of baseball. Just last month, Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper called baseball a “tired sport.” That’s not what MLB wants to hear… At age 23, Harper’s one of the bright young stars in baseball and was the National League MVP last year. He thinks that MLB could get more fans by getting baseball’s young stars to show off their personalities like basketball and football players do. Not so fast, sonny. Baseball’s aging stars do not like the sound of that. A couple of old-timer Hall of Famers like Goose Gossage and Mike Schmidt have been outspoken about undignified and disgraceful young stars. In particular, they called out Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista for his bat flip home run celebration last season. They probably wouldn’t like that newfangled rock music you’re listening to either.
- The San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012, 2014… I’m sensing a trend. Yep, that’s right the Giants have won the last 3 World Series in even years, and they want to keep this winning-train a ’rolling. This off-season they worked on boosting their rotation and outfield, by signing P Johnny Cueto, P Jeff Samardzija and CF Denard Span.If they can get another great season of performances from C Buster Posey and P Madison Bumgarner, they should be in great shape.
- Diamondbacks buyer’s remorse? Last year, the Arizona Diamondbacks seriously needed some pitching talent, so in the off-season they got to work signing Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. What did you do with your arm and leg? The Diamondbacks gave it all away to get Greinke and Miller. Folks couldn’t help but wonder if it was really worth it?!? Stay tuned this season to find out.
- The Home Run King will try to teach a thing or two. No one really expects the Miami Marlins to be contenders for the playoffs this year, but folks will be keeping an eye on them because you may have heard of their new hitting coach, Barry Bonds. An interesting personnel choice. You know Bonds for holding the record for most career home runs and because he was one of the marquis athletes from the steroid era of baseball. This year he gets to add “coach” to his resume and work with the Marlins up and coming stars RF Giancarlo Stanton and P Jose Fernandez. Let’s see what he can do on this side of the dugout!
- Bye bye Big Papi. This is the last season for Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who is a member of the elite 500+ home run club. Will it be a fond farewell? The past few seasons have been rough for the Red Sox. They desperately needed some help in the pitching department, so they added David Price and Craig Kimbrel during the off-season. We’ll have to wait and see if the new additions can help Big Papi go out in style. It’s not all kissing babies and autographing photos. This farewell tour could have some awkward moments, because Red Sox haters will probably dig up old PED allegations that Ortiz denied.
There! You’re all caught up! Now, go out there and get yourself a hotdog at the old ballgame.
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BONUS: Washington Nationals Check-in! You’re probably wondering to yourself, “How will the local team do?” It’s hard to say. They have a ton of talent, including young buck Bryce Harper, but they were really underwhelming last year. The blame game! Their unimpressive season on the field was probably a translation of dysfunction in the clubhouse. With their cattiness, lack of communication, and dugout fights, they looked more like the Real Housewives of D.C. than a professional baseball team. Manager in the middle! Anxious for a quick fix, the Nats ditched old manager Matt Williams, in favor of Dusty Baker. While Baker’s known to be great at bringing players together, he doesn’t have the best postseason history so only time will tell if he’s the cure for the Nat’s problems.