The Major League Baseball season kicks off Thursday. You heard me. Today. Yes, five inches of snow blasted most of the eastern seaboard and Midwest just a few short days ago.
But MLB ballparks have tarps, concessions do in fact sell hot chocolate, and unless the blizzard that cancelled the Cleveland Indians’ home opener in 2007 makes a reappearance, the show will go on.
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Despite the cold weather, this offseason has been quite a hot stove in terms of trades, free agent signings, and organizational drama. The Chicago Cubs lost Jake Arrieta, only to replace him with Yu Darvish.
The New York Yankees traded for slugger Giancarlo Stanton while outfielder Aaron Judge violated MLB tampering rules, stating that Baltimore Orioles’ shortstop Manny Machado would “look pretty good in pinstripes.”
And the Major League Baseball Players’ Association filed grievances against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins for supposedly not spending revenue-sharing dollars to better their teams.
The preseason sideshow of roster moves and league drama have all led to this point, leaving fans wondering one thing: what’s in store for the 2018 regular season? This season’s preview, and the outlook of the 30 teams, can be broken down into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
This includes familiar names; the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians. But there are two teams for which the term “good” doesn’t do justice: the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees.
The Astros spent the offseason making sure their 2017 World Series title defense had all the pieces they would need. They extended Jose Altuve through the 2024 season and traded for former Pirates’ ace Gerrit Cole. Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa will anchor the offense, while the rotation will feature five high caliber arms in the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton and Cole.
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While the Astros are looking to repeat as American League champions, the New York Yankees have other plans. Judge is coming off a monstrous rookie season in which he bashed 52 home runs and posted a 1.049 OPS.
As if Judge’s power wasn’t enough, the addition of Stanton will further bolster a lineup that already includes catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (although the latter will start the year on the disabled list). The Yanks’ rotation features C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino, who posted a 2.98 ERA in 2017. Just like the city that never sleeps, the Yankees will be anything but quiet this season.
This category is more of a misnomer; these are not necessarily losing teams (although many will be) but teams on the fringe of competition and those in the midst of a rebuild. Here is where you’ll find teams like the Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies.
The San Francisco Giants also fall into this category—unfamiliar territory for a team that has won three World Series championships since 2010. The additions of third baseman Evan Longoria and outfielder Andrew McCutchen signal a push to compete, but both aging stars’ stats have declined in recent years. They’ll be looking for bounce back years from once-ace pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. But that endeavor is already off to a rocky start with Bumgarner headed to the disabled list after he broke a bone in his hand in his final Spring Training game.
The Ones Who Ain’t Got No Alibi
The “ugly” category contains the teams that have baseball writers groaning, pointing their fingers at MLB owners with accusations of unnecessary tanking. These are the teams with frustrated fan bases who already believe a winning record in 2018 is out of the question. This is the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Cincinnati Reds, the Kansas City Royals and countless other clubs.
Among those outcasts are the Detroit Tigers, losers of 98 games in 2017, enough to put them in last place in the AL Central. Detroit defies the logic of “spending to win.” they were second in the league last year in terms of player payroll, clocking in at $199 million. Coupled with ace Jordan Zimmerman’s 6.08 ERA last season, things are looking grim for the Tigers in 2018.
The Miami Marlins have been in the media as of late for all the wrong reasons. Aside from their dismal 77 wins in 2017, the Marlins traded away key pieces in Stanton and outfielder Christian Yelich, sparking the MLBPA’s investigation into their spending.
CEO Derek Jeter insists his team is doing what’s in the best interest of their organization, but skeptics wonder just what the part-owner is doing to proactively rebuild the team, aside from trading its best players. The NL East looks like it will be considerably more competitive for the next several years, not boding well for this depleted Miami squad.
It’ll take a 162-game onslaught of a season to decide just where every team belongs in terms of the good, the bad and the ugly. Whether your team has high hopes and lots of potential or a more grim outlook, the 2018 season will be full of surprises. Let the games begin!