The clocks have been turned forward and the temperature has begun to rise which can only mean one thing, spring is here, and with the start of spring comes the start of America’s favorite pastime, baseball.
With spring training all but over, all 30 Major League teams are putting together their 25-man rosters, and with opening day comes a clean slate, a chance to forget about last year’s disappointments or for some the chance to build upon the success of last season.
No team had more success last season than the New York Yankees.
With a total of 103 wins, they finished with the best record in all of baseball. Shortstop Derek Jeter and first baseman Mark Teixeira were in the top three in voting for the league’s Most Valuable Player award, not to mention the fact that they won their 27th World Series title in six games against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Their lineup remains virtually the same, with Jeter leading off and third baseman Alex Rodriguez hitting clean up.
However, they did have some holes to fill when they lost World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and outfielder Johnny Damon to free agency.
Their pitching is one of the best in the league with former Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia and veteran Andy Pettitte leading the rotation.
The bottom line is that the Yankees’ lineup and rotation is tops in the American League, and it would not surprise anyone if they reached the World Series again.
Last season, led by American League MVP Joe Mauer, the Minnesota Twins won the AL Central in a tiebreaker game against the Detroit Tigers.
They were the Cinderella team of the playoffs because of their sudden surge to the top of their division in the last few weeks of the season.
But their clock struck midnight sooner than they wanted, when they were swept in three games in the AL Division Series by the Yankees.
With Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau consistently playing like All-Stars, the Twins hope to make it deeper into the playoffs, but they will have to do without closer Joe Nathan, who is set to have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and is out for the season.
They tried once, and they could not do it. They tried a second time and they could not get it done, they couldn’t even win a game.
And last season they tried once more, and the Angels finally got over the hump that was the Boston Red Sox.
Riding on emotions all season, after the sudden death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, the Angels defeated the Red Sox in four games in the ALDS.
The two past seasons the Angels looked weak and it seemed at times that they did not even try, but last season the Angels wanted to prove they could finally win; the season was dedicated to the memory of Adenhart.
The Angels will have to deal with the loss of three of their best players, outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, pitcher John Lackey and infielder Chone Figgins. Guerrero and Figgins left via free agency.
Guerrero and Figgins signed with division rivals, the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners.
While Lackey decided that Boston was a better fit for him and signed a five-year, $85.2 million contract.
The boys from Orange County are expected to be atop the division again, but it will be much tougher as both the Mariners and Rangers have improved their rosters.
The National League has always played second best to the American League, but with the signing of All-Star position players, it hopes to get back on top.
The St. Louis Cardinals won their division by 7.5 games and were picked by many to go deep into the playoffs.
However, they did not expect to be swept out of the NLDS in three games by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cardinals had their chances, but sloppy errors cost them in the end.
St. Louis signed one of the most coveted free agents during the off-season, Matt Holliday, to a seven-year, $120 million contract.
With that big of a contract Holliday is expected to produce big numbers, along with the reigning NL MVP Albert Pujols.
The Phillies went into the 2009 season with a swagger – they were the 2008 World Series champions, and they felt that they were going to do it again. But then they ran into the Yankees in the World Series and got a reality check.
But now they want, and expect, a rematch with the Yankees in this year’s World Series, and they could very well do it, as they traded three top prospects for six-time All-Star, Cy Young winner Roy Halladay.
It will stay in the minds of Dodger fans for a long time to come, the memory might fade, but it will never truly go away.
The Dodgers had their dominant closer, Jonathan Broxton, on the mound and they were one strike away from sending the NLCS back to Los Angeles.
Then the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins punched every Dodger fan in the stomach, as he doubled to right-center field and won the game in the bottom of the ninth inning.
There is no time to dwell on the past for the Dodgers.
Their division has improved and is going to be much more competitive than last season.
With their pitching rotation not the best in the division, the Dodgers will have to count on not only the bats of their veterans, outfielder Manny Ramirez and third baseman Casey Blake, but also their young stars, outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and first baseman James Loney.
So take the dust off your baseball caps and iron those jerseys because in the words of the great Los Angeles Dodgers’ announcer Vin Scully, “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”
Elsie Ramos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.