After a long winter of reading about trades, free-agent signings and rumors, baseball fans finally have an opportunity to watch their favorite teams in action. Every general manager has an acquisition that makes him proud. Although most teams will be disappointed in October when they watch the postseason, optimism is in abundance in both the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.
Spring Training is here!
As a child and young adult, I couldn't wait for pitchers and catchers to report. To me, it symbolized the coming of those lazy summer days when I could do mostly what I wanted and listen to my favorite teachers: Vin Scully, Ross Porter, Jerry Doggett, Don Drysdale and Rick Monday.
Now Spring Training doesn't hold the same significance for me. Although I understand that the pitchers need six weeks to build up their arm strength and endurance, I wish Spring Training could be shorter. Frequently I grow tired of meaningless games and long for the serious competition of the regular season.
This spring I am looking forward to seeing many of the clubs. After solely following the Los Angeles Dodgers for the last 33 years, this December I received an opportunity to follow all of the Major League teams and comment on them. Although I will always have a soft spot for the Dodgers, the new opportunity excites me.
I understand the unbalanced schedule creates division rivalries, but seeing the same handful of teams for eighteen or nineteen times a season dampened my enthusiasm when I watched 155 Dodger games annually. Sometimes I felt that I knew nothing about the National League East, but I knew almost as much about the San Francisco Giants as I did the Dodgers.
Now I can see the magnificent starting rotation of the Philadelphia Phillies when I want to. I hope they live up to the amazing hype surrounding them. During the 1990s, I enjoyed watching the starting rotation of the Atlanta Braves. One of my biggest regrets about being born after the golden age of pitching is that I didn't have an opportunity to watch Sandy Koufax, arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history, and Drysdale. The Philly starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton has a chance to become the best starting rotation in baseball history.
For the first time in my life, I will experience the rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Although I have witnessed the well-publicized rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants since I was a child, the rivalry has become calm, especially after the retirements of Tommy Lasorda and Barry Bonds. After Ned Colletti became the Dodger general manager in late 2005, the Dodgers have obtained many former Giants, lessening the rivalry. While Giants fans want to gloat about their 2010 World Series Championship, their first since 1954, the Dodgers organization really doesn't care about it.
I understand the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox is different from the rivalry between the Giants and Dodgers. Other than the geographical battle between two historic American cities, the trade of Babe Ruth to New York from Boston began an 86-year championship drought for Boston. Not to mention the fact that the Yankees have won more World Series titles than any other professional sports franchise.
Over the offseason, the Red Sox spent a ton of money improving themselves. The 2010 season was a major disappointment in Boston when the team didn't reach the playoffs, as they were marred with injuries from April to September.
The Red Sox signed Carl Crawford, who is considered the best left fielder in the game, to a huge contract. They traded for Adrian Gonzalez, a power-hitting first baseman from the San Diego Padres. Now the consensus is that the Red Sox will go to the World Series.
While the Red Sox did everything possible to guarantee a World Series appearance, the Yankees failed to improve their weak starting rotation, their primary objective this offseason. Yes, Brian Cashman tried to lure Cliff Lee to New York, but he didn't succeed. The retirement of Andy Pettitte left the Yankees in a bind. The selection of free-agent pitchers was poor, so the Yankees didn't have many top-level pitchers to choose from.
Not many baseball people think the Yankees will be a factor in the AL East, but I disagree. The Yankees have the strongest bullpen in baseball, especially with the addition of Rafael Soriano, a former Tampa Bay closer. Derek Jeter wants to prove that he deserved his new contract as he collects his 3,000th Major League hit. If both C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett can rebound from disappointing performances in 2010, the Yankees' starting rotation will be satisfactory. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees acquire a starting pitcher at some point during the season.
I also look forward to watching Mike Scioscia manage the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim more frequently. During his playing and managing career, I developed the utmost respect for Scioscia. Every time I watch him manage a game, I feel like I learn something new.
I always will have a soft spot for the Dodgers, but this year I welcome the opportunity to broaden my baseball horizons.
Sarah Morris is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.