Baseball is finally back.
Thursday marked the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, and needless to say, it's about time.
No more meaningless Spring Training games, no more roster predictions and no more waiting; the season is finally upon us.
Verlander, Matt Kemp, Lincecum and Cain, King Felix, Jeter, the 6-4-3 double play, the walk-off home run, the shots to the gap, down the line, the wicked 12-6 curve, the two-seam fastball, the rookies, the prospects, the veterans, interleague play and the induction of the first ever, 5th wild-card team into the playoffs.
Baseball is finally back and so are the likes of catcher Buster Posey and the M&M boys in Minnesota (Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau). The Marlins have new duds and a new stadium, Pujols went West and a man named Prince joined the Tigers to help form one of the best and, literally, one of the biggest 1-2 punches in baseball.
And, if you're like me, you've already lost a third of your fantasy baseball team to the disabled list.
Baseball is back, and it's about time.
The 2011 was everything a pure baseball fan could ever want, and more. The Texas Rangers twice came within a strike away from winning the World Series in Game 6, only to fall in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Boston and Atlanta both saw September leads of 9 and 10 games in the wild-card slip away on the final day of the regular season, and the Tigers Justin Verlander became the first pitcher since 1992 to win the American League Most Valuable Player award.
Yes, 2011 was indeed a great baseball season, and here's to 2012, may it be just as fun-filled, nerve-wracking, historical, and exciting as the 2011 season was.
With that, here is a quick rundown and prediction of how the 2012 season will play out. (Division winners in Bold, * next to wild-card teams)
Boston: Last year's Boston team won 90 games, most of that with a team ravaged by injuries to their starting pitching and infield. The team was so beat up by injuries, that in the final game of the regular season, a do-or-die game, Boston sent out pitcher Jon Lester on just three days rest. A healthy team with a revamped bullpen could finally put Boston over the top to reclaim the East.
*New York Yankees: The Yankees didn't make any major offseason signings, but they did send their top prospect to the Mariners for their top pitcher, the 6'7 hard-throwing right-hander Michael Pineda. The move helps secure a suspect starting lineup.
Tampa: Tampa has all the weapons to make another strong push for the wild-card spot, so expect them to be around in September.
Toronto: Think Tampa, but without the pitching and a much better offense.
Baltimore: If the O's can't make the playoffs, they'll try to ensure that nobody does. Just ask Boston.
Detroit: The Tigers have the pitching and offense to compete for a World Series title.
Cleveland: The Indians have good players and pitching. They offer the most immediate upside in the division after the Tigers.
Minnesota: The Twins have no pitching, they ranked second to last in the league in ERA last year and their top pitcher last season, Carl Pavano, won nine games and had an ERA of 4.30.
Kansas City: The Royals have one of the best farm systems in baseball. Be jealous everybody, be jealous.
Chicago: No offense, no pitching, No Ozzie, no fun and no chance.
Los Angeles: The Angels may be the best overall balanced team in baseball. They have the goods to win the World Series this season.
*Texas: Just when you think the Rangers keep losing ACE pitchers to the free agent market, they seem to develop another one. Enter Derek Holland and Yu Darvish. The Rangers are a playoff team.
Seattle: The Mariners have two of the most loyal and humble superstars in baseball in King Felix and Ichiro Suzuki. They have started to build around them and call up their prospects. Seattle could be a team to keep your eye on.
Oakland: The A's cleaned out their pitching staff once again, which means they'll be a playoff team within in the next two or three seasons. Billy Beane, you're a genius.
Philadelphia: Great thing the Phillies have pitching, because the way things are shaping up, their offense is gonna be a patch work all season long. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are beat up and could be out several months.
Atlanta: The Braves seem to be a complete team, then the season starts and you see how Atlanta can't seem to hit. Last year, they ranked 26th in the league with a .243 average.
Miami: New stadium, new uniforms and even a new position for Hanley Ramirez, the face of the franchise. Miami spent a lot of money, but the big question will be, was it worth it.
Washington: The Nat's have a lot of promise of being very good. The key to their success will hinge on the health of pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Look for phenom Bryce Harper to make his debut sometime this season.
New York Mets: If you ask a Mets fan, they'll tell you that the season will begin and end on April 5.
Cincinnati: The Reds are the only team to make any significant moves this offseason. They are a complete team, despite already losing their starting closer for the season. Expect Joey Votto to be put on a base a lot, which could mean huge numbers for Jay Bruce.
*St. Louis: Subtract Albert Pujols, add Carlos Beltran and pitcher Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals will be fine.
Milwaukee: The Brew Crew lost Prince Fielder in the offseason, which means there will be even more added pressure on Ryan Braun to perform this season.
Chicago: Everybody at one point in the season is a Cubs fan. This year, the "Lovable Losers" try to end a 104-year championship drought, the longest streak of any professional sports team in the United States. Then again, why end such a good thing?
Pittsburgh: The Pirates are a team loaded with rookies and prospects and last July, managed to take over first place. It marked the first time they were atop their division that late into the season since 1997.
Houston: Think of the Astros as an Advanced Triple-A baseball team. This marks the final season for Houston in the National League. Starting in 2013, they belong to the AL West.
Arizona: The D'Backs have a complete team along with one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. They should repeat as Division Champs.
*San Francisco: Boy oh boy did the Giants miss having Buster Posey's bat last season. He's back and healthy and should help lead the Giants to a wild-card spot.
Los Angeles: Matt Kemp should have won the MVP award last season, even before it was revealed that the winner, Ryan Braun tested positive for "elevated testosterone".
Colorado: Are Tulo and Cargo the best 1-2 punch in baseball? The Rockies may need to score 10 runs a game to win this season. Last year, their pitching ranked 26th in the league with a 4.43 ERA.
San Diego: A bit of history to keep in mind, the Padres have made two huge trades the last two seasons, getting rid of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to Boston and Mat Latos to Cincy. In exchange, they have acquired a handful of promising future prospects, just like the Texas Rangers did when they traded away Mark Teixeira.
World Series: Angels vs. Arizona
AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
NL MVP: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
AL Cy Young: CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants