My wife’s pretty awesome, but she’s not a baseball fan on her own. In fact, she’s never been to a game without me, not at any level. To communicate with her about the season, I use the calendar. The season begins on April Fools’ Day. The All-Star Game is around the Fourth of July. The regular season ends around Halloween. Winter meetings take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And the day of love, the day pitchers and catchers report, is Valentine’s Day.
There’s something magical and freeing, something amazing and almost sacred to me about getting started again. The Red Sox finished last three times in the past four years? Who cares! The calendar has been flipped, and with it the script. This will be completely different!
And with that in mind, I offer you hope for all 26 clubs. Wait, there are 30 clubs now?
Baltimore Orioles: You thought Chris Davis would be gone. He’s not. The Yankees didn’t spend. The Rays aren’t that good. The Jays can’t hit like last year. And the Red Sox always finish last. Watch Kevin Gausman and or Dylan Bundy break out and the O’s take the AL East.
Boston Red Sox: With David Price, Craig Kimbrel, and Carson Smith, this is an entirely different pitching staff. Pedroia will be healthy, the kids will improve, Hanley and Panda will rebound. And Papi will walk off into the sunset with his fourth ring in thirteen seasons.
New York Yankees: Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman make up the best pen anyone has ever seen. The team can still hit, A-Rod will reach 700 homers, Ellsbury and Tanaka will return to health, and Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks will provide meaningful upgrades as the team sheds salary while remaining a huge threat.
Tampa Bay Rays: We don’t need no freakin’ money to put together a great team. We can catch the ball and pitch the ball, so run prevention won’t be a problem. Trust in Archer, Odorizzi, Smyly, Erasmo, and Moore to be one of the game’s best rotations. If healthy, anything can happen.
Toronto Blue Jays: Even if we couldn’t pitch, we might win 90 games. The offense that scored 891 runs last year remains intact. Drew Storen, J.A. Happ, and Jesse Chavez will bolster the staff, and we’ll regress toward our 102 Pythagorean wins of 2015.
Chicago White Sox: Todd Frazier fills our biggest hole from a year ago. Add Alex Avila, Brett Lawrie, and Dioner Navarro, and we have a much-improved offense. Plus, an entire year of Carlos Rodon to go with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana means we can pitch with anyone.
Cleveland Indians: The Mets think they have the best rotation in the game? Ha! Add Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Bauer, and Tomlin to an improved pen, a healthy Mike Napoli, and a full season of Francisco Lindor. We’re getting back to October baseball!
Detroit Tigers: The old Justin Verlander is back. The old Miguel Cabrera is back. Plus, we added free agents Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmerman, overhauled the bullpen, and still have stars like Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez, and Anibal Sanchez. We think we’re the favorites in the division.
Kansas City Royals: We won the World Series last year! We don’t have hope; we have expectations. And with Alex Gordon returning, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain blossoming, and a continued dominant pen, there’s no reason we can’t get right back to where we were a year ago.
Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Byung ho-Park make this the most exciting offense we’ve seen in years. If the pitching performs like we know it can, we’re going to turn a lot of heads in the Central and be right in it late this summer.
Houston Astros: We arrived a year early in 2015. This is our coming out party. We have the best pitcher in the AL in Dallas Keuchel, the best young player in the game in Carols Correa, and stars like Jose Altuve, Colin McHugh, and Ken Giles to support a very strong core. There’s every reason to believe we’ll improve on 2015’s success.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: We have Mike Trout, and you don’t. Andrelton Simmons will shore up our defense. The rotation will be healthy this year, and a full season of Andrew Heaney will help a lot. Oh, and did we mention Mike Trout?
Oakland A’s: Almost every year we look like we’re short on talent, and almost every year we compete. Billy Beane didn’t flip Sonny Gray this winter because he knows we’re poised for great things in 2016. The refurbished pen will be outstanding, Coco will be healthy, and we’re going to score far more runs than the pundits expect.
