MLB Preview 2011

Spring is finally here. The weather is (rather slowly) starting to warm up, everyone is getting a tan, and summer is close in sights. However, to me, spring means much more than that: the start of the Major League baseball season. I have been a huge fan of baseball for several years now. I love the slow paced, strategic way the game is played. I love the atmosphere of being in the ballpark; so calm but also so intense. I love all of the statistics. But most of all, I love how it is finally back for the 2011 season.

This year, there are so many questions to be answered. Will the Phillies’ ridiculous new rotation (Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels and Blanton) live up to the hype as the best ever? Will Stephen Strasburg’s trip through Tommy Johns set him back? Will Boston’s new power packed lineup get them to the World Series? These are some things to watch throughout the season, which may prove to be one of the most interesting years in baseball history.

Since we do live in Kansas City, I figured I should talk about the Royals for a while. It seems  that the motto for this year is “just a little longer”. We are not quite there, and the Royals will probably still be at the bottom of the pack for 2011 (let’s hope for 65 wins), but with such a great farm system (easily the best in the majors), the future is looking bright. General Manager Dayton Moore’s plan to make a terrific minor league system has proved successful. Many baseball analysts believe that in around three or four years, the Royals could be magnificent. With names like Mike Moustakas (ready to break through to the majors this year), Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, along with a handful of star potential pitchers, the Royals will be a expected to do some big damage in due time.

After the controversial Greinke-Brewers trade (and other small trades with other teams), the Royals have gained solid contributors all around. It is not here quite yet Royals fans, but it will come. Personally, I expect serious World Series runs from 2014-2018. Expecting too much? Maybe. But I feel like we deserve it after so many god awful years.

Another team to watch this year is the New York Yankees (when aren’t they a team to watch?). However this time, it is for different reasons. The Yankees are getting older and older, and while they still have a great lineup, their Pettitte-less pitching rotation will be a major concern. I truly hope the Yankees do awfully this year. I don’t really have anything against any of the players, but I really dislike their franchise. Based entirely on money and offseason trades/free agent signings (good choice by the way Cliff Lee-I respect you even more as a player now), I feel like the Yankees organization deserves to experience failure for a while. I will be watching Derek Jeter’s race to 3,000 hits, though.

Of course, there are more things to watch than just the big things. Little things like rookie development, comeback players and the MVP race are always exciting. Reigning MVPs Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto have both had extremely up and down careers, and it is always exciting to see how players similar to them will do season to season. Standout rookies from last year (such as Buster Posey and Jason Heyward) will be back for their sophomore seasons with high expectations, ready to take their careers to a different level.

When it comes down to players to watch, Albert Pujols is always one of the most important-the future hall of famer will go down as one of the best hitters ever. Pujols has been as consistent as they come since his rookie season, but a new obstacle may begin to slow him down: age. Joe Mauer, my personal favorite baseball player in all of the major leagues (and I like a lot of players, so this is a big deal) will hopefully continue his terrific career with an uninjured Justin Morneau, so that the Twins may finally be able to win a playoff game. Mauer recently signed a long term contract, so I’m expecting my Twins to be back to the World Series soon (maybe play the Royals in 2015? That would be awesome.) with their young talent (Danny Valencia and Delmon Young) and the addition of Japanese star Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

As in any other sports, statistics are important. But I believe that in baseball, the toughest mental sport in the world, statistics are even more important, and in turn, more fun to pay attention to. I love paying close attention to details, so baseball never lets me down. With so many things to watch, how could anyone not be excited for the season? Frankly, I wonder how anyone could not love baseball altogether. But hey, it’s not for everyone, I guess.