With Easter and the baseball season dawning simultaneously, is there any better feeling? A few thrilling days of MLB action are in the books, so here are a few of my thoughts.
1. Giancarlo Stanton will improve in New York. After hitting 59 home runs in a career-best, NL MVP 2017 season, Stanton’s stock may have been at an all-time high this offseason, but it has not yet peaked.
As a designated hitter in a bandbox park protected in the lineup by fellow studs, Stanton is primed to put up even bigger numbers this year with the Yankees–a team playing with championship desires all season long.
His two-homer show on Opening Day was certainly the welcome Yankee fans were hoping for…and twisted the knife embedded in the dorsal of Miami’s fanbase. But…
2. Derek Jeter did the right thing. Fact: had the Marlins not traded Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon in the offseason, they would have been much better off in 2018. They may have even had postseason potential. Also fact: Jeffrey Loria had buried the organization in a serious cavern out of which which the only first step was a complete rebuild.
The Fish may have only been a few pitchers away from a season of success, but without the payroll or pitchers on the market to fill the voids, Jeter’s hands were tied. It’s just unfortunate that the return for Stanton (arguably the greatest Marlin in history) couldn’t have been anything more than paltry.
This may be a long season (and the fact that its literal first pitch was driven into the Marlins Park seats by Cubs center fielder Ian Happ is a perfect microcosm of that), but the long-term contention of this club is much more promising than it had been under Loria. It’ll take some time, but the playoffs will return to Miami.
This season, though, the playoffs will almost certainly return to Washington where…
3. Adam Eaton is what the Nationals need to get over the hump. Save the Game 5’s against the Cardinals (2012) and Cubs (2017), the Nationals’ biggest NLDS impediment has been their poorly-timed offensive slumps.
Offense, of course, starts at the top. And if Adam Eaton’s opening series table-setting (6-for-8, 6 R, 3 RBI through Saturday) is replicated even remotely in postseason, Washington’s offense will feast when it counts and finally (hopefully) reach the NLCS.
More so, if Trea Turner, a talented but young bat, can focus more on being a “pure hitter” as manager Dave Martinez dubbed it Saturday when he batted the shortstop sixth, and worry less about the nuances of a leadoff role, his talents can be harvested more organically while he still develops.
Especially while rocking knee-high socks, Eaton’s dynamic presence at the top of the lineup conjures memories of another leadoff lefty speedster, which reminds me…
4. I don’t want Ichiro to be done. The Japanese baseball legend mused last season that he wants to play until he’s 50 years old. Realistically, his career won’t stretch quite that long. But at 44, the Mariners brought him back for a Seattle victory lap that I hope lasts longer than just the 2018 season.
Signed late, he had a shortened formal Spring Training, so he may get off to a slow start. But with his fist hit of the season and a robbed homer in left field Saturday at Safeco, Ichiro is showing he’s still got a lot left in the tank. And who wouldn’t want to see him empty it out?