What makes a fresh baseball season so beautiful? Maybe it's that moment when you first open the newspaper and see the standings, to find every team tied at zero. It's the only time during the season where every team has an equal chance to succeed. Even the Astros, however briefly, take comfort in not yet being mathematically eliminated.
Or it could be the weather, that warm spring air that we've all come to associate with a new season starting. It's that scent of the trees blooming mixed with the familiar smell of ballpark nachos that wafts into the bleachers.
But there's something else in the air, too. What do they call it?
Oh! That's what it is—hope.
That's the best thing about April: the possibilities. For perennial basement-dwelling teams, it's the prospect of a fresh slate and the thought that maybe, just maybe, we'll turn things around this year.
It's the rookies who made the cut out of training camp for the first time, out on the field to prove themselves every night as they strive to define themselves as big leaguers. Or it's the grizzled veterans at the tail ends of careers, determined to have one more strong year before they hang it up.
The NL West is an enigma this year. It features strong teams on paper, but none without their respective questions.
The defending world champion Giants are the same patented band of misfits. So much has to go right in order for them to succeed that they hardly seem like favorites.
The Dodgers intend on making a splash this year, storming into the conversation after surpassing the Yankees for the highest payroll in the game. With that Yankee-sized payroll come Yankee-sized expectations—anything less than a championship will be considered a failure. Can the Dodgers live up to the hype?
A revamped Arizona team is out to prove that they belong in the race. The Rockies have a handful of players back from injuries and are ready for a fresh start. And the Padres are relying on a youth movement and one of the most underrated offenses in the game to get them to the top.
The following predictions are as much speculation as anything—just one casual fan's thoughts based on things he observes. They're not meant to be set in stone.
We all know what the swings of the season are like. An unexpected contender will emerge from obscurity and make the playoffs. Expected 100-win teams will plummet and start eyeing next year's early draft picks.
And that's really why we're all fans of the game. Because now and always, whether you're a Yankees fan with ingrained championship expectations, or a Pirates fan just holding out hope for a winning season, we all have a chance.