What I’m looking forward to this season

Taking a quick swing through the wild world of baseball and making just enough contact to put a Short Stuff blog post in play …

Like every die-hard baseball fan, Opening Day feels a lot like Christmas morning did when I was a kid. Full of anticipation and excitement, wondering if I’ll get some of the things I’m hoping for while crossing my fingers that I’ll be surprised by something new and amazing.

The season starts today and here’s my rundown of some things I’m looking forward to this season and other random thoughts:

* How good can the Phillies rotation be? I’m sure that they won’t be able to live up to the hype over the entire season but I can see them going on a few great streaks that’ll leave rival fans jealous.

* Same goes for the A’s rotation. It seems like injuries always undo Oakland’s hopes but if the pitching staff can stay healthy they could really be something special.

* An obvious thing to look forward to is seeing whether the Giants can repeat. Smart money says they won’t because it’s a long shot to have almost everything go right two years in a row.  I love the fact that they’re being aggressive