Top 10 Questions For Opening Day

Well, another Major League Baseball season is upon us and, in case you haven't noticed, Opening Day is less than a week away. If you forgot or thought it wasn't that soon, it's understandable thanks to all the off-the-field distractions in the past few weeks with Jose Canseco's book and the ensuing steroids trials, er, hearings. But, it's true, the first pitch is a few days out and, if you're a baseball fan like me, I'd much rather see baseball on sports channels than on C-Span.

Despite the flurry of activity surrounding MLB's drug policy, the offseason had a number of events that raised an even larger number of questions heading into the first games. I've pared it down to the top 10 questions I have for 2005. In no particular order (other than numbers for organizational purposes), here they are.

1.) Will the Red Sox be able to repeat as World Series champions?

On paper, it looks as though they should, even though they lost arguably the most dominant pitcher in the American League over the past half-decade. With Pedro Martinez defecting to the Mets, the Sox didn't exactly acquire an eye-popping replacement, unless you want to stick David Wells in that category. And while Matt Clement and Wade Miller aren't Pedro, they're both solid starters who, between the two of them, could make up for the number of victories lost (oxymoron there?). Plus, the Red Sox return nearly their entire offensive lineup with the exception of Edgar Renteria at shortstop, and they just re-acquired Mike Meyers from St. Louis to strengthen the bullpen. Maybe there will be a repeat in Beantown.

2.) Will Pedro be the key to bringing the Mets back to glory?

Since I mentioned Martinez in the last question, I might as well bring him up here. A follow-up question that must be asked is, "will his bothersome right shoulder hold up for the entire year?" In the pitcher-friendly National League, I think it will. However, the Mets didn't do much else to get out of the NL East's second division. Other than acquiring free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran from Houston, New York did little to bolster an offense that ranked in the bottom third of the league in six categories, including 14th in batting and on-base percentage, and 12th in runs and RBIs. In other words, don't expect the '05 Mets to resemble the '86 Mets in the least.

3.) Will the additions of Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexon, and Mike Hargrove be enough to propel the Mariners back into contention?

Speaking of teams that had a quiet winter, the M's did very little this offseason to improve upon their 99-loss season last year. Granted, Beltre and Sexon add punch to an otherwise anemic offense that placed dead last in the AL in four categories last season, and "Grover" has the experience and respect as a manager to make the right decisions, but Seattle didn't do a lot to shore up its pitching staff. Three return in the rotation who posted double-digit losses last year, and none of the other projected starters had a winning record. The M's may be hard-pressed to hit the .500 mark this season.

4.) Will Barry Bonds return to the lineup in time to break Hank Aaron's home run record?

Frankly, I couldn't care less if Barry plays at all, being a Dodger fan and being of the opinion he's one of the biggest jerks in pro sports. But, as a fan of the game and being a relative young'un (37, for those of you scoring along at home), that's one record I thought I'd never see broken in my lifetime. There was talk in the early days of Ken Griffey, Jr. in Seattle that he would have the best chance to break it at the pace he was going, but injuries and playing in the National League the past few years have all but extinguished that kind of talk. Now, it's Bonds in the spotlight, BALCO and all, and if he wasn't going to miss at least half the season, this question might have been answered by August. Now the question may be if he will break it at all.

5.) Will the Nationals be competitive this year?

Some say a change of scenery is all it takes to rejuvenate a player or even a franchise. Take the Washington Senators, for example. They move from DC to Minneapolis and, poof!, they go to the World Series five years later. But, in the first relocation of a major league team in more than 30 years, don't expect the Nationals to win the league they're named after. They did, however, attempt to give the offense some life by picking up free agents Vinny Castilla and Jose Guillen, who hit 62 combined home runs for their former teams last season. The pitching staff, though, still looks shaky with Livan Hernandez (a 15-game loser last season) as their ace and Chad Cordero (14 saves) their stopper. While it may not be this year, five years down the road may be looking bright for the Nats.

6.) Will Randy Johnson dominate the American League again with the Yankees?

I might be going out on a limb here, but I'll answer "yes." The term "dominate" might be stretching it a little, since he had to compete with the likes of Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, and Nolan Ryan when he was in Seattle, but he was one of the top five pitchers in the league during that period. Actually, his best seasons came with Arizona — four consecutive Cy Young Awards testify to that — before injuries made him "human" the past two years. So, as with the Nationals, a change of scenery just might be what the doctor ordered for the Big Unit.

7.) Did the Red Sox world title break the curse for the Cubs, too?

Only if they can break the curse of the divided clubhouse, as well. That was the secret to Boston's success last year — no egos, no superstars (right, Manny Ramirez?). If the Cubs want to taste the same flavor, they'll need to become a cohesive unit both on and off the field. If Corey Patterson and Nomar Garciaparra can put together a consistent season, and if the pitching trio of Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Greg Maddux all throw like they're capable of throwing, the Cubbies will have maybe the best shot of anyone in the NL (besides St. Louis) of getting to the World Series.

8.) When will the conspiracy investigation begin into the Cardinals' collapse in the World Series?

Don't tell me you haven't had it cross your mind, too. How a team wins 105 games, leads the league in four major offensive categories and has the best pitching staff in the NL can be swept by the Red Sox is beyond me. Not only did they get swept, but they could only manage six runs and 13 hits in the last three games after scoring nine runs on 11 hits in the opener. And, how the so-called "MP3" trio of Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols, and Scott Rolen could combine for 122 home runs and 358 RBI during the season, but collectively hit no home runs and drive in one run during the Series raises some serious questions. Smells like 1919 all over again to me.

9.) Will the Yankees get back to the World Series this year?

Who cares? I hate the Yankees. (That, by the way, was my uncanny impression of the Fabulous Sports Babe.)

10.) What will the final name of the Angels be?

Since the City of Anaheim is suing the Angels because they added "Los Angeles" to their name, the only logical solution to this dilemma is simple: take a hint from their currently unemployed hockey brothers. How about the "Angels in the Outfield of Los Angeles, also known as Anaheim?"

I know, it's kind of long, but it makes perfect sense. Obviously, the team is somewhat trying to emulate the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim by calling themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, only without the Disney flair. That's easily corrected by throwing in the "in the Outfield" phrase from the movie, and it serves as a metaphor for Anaheim being a suburb of Los Angeles. Hey, if it was good enough for the Rams to play in Anaheim, but still be called the Los Angeles Rams, then it should be good enough for the Angels.

Oh, one final question, and I'll let you answer this one. Which will happen first: Jose Canseco shuts up or Mark McGwire starts talking?

Comments and Conversation

March 31, 2005


sammy sosa still with the cubs? a mistake that big makes your whole story lose credibility

March 31, 2005

Adam Russell:

I apologize for stating that Sammy Sosa played for the Cubs. The publication I was using for reference has him listed as still being a Cub (obviously, it went to press before the trade). As I was writing this column, it slipped my mind that he was no longer in Chicago.

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