After a memorable postseason and World Series in October, followed by bombshell offseason acquisitions, the new face of baseball is underway, as the boys of summer return for the 2012 MLB season.
A lot has changed since last fall. With a new labor agreement set, with new owners in L.A., a new ballpark in Miami, new managers in four of the most high-profile cities in America, new zip codes for two of baseball’s premiere hitters and new wild-card teams, major league baseball has spun completely on its axis ushering in a new era for the game.
In the battle for baseball supremacy in New York City, the Subway Series between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets just might be revived this season. The Mets are off to their first 3-0 start in five years, after completing a sweep of the Atlanta Braves, over the weekend. Pitcher Jonathan Niese took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and closer Frank Francisco picked up his third save, as the Mets nearly blew a 7-0 lead, but held on for the 7-5 victory Sunday. “I told those guys in our first meeting, ‘You’re professional baseball players, there are expectations in this town and in this clubhouse, so get yourself ready to play,’ stated manger Terry Collins to reporters after Sunday’s win. “They’ve done that. The Mets are in first place. Who would have expected to say that?”
For the first time since 1998, the perennial city champs are 0-3 after being swept by the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field over the weekend. Of all the openings the Yankees could not have envisioned a three-game losing streak to start the season. Is this cause for concern? Nope. The Yanks are too talented. The last time the Bronx Bombers suffered three losses to open a season 14 years ago, they went on to win 114 games and the World Series. The Yankees, more than any other team in baseball, know what it takes to thrive past adversity and although there’s no panic on their end, they know a 0-3 start is unacceptable for New Yorkers. Expect Robinson Cano to lift the Yankees deep into the playoffs this season.
In Los Angeles, mostly known in recent years as a basketball town, a few offseason moves has moved baseball back into the hearts of L.A. fans. With Magic Johnson’s group acquiring the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion dollars and the Los Angeles Angels stealing heavy-hitter Albert Pujols away from the World Series champs St. Louis Cardinals, now there’s more to talk about in L.A. than Kobe Bryant versus Lob City. With Pujols at the helm, the Angels’ players seem to possess the same confidence that oozed off the Cardinals. They know they’re talented and they are throwing themselves into their work to ensure success. For the Dodgers, things will progressively improve, but for now enjoy slugger Matt Kemp chase for 50-50 and National League MVP.
In Boston, tension remains after the Red Sox’s regular season collapse in the fall. Much has been of Bobby Valentine’s arrival this spring, but the Sox’s have a lot of unwanted bagged from last season that they need to unload. The AL East is too difficult for the Red Sox’s to succeed unless the entire team is pulling in the same direction. With an 0-3 start –the Red Sox’s and Yankees are both losers of their first three games for the first time since 1966– Boston’s schedule only gets tougher as their first 15 games against the Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers and their rival Yankees, the Red Sox’s need to remedy the situation fast.
In Detroit, American League MVP Justin Verlander will enter the new season with hopes of an encore performance. With the offseason acquisition of slugger Prince Fielder coupled with Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers are perhaps the most dangerous squad in baseball.
And lastly, in Miami, the Marlins remain confident sans their new ballpark. Although, the Marlins aren’t a dynamic offensive team, they really won’t be at a major disadvantage in their own division. Since the Philadelphia Phillies’ Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are out with injuries, and in light of various issues with other teams, it looks like Ozzie Guillen’s Marlins will be in the thick of things come September. (Photo)