Baseball has always been my favorite sport.
Thus, I admittedly come to the conclusion that the 2013 MLB season will be a very intriguing one with as much sanguinity as concrete evidence.
Nonetheless, here are six reasons I’ll be excited from today through late October:
In 2012, the Phillies missed the postseason for the first time in six seasons, and Philadelphia is clearly not the NL East favorite in 2013. Anything can occur in the world’s most unpredictable sport, but with the Nationals and Braves looking strong again, the Fightins have their work cut out.
Ditto the Yankees and Red Sox.
Boston missed the playoffs the past three seasons, culminating in a disastrous 93-loss 2012 campaign. Though 2013 can’t be as bad, with a stacked division featuring arguably the most-improved team in MLB (Toronto), a 2012 playoff squad (Baltimore), a dark-horse pennant choice (Tampa Bay), and a team that’s played in 16 of the past 17 Octobers (New York), Boston is a long shot to make postseason.
For the Pinstripers, injuries and age are finally catching up with them. No doubt when Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and perhaps A-rod eventually return — and when Derek Jeter and others are fully healthy — the Yanks have immense talent on paper. But they also carry one of the oldest rosters in baseball history. Unless Toronto flops, Baltimore reverts and the Rays flounder, 2013 may find New York watching playoff baseball for a rare occasion.
2. Year-Round Interleague Play
Announced last September, purists may dislike the concept, yet most I know are excited.
After 16 seasons, the 3-week IL play “break” in June/July became a tad overplayed and awkward. Having one series between AL and NL at all times is yet another progressive, wise adjustment by Major League Baseball to augment fan interest that’s been rising the past few years.
The season gets off to a great start with a potential World Series preview today in Cincinnati when the Reds host the Angels.
3. Houston is finally in the American League
I’d been “requesting” this for years, since it made perfect sense, and MLB obliged.
Evening out the leagues is great, but putting the Astros in the AL West creates a natural intra-state rivalry with the Rangers (who they topped last night); strengthens the oft-suspect NL Central; weakens the strong AL West; and brings an interesting story to the Junior Circuit.
4. Playoff intrigue continues
It’s proper to reward division winners with a small bye, and simply makes sense to allow more teams into postseason after a grueling six-month campaign.
5. Big pressure and more anticipated success
The Giants have won two of the last three world championships. For a team that had not won a title in 56 years before 2010, this alone shows the unmatched parity of baseball.
But in addition to New York, Boston and Philadelphia’s best days behind them for now, incredible pressure rests in Los Angeles. The Dodgers and Angels spent and spent in 2012 and achieved absolutely nothing. This season would be a disaster of massive proportions without at least October baseball and probably a deep run.
Many “experts” think both teams could capture pennants. We shall see, considering small market or young clubs like Cincinnati, Washington, Oakland, Tampa, Baltimore, Milwaukee and yes, even Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Kansas City, are now prepped for success.
6. Baseball is about much more than the game
Though raised in a warm climate, I’ve now lived eight winters in the Midwest. Baseball truly begins seasonal life anew.
The mercury slowly rises; tree buds sprout; fathers and sons play catch; kids eventually get out of school; families take vacations; the days are longer; and life becomes slower and simpler, all coinciding with baseball — a game you need not love to enjoy, especially in person.
The aforementioned tidbits, along with the casual atmosphere at every stadium (from high school and college to the Minors and Big Leagues); the affordability of tickets; the entertainment on and off the field throughout each performance; the uniqueness of each ballpark; and the arduous mental and physical grind through the depths of summer to the ultimate climax of early autumn, makes April 1 more than just another incredible Opening Day for the Greatest Game I know.
The late Ernie Harwell elaborates more in an epic poem.
Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex. A game of inches. Every skill is measured. Every heroic, every failing is seen and cheered — or booed. And then becomes a statistic.
What has you the most excited for Opening Day 2013?