What makes a fresh baseball season so beautiful? Maybe it's that moment when you first open the newspaper and see the standings and 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. Something it's hard to put a finger on. 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 National League East has always been about pitching. From the Atlanta Braves' fourteen straight titles, to the Phillies' recent reign, to last year's Washington Nationals, great pitching is what ruled the division.
But the stars of yesterday are fading. Johan Santana is out for the season with an injury. The Phillies' core group, so dominant for so many years, is getting older and looking quite mortal. R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle have fled the country to play for some team in Canada.
A new wave of young arms now hopes to rekindle the fire and carry on the tradition of leading their teams to a division title. Who will be the next ace from the East who goes on to become a postseason hero? Stephen Strasburg might be a good bet, who for the first time has no constraints to his playing time. Or Kris Medlen, who has been lights out since the Braves inserted him into the rotation, and at the rate he's going, he may never lose another game. The Mets' young Matt Harvey also has plans to return his team to prominence.
With so much up-and-coming young talent, the race in the East should prove to be exciting for many years to come.
The following predictions are as much speculation as anything, just one casual fan's thoughts based on things he may have observed. 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.