BY MICK TIDROW | Ball State Sports Link
Freshly cut grass. Crisply chalked lines. The sound of a crowd in the stands in the bottom of the ninth inning. Pies thrown in the faces of walk-off heroes.
Baseball. Is. Back.
November 2, 2016 marked the end of a dream season. A banner season for a Chicago Cubs franchise that was desperate (understandably so) to hold the World Series Trophy.
The Cubs brought excitement to the game it had not seen around Chicago in nearly a lifetime.
More importantly, the team from the north side generated buzz for the entire game of baseball.
The momentum has not slowed down either. Players, teams, managers, analysts and fans are on the edge of their seats to see what 2017 brings.
And why not? 2016 was a year the naysayers were finally proved wrong.
It was the year prayers and hopes were answered by not only Cubs fans, but Cleveland Indians fans too, who were dying to get back to the most meaningful series in baseball.
The past two seasons have given baseball stories we could only imagine a mere five years ago. The Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs are the past two World Series winners. Let that sink in for a moment.
It is said things come in threes. So, should we be ready for an unexpected team — or a story too good to believe — to take the ropes and dominate 2017?
It is more than a possibility. Perhaps even a promise from the baseball gods. But what powerhouses are ready to regain control and steal the spotlight back?
St Louis. Boston. New York (both teams). San Fransisco. These teams are not going to sit back and let teams pass them by. Money spent, arms used and phone calls dialed have been in the works for these teams this offseason. Let us also not forget the teams in Los Angeles with the Dodgers and Angels.
But spending the big bucks has not resulted in championships. Homegrown talent mixed with strategic signings is the new formula. Draft, develop and sign proven veterans with a lot left in the tank.
The Houston Astros were a team poised to make a run to glory in 2016, but failed to live up to expectations. This is when the organization saw a need for proven experience and excitement.
Quickly signing Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick in free-agency, and trading for former All-Star catcher Brian McCann, the Astros are a team to keep a serious eye on.
It isn’t easy to make calculated decisions like this and win for teams in the MLB.
Ask any team who dished out big bucks to win, now only to be left empty handed in October.
However, the greatest thing about all of that is we can’t predict who is going to be the talk of the town.
Houston picked up valuable assets, but can they stay healthy? Can the Arizona Diamondbacks finally get the production for the dollars they are paying?
Baseball is a numbers game — and not just regarding on-the-field stats. Money talks during the offseason, but wins and losses are all that matter come October.
And that is the best part. 162 games decide where teams land.
And so April 2, we tip our caps to you. Three games to kick off the season starting with the New York Yankees taking on the Tampa Bay Rays. Old division foes head-to-head.
Welcome back, America’s Pastime. We’ve missed you.