The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

MLB Preview

“Opening day should be a national holiday!” Emilio Gomez ’15 said to me before our interview had even started.

And why not? If nothing else, Major League Baseball season opening day marks the end of winter and what better reason could there be for a national celebration. As the weather gets warmer and flowers begin to bloom, the annual spring debut of Major League Baseball is upon us. The season, which starts this Sunday, is sure to bring a huge amount of excitement and equal amounts of disappointment to the many baseball fans here on campus.

In 2014, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series for the third time in five years. However, with the worst record in Spring Training, expectations may need to be tempered in the City by the Bay, bringing hope for fans of every Major League team. Even fans of the Chicago Cubs, a team that has not won the World Series in 107 years, have reason to be hopeful. With a new manager in Joe Maddon, an ace starter in Jon Lester and a slew of top prospects, including last year’s Minor League Player of the Year Kris Bryant, hopes are high on Chicago’s Northside.

Grinnell baseball head coach Tim Hollibaugh, who grew up in Northern Indiana, is an avid Cubs fan and is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season.

“I think the Cubs will do better than they’ve done in the past but you have to be realistic with your expectations when you have a new manager,” Hollibaugh said.

Hollibaugh predicts the Los Angeles Angels, led by Mike Trout and the Washington Nationals, led by Stephen Strasburg, to be the top teams in their respective leagues. Experts on websites such as ESPN and Bleacher Report are also including the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers as World Series contenders.

Gomez is a supporter of the woebegone Houston Astros, who have the dismal reputation of being the worst team of the decade. While Gomez is far from an optimist, he does believe the Astros are on the right track.

“2017, mark my words, they’ll be in the playoffs,” Gomez said.

Perhaps because of his team’s futility, Gomez has become nostalgic for a time in baseball that most are eager to forget.

“The Steroid Era was so much fun, it really was. We dig the long balls,” Gomez said in reference to the period between the mid ’90s and early 2000s in which countless of Major League players took performance-enhancing drugs. The result was an era in baseball that saw an unprecedented number of homeruns hit by players like Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.

The Boston Red Sox have been pegged by many experts to have a highly successful season ahead of them. In a strange turn of events, the Red Sox have gone from worst to first to worst again in the past three seasons. The year they finished first, 2013, they won the World Series. The Red Sox are one of the most popular Major League teams, with millions of fans nationwide. One such fan happens to be Professor Tyler Roberts, chair of Grinnell’s Religious Studies Department. Roberts has been a Red Sox fan since he was seven years old and claims to be “obsessed” with his team. Roberts openly admits that “there are more emotional ups and downs” during the season than during the off-season.

Roberts concedes that following his East Coast team can be a little difficult in Iowa but with the Internet, this has become easier to do.

“I can read the Boston Globe every morning, which I really only do during the baseball season and only read the sports page,” Roberts said.

Aside from team accomplishments, the season is sure to bring more spectacular achievements from the two reigning Most Valuable Players. Last year’s American League MVP Mike Trout, of the Los Angeles Angles, is just 23 but has already cemented his status as the game’s best player. With a WAR (Wins Above Average Replacement) of 27, over the past three seasons Trout has compiled a historically good start to a career.

In the National League, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers gained the distinction of being the first pitcher since 1968 to win both the National Cy Young and MVP awards. With most experts predicting Kershaw to take home his fourth Cy Young award this season, the Dodger ace should be fun to watch as he continues his Hall of Fame-bound career and hopefully leads Los Angeles to a World Series title.

No matter what team you root for, this baseball season is sure to bring ample triumph and heartbreak. So get ready to celebrate the glorious upcoming faux-holiday that is opening day.

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