After months of swing training, Florida sunshine, Arizona cacti, and everything Grapefruit and Cactus League, Major League Baseball teams will now embark on their 2019 regular season. 15 games will be played today from New York to Seattle, from Texas to Minnesota, and the buzz of the new season is electric. Every team has a shot as of today. Well, if you consider that every team is 0-0 right now, that would qualify every team has a shot this season. On paper, things look a little different but ultimately, the play on the field will determine the wins and losses of a team, not their lineup on a scorecard. Here are 5 things I will be watching today, Opening Day, 2019:
- How long will fans embrace Bryce Harper in Philadelphia if he gets off to a slow start? Harper signed a massive contract to be a Phillie for pretty much the rest of his career. He has had a few up and down seasons since winning the NL MVP. Philadelphia, like Boston and New York, cheers loudly for their heroes and boos every louder for their underachieving players.
- Can the Boston Red Sox win without Craig Kimbrel closing? Kimbrel did not resign with the Red Sox, leaving a huge hole at the end of the Red Sox bullpen. A host of relievers will fill that role for now. How long will management go with this closer by committee situation if Sale, Price, and Rodriguez are winning games, only to have the end of the bullpen blow saves and lose games? In my opinion, not too long.
- Will the real Chicago Cubs stand up? There is so much talent on the Cubs – Bryant, Baez, Rizzo, Russell, Heyward – the list goes on and on. A few years ago, they made Chicago fans so happy by winning the World Series. Then, a few years of blah baseball and now there are rumors that Joe Maddon may not manage past this season. A baseball dynasty was crowned way too early for the Cubbies. They need to play to their abilities and talent level. If they do, I don’t see anyone beating them in the National League.
- What impact did losing the World Series have on the Los Angeles Dodgers? Another loaded team who cast off some players who gave minimal effort and were headaches off the field, and kept their stars – Bellinger, Seager, Turner – to go after the title again. Kershaw was up and down this spring after re-signing with the Dodgers. Their pitching is solid top to bottom and they should contend for the NL crown again. But will there be a World Series hangover for this season?
- Can Shohei Ohtani hit 60 home runs as the full time DH? Ohtani was incredible in a part time role as DH in 2018. I think if he plays/bats in the majority of Angel’s games, he can hit 60 home runs in a season. He has the power to all fields. His smooth swing can hit the ball out of any park. I will be watching that story as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Good luck to whoever you follow this season. My best friend roots for the Yankees. My buddy in Texas loves the Astros. My family is all Red Sox, all the time. Every team is in it as of today. Enjoy Opening Day, 2019.