The clocks have sprung ahead, the NHL playoffs won’t begin for another three weeks or so, but it’s baseball season, so buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack and take me out to the ballgame.
Major League Baseball has its earliest start ever, with the 162-game regular season kicking off March 28, not counting two games in Japan March 20-21 featuring Oakland and Seattle.
Canadians, of course, get excited about the Toronto Blue Jays, who are starting the season with a new manager, Charlie Montoyo, who replaces John Gibbons. Montoyo could use some new pitchers, too, but the Jays didn't do much in the off-season to address their mound situation. Marcus Stroman is hoping to rebound from a 4-9 injury-riddled 2018, and he’ll pitch opening day against the visiting Detroit Tigers. After him, the Jays staff is suspect. J. A. Happ (10-6) was the only Toronto pitcher to reach double figures in wins last year, but he’s wearing pinstripes in New York this year after a late-July trade last season. Free agent signee Matt Shoemaker, 40-32 in six seasons with the Angels, is slated to be the Jays’ second-game starter. The rotation of Stroman, Shoemaker, injury prone Aaron Sanchez and perhaps Ryan Borucki won’t instill fear in opponents. Jays fans, however, will have lots to cheer for as soon as the can’t-miss kid (he’d better not miss) Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., joins the big-league club in late April. Fellow phenom Bo Bichette may also rise from the minors after a terrific spring at the plate.
Around the Big Leagues, eyes will be focused on Philadelphia, where Bryce Harper joined the Phillies with a $330 million 13-year contract, and San Diego, where Manny Machado signed with the Padres for $300 million over 10 years.
The Yankees, who belted a record 267 home runs last year, could exceed that mark this year, and probably win the A.L. East over defending Series champion Boston Red Sox. The Sox will likely be without closer Craig Kimbrel (who as a free agent still hadn’t found a new home as of press time). Houston Astros, led by the diminutive Jose Altuve, are still going to be powerful, and the Dodgers will once again contend in the National League, proving once again that money not only talks, it wins. Mike Trout of the Angels remains the game’s best player and fans in Atlanta will be anticipating more heroics from Ronald Acuna, Jr., last year’s rookie of the year.
The beer will be cold, the hot dogs reasonably warm and the popcorn salty, and games will drag on despite efforts by Commissioner Rob Manfred to speed things up. But to baseball fans, it won’t matter. Baseball’s back and for real fans, it’s always a hit.
- Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Japanese startup Vaak claims it has developed artificial-intelligence software that identifies shoplifters — based on their body language — before they actually steal. Mariners opponents plan to test it out on Dee Gordon this season.”
- Brad Rock of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, on the man who is suing the AAF because he says it was his idea: “Considering the history of other startup football leagues, he may want to keep a low profile on that.”
- Dwight Perry again: “Best bet to score a bloated NFL contract this fall? Ex-LSU cornerback Greedy Williams.”
- Remembering the late, great sportswriter Dan Jenkins, on the Winter Olympics (without the expletive): “Cross-country skiing's not a sport, it’s how a (…) Swede goes to the 7-Eleven.”
- Texas buddy Jim Mackey, posting a Facebook photo of a man with a ‘O-for-4’ licence plate on his truck: “I asked this guy if it stood for failed marriages. He said worse... he is a Buffalo Bills fan!”
- Brad Rock again: “ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza has been hired by the New York Mets as an operations adviser. She will be allowed to keep both positions, despite an apparent conflict of interest. In response, the Yankees allegedly are looking to hire umpire Chad Fairchild as the team’s hitting instructor.”
- Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 to have their two daughters admitted to USC as rowers. And now they're all up a certain proverbial creek without a paddle.”
- RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Struggling tennis star Eugenie Bouchard’s Twitter date from losing an ill-considered Super Bowl bet is reportedly being made into a rom-com. Possible titles include I Dream of Genie, Backhand to the Future and Blunder Woman.”
- Currie again, with a bit of a stinker: “The Toronto Argonauts signed defensive tackle Cory “Poop” Johnson. Might be the first CFL lineman to wear No. 2.”
- Perry again: “Q: How do MLB apologists try to spin it when a player vanishes for half a season because of a marijuana suspension? A: Tommy Chong surgery.
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