2011 MLB Opening Day: The 10 Most Intriguing Storylines to Watch

Lake CruiseAnalyst IMarch 30, 2011

2011 MLB Opening Day: The 10 Most Intriguing Storylines to Watch

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    SARASOTA, FL - MARCH 07:  Infielder Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees warms up just prior to the start of the Grapefruit League Spring Training Game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium on March 7, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by J
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Who did it, what for, how, when, where and why?  These are the questions you want answers to, and I'll provide them this year.

    Follow me all season long and trust me to navigate you through the murky waters of Major League Baseball drama.

    Dramatic introductions aside, it's time for a visual presentation of some of the stories I'll be watching.  You're welcome to join me.

    Roll tape...

10. Mark McGwire: Can He Help the Cardinals Offense Improve over Last Season?

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    PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 25:  Hitting coach Mark McGwire #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals watches his team during batting practice before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 25, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerh
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    With Barry Bonds on trial for perjury, it brings to mind Mark McGwire. 

    Turmoil surrounding the start of the season is normal, but eyes will be on McGwire as long as this trial is in the news due to similar past allegations of lying about performance-enhancing drug use.

    The Cardinals need offense like doctors need nurses this season. Can McGwire stop the bleeding? Time will tell. If he doesn't, the blood will be from the Cardinals offense.

9. Jose Reyes: Can He Bring the Electricity Back to the Blue and Orange?

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    PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 03:  Shortstop Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals stealing second base at Digital Domain Park on March 3, 2011 in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    If the speedy Reyes can bounce back like round ball this season, then the Mets could form a respectable offense.

    With the woes in New York—on the Mets' side—in recent years, something drastic needs to occur, it seems.  They fired the manager from last year, but expectations for a good season belong to their heated division rivals in Philadelphia.

    Reyes could be a nice fill-in for a team needing an electrifying shortstop down the stretch—or for next season.

8. Mariano Rivera: Will Still Rivers Run Deep in the Count in the Bronx?

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Rona
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Still Rivers (Rivera) will run deep into counts, I believe, in the Bronx Zoo in 2011.

    The longtime Yankee closer is on the downside of his career and the Yankee brass knows it. 

    How long will Rivera—Rivers in a rough English translation—be able to hold off closer Rafael Soriano?  Stay with me throughout this season and I’ll let you all know.

    This year, releasing Rivera from your fantasy team could be an option—sad but true.

7. Lance Berkman: Will His Bat Still Have Bite in the New Busch Stadium?

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    JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Lance Beirkman #12 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run against the Florida Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Lance will always be able to rake, but if he can do it in St. Louis this season, watch out for the Redbirds.

    He is a big key to Tony La Russa and Mark McGwire's offensive plans.  McGwire is in his second season as hitting coach and all eyes are on him.  And the drama unfolds.

    Declining in years and subject to platoon with Jon Jay, Berkman could get the Cardinals over the offensive hump, or he could be folding.

    I believe his bat will bite enough to get the Cardinals where they want to be—near the top of NL offensive categories.

6. Miguel Cabrera: Will His Production Spiral out of Control?

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    LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 02:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers during the game against the Houston Astros at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 2, 2011 in Lakeland, Florida. The Astros defeated the Tigers 6-3.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Reminiscent of Andrew Jones, the mighty third baseman from Venezuela has begun to put on more pounds than a little bit.

    Will his known problems handling his beverages curtail his production this year?  Time will tell.   

    It will be very interesting for fantasy managers to watch the situation develop.

5. San Francisco Giants: Will They Go Back-to-Back in the World Series?

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 14:  Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants stretches before playing against the Milwaukee Brewers during the spring training baseball game at Scottsdale Stadium on March 14, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djan
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    In the world of fantasy, Tim Lincecum is about as reliable as it gets.  His closer, Brian Wilson, should continue to help him win a lot of games.

    Pablo Sandoval has reportedly lost 30 pounds and should be able to light the ball up with regularity.  If Buster Posey can continue his hot-hitting pace from last year, then the Giants could provide strong fantasy value from several players on their roster.

    With fantasy stars like pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants could again with the NL pennant.

4. Joey Votto: Can He Repeat as NL MVP in the Face of Pujols?

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 14:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds against the Colorodo Rockies during the spring training baseball game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 14, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Imag
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    With a motivated Pujols lurking, I don’t see Votto winning the MVP this season.

    It will be fun to watch, though.  Get back with me at the end of the season and share tales.

3. Jimmy Rollins: Is Batting Third Jimmy's Bag in the City of Brotherly Love?

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    CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Infielder Wilson Valdez #21 throws in front of shortstop Jimmy Rollins #11 of the Philadelphia Phillies during play against the New York Yankees February 27, 2011 at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida.  (Photo by Al M
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    With Chase Utley on the shelf, Rollins has a brand new bag.  Will his bat be funky enough to drive in the same amount of runs Utley did?  The Phillies hope so, but I don’t see it happening.  Batting in the third spot in front of Ryan Howard, Rollins could, however, hit over 30 home runs this year.

    If Utley comes back, then Rollins probably goes back to leading off or batting second. 

    Then what? 

    Unanswered questions make for intrigue, and Rollins holds the answers.  Watch and see and keep coming back to me for insight.

2. Derek Jeter: Will the Yankees Captain Wane in Offensive Production?

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    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Shortstop Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees looks over the infield against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 26, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (P
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Derek Jeter! I just had to say that one time—even though I'm a Cardinals fan.

    Jeter helped me win a fantasy baseball championship in 2010.  I won it without much production from him—which gives an indication of the strength of the rest of my roster.

    This season, Jeter will bounce back and continue working forward to 4,000 hits.

1. Albert Pujols: Will His Contract Situation Distract The Machine

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    JUPITER, FL - MARCH 06:  First baseman Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the Florida Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium on March 6, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    With the publicized news about him testing free agency after this season, Pujols is easily the most intriguing story in the league.

    By all preseason indications, he’ll be more motivated than distracted this year.  Watch out, NL pitchers.

    Watch out for me, and I'll catch you next time with a fantasy baseball report.