Opening week for MLB, Nationals, Tigers pegged as favorites

BY MARK DOURMASHKIN ’14
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Opening Day is finally here! Spring training has taken its course, numerous players have competed in the World Baseball Classic for their respective countries, and the San Francisco Giants are still champions in the baseball world. During the off-season we saw many MLB teams undergo changes with the hopes of winning a World Series. Several blockbuster trades occurred, free agents cashed in, signing with new teams, and the Houston Astros moved from the National to the American League. Opening Day gives all the teams an even playing field and an equal chance to make the World Series. However, after the first pitch is thrown, we will then truly see what teams are serious about making a run to win the World Series.

This year promises to be a very competitive and intriguing year as many teams have high hopes on achieving big things. With the addition of the Houston Astros to the West Division in the American League, teams will now play an unbalanced schedule and inter-league play is a thing of the past. The Houston Astros will surely have their work cut out for them joining a division on the rise.

The Los Angeles Angels are heavy favorites to be the best team in the American League West with the addition of free agent slugger Josh Hamilton. Although Texas will miss the departure of Hamilton, they will still be a dangerous team with Yu Darvish now in his second year in the big leagues.

The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners are also two young and improving teams that should challenge the Angels and Rangers atop that division.

However the heavy favorites in the American League have to be the World Series runner-up, the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers did not lose any key players from their American League Championship team but only gained valuable assets. Victor Martinez is healthy this year and the Tigers signed Torii Hunter to a two-year deal. With arguably the best pitcher and hitter in baseball, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers could easily be holding up the World Series trophy in October.

The AL East division is a toss up this year. This is the first time in awhile when the Yankees are not favorites to win that division. Depleted by injuries, the Yankees are going to have to try and win differently than they have it the past. The Yankees starting lineup on Opening Day this year will have lost 201 out of the 245 home runs they hit last year due to injuries or free agent departures.

The Red Sox will try and bounce back from a disappointing season last year and recapture their place atop the AL East.

The story of the AL East this season is the possible rise of the Toronto Blue Jays. Typically, known as bottom feeders, they were high spenders this offseason signing the NL CY Young winner, R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera, as well as trading for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. The AL East is wide open and any one of the five years can win it this year.

In the National League, the Washington Nationals are on a separate level than the rest of the teams. Two wins away from 100 wins last season, the Nationals are the clear-cut favorites to win the National League. Yes, the Atlanta Braves did sign the Upton brothers, and the Dodgers now have the highest payroll in baseball, but the Nationals are by far the most complete team in the National League. The sky is the limit for Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who is healthy and no longer on an innings limit.

The Philadelphia Phillies have the experience and talent to compete with the Nationals, but the health of their star players is a major concern for them.

The St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants both have experienced ball clubs that could give the Nationals trouble come playoff time, when the Cardinals and Giants have a winning culture engraved in their teams.

The Nationals are a young team lacking the experience of a playoff team, but they just have too much talent this year to think that they won’t win the National League and compete for a World Series Championship.

Questions? Email Mark at mdourmas@fandm.edu.

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