The weather is finally warming and the snow melting. To baseball fans everywhere, it means only one thing: Opening Day is near and with it, comes promises of sensory overload. Palpitations before the first pitch, aroma of popcorn and hot dogs, sounds of the first crack of the bat, and roars from a crowd rising to life after six month winter hibernation.
In the 2012 season, many teams caught the league by surprise, while others were robbed of a World Series title. This season, watch out for the Atlanta Braves, the NL east team that finished last season behind the Washington Nationals in the East. Last season’s tight race between the Braves and Nationals went down to the final week of the regular season. Look for the Braves to bring vengeance into this season as they try to take back the NL east crown.
After future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones announced his retirement, the Braves captured the Wild Card, facing off against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves were in the middle of a huge rally in the late innings of the Wild Card playoff game against the Cardinals, when a fly ball hit the gap between the short stop and the left fielder. The umpire ruled the ball was still in the infield resulting in an "infield fly". The questionable call ended a potential two run rally that would have left the Braves only trailing by a single run. The rally was stopped when the call was made by adding another out for the Braves leaving two on and two out. The controversy behind the call was the evidence was clearly in the replay that showed the wrong call was made. The game was protested by Braves General Manager Freddie Gonzalez, but the call was not overturned. The Braves momentum was shot down and they went on to lose to the Cardinals 6-3, as the Cardinals made it to the National League Championship.
Yet, this off season was a good one for the Atlanta Braves. Most teams don't change their roster much, and expect to win ninety to even one hundred games, but not the Braves. The team’s front office remained active during the off season by selecting the perfect fits for their roster. The summer for the Braves began with the addition of B.J Upton. B.J Upton had currently became a free agent after his contract expired with the Tampa Bay Ray, and the Braves took full advantage. The Braves active off season included trading Martin Prado and other players to the Arizona Diamondbacks for third basemen Chris Johnson and Justin Upton. The Atlanta Braves summer concluded with the creation of one of the most dynamic outfields featuring Justin Upton, B.J Upton, and Braves superstar Jason Heyward. These valuable players will be well worth the investment when the heated pennant race begins in the summer. The addition of the Upton brothers will cause issues for the National’s pitching when the pennant race reaches the heat of the season
The 2013 season holds great potential. The announcement of Mariano Riviera's final season will place added pressure onto the New York Yankees. The announcement leaves the question of : what will the Yankees do to replace the future hall of famer? The New York Yankees currently have the highest payroll in the major leagues and the potential replacement for Rivera could be expensive and hard to sign. The access to millions of dollars allows the Yankees to go out and sign the best major league baseball has to offer, but with the new salary cap what will the Yankees do in 2014?
Another potential question coming into the season: are the Anaheim Angels poised for a championship run? The decision to spend huge amounts of money collecting players such as Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton is being questioned by the fans. The city of Anaheim will place added pressure on the Angels to win the pennant or even the World Series.
After the historic season that ended abruptly after blowing a 2-0 lead on St Louis, the Washington Nationals come into 2013 with a rested Stephen Strasburg. The team’s best pitcher sat out during the playoffs after the organization chose to sit and preserve him. The Nationals won more than one hundred games in 2012 while winning the National League East title from the Atlanta Braves. The National League East in 2013 will be contested between Washington and Atlanta because of the maturity of both teams.
With opening day finally arriving, many questions remain redundant about the season that lies ahead. The answers fans are looking for about their teams will be answered when the first game is in the books. A sense of excitement is in the air, and only one day out of the year can bring out this much emotion. The fields are ready, and the fans eager to hear the words "Play Ball!"