This season almost feels like a letdown compared to the past couple of MLB campaigns because no Hall of Fame water-mark stats are going to be reached this year. No hitter is going to reach 600 home runs; no pitcher will reach the 300-win plateau.
While someone may make a run at 60 round-trippers this season and it’s likely a pitcher or two will toss a perfecto, all the real storylines this season will center around teams; the rebirth of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry on the national stage, seeing if the poor Pirates can get to 82 wins or maybe the Cleveland Indians being a surprise playoff team.
Perhaps the biggest individual team news is all the extensions being handed out to franchise players. However, with Kershaw’s major deal being the only one on the horizon, that just feels more like spring news, not summer. The 2012 season ended with a team effort by the Giants upsetting the Tigers’ individual stars, so it’s just fitting that all five of the biggest storylines in the 2013 MLB season should be about the names on the front of the jerseys and not the back.
San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Black and orange versus white and blue, Mays versus Robinson, Cain and Posey versus Kershaw and Kemp; the real baseball rivalry is back.
Now that the Dodgers are flush with cash and the Giants are sporting two rings, the hatred between Northern California and Southern California is back on the front page around the country. The Dodgers are brash, loud and have spent like drunken sailors. In the true spirit of LA they have assembled a team that wouldn’t look out of place in the Mid-Summer classic.
The Giants have built around their MVP Buster Posey, great pitching and a team first mentality that has them on the brink of a dynasty. For the first time in a while, it really appears that the two bitter enemies are at full strength and are the only thing standing in each other’s way. This could finally be the year that instead of one of the squads playing spoiler by keeping the other one out of the playoffs, the ancient foes will battle in the NLCS. The best part, though, is that both teams have several young stars who are locked up long term.
Hold onto your chairs people; this thing is just getting started.
Could the Yankees finish under .500?
With all of their serious injuries to start the season, it would actually be a small miracle for New York to end April with a winning record. However, once the month ends, the Yankees’ problems won’t just disappear. They have a good bullpen, but their decent-but-older starting pitchers are likely to breakdown as the year progresses.
In the past, the Yanks could cover up their pitching sins with a murderer’s-row-style offense, but New York’s current major problem is actually their former strength. With all the time their guys are going to miss they could actually struggle to score runs.
Last season the Yankees really relied on the long ball to propel their slow runners around the bases, but with offseason losses of Nick Swisher and Russell Martin combined with the long-term injuries of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, the Yankees are missing 129 homers from last season.
The Bombers are trying to trade in the long ball for more of a speed game, but they currently don’t have the personnel for that style. Their best base runners are the currently injured–Derek Jeter, the old legs of Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner, who missed much of last year. When you combine all of their problems with the already-uphill challenge of taking on the Blue Jays, Orioles and Rays, this could be the first time since 1992 that they finish under .500.
Will the Houston Astros lose over 120 games?
For the past two seasons no team has been quite as dreadful as the Houston Astros. However, both the 2011 and 2012 teams would be heavy favorites if they took the field against the 2013 version.The Astros were already put behind the eight ball in 2013 by moving from the relatively low pressure NL Central to the ultra-competitive AL West.
In the central, they got to play against the 100-loss Cubs and pitiful Pirates. In the AL West, the Cincinnati Reds would probably be picked to finish third by most experts. Houston looked pretty good in winning their first ever AL game against the Rangers, but then in their second game, Yu Darvish came within a miracle hit between his legs of tossing a perfect game against them.
Except for maybe Jose Altuve, the Astros don’t start a single player who would be in the lineup for World Series contender. And while some of their starting pitchers have upside, they are all very inconsistent. The Astros are expected to finish last in both hitting and pitching in the AL and probably have no chance to avoid 100 losses for the third straight year. Really, the only real question surrounding the Houston club this season is will they be the team to finally break the Mets’ record for most losses in a season?
Will a contending team lose a vital player to a PED suspension?
Last season the Giants absorbed a humongous blow to their roster when Melky Cabrera was suspended for using PEDs. It’s a real testament to the mental toughness and their team-first attitude that San Francisco was able to pull together and win the World Series without their second best player.
If another major star is hit with a PED ban this season, will his team be able to do the same?
It’s a question every fan should have in the back of their mind in 2013. Without a doubt, the first player whose name comes to mind when thinking about a possible season-destroying suspension is Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, but he is far from the only guy who could get removed from a playoff race.
The truth is as fans we have no idea if our daily heroes are clean or dirty, and if they are using, if they’ll be caught. No Giants fan ever dreamed that Melky was tainted when he was fast becoming one of the more beloved players on the team, and most likely the next suspension will catch that team’s fans by surprise as well. It’s a sad part of baseball now, but it is undoubtedly a part of it; with some guys, you have to worry about whether they will be caught for drugs as much as if they’re injury-prone.
Can the Giants form a baseball dynasty?
If the Giants find a way to win the 2013 World Series, even their biggest detractors will have to place them in the same line of mini-dynasties as, say, a team like the early 2000’s Spurs. Like the Spurs, the Giants play a brand of “boring” baseball that fans around the country don’t enjoy, but supporters in the Bay Area have latched on to.
Most baseball fans will be rooting hard for either the Dodgers or Nationals because they play a much more exciting brand of baseball, but much like those Duncan-led Spurs, the Giants’ steak could outperform the sizzle. Ironically, since they have had two of the most dangerous homerun hitters in history in Barry Bonds and Willie Mays, the Giants were the first team to truly embrace the present-day dead ball era, which has given them a big head start on their rivals. Of course– much like San Antonio– it never hurts to have the undisputed best player at his position, and the Giants have that with their team captain Buster Posey.
The Giants’ starting pitching has been the life blood of their current run, but Posey is the heart of both San Francisco championships. It’s been frequently brought up that no NL team has won back-to-back World Series’ since the Reds’ Big Red Machine, and no team at all has raised the trophy two years in a row since the Yankees. So with that in mind, I would have to say that should the Giants have another parade down Market Street in 2013, there would be no denying them their place as a baseball dynasty.