With spring upon us, warm weather isn’t the only thing we can look forward to.
The Major League Baseball (MLB) season starts in the most untraditional of ways, with a game between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics being played in Tokyo, Japan, home country of Mariners'superstar Ichiro Suzuki.
The season officially begins stateside, with the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals taking on the new look Miami Marlins.
This will give fans their first chance to see the Cardinals without former superstar first baseman Albert Pujols, as well as the Marlins with their newest additions, former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, and former Chicago White Sox ace Mark Buehrle and manager Ozzie Guillen.
The off-season provided a number of big moves, including Pujols deflection to the American League (AL), signing with the Anaheim Angels for a jaw-dropping $240 million over 10 years. The Angels were huge spenders, who were looking to make a big splash in the free agent market, landing C.J. Wilson, an ace formerly with division rival, the Texas Rangers.
Pujols wasn’t the only big bat that left the National League (NL) in favor of joining the AL. Prince Fielder signed with the Detroit Tigers, leaving the Milwaukee Brewers after seven exciting seasons.
The shift of power from the NL to the AL was evident, even to league executives, as they added another wild card team to each conference. Their hope being that more teams would have a chance to compete once August and September came around, hence increasing attendance and interest in ballparks and cities across the country.
A number of teams changed the face of their organization during the tumultuous off-season, including the Chicago Cubs, who signed former Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein to the same position.
The Cubs have tried everything in recent years from hiring accomplished managers, to signing expensive batters and pitchers, but none of it seemed to change the idea that the organization is “cursed.” Leaving the Red Sox behind, Epstein looks to change the culture in Chicago by bringing a winning attitude and a history of ending curses with him.
The Red Sox on the other hand, are trying to recover from the biggest collapse in league history, losing their wild card spot on the final day of the season.
Immediately following the shocking end to their season, the Red Sox cut ties with manager Terry Francona, and Theo Epstein, as well as reports coming out that players drank beer and ate fried chicken in the clubhouse. That type of culture was not acceptable in Boston, and someone had to pay the price.
The Red Sox hired former Met-manager Bobby Valentine, a no-nonsense, rigid leader who will expect the very best from his players. Something will have to give in Boston.
Then there are the big market teams, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Yankees still have the biggest payroll in baseball, and added to it by buffering up their pitching rotation, including trading for former Mariners' star Michael Pineda, and signing former Dodger, Hiroki Kuroda.
The Dodgers meanwhile are still in the midst of being sold, and face an uncertainty for the near future. While they have arguably two of the best young players in the entire league, All-star outfielder Matt Kemp, and 2011 CY Young winner Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers face an invasion of sorts from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who are becoming the story of Southern California.
With less than a week away until the official start of the season, the MLB prepares for one of its most highly contested and exciting campaigns yet. So don’t forget to go out to the ballgame, and root, root, root for the home team.