Today, the common baseball fan wakes up from his winter hibernation. Eleven teams will start their workouts today in preparation for the 2011 season.
This is sure to be a season filled with great teams, great players, great games, and great moments. But there are still lots of questions to be answered during the season.
For all the Rays lost this past offseason, the expectations for this team are at a relatively low level. The Rays still possess a very talented starting rotation and some key players, but their bullpen looks shaky and their lineup is inconsistent.
The Rays shocked the baseball world by getting two "idiots", Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. Much of the Rays' success, at least offensively, will depend on what kind of production they get from these two players.
If both players exceed expectations, then the Yankees and Red Sox may have a legitimate threat.
We all saw the nearly limitless potential of Stephen Strasburg last year. When he was healthy, he was electric. This year, baseball fans can only hope that he stays healthy (unless you're in the NL East) and pitches the way he showed he can.
But this year, we will see the other Nationals phenom in young Bryce Harper. What position will he play? And more importantly, how far can he hit a home run against major league pitching? He is one of the most exciting players of the last few years.
Not that the Nationals will be relevant this year, but it will be very fun to watch these two young superstars.
The Rockies have one of the best lineups in baseball, mainly due to the fact that they have two of the best players in the league. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez are both phenomenal athletes.
While Gonzalez led the league in average last year to go along with 34 home runs and 117 RBI, Tulowitzki had one of the best offensive months in baseball history last September. So which one is going to blow up the stat sheet this year?
By the end of the season, both of these guys could be near the top of many leader boards and perhaps lead the Rockies into October.
All four of the major award winners (Josh Hamilton, Felix Hernandez, Joey Votto, Roy Halladay) could very easily repeat. But with so much talent in the league, there are dozens of players who could contend for these awards.
Watch for the transformation of players from great to elite (Evan Longoria, Robinson Cano, Troy Tulowitzki). Keep an eye on some past-years favorites (Tim Lincecum, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard).
With so much competition, whoever wins the awards will have to put up some serious numbers this season.
The division with the biggest question mark is the AL West. The favorite will be the defending AL champs, the Rangers. But closely behind them are the young-but-talented Athletics, the always dangerous Angels, and a potentially good Mariners team.
Did the Rangers lose everything with Cliff Lee? And will they be able to keep Michael Young?
Is the Athletics' great young pitching staff enough to win the division?
Do the Angels have enough firepower to compete?
Expect this division to come down to the final week of the season.
The logical question may be this: Will the Giants repeat? Given the additions the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies have made, this seems near impossible.
The Giants could go in one of two directions. They could experience the World Series hangover and see drop-offs in production from the likes of Linceum, Cain, Sanchez, Posey and Sandoval. Or they could see improvements from this young team across the board. If it's the latter, the Giants will easily win the NL West.
But between the Rockies, Dodgers and Padres, the competition for a spot in the playoffs will be far from easy for the Giants.
Remember how you used to cheat on baseball video games and put all the best players on one team?
That's seemingly what the Phillies did with their pitching rotation this offseason by adding Cliff Lee. Now, the rotation of Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels and Lee has sky-high expectations. With the Phillies' lineup, it is not a stretch to think these four pitchers alone could give the Phils 75 wins this season.
In November we will sit down and look back at how this rotation performed, and in all likelihood, we will be mentioning them in the same breath as the best rotations ever.
There is little doubt anywhere in baseball the American League East is baseball's best division. The Red Sox, fed up with their lack of success, beefed up their team to compete with the Yankees, who added some pieces themselves.
They will be challenged by the depleted-yet-dangerous Rays, the Fightin' Showalters of Baltimore, and the potent Blue Jays. All of these teams have the talent to finish over .500, but can any of them challenge the Yankees and Red Sox?
To see playoff baseball all year long, watch the AL East teams battle each other.
Perhaps the biggest debate in baseball this year will be whether or not expanded replay should be instituted. Given the plethora of questionable calls in 2010, especially in impact moments like Armando Galarraga's "perfect" game, many baseball fans are calling for full replay of boundary and judgement calls.
But baseball traditionalists want to keep umpires as the final say during a game. Bud Selig has a very important decision to make--should replay be implemented? If so, when?
If replay is in fact instituted, baseball will be a different game.
Now that Albert Pujols has cut off all contract negotiations until the end of the season, many questions linger about baseball's best player.
He is in the "contract year", the year many players play better than usual. Of course, Pujols always puts up ridiculous numbers, so will he follow the pattern and play out of his mind?
Or will the uncertainty serve as a distraction for him? And once the season is over, what happens next? Will the DeWitt family give him the money he wants? Or will he test the waters of free agency to be swooped up by the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets or Dodgers?
There are three teams this season that seem to stand out from the rest of the pack—the Red Sox, the Yankees, and the Phillies. All of these teams possess elite lineups, pitching rotations and bullpens.
The Phillies have baseball's best rotation by far, and have lots of young talent on offense. But their daily lineup production can be inconsistent, and that may be a downfall.
The Yankees are the most complete team in baseball, with a strong lineup all the way through, a great pitching rotation, and baseball's best bullpen. They are aging and at risk for declining production from many of their stars.
The Red Sox, though, stand above both of these teams. They have baseball's best lineup, including the scariest middle of the order in years. They have a pitching rotation that, if healthy, could challenge the Phillies as baseball's best. And though their bullpen can be shaky at times, you know Jonathan Papelbon will look to rebound from a mediocre year.
Any of these teams could win, as could some darkhorses. (Giants? Cardinals? Rangers? Pirates?)
Regardless, this will be a very fun season to watch.