It’s a clean slate for all of Major League Baseball’s teams as Spring Training kicks off.
It’s Spring Training, people!
March 20 officially kicks off the first day of spring and the snow and cold that hit the nation this winter has many already counting down the days.
For sports fans, spring has just arrived, and it starts with the kickoff of spring training baseball games this week in Florida and Arizona. I know it’s something I always looked forward to in cold Chicago winters as a boy:
Since the season ended with the San Francisco Giants winning their third World Series in five years in a thrilling seven-game series against the Kansas City Royals, baseball fans don’t go into hibernation during the winter.
They follow the baseball winter meetings and free agent signings that believe will give their team a chance to compete for a World Series this year. And now many are making the pilgrimage to spring training to see whether they’re hope or despair surrounding their team’s offseason acquisitions or losses plays out.
San Francisco fans know they only win the World Series in even years and the loss of third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the Boston Red Sox in free agency may weaken them.
With the Giants likely a weaker team, that may finally open the door for their bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, to at least win the National League pennant.
Highly regarded Tampa Bay General Manager Andrew Friedman left to become president of baseball operations in Los Angeles and has remade the roster by trading outfielder Matt Kemp to San Diego and acquired Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies to replace Hanley Ramirez as shortstop.
This may be manager Don Mattingly’s last chance if he can’t succeed this year with one of the strongest pitching staffs in baseball.
But it’s the Washington Nationals and not the Dodgers that are the favorites in the National League this year.
When you sign Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer to a seven-year $210 million contract to the staff with the best ERA in the league last year you’re going to be deemed the favorite.
The team getting the must buzz in the Central Division isn’t the well-run St. Louis Cardinals or the Pittsburgh Pirates but the Chicago Cubs who have been one of the worst teams in baseball the last three years.
The signing of former Boston Red Sox World Series ace Jon Lester in the offseason and hiring of former Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has brought optimism to a team already deemed to have the best minor league prospects. Then again, it’s the Cubs who haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and will start the season in Wrigley Field while it’s still under renovation because of delays from the cold weather and a broken water main. The last team in baseball to add lights will finally get a video board the year following the park’s 100-year anniversary.
Expect large crowds in Arizona this spring following their journey.
A World Series win by the Cubs in 2015 would fulfil the prophecy in the movie Back to the Future II, but it also might be a sign of the apocalypse.
In the American League, every conversation starts with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox but when both failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2014 that leaves questions again for this year.
Boston signed Sandoval and Ramirez and added pitching but will they have enough to contend after failing to reacquire Lester in free agency.
The Yankees lost Derek Jeter to retirement and gain Alex Rodriguez off a season-long drug suspension but like Boston they face issues over their pitching. Last year’s Eastern Division winner Baltimore lost key players from its roster and may take a step back.
Like the Cubs on the north side of Chicago, the White Sox on the south side made a splash by acquiring Jeff Samardzija from Oakland to bolster their starting pitching and closer David Robertson from the Yankees.
They will battle with the Royals and Tigers in the Central Division, and it may be now or never for Detroit to finally win another World Series after they’re fans have had such high hopes dashed every year in the playoffs.
After Oakland dumped players and remade its roster, the Los Angeles Angels have a clear path to win the Western Division, but the American League race overall appears to be wide open as of now.
That will bring even more fans to Arizona and Florida this spring because more fans will be optimistic they can compete and make it to the World Series. Many moved to those two states to enjoy those moments: