Opening Day weekend is finally upon baseball fanatics. This is one of the greatest times of the year to just sit back and enjoy the national pastime.
For the players, it is a chance to get some meaningful playing time since last year and re-ignite a passion for the game they love.
For teams, it is a chance to prove to the critics and the fans that they will not see a repeat of what happened last year, from epic collapses to underachieving teams.
These seven teams must get off to a fast start if they want to forget about last season and all that went wrong and prove to people everywhere that they can win it all.
The Atlanta Braves were only one win away from making the playoffs in 2011 but failed to beat the St. Louis Cardinals on the last game of the season.
Their September collapse was well noted as one of the worst collapses in all of baseball. They held a significant lead over the Cards in the wild card in the beginning of September but were unable to hold them off.
The Braves did not do much tinkering with their starting line p in the offseason, keeping their core group of players like Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freedman.
However, if the Braves do not get off to a fast start, critics and fans will start to question whether the Braves front office should have been more active in the offseason and obtained another bat or pitcher.
The Red Sox had a similar September to the Braves but was magnified. They went 7-20 in September to surrender the final playoff spot to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Unlike the Braves, the Red Sox went through an offseason of complete change. Their general manager left as well as their closer, the front office decided to not renew the contract on the manager and brought in some new players.
With the Bobby Valentine era having already begun, the expectations for the team are high with fans. Not so much so with the analysts. Only one picked the Red Sox to win the World Series.
If the Red Sox do not get off to a fast start, then people all around the country will wonder if last September still lingers on the mind of the players. They will also question whether or not Bobby Valentine is the right coach for this team.
It seems as if the Cincinnati Reds are always just on the cusp of greatness. A few plays here or there would help this team go far in the playoffs.
The Central Division is up for grabs this year with the Cardinals losing Albert Pujols and the Brewers losing Prince Fielder. It could be the Reds year to finally win the division title. They have kept their players and even signed Joey Votto to a new, huge, long-term deal.
If the Reds can get off to a fast start then they can put the pressure on the rest of the division to perform up to their standards and could help themselves in the playoff picture down the road.
For the past few season, the AL West has been the laughing stock of baseball. The Texas Rangers had started to run away with the season starting in April and, for the past two seasons, did not stop their winning ways until the World Series.
That all could change after the offseason that the Angels had. They signed the best player in Albert Pujols and the best free-agent pitcher in C.J. Wilson. Expectations are very high for Angel fans across the country, expecting this team to make a deep run in October.
If the Angels can get off to a fast start, not only will they be justifying the money that they spent on acquiring new players, but also show the rest of baseball that the West is once again a division to be feared.
The Florida Marlins underwent the biggest change this offseason. Now called the Miami Marlins, they brought in two big names in Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, and a new manager in Ozzie Guillen.
They opened up their new stadium to much fan fare on April 4 with a loss to the reigning World Series Champs, St. Louis Cardinals and then again the next night to the Cincinnati Reds.
Before the season began, the expectations were sky-high for this team that spend so much money in the offseason to big acquire talent and a new ballpark. The Marlins must get off to a fast start in order to justify the mass amounts of money they spent.
It is no secret that the Yankees are getting older. With Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez now on the back side of 35, this team has to prove that it can keep up with the younger teams.
Do not get me wrong, the Yankees still have exceptional talent in Robinson Cano and Michael Pineda but their core group of players are not getting any younger.
A fast start to the 2012 season would do wonders for this team and would effectively quiet their nay-sayers who argue that this team is too old to win another World Series.
The Cardinals lost the best player in baseball to the free-agent market this offseason in Albert Pujols. After that, the Cards did not really add any key players, already having David Freese who won the World Series MVP last season.
Another big change to the Cards was the fact that Tony La Russa no longer manages the team.
A fast start for the Cardinals would mean keeping the magic alive that helped them not only get to the postseason but also win it all. It would also help the fans forget about losing their star player as well as one of the best managers in all of baseball.