As hard as it is to believe, baseball is back in action . There was one game on Tuesday, and nine more on Wednesday. From now until October there will scarcely be a day in which there isn’t at least one, and usually several, games. That’s what I love about baseball more than any other single thing – the endless consistency of it. It goes on and on and on, so there is no reason to panic about any particular game or series or anything else. It’s such a unique sport in that way, and I love it for it.
Another thing I love about the early part of spring training is seeing the pro teams play college teams. There were four games today, and none of the college teams were even close, but it’s still a pleasing tradition.
I’ll be revisiting baseball in much more detail before the season starts and through the season, but the start of the season has inspired me to make a few predictions off the top:
Best division – The AL West. I have a soft spot for this division, and I expect it to really deliver this season. Seattle has the makings of the best front three of a rotation in the league, and they have made enough promising changes to make this team better than they were last year – and they won 85 last season. Texas has also upgraded themselves, and is in a position to win more than 90 games – better than the 87 they won last year. Those two should be in a dog fight that could last all season. The Angels look to have a bunch of problems, but they have controlled this division for so long that they can’t easily be ruled out. There will be divisions with more wins, but I don’t think that there is one with a better chance at some thrilling drama throughout the year.
Worst division – AL Central. I find it really hard to get excited about any team in this group right now. Minnesota has the best catcher in the league, and they’ll have a boost from moving to a new stadium, but they aren’t a thrilling team. Neither is anyone else. There are a few things to like about each team, but not enough in any case to keep me captivated. I expect this group to provide basically what they do most years recently – a hard fought battle for the division lead that amounts to absolutely nothing because none of the teams are ready to make a real impact in the playoffs.
Biggest high profile question mark – The Yankees’ outfield. They Yanks still have an infield to envy, but they raise some real questions in the outfield. Gardner, Granderson, and Swisher aren’t exactly a murderer’s row, and it’s hard to know if they are going to be able to provide the production and explosiveness that the Yanks have grown used to from the outfield. Johnson at DH isn’t a sure thing, either. The Yankees are still obviously a serious contender, but combine these outfield questions with some questions about the rest of the rotation beyond Sabathia and Burnett, and the age and effectiveness of Posada, and things could easily fall off the rails for the Yanks. Or they could hoist the trophy in October again.
Most overhyped story – Obviously Stephen Strasburg. The guy is a freakish pitcher, and he stands a very good chance of being a very good pitcher – maybe even great. He’s only a few months out of college, though, and the Nationals seem to have no intention of starting him off in the majors. That means that he’ll start off in the minors, and there’s a chance that he won’t make it out of the minors all year f he doesn’t adjust. Strasburg ate hitters alive in college, but there is a massive difference between college and the pros. People expect him to dominate from the start, but it’s far more likely that he’ll take a while to settle in and find his way before becoming what he can be. It also won’t help that he’s stuck playing for the Nats.