Previewing the upcoming MLB season
In Ken Burns documentary “Baseball,” the narrator begins by saying that the sport begins each year with the promise of spring.
Boy, does that seem appropriate today.
The local prep season was supposed to begin Saturday. But as I write this, it appears all the games were tabled.
Maybe it has something to do with it being 35 degrees and snowing outside.
Last week our section ran a national story about how difficult it is going to be to prepare fields for opening days.
Keep in mind, these are professional fields with top flight irrigation systems.
High school and college fields generally don’t share those luxuries.
So, when it comes to MLB, the question for fans is, “is this the year?”
For the Reds, that answer has been “no” every year since 1990.
For the Tigers, since 1984.
The Indians? Every year since Harry Truman’s second term.
But this year is interesting, and different. It’s the first time in years all three teams with significant fan bases in our area go into the season as legitimate playoff contenders.
OK, technically that was true last season, since all three teams made the postseason. But few of us really believed at this time last year that the Indians would go on to win 92 games.
But let’s take a quick look at the three teams:
Manager: Brad Ausmus
2013 record: 93-69
Outlook: The Tigers traded two big pieces off last year’s team in starter Doug Fister and first baseman Prince Fielder.
They also have a new manager, a first-year manager, in Ausmus.
Detroit will have a different look this season, and usually, that’d be reason for concern.
But if you’re a Tigers fan, you have to have faith in general manager Dave Dombrowski. He’s made so few mis-steps with this franchise, and has kept it competitive for the last eight years, a period that has included a pair of trips to the World Series.
And anytime you have a rotation that includes Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, you have to like your chances.
Manager: Terry Francona
2013 record: 92-70
Outlook: If Tigers fans should have faith in their GM, Indians fans should have faith in Tito.
This offseason has been a rough one for Indians fans. Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir split via free agency.
The biggest offseason acquisition was David Murphy, who is coming off the worst year of his career.
Instead of adding a third baseman to shore up a weak spot, the team has tried to create one. It’s moving catcher/first baseman/DH Carlos Santana to third.
The Tribe’s rotation has question marks.
The lineup has question marks.
But no matter how worrisome things appear, fans can rest easy on the fact that the Indians may have less questions than last season, and look what happened.
Still, on paper, challenging the Tigers looks difficult. Detroit has a better lineup (any lineup with Miguel Cabrera is better than most) and a more solid rotation.
It will be tough. So the question is:
How much faith do you have in Francona?
Manager: Bryan Price
2013 Record: 90-72.
Outlook: Three 90-win seasons in four years wasn’t enough to get Dusty Baker another season as Reds manager. Had Cincinnati won any playoff series when he was in charge, he’d probably still be employed.
Nonetheless, the pressure is on Price this year. It may be his first season, but the expectations are to be successful in the regular season and beyond.
Price has never managed on any level, but his biggest problems coming into this season were created by things beyond his control.
Starting pitcher Mat Latos had surgery. Relievers Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall all will begin the season on the disabled list.
Oh, and the Reds lost some key players to free agency: Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and starter Bronson Arroyo.
The Reds are banking on a few things this season.
1. The development of speedster Billy Hamilton to replace Choo.
2. The continued improvement of Tony Cingrani to strengthen the starting rotation.
3. Better play from Todd Frazier at third.
4. No more injuries.
All I can say is, good luck.
And, of course, good weather.