Pitchers and Catchers reported last week for spring training. I feel like I’m celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving as I write this, but no matter. Just like every other year, this baseball season is shaping up to be an exciting season with enough storylines to keep sports fans busy this summer.
1. The Angels and Dodgers Battle for Los Angeles
The greatest story in baseball this season (before the playoffs) will come from the West Coast. Both the Dodgers and Angels re-upped in a major way between the end stages of last season and right now. The Dodgers, of course, brought in Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke to shore up the offense and the defense.
This upgrade comes with a major league cost as well. The Dodgers will have the highest opening-day payroll in the history of the sport – $230 million. The Angels spent a pretty penny too, in addition to getting Albert Pujols from the Cardinals last year, they picked up division-rival Texas’ biggest name Josh Hamilton. The Angels are now chock-full of power bats that can change the course of the major leagues this year with one or two well-timed swings. In my humble opinion, this will be the greatest storyline of the season, because it is a classic matchup of a team that favors a powerful offense (the Angels) and a team with a top notch pitching staff. They play each other in a 2 home 2 away series at the end of May. What a fantastic way to start off the season! Who knows? maybe we will have the West Coast equivalent of a subway series on our hands before it is all said and done?
2. The Upton Brothers
So, the city I lived in for the better part of the last decade has had Chipper Jones to lean on. The old man brought a championship to the city in 1996; something that every other Atlanta sports franchise has failed to do. The Braves stand alone as the cities team. I mean the falcons are good and all, but the whole ‘no super bowl ring’ thing has got to be sort of a downer. Anyway, with the departure of Chipper, the city was in desperate need of someone, or someones, new to believe in.
Enter the Upton Brothers. BJ and Justin Upton are pretty good players. In addition, both are big names are big names in their own right, and the fact that they are brothers playing together for the city’s only successful sports franchise is something that sends shivers down your spine. All brothers dream of doing something like play in the majors with their best friend in tow. I know that I would. Anyway, the Uptons provide the oomf that left with Chipper’s retirement.
3. Dodgers versus Giants
The Dodgers may just be the most exciting team in baseball right now. This rivalry is the story of, unlike the Red Sox and Yankees, has been for the majority of their angst ridden battles, pretty even. I think it was Sporting News that enlightened me to the fact that these two teams have about the same amount of wins over one another, similar numbers of World Series titles (the Giants have the lead now with seven), and both started in Brooklyn and came to the Golden State to seek their fortunes.
Once again, now that the Dodgers spent unholy amounts of money, they are the biggest thorn in each other’s side. Furthermore it is a story about the two major identities in baseball. The Giants, working with a much smaller dollar amount than the dodgers, are playing a really rough form of moneyball, and winning with it, while the Dodgers are living in true LA style, spending the big bucks on a venture that is like a big hollywood movie. It could go really well and succeed, or it could be a huge bust. Either way, its looking like a typically close match-up between the two teams.
4. The Rise of the Blue Jays
Toronto after 20 years of futility, the Toronto Blue Jays are back to relevance in what very well may be baseball’s toughest division. With the signing of R.A. Dickey, who burst onto the scene and just obliterated everything in his path last year, and big risks like Melky Cabrera, the Blue Jays are the riverboat gamblers of their division.
The new additions which were brought in to compliment their slugger Jose Bautista, who is back from surgery, are a potentially potent weapon in the East. Add in the fact that the Yankees are receding about as fast as their player’s hairlines, and you’ve got the winner of the division sitting calmly north of the border.
5. Da Cubbies
fun fact about this franchise, the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Empires were sovereign nations the last time these characters won the World Series. Think about that. Most households in the United States did not own a car, or have electricity in their houses.
The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Alaska, Hawai’i, Oklahoma, New Mexico and the home of the Diamondbacks, Arizona, had yet to achieve statehood. How much longer can the futility last for the North Siders?
With the recent arrival of the wunderkind Theo Epstein, who helped the Red Sox win a World Series after 86 years of futility, anything is possible. Ok, it’s possible, but were looking at another couple of years before it does.