A week from now, it will be all Twins all the time here at Twinkie Town. Before that glorious moment, I’d like to take a bird’s-eye view of my most compelling non-MN baseball storylines heading into the 2023 season.
Let’s go division-by-division...
- Call it rampant homer-ism, but I truly believe the Twins will win this division by 5+ games. As Brandon Brooks’ Rival Roundups have chronicled for weeks, the Royals and Tigers simply aren’t ready to make noise. The White Sox should get a boost without a near-octogenarian at the helm, but it would take a perfect bill of health—they have no depth—to vault them atop this heap. The Guardians always hang around thanks to Terry Francona’s expert managing, but they can’t possibly have the same luck/magic as last year—right?! Both in terms of talent and depth, I honestly see our bunch as the class of the division.
- In ‘22, Aaron Judge put together a historic slugging campaign. Will he be able to follow it up with a suitable encore? Despite the pinstriped attire that usually evokes revolt from Twins Territory, Judge is the rare Yankee I can pretty much unabashedly cheer for. That is, until he’s whalloping against the Twins—which will happen early (twice in April) this season.
- This division might produce the best and worst MLB squads. The defending-champion Astros have the strongest roster in the Bigs, remaining a formidable machine even after the cheating scandal. The Oakland Athletics? Well, pretty much the exact opposite of all that. With a projected payroll of $58 million, they are clearly turtling until either getting a new stadium in the Bay Area or absconding like their NFL Raider counterparts.
- The Cardinals had a magical 2022 propelled by an Albert Pujols renaissance and Yadier Molina farewell tour. They will almost certainly come back to earth a bit—but will anyone else in this mediocre grouping take advantage? Our easterly neighbors seem like the best bet to make it a race, what with the Cubs, Pirates, & Reds mired in various stages of rebuild.
- Mets owner Steve Cohen is spending money like the Million Dollar Man and lapping the competition. Yet, a division title is far from certain. Atlanta is set up with a core group under contract for years, while the Fighting’ Phils rode a second-half surge to the World Series last year. Even the Marlins may finally be onto something. Plus, the “Mets are gonna Mets” as the saying goes and that has already begun: Edwin Diaz’s WBC celebratory season-ending injury and recent ankle twist for Brandon Nimmo.
- Despite the Dodgers winning 111 games in ‘22, LA didn’t do their normal “improve everything everywhere all at once” routine this offseason, and rotation leader Walker Buehler is out for awhile. The San Diego Padres may now have the most talented roster in this division. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson famously noted: “When you strike at a king, you must kill him”. The Friars haven’t quite been able to do that as of yet.
Those are some of the MLB storylines I’ll be following in 2023—what are yours?