The MLB season has recently begun, and with its commencement comes many questions. Will the New York Yankees, who missed the playoffs last season for just the second time in 19 years, be able to regain the success that they have enjoyed for many years? Will the New York Mets, the perennial cellar-dwellers of the National League East division, be able to have a winning season? Will the Boston Red Sox, the defending World Series champions, be able to have a repeat year? And, will the big players in free agency, namely the Seattle Mariners and the Yankees, see their investments pay off? Only time will tell.
When the Yankees missed the playoffs last year, I, along with most people, was in shock. How could a team that has a solid core and which constantly scoops up the most talented free agents not make it into the postseason? It would seem that a combination of subpar pitching and old age were large factors in the Yankees’ disappointing season, though injuries to key players and the lack of run support could also have been factors.
Now with some of their aging veterans (Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera) retired, the Yankees will need to rebound in a big way to have a successful 2014 season.
They decided to shore up their hitting, signing former Mets star Carlos Beltran to a deal, which should help give their pitchers more run support and make for a more successful season. They also snagged Jacoby Ellsbury, a dynamic, base-stealing outfielder from the Boston Red Sox. Their final big addition via free agency was Masahiro Tanaka, the highly sought-after Japanese pitcher. He should give the Yankees more room to work with, assuming he pitches as well in the U.S. as he did in Japan. Considering they lost one of their best players, Robinson Cano, to free agency, the Yankees have done an admirable job of rebuilding their roster and have given themselves a good chance to do well this season.
The Mets made a splash this offseason, signing former Yankee Curtis Granderson to a deal, in an attempt to show that they will not be pushovers this year. In an era when Mets’ owner, Fred Wilpon had much of his money taken in a Ponzi scheme involving the notorious Bernie Madoff, it has been difficult for the Mets to sign any major players due to a lack of funds. They came through this time though, signing a player who found a decent level of success in the Bronx with career bests in runs scored (136) and runs batted in (119) in 2011. Granderson missed most of last season with a fractured forearm and pinkie, but the Mets are banking on him returning to form and becoming their best player.
If the Mets want to get out of the bottom of the NL East, they will need contributions from all of their best players such as Granderson and David Wright, the all-star third baseman and captain. They are a young team on the rise that would be a lot better with Matt Harvey playing, but can still turn some heads if they play well enough. Another disappointing season would not be surprising to the legions of long-suffering Mets fans, but there is a shot that they can find some magic this year.
The Red Sox made some head scratching moves prior to last season, trading Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as Nick Punto, Carl Crawford and underperforming Josh Beckett in exchange for a few decent players. The move was made to dump salary (the Red Sox cleared $262.5 million in payroll), which would allow the team to rebuild from the bottom up. For everyone who was convinced that the Red Sox would take years to become contenders again, the end of last season definitively proved them wrong. Not only did the Red Sox return to relevance, they went 97-65 and brought Beantown its eighth World Series championship, ending the year on the highest note possible.
The team has retained much of its roster from last year, with the only major losses being Ellsbury and veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. With such a strong core intact from a World Series-winning season, are the Red Sox primed to win back-to-back championships? Boston will need another brilliant year from slugger David Ortiz and some excellent work from their pitching staff to have a shot at repeating, but I would not be surprised if they did. With a good, young team like the Red Sox have put onto the field, the sky’s the limit.
The other big winner of free agency, the Seattle Mariners, acquired a big time player in Cano, though he came with a big time price tag to match his skills. The five-time all-star second baseman came at the exorbitant price of $240 million for 10 years, which many were quick to criticize. They felt that giving one player such a large sum of money would cripple the team for years and prevent them from signing any other big free agents in years to come. If the Mariners win a World Series championship, everyone will forget how expensive Cano was to bring in and how lazy he seems to be.
The Mariners have one other bona fide star in pitcher Felix Hernandez, a Cy Young winner and four-time all-star. He has single-handedly gotten the team out of tight spots in years past, so he should be happy to have a star of Cano’s caliber at his side. However, once these two players are named, the rest of the Mariners’ roster drops off. They don’t have many other impact players, which could cause big problems for the team this year. Signing Cano was a step in the right direction, but it will take a supporting cast before the Mariners become a true threat in the American League West division.
This season should be a good one, full of excitement and exhilarating games. All of the above questions should be answered as the season goes on; and, who knows, maybe the aforementioned teams will turn heads for the right (or wrong) reasons. With a schedule featuring 162 games, it is hard to make perfect predictions, but we will see how everything turns out.