30 teams, 30 first impressions
Three or four games obviously don’t tell us anything. They didn’t really tell us anything last year, when there were only 60 games, and getting back to a 162-game season tell us even less. But honestly: What’s the fun in that?
That’s to say: Maybe we haven’t learned anything, but we sure can draw some first impressions. So here are one weekend’s worth of first impressions. They might not mean anything in September. But it sure feels like they do right now.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Here comes Vlad
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. might be the guy we’ve been waiting for this year. In the opening series against the Yankees he reached base in half of his plate appearances and hit a homer. He looks fit and motivated and downright scary. And remember: He just turned 22.
Orioles: There may be no better story in baseball this year than Trey Mancini
Orioles fans haven’t been able to welcome back Mancini after missing last year while fighting colon cancer, but it was obvious from the get-go that you’re going to get a warm feeling in your soul every time Mancini comes to the plate. Also: His team is 3-0!
Rays: Tyler Glasnow might be the next Rays Cy Young Award winner
Glasnow has long struggled to line up his stuff with his results, but he looked downright unhittable in his first appearance. Is this the year it all happens?
Red Sox: Wait … is the offense the problem?
The Red Sox pitching sure was a disaster last season, but the Red Sox somehow scored only five runs this weekend. Against the Orioles. At home. Are we sure they’re not finishing in last again?
Yankees: Gary Sánchez may be back
The rest of the Yankees didn’t hit that well this weekend, but Sánchez sure did, launching two homers and driving in three of the eight runs the Yankees scored. There are always ups and downs with Sánchez, but if his bat is back, this lineup is even more terrifying.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: Eddie Rosario looks like a keeper
Cleveland will take any outfielder it can find, and new addition Rosario was the best hitter they had this weekend, driving in four runs against Detroit.
Royals: The offensive additions seem to be working
The Royals are averaging nine runs a game. And wait until Andrew Benintendi gets going.
Tigers: Starting pitching sure looks like it’ll be the strength
Sixteen innings from their starters, three earned runs. That will win you a lot of series like the one they just won against Cleveland.
Twins: Byron Buxton is a monster (when healthy)
We knew this, of course, but he hit the ball hard all weekend, with two homers, and even a stolen base for good measure.
White Sox: Tony La Russa may have a learning curve
La Russa is a Hall of Famer, and this may all work out. But his first series showed some rust, from a misunderstanding of a new rule about how much time he had to challenge a call to intentionally walking Albert Pujols like it’s 2011. It is not 2011.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: If Shohei Ohtani is going to rewrite the rules of baseball, maybe you should rewrite some of your own rules, too
It was remarkable Sunday night to watch what everyone is wishing the future of baseball could be -- magical athletes like Ohtani rewriting the script on everything you thought you knew -- come into direct conflict with the thinking of the past. Ohtani's brilliant, mind-bending night -- a bomb of a homer! total dominance on the mound! how many pitches does this guy have? -- ended with manager Joe Maddon, trying so desperately to get his starter a win (a stat that seems particularly outdated when contrasted with Ohtani's revolution) that the two-way player ended up in harm's way, culminating in him being undercut on a play at the plate. Even if Ohtani is OK, it's a reminder that there might not be a "right" way to handle him, at least using the rules that have governed baseball throughout its history.
A’s: The Astros, as ever, are a problem
The A’s won the division last year, finally passing the Astros. Since then, they’ve played eight games against Houston, and lost seven. And they’re already four games out of first!
Astros: The Astros are BACK, baby!
Houston isn't just 4-0, it has five different regulars with OPS over 1.000. Who needs George Springer?
Mariners: Mitch Haniger can do many Mitch Haniger things again
It had been since June 6, 2019 that Haniger made it into a big league game. But he looked terrific all weekend, both at bat and on the field. We sure all did miss him.
Rangers: Joey Gallo looks like Joey Gallo again
Gallo looked like a budding superstar who was starting to put it all together before an injury derailed his breakout season in 2019. But he looked like that rising star again during the first weekend … which potential trade partners have definitely noticed.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: The runs aren’t going to come as easily this season
The MV3 of Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna went 3-for-32 this weekend, and the Braves, accordingly, scored only three runs.
Marlins: Exciting young starting pitching can go away fast
The excitement around the Marlins this offseason was mostly inspired by their young rotation. But now two of those pitchers, Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sánchez, are already dealing with injuries. And we’re one weekend into the season.
Mets: Francisco Lindor isn’t going anywhere!
The Mets didn’t get to play any games this weekend, but with the announcement of the Lindor extension, it was still unquestionably a positive weekend for the Mets.
Phillies: The bullpen is fixed!
The nightmare that was the 2020 bullpen looks to be in the rearview mirror: Phillies relievers didn’t give up a run in 7 1/3 innings.
Nationals: We’re not through all this yet
Things are looking better, COVID-wise, in the country, but the virus is still quite prevalent, as the Nationals have unfortunately been reminded.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Wait, Josh Hader throws 100 now?
Hader was already historically dominant. And now he can do that. Hitters didn’t stand a chance.
Cardinals: The rotation may end up being the problem skeptics thought it would be
The Cardinals’ three starters this weekend, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martínez, threw a total of 12 innings and gave up 16 earned runs.
Cubs: Jake Arrieta just missed the Cubs uniform, apparently
Arrietta looked like the old Cy Young-winning Arrieta in a breezy Saturday win over the Pirates. If he can be a semblance of his old self, that solves a lot of problems for this rotation.
Pirates: Ke'Bryan Hayes is hurt? Oh goodness
Remember how every preview said the main thing worth watching in Pittsburgh this year was Hayes? Well, now he’s on the injured list already.
Reds: Nick Castellanos is a firecracker
Castellanos ignited a brawl (and probably shouldn’t have been the only player ejected) and absolutely torched Cardinals pitching all weekend. Is he going to be the spark that keeps Cincinnati in contention?
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Ketel Marte has returned!
Madison Bumgarner didn’t quite make it back, but Marte, a former MVP candidate, smashed the ball all weekend.
Dodgers: Julio Urías is stretching out
The Dodgers’ fourth starter (!!!) threw seven innings for the first time in his career on Sunday and struck out six, giving up just three hits. Cool, the Dodgers have something else going right.
Giants: Buster Posey used the year off well
Posey homered in his first at-bat and looked spry and youthful all weekend. Remember him? Won an MVP? Three World Series? Good player.
Padres: The Padres’ ace is … Joe Musgrove!
After countless discussions about whether Yu Darvish was the ace for San Diego or Blake Snell was, Musgrove went out and outpitched them both (6 IP, 8 Ks, 3 H). To be fair, Snell was pulled one out from his first win, which must have felt familiar.
Rockies: They cannot control cats
The cat escaped! It is possible the most thrilling storyline of this season will be whether it returns.