Seattle Mariners: King Felix remains, Hisashi is back, and we think James Paxton and Taijuan Walker will take the next step. We also love the offensive upgrades this winter. Nori Aoki, Adam Lind, Seth Smith, and Chris Ianetta aren’t sexy, but they’re all solid. Winning 90+ seems attainable.
Texas Rangers: We didn’t need to make big off-season deals. Our big one was last summer when we picked up Cole Hamels. Yu Darvish is ahead of where some predicted. And the heart of our order with Choo, Fielder, Beltre, Moreland, and Hamilton is as good as anyone’s.
Atlanta Braves: You can’t figure out what our direction is, can you? That’s what people said about the likes of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs too. Yeah, we’re going to leave it at that.
Miami Marlins: Wei-Yin Chen bolsters an emerging rotation with full seasons of Jose Fernandez and Jarred Cosart. Giancarlo Stanton may hit 50 homers this year, and he anchors a strong top-to-bottom lineup. With health, we’d have been .500 last year, and we think we can be so much more in 2016.
New York Mets: They’ll one-day talk about Syndegaard/Harvey/deGrom/Matz like they talked about Wynn/Garcia/Lemon/Score, or Raschi/Reynolds/Lopat, or Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz. Plus, we have Yoenis back for a full season of mashing, we’ve upgraded the pen, and we have one of the best benches in the game.
Philadelphia Phillies: If we pay Ryan Howard $35 million this year, we never have to talk to him again. Seriously though, who gave all that money to a guy with only one year worth more than 3.8 WAR?
Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper and Jon Papelbon can absolutely coexist on this club. One is the best player in the game today (take that Mike Trout!), and the other has had only one ERA above 2.94 in eleven seasons. Our pen has been totally overhauled, and we expect for Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzlzez, and Stephen Strasburg to make ours one of the best rotations in the game.
Chicago Cubs: This is going to be our year. Rizzo and Bryant are studs. We think Jake Arrieta is the best pitcher in the game. And we added Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey to a team that won 97 games a year ago. This year we’ll top 100 and win our first World Series since 1908.
Cincinnati Reds: This could be the year Joey Votto reaches base 50% of the time. And if it is, there’s going to be something to cheer for.
Milwaukee Brewers: Yes, we’re in a very competitive division. But we can offer you something no other team can, a daily competition on how to spell “Nieuwenhuis.” In other news, Ryan Braun doesn’t use PEDs anymore, but he’s still pretty good.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Cards and Cubs get all the attention, but we won 98 games last year. You might think upgrades like Neftali Feliz and John Jaso are small. And they are. But how many games to you expect us to win, 110? Oh, and you heard it here first, Andrew McCutcheon wins his second NL MVP this year.
St. Louis Cardinals: We were the best team in all of baseball last year, and now we have a healthy Adam Wainwright. Mike Leake should be excellent, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez will continue to grow, and we’ll continue to score enough runs to give our pitchers chances to win.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, and Patrick Corbin will be one of the best front-threes in the game. Paul Goldschmidt is a stud, and we expect continued excellence form A.J. Pollock and David Peralta while they’re in their prime. We’re the best team in this division.
Colorado Rockies: There’s no truth to the rumor that we’re turning off the humidor and we’re going to start rocking homers like it’s 2000. Or is there? Sit back and enjoy what we hope will be 74 homers from Nolan Arenado.
Los Angeles Dodgers: We’re proud to be the home of Clayton Koufax. This season you also get a full year from Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig, continued excellent from Adrian Gonzalez, and some Dodger Stadium pitching from Scott Kazmir and Kenta Madea.
San Diego Padres: Does anyone else think this is the year Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton, and Brett Wallace put it all together? But tickets on the secondary market; they’ll be really cheap! Nobody has better October weather than San Diego!
San Francisco Giants: You don’t have to like our team. You just have to trust calendars. I see that 2016 is an even year, and we always win in even years. If you think we need some talent, well, we have that too. The acquisitions of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to go with MadBum, Peavy, and Cain mean we can pitch with anyone.
Maybe your team doesn’t report today. That’s okay. Keep your countdown going. It’s Spring Training. There’s hope!