Cutting to 25: Opening Day previews for every MLB team

MLBBY TROY PHILLIPS

The start of baseball season has an elusive quality to it for sports fans. Unlike the start of comparable leagues like the NFL or NBA, which enter each year with a roar of anticipation, baseball is content to sneak in the back door with a whimper each April. Lo and behold, Major League Baseball decided to roll out an Astros home game to kick off the 2013 season.

The Final Four has an annual death grip on sports through the first week of April, and so baseball must take a backseat for a few days. There will, however, be a few long Summer months in which baseball is the only thing available in professional athletics, which is usually when fans begin to acknowledge MLB’s existence.

In the meantime, the real action begins today for anyone not residing in Texas. Anyone with a busted bracket like me will appreciate a chance to bask in light of America’s Pastime, at least for a few weeks until the Cubs go bust.

Since every team is required to enter their first contest with 25 men on the roster, I’ve taken the pleasure of writing a preview of all 30 MLB clubs in precisely 25 words. Some may call this concept unnecessarily tedious, and after repeating this exercise so many times I would tend to agree. At any rate, enjoy.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles

The O’s finally broke through last year and put together a playoff caliber season. For similar success, youngsters like Manny Machado need to perform consistently.

Boston Red Sox

It’s hard to remember the last time expectations were this low in Boston, but there’s enough talent still around to finish with a respectable record.

New York Yankees

Yankee Stadium has become a rec center for old men, we can only hope that Jeter, A-Rod and Rivera have something left in the tank.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Moneyball legacy continues in Tampa. There’s no doubting that the Rays’ will get a bang for their buck, but can they survive their division?

Toronto Blue Jays

Most of this year’s off-season noise came from north of the border, but with some of the same players the Marlins comparisons hang ominously.

NL East

Atlanta Braves

Adding the Upton brothers to an already promising batting order coupled with a respectable young pitching staff makes Atlanta a fringe playoff contender at worst.

Miami Marlins

Cleansed of last year’s spending frenzy, the Marlins are back as a “big market club” that can’t spend money because of a terrible fan base.

New York Mets

No Johan Santana, no R.A. Dickey, and no big bats besides David Wright. Temper your expectations, Mets fans, this could be a long several months.

Philadelphia Phillies

The core is aging, but the Phils are coming into April with one of the most complete teams in baseball. The key is staying healthy.

Washington Nationals

Last season’s surprise powerhouse is riding high on expectations, and its’ hard to see them missing the playoffs with such a dominant rotation this season.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox

Experts are predicting Paul Konerko’s decline, but Konerko and the rest of the South Siders make exceeding expectations a near certainty with power and pitching.

Cleveland Indians

There are a good handful of respected names on offense, but starting pitching behind Ubaldo Jimenez will be Cleveland’s Achilles Heel barring multiple breakout performances.

Detroit Tigers

Anything short of a World Series title will be a disappointment in Detroit now that Torii Hunter was brought in to bolster their elite hitters.

Kansas City Royals

Every year, the Royals claw their way closer to a spot in October. James Shields will help them compete for a playoff berth in 2013.

Minnesota Twins

All has gone quiet in Minnesota after last season’s disappointment. Don’t expect much difference this year, even if Justin Morneau finally regains his previous form.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

Finishing near .500 would be a moral victory on the North Side. Small steps are nothing new for Cubs fans, but management must show progress.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds continue adding quality pieces in the off-season while also taking care of their own, which is why they will play into Fall.

Milwaukee Brewers

Not a lot changed during the winter, which is what could keep the Brew Crew from challenging for the division crown despite Ryan Braun’s efforts.

St. Louis Cardinals

No Albert Pujols, no Tony La Russa, no problem. One of baseball’s best farm systems continues to supplement the roster with players that contribute instantly.

AL West

Houston Astros

Sorry Houston, but escaping to the American League won’t do anything to bolster your win total. Can Jose Altuve hit in multiple spots? And pitch?

Los Angeles Angels

No one thought that Albert Pujols would be out shined on the West Coast, but Mike Trout is here to stay. Pitching must hold up.

Oakland Athletics

Billy Beane did it again in 2012 with his patented style of evaluation. No one will be sleeping on the A’s anymore; better be sharp.

Seattle Mariners

It will be an ‘All Hail King Felix’  mantra again for Seattle. Interesting collection of bats, but not nearly enough to contend for a pennant.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers always put a powerful product on the field. Their ability to finish the job in the playoffs remains highly questionable with limited changes.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona always seems to oppose expectations. Using that logic, this will be a strong year for the D’Backs, but it seems doubtful with this roster.

Colorado Rockies

Yes, Todd Helton is still playing in the Mile High City. The amount of pop in the batting order is similarly overlooked, so be vigilant.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have all of their chips at the center of the table with MLB’s highest payroll. Zach Grienke and Adrian Gonzalez will be pivotal.

San Diego Padres

Edison Volquez has had something of a career revival in Southern California, but there’s no escaping the fact that the Padres struggle with run production.

San Francisco Giants

Saving the best for last. Every year, the Giants have a way of sneaking up on flashier teams with a deep rotation and timely hitting.

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