2011 MLB Predictions: The 5 Best Series We Can't Wait to Watch in April
The fresh cut grass, smell of garlic fries and crack of the bat.
Soon those things will be joined by real baseball. Baseball that counts and means more than just getting pitchers work.
Among the joys of baseball, for me, are the story lines: the drama that unfolds over a season or that is carried over from the previous one. For various reasons, I find myself drawn to see certain players who have changed teams or to find out if all the moves by another team translate into success.
So let's look at a few of those and speculate about why they'll be fun to watch.
Giants and Dodgers
To kick off the season and the defense of their world championship, the Giants head to LA for a set with their hated rival Dodgers.
These teams were rivals when they were in a different part of the country together. They both moved west and that perhaps made things more intense as they were isolated over there for a long time.
The meetings between these clubs, separated by a few hundred miles of California, always seem to provide drama.
With the Giants as the reigning champs, things could heat up.
Perhaps an Opening Day benches-clearing brawl will break out, and a Dodgers fight that doesn't include the McCourts can be the focus of attention.
Red Sox and Yankees
Yeah, I know. The typical and easy choice.
This series could be compelling for new reasons this year, though.
The Yankees didn't have the type of offseason they've been known to in the past. Sure, they added a couple of nice role players and some pieces that can help, but they missed the boat on the biggest of big names.
They didn't get Cliff Lee, while everyone had assumed they would. That one stung the most, until Andy Pettitte decided to hang them up. Not being able to retain what they already had really hurt.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, had a fantastic offseason. They're primed to make a deep run with a mix of talent.
I'd like to see how the Yankees pitching stacks up after their top two handle a Red Sox lineup.
Phillies and Braves
In the second series of the season for both teams, we could be treated to a few nice pitching matchups.
Pitchers generally have the advantage early on in the season. Considering the six pitchers who would be involved, you might not enjoy these games if you like high scoring affairs.
It'll be the second-through-fourth guys of each rotation, so we presumably won't see Roy Halladay or Tim Hudson. If the rotations shake out as expected, we'll get Cliff Lee facing Derek Lowe, Cole Hamels against Jair Jurrjens and Roy Oswalt opposite Tommy Hanson.
Since the Phillies open the season against the Astros, this will likely be the first early test for their new rotation facing a quality team.
It'll just be three games, and no one should draw conclusions regardless of the results. Maybe because I haven't seen a meaningful baseball game in so long, coupled with the potential for this series, I'm a little over-geeked.
Rangers and Athletics
On the surface, I admit, this matchup doesn't appear horribly exciting.
However, with the changes to both clubs over this past offseason, I think the gap in the AL West has been closed enough that this could be a competition.
The A's have that fantastic young pitching staff that they always seem to have, but now they've added a little offense and they could challenge the Rangers.
The edge still sits with the Rangers, and I don't think they lose a grip on the division, but you have to keep an eye on Billy Beane. If they're close come July, he could get real creative real fast. That makes these games in April and May really important.
Reds and Cardinals
The Reds surged last season and perhaps surprised a lot of fans by winning the NL Central.
Is that sustainable? Will their nice mix of players be able to control the division again and stave off the Cards?
Losing Adam Wainwright was a blow to the Cardinals, proportionate to a cannon on a pirate ship taking out one of the cannons on a British ship back in times when that stuff happened. The Cardinals will be without one of their important cannons, but they obviously still have a talented team.
Then, of course, there's the story of Albert Pujols. It's hard for anyone to make one of those baseless "career year" arguments about players turning it on when it counts when we're talking about Albert Pujols. He's going to be either great or phenomenal. The Cardinals will take either, but the microscope is going to be on his every move this season.
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