The start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season officially kicks off Wednesday in Miami.
Yes, I'm aware the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics played a pair of games in Japan in the “season opener,” but let’s get real. The new year starts when the Miami Marlins (still getting used to saying that) and the defending champs, St. Louis Cardinals (never get tired of saying that) christen the new Marlins Park with a one-game series. The anticipation of a new season is building.
In the NL, the Phillies probably have one of the best rotations in baseball. However, the offense is kind of iffy going into the season with no sign of a healthy Ryan Howard or Chase Utley. They’re going to score their runs, but whether it will be enough to get to their new closer, Jonathan Papelbon, remains to be seen.
The biggest question surrounding the Braves during the off-season was their lack of acquiring a big bat. And with Chipper Jones recovering from knee surgery, the leadership of six-time All-Star catcher Brian McCann and second baseman Dan Uggla will definitely be tested early. The Marlins have a new manager, a new ballpark, and a new shortstop. But the anticipated feud between Jose Reyes and former Augusta GreenJacket Hanley Ramirez never materialized and now seem poised to run wild on the NL East. The Nationals have a buzz surrounding them that they haven’t quite experienced yet in regards to potential. This team will win games and very well might win one of the two wild cards up for grabs. If everyone stays healthy – and if phenom Bryce Harper gets called up before June – Washington could be turning some heads real soon.
As for the Mets, well, let’s just hope they’re better than Astros.
In the Central, the only thing I can say is the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers will probably duke it out to the last week of the year. The Pirates will have a .500 record, but don’t have that final piece of the puzzle to snap their consecutive losing season-streak, currently at 19.
In the West, the Diamondbacks have the tools and a bolstered rotation that will take them places. But don’t sleep on the Giants’ rotation or the Dodgers’ tandem of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. And with the recent purchase of the Dodgers by Magic Johnson’s group, expect a lot of exciting things to come out of Dodger Stadium.
Here are my picks for the both leagues:
AL East: Yankees; AL Central: Tigers; AL West: Rangers. Wild Cards: Rays and Angels.
NL East: Marlins; NL Central: Reds; NL West: D’backs. Wild Cards: Nationals and Cardinals.
BRAVES PROMOTIONS: If you’re looking for another excuse to go see a Braves game this year, the list of promotional giveaways is second to none.
There will be 13 Friday night fireworks displays, live pregame music in the plaza on Saturdays and Alumni Autographs and Kids Run the Bases every Sunday.
One of the weekends that I am hoping to get up to Atlanta is for Alumni Weekend on June 8-10. On June 9, the team will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Sid Breams slide that sent the Braves back to the World Series after their worst to first triumph in 1991. The first 20,000 fans will receive a “Sid Slides” bobblehead.
For more information, go to www.braves.com/tickets.