|MLB Storylines To Watch in 2008||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on March 26, 2008
The new season of baseball will be compelling both for the games played on the field and for the secondary storylines that will affect the game in 2008 - from the possibility of the first real Red Sox dynasty to the changes that new owners and new ballparks are bringing to the game. The secondary plots and drama will also make for a great season.
Here are some of the stories to watch:
1) Is this the beginning of the Red Sox dynasty? Certainly the Red Sox were far and away the best team in baseball last year and by a good margin. But things have changed, the Yankees’ pitching has become a question mark, while the rising of Detroit, Cleveland and even Anaheim should offer the Red Sox some pretty significant obstacles in returning to the Fall Classic. And even if they get there they probably should expect more competition from the NL entry than they had last season. So how good are the Red Sox? It’s a question they’ll have to answer every single day.
2) Can the Mets bounce back after their historic collapse? The Mets are trying hard to put 2007 behind them. They come into 2008 after making the biggest trade of the off-season and landing Johan Santana, the premier pitcher of the American league. Even with Santana leading the charge, the Mets will need to dodge injury and age related issues - but if they can do that, no one in the National League looks as good on paper.
3) New ownerships making their voices heard. New owners in Tampa seem to have assembled a pretty good team and seem to be taking a new attitude towards building towards the future. They increased the salary of the team by more than a third, but that still leaves the team towards the bottom of the MLB salary pyramid. Still that money went to long term deals for very talented youngsters.
4) The new ballpark in DC will play home to the Nationals. Their ownership, with just a year of experience under their belt, seems to be taking baby steps towards gaining some credibility for their organization. The cash influx from the new park may well play into that, as will trading with an eye looking a year or two down the road. It could open the door for the Nats to make some deals and having a credible season. In any case the future looks a lot brighter.
5) Highly touted rookies. 2007 produced a bumper crop of top level rookies and 2008 promises to be just as good. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about Baltimore’s Adam Jones, Florida’s Cameron Maybin, Tampa’s Evan Longoria, Twins Carlos Gomez, the Reds quintet of Joey Votto of Johnny Cuerto, Homer Bailey, Edison Volquez and Jay Bruce, or so many others - the rookie seems poised to make an impact in 2008. Almost every team has someone special to watch.
6) The wild, wild NL West. Who is the class of the west? Will it be last year’s surprising team, the Rockies, who come in just slightly changed? The growing up Arizona Diamondbacks who added a top rank pitcher? The pitching heavy Padres? Or the Dodgers who have added power in Andruw Jones as well as a new manager to take the team to the next level. We know it’s not the Giants, but that’s all we know. This is a race to watch and it could be the most exciting anywhere in MLB.
7) How much better are the Devil Rays and the Blue Jays? You have probably heard the hype this offseason - the Rays are expected to be a better than .500 team, the Jays predicted to finish in second but is it all hype or are these teams that much better than they have ever been? Certainly this Rays team has more talent than they ever had at one time and talent with upside, that promises much. As for the Jays - well if everyone is healthy they could be good, very good, but that good? It should be worth watching.
8) Comeback and bounce back players. Not only are players like Richie Sexson and Andruw Jones coming off terrible seasons but some old timers are trying to come back too. Take a look to see if Juan Gonzalez or Bret Boone makes it back from retirement, to join Troy Percival who already has a job.
9) Growing up together. There are so many young teams in baseball right now where everyone is essentially coming up together. The Brewers were a surprise last year but this year the talented youth movement includes teams such as the Reds, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Twins, and Devil Rays all of whom will take vast steps forward and may even be poised to contend.
10) Steroids and suspensions. We’re still waiting for the fallout from the Mitchell Report - Are there going to be suspensions? Penalties? New testing methods? Is Congress going to legislate a policy or are they willing to give baseball more rope when it comes to clamping down on performance enhancing drugs? No doubt we’ll get more names, more allegations and even more controversy. Even if it’s not good baseball it makes for entertaining theater.