There just aren't many better days than Opening Day. For the next seven months, we're going to have baseball, and it all starts now. Almost as good is that we have no idea how it's all going to play out.We think the Astros, Cubs, Yankees and Nationals are going to
There just aren't many better days than Opening Day. For the next seven months, we're going to have baseball, and it all starts now. Almost as good is that we have no idea how it's all going to play out.
We think the Astros, Cubs, Yankees and Nationals are going to be really good, but attempting to pick the 10 postseason teams is pure guesswork. Who had the Twins, Rockies and Diamondbacks making the playoffs last season when the first pitch was thrown? That's the beauty of sports, and on Opening Day 2018, here are 10 reasons to be excited for what is to come.
1. Opening Day itself
Few things are more thrilling than the sight of a ballpark decked out for Opening Day with bunting hung and the diamond meticulously manicured. No other day of the season can come close to matching the sense of expectation. This season, for the first time in 50 years, every team was scheduled to play on Opening Day (the Nationals and Reds game in Cincinnati has been postponed to Friday due to weather).
2. Shohei Ohtani
Baseball hasn't had a true two-way player in 99 years -- think Babe Ruth, 1919 -- and no one knows if the Angels' Ohtani can do it. On Opening Day, that simply does not matter. What does matter is that the 23-year-old rookie is going to give it a try and has a chance to have a major impact on games -- and The Game. We will watch and root for him and be fascinated by his quest. Ohtani is set to make his first start as a pitcher on Sunday and will likely be the Halos' designated hitter before that.
3. Red Sox-Yankees
This may be as good as the rivalry has ever been, because these are (on paper) two of baseball's five best teams, two that appear to have no weaknesses and would be wildly disappointed with anything less than a World Series. They do not meet one another until April 10, but the scoreboard watching begins now.
4. Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa
No two players represent baseball's wave of youth better than Lindor and Correa. They debuted within six days of one another in 2015, and their franchises were swept up in their brilliance as well as their personalities and fearlessness. Do not be surprised if their teams -- Lindor's Indians and Correa's Astros -- see one another in October.
5. Here's to the Twins and Brewers and going for it
Both had great offseasons in making impact additions to their rosters, and in doing so, sending a message to fans and players alike that they see the 2018 season as an opportunity. While the "big markets" usually steal the offseason headlines, no teams "went for it" more than these two over the winter.
6. Bright days ahead in Philly, Atlanta and on the South Side of Chicago
The Phillies, Braves and White Sox may be the three teams about which we know the least, at least in terms of winning in 2018. But they're really close, all three loaded with young talent that will be scattered up and down the rosters on Opening Day. Best of all, there's more on the way, with the likes of Atlanta's Ronald Acuna Jr. (MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect) and Chicago's Eloy Jimenez (No. 4) set to arrive soon. Will they be powerhouses in 2018? One thing the Royals, Cubs and Astros have taught us in recent years is not to underestimate what young talent is capable of.
7. Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and the quest for a ring
Kershaw and Scherzer are the defining pitchers of their generation and two of the faces of their sport. Both have already punched their tickets to the Hall of Fame or are very close to doing so, in part, because they are two of just 10 pitchers who've won at least three Cy Young Awards. What they've not won is a World Series. Scherzer is 33, Kershaw is 30 and their teams -- the Nationals and Dodgers -- are solid favorites to win their divisions again and play some more October hardball.
8. It's wide open
We are asked for predictions on Opening Day. We give them without confidence because the race for playoff berths has never been so wide open. That's why the Cardinals, Red Sox, etc., may look like fairly solid postseason picks, but only a fool would discount the Mariners, Rays, Rangers, etc. At least 22 teams will take the field on Opening Day seeing a reasonable path to the postseason. Sure, some of them are long shots. On the other hand, that's the very reason there has never been a better time to be a baseball fan.
9. Mookie Betts and Lance McCullers, baseball's most intriguing players in 2018
Betts is 25, McCullers 24. Betts finished second in the American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting in 2016, so he certainly does not qualify as an under-the-radar performer. That he's coming off a disappointing -- by his own high standards -- '17 season only makes him more motivated to have a giant '18 for the Red Sox. As for McCullers, he showed flashes of brilliance during the Astros' run to a championship last fall. While teammates Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel are the more popular AL Cy Young Award picks in '18, McCullers shouldn't be overlooked.
10. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton side by side
Admit it, you're going to watch. I mean, who won't? Just pitchers eyeing Judge and Stanton in the on-deck circle swinging bats should be worth a couple of wins. The Yankees might not get a Mantle-Maris do-over, but it's going to be some fun.
Happy Opening Day.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.