Hello, baseball fans! It's the day that we thought would never get here: The day when Major League pitchers and catchers report to their respective Spring Training venues, just a week before everyone else shows up. For my Washington Nationals, their temporary home is in Viera, Florida, where they are part of the Grapefruit League. Other teams play in Florida as well, and others play in Arizona, but by the end of March, they will all be in their respective cities, getting ready for that first official cry of "Play ball!"
I am so excited I just can't contain myself. My husband and I bought a four-game ticket plan, which gives us a fifth game for free and allowed us to pick the games we wanted. So we're going to go to Nationals Park for opening day against the Cincinnati Reds, an inter-league game against the Yankees (yes, I do dislike inter-league play, but I wasn't giving up my chance of seeing Robinson Canó in person!), a game against the Mets, and the last home game of the season, which will be against the Brewers (plus our free game, which we haven't picked yet). Our seats won't be as good as last year, but since Iván Rodriguez is no longer a National, I have no reason to be up-close wielding my Puerto Rican flag (and embarrassing my husband).
So what are people predicting that this upcoming season will be like? It's being touted as "The Year of the Pitcher," and many teams including the Orioles, Marlins, Nationals and Red Sox have reinforced their pitching during the off-season to try and prove themselves as having dominant arms. Personally, I predict that the Phillies will NOT win the NL East, the Yankees will NOT win the AL East, and neither the Brewers nor the Cardinals will win the NL Central (I'm giving that one to Cincinnati). The Orioles will not be last in their division either - that honor will go to the Blue Jays. And while I normally don't care about the west, I will go ahead and say that the Angels will not win their division despite now having Albert Pujols in their lineup.
Pitchers who deserve some attention in 2012? Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals, who will be overshadowed by the return of Stephen Strasburg; the Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Moore, who has a scary curve ball; Yu Darwish of the Texas Rangers, who has a cool name and I think is the first Japanese/Iranian pitcher to ever play in the Majors; and the Cardinals' Shelby Miller, who was their first-round pick in 2009 and should be pretty good this year, despite having the same name as the weird girl in "Steel Magnolias."
Finally, even though this has nothing to do with pitching, it would be irresponsible of me as a baseball blogger to not mention the untimely passing of Hall-of-Famer Gary Carter. Carter was one of the first baseball players that I liked back when I was a Mets fan, and his smile, charisma and dedication to the game are characteristics that are now uncommon among professional athletes. Gary died of brain cancer, and will truly be missed (of course we all know that Iván broke all of Gary's catching records, but now is not the time for me to gloat about that).
In my next post, I will talk about this upcoming season's hitting prospects, because as we all know, good hitting stops good pitching. Stay tuned, my friends!