I did one of these for the NBA back at the start of that season, so I figured I might as well kickoff the MLB season in the same manner. Disclaimer: Keep in mind I'm a Marlins fan, so in full disclosure, this may be a bit slanted towards my team. Enjoy.
A is for A-Rod. Don't act surprised. You knew this was going to be there for the letter A. We all heard about the guy nearly 24/7 in the offseason, so who's to say that the media won't be covering him the same way while he's actually in-season? I want to see how Yanks fans, and opposing fans treat him all season. Could be interesting.
B is for Bonds, Barry Bonds. Oh look, the first two letters on this preview are about the two biggest hitters (and 'roiders) in baseball. What a shock. But anyways, will any team dare to sign Bonds, who is a public relations disaster, yet at the same time a big draw for fans. Plus, he's only 65 hits shy of 3,000... which is kind of impressive.
C is for C.C. Sabathia. The Yankees threw a ridiculous amount of money ($161 million for seven years) at the free agent left-handed pitcher this offseason, a record contract for pitchers. He was a beast for the Brewers in the regular season after he was traded and they surged into the playoffs. However, he has only won two career postseason starts, and that's going to have to change if the Yanks want their investment to payoff.
D is for the D-Train. The Tigers put pitcher Dontrelle Willis on the disabled list last week because of an anxiety disorder. What happened to him? He was the 2003 Rookie of the Year for the Marlins, and helped in their World Series run that season. He won 22 games with a 2.63 ERA in 2005. Since then, his numbers have been down and he only appeared in 8 games for the Tigers in 2008. Will Willis, a very talented and charismatic young pitcher, be able to get his career back on track?
E is for Errors. Last year Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez combined for 35 errors, the most among double-play turners in 2008. If the Marlins want to succeed this year, these two star players will have to improve their fielding.
F is for Five-hundred. Gary Sheffield was released by the Tigers last week, just one home run shy of the big milestone of 500. The Mets picked him up, making that milestone a near guarantee this season. That means the Mets will likely have two players reach that mark this season, as Carlos Delgado is just 31 home runs shy of the mark himself.
G is for Global Warming (or Global Climate Change, if that's what you prefer). The White Sox season opener was postponed due to snow. In April. This is gettin ridiculous. We're starting to see too many early season games affected because of the inclimate weather, and we all remember what happened in postseason with the rain in Philly. Bud Selig and the MLB need to do something to adjust to this obvious change in weather patterns.
H is for Home Runs. The MLB league total for home runs has been steadily declining since 2006, when it was at 5,386 total home runs. In fact, the totals for the last two seasons (4,878 in 2008 and 4,957 in 2007) have been the lowest since 1997 when 4,640 home runs were jacked. Will this recent downward trend continue? And does it indicate that the MLB's steroid policies are starting to kick in with less balls flying out of the park?
I is for Ichiro. Winner of the World Baseball Classic, but that's not why we care about him. All eight of his MLB seasons, he has had over 200 hits, averaging 225.6 hits per season. Therefore I'll set the over/under on his hit total this season at 225.6, and I'll be taking the under... barely.
J is for Joba. Joba Chamberlain will be starting for the Yankees this season. He went back and forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation, starting 12 games in 2008, and coming out of the pen 49 times. Hank Steinbrenner wants Joba to be a starter, and in his final spring game, he retired 16 straight batters at one point. It's going to be interesting to see how he fares as the fifth starter in the Bronx.
K is for Kansas City. The Royals haven't made the playoffs since 1985 when they won the World Series. They haven't finished better than second in their division since 1995. Since their last playoff appearance, four franchises have been added to the league. Those four have combined for 5 pennants and three World Series titles. Talk about futility, but the Royals probably won't end that playoff drought this season, either. But I figured they deserve at least a mention, it's the least I could do.
L is for Liriano. Francisco Liriano will be the opening day starter for the Twins. Liriano went 12-3 as a rookie for the Twins in 2006 (finishing third for Rookie of the Year) and went 6-4 in only 14 games last season. Now, sans Sabathia, he has the chance to excel as the ace of the rotation for the Twins, that is, if he is completely recovered from Tommy John surgery in November, 2006.
M is for Maddux. The Braves will be retiring the pitcher's No. 31 on July 17 and induct him into the organization's Hall of Fame. Greg Maddux won 18 Gold Gloves, was a member of the 1995 World Series team with the Braves, won four consecutive Cy Young awards, and has 335 career wins, which puts him at eighth all time.
N is for New York. No, not the Yankees, they've been mentioend enough times here. I'm talking about that other New York team, the Mets. In the offseason they added Francisco Rodriguez as their closer. The real question is, if their bullpen is solid now with K-Rod closing the deal, how will the Mets blow the division this season? If you're looking for possibilities, you can find a few of them here.
O is for One-hit Wonders. You got it, the Tampa Rays. Will they fall back into obscurity (doubtful), but will they have a run like last year? That's questionable. They still need to beat out the Red Sox and/or the Yankees to make the playoffs again. But I'm sure they won't be the Devil Rays of old again.
P is for the Phillies. Only one question. The same question that gets raised at the beginning of every season for the reigning champs. Will they repeat? And will this fan have learned his lesson the second time around if they do?
Q is for Quits. This offseason we saw both Maddux and Curt Schilling call it quits. I just want to know who the next big-name player to hang 'em up will be. Will the next big name occur during the season, or afterwards?
R is for Ramirez. Manny finally re-signed with the Dodgers after a long stint of negotiations. His numbers were absurd in his short time with the team last season after being traded by the Red Sox. But now that he's got his contract, how will he mesh with the team for the entire season. Will Manny be Manny?
-While I'm on the topic of Ramirez, the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez put on close to 25 pounds of muscle this offseason, and will now be hitting in the heart of the order instead of leadoff. The scary thing, he could easily be a power hitter in the heart of the order instead of hitting for average in the leadoff spot.
S is for... you guessed it, Steroids. The biggest name this offseason was obviously A-Rod, but I guarantee you that another big name will surface sometime this season. One seemingly always does. Any bets on what that name will be?
T is for Teixeira. Mark Teixeira signed a huge contract with the Yankees this offseason as well. $181 million, that's more than 10 percent of what the Yankees paid for their new stadium. On that note, I'm starting to think that the Yankees have more money than God, as they have a $1.3 billion stadium and the largest payroll in the league, including the four highest paid players in the league (A-Rod, Jeter, Sabathia and Teixeira).
U is for Umpires. After a trial-run at the end of last season, instant replay is set for it's first full season this year. Now the umps will have concrete evidence to look to for home run and foul ball calls. Now if only they added it for plays at bases (though it would take away from the "flow" of the actual game).
V is for Virgin, as in Rookie. My bet for Rookie of the Year goes to Cameron Maybin of the Marlins. In his debut with the Marlins at the end of last season, he tied the franchise record by reaching base in 10 consecutive at-bats. He finished the year with a .481 average and four stolen bases. In the AL, I'll go with Rays pitcher David Price, who made a name for himself coming out of the bullpen in the playoffs for the Rays. He;s starting the season in the minor leagues, but he'll be a stud for them by the time the season comes to an end in the fall.
W is for World Series. I'm a big Marlins fan, I don't hide it. They won their first World Series in 1997. Six years later, they won again in 2003. Well, it's been six years since the last title, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and call them for this season's World Series. If it happens, you read it here first.
X is for the Wild Card winners (X). If I'm picking the Marlins to win it all, then that means they're going to clinch the NL Wild Card. In the AL I'm going to go with the Yankees.
Y is for the Division Winners (Y). I'm going to go with the Phillies, Dodgers and Cubs in the NL and the Red Sox, Angels and Twins in the AL.
Z is for Zone Evaluation. A new pitch-tracking system, called Zone Evaluation, will be used to monitor balls and strikes this season. It will be used in every park, as opposed to the old QuesTec system that was in place since 2001, and was only used in about one-third of all major league parks.
With that list complete, I hope you all enjoy the season, and let's PLAY BALL!