In just three days, a new season of baseball will be upon us. Though Opening Day comes in April, the spring training sessions will become a test run for all 30 franchises in time for the 2018 MLB regular season. These next few practices and exhibition games will showcase how each organization’s adjustments gell and execute.
Some teams will look to build upon success from 2017. Other teams will look to bounce back from past misfortunes. Sure, some teams have a steeper mountain to climb than others, but that is what’s great about baseball. Any team with the right chemistry and momentum can create big waves around the league. On top of that, that hot streak can translate to an October appearance, and maybe even a World Series ring.
Starting Friday, Feb. 23, the states of Arizona and Florida will host the latest and greatest names to hit the diamond.
In Glendale, one team is looking for another shot at the World Series. The other seeks a comeback after a dismal 2017 outing.
The Los Angeles Dodgers held baseball’s best regular season record last season at 104-58. The Dodgers seemingly breezed through the National League playoffs, giving up just one game in the NLCS.
With a smoother path to the World Series than that of the Houston Astros, many saw the Dodgers as the favorite to win. But Houston proved to be the hungrier team and beat Los Angeles in a thrilling seven-game series for the hardware.
Now, the blue and white are working to get that ring and end a 30-year drought.
On the other hand, the Chicago White Sox are coming off of a 67-95 season, fourth in the AL Central. The White Sox finished 10th in the American League in batting average and 13th in ERA. On top of that, the White Sox have mustered five straight losing seasons.
Over in Scottsdale, two Wild Card teams will begin to build upon their solid foundations from 2017.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies earned the two National League Wild Card slots last season. The Diamondbacks hosted and beat the Rockies 11-8, but got swept by the Dodgers in the NL Division Series. Their game will commence on Friday at 3:10 p.m. Eastern time.
Down to West Palm Beach, Florida, comes another anticipated matchup to kick off the spring exhibitions.
The Houston Astros are looking to defend their World Series title and bring in another ring in 2018. With a roster stacked with All-Stars, Houston will have a big target on its back come April. The Astros will begin their exhibition rounds against the Washington Nationals.
The Washington Nationals are coming off of a 97-65 season, on top of running away with the NL East Division once again. However, the Chicago Cubs did not appear intimidated and eliminated Washington in the NLDS. The Nationals will begin their runs with a new skipper, former Chicago Cubs bench coach, Dave Martinez.
In Tampa, the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers will hope to start on a high note.
The Yankees ended 2017 with a 91-71 regular season record. The Pinstripes gave the Astros a run for their money in the ALCS, forcing seven games. But Houston prevailed and took home the AL pennant. Now with Giancarlo Stanton in their ranks, the Bronx Bombers have established a “pitcher’s nightmare” batting order.
The Tigers, on the other hand, have arguably the steepest mountain to climb in the American League. With a dismal 64-98 season in 2017, Detroit has its work cut out for them. The Tigers pitching lineup finished last in the AL in ERA at 5.36. Holding the first pick of the upcoming MLB Draft, a pitcher should grace the stage wearing that Tigers cap.
Thank God It’s Friday
America’s pastime is almost here and ready for business. Whether with a new skipper or new players, all 30 teams will look to work in the new faces for April. On Friday, Feb 23, baseball fans all over the world will get to hear their favorite two words once again: Play ball!
Featured image by Pioneer Press: John Autey
“From Our Haus to Yours”