As the snow melts and flowers bloom, Spring is here.
As the March Madness climaxes, the NBA and NHL moves on towards the playoffs, and football fans are now focused on the draft, baseball begins!
Although Major League Baseball doesn't get the headlines nor the lead on ESPN, the innocence and simplicity of the game that has endured throughout its history make it a game that America needs, even if they don't know they need it.
From the hope for every team in spring to the long run of the summer to the sun setting in autumn as Winter nears, baseball fans will at least have their questions of the past several months finally answered as an exciting 2018 season unfolds.
Whether you're a casual baseball fan or a die-hard fan with historic stats tattooed in your brain, here are some of the biggest questions fans have that will be answered in the 2018 MLB season.
1. Will The Yankees Live Up To The Hype?
After reaching Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and acquiring National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, the New York Yankees are expected to become The Evil Empire again in 2018.
Fans are expecting a new rendition of the legendary 1961 Bronx Bombers with Judge and Stanton playing the roles of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, who combined to hit 115 home runs together that season. Catcher Gary Sanchez is even fitting as the third wheel of the Baby Bombers the way Yogi Berra was that year too.
Considering the immense historical precedent and expectations they're facing, it's almost unfair and impossible to live up to them. If they don't win the World Series this year then many will view the 2018 Yankees as a disappointment. Yet again, the late great George Steinbrenner had the same attitude toward his team throughout his entire tenure as the owner. He wrote a public apology letter to the fans after they lost the 1981 World Series to the Dodgers.
Even with these expectations, it’s also the debut season of new Yankee manager Aaron Boone. Boone is only the Yank’s third manager of the past 22 seasons.
2. Can The Nationals Get Over The Playoff Hump?
From the Walter Johnson-led Washington Senators that moved to become the Twins to the New Washington Senators (once managed by Ted Williams) that moved to become the Texas Rangers to the current Washington Nationals formerly known as the Montreal Expos, all Washington DC baseball teams have combined to win ONE postseason series, the 1924 World Series against John McGraw’s New York baseball Giants.
New Nationals manager Dave Martinez made the ingenious decision to bring Camels to spring training to symbolically announce that the Nats are going to get over their playoff “hump”. This totally means that they’re going to win a series right?
Despite having generational talents like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg and a future Hall of Famer in Max Scherzer, the Nationals failed to advance past the 1st round of the playoffs four times.
Almost all the experts predict the Nats to win the NL Eastern Division again, but if they don't advance to the World Series or National League Championship Series in 2018 then they'll continue to be labeled as Chokers. Every team has only so-long a window to capture a championship, and the Nationals can make the past go away by winning the World Series. And with Bryce Harper entering free agency after this season, that window could shut very soon.
3. What Major Mid-Season Trades Will Occur?
The baseball offseason was one of the least productive in history with key free agents not getting signed until deep into spring training and hardly any trades happened.
A part of this is because of the historic free agent class set for the 2018 offseason with immense young talents like Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and Manny Machado set to hit the market next year.
Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado will be one of the biggest free agents in the next offseason and was in the trade-rumor mill all of this offseason. If the Orioles are losing and out of contention, will they offer Machado as a mercenary to a contending team?
What teams will try to unload contracts and open positions for big free agents?
And what teams will trade for veteran mercenaries to help them win the World Series? As we saw last year, a big part of the Astros championship last year was acquiring Justin Verlander who became the ALCS MVP in one of the best mid-season trades of all-time.
4. Will The Dodgers Rebound From Losing The World Series?
While they're one of baseball's most historic franchises, the Dodgers' recent history has them as one of the most snakebit franchises. They finally broke their 29-year World Series appearance drought but lost to the Houston Astros in brutal fashion.
Having won five straight NL West division titles and hungry teams like the Diamondbacks and Rockies on their tail, it's possible the Dodgers could take a step back with the hangover of the World Series loss.
Can Clayton Kershaw keep Los Angeles's window for a title open and shed his reputation as a big game loser?
While it's hard to get back to the mountaintop and get to the peak, it's been done before:
Peyton Manning did it in 9th season when he finally got through the Patriots and captured the Super Bowl.
LeBron James did it in his 9th season when he won his first title after losing in the finals twice.
All Kershaw has to do is win the World Series one-time and he'll cement himself as one of the greatest pitchers of all-time.
5. Which Team Will Turn It Around This Year?
There are a dozen or so teams that baseball fans expect to be in the hunt in the playoffs but there will inevitably be a team that comes out of nowhere to get into the race.
Last year the Minnesota Twins went from over 100 losses all the way to playoffs, so who will be this year's Twins?
The young Phillies who've quietly rebuilt their roster and signed former Cy Yong winner Jake Arrieta?
The San Francisco Giants who've made rebounding in even year seasons a dynasty?
Can the Mets resurrect the talent that took them to the World Series not too long ago?
If you're a baseball fan and your team is not in the hunt, the surprise team is usually the best team to root for come October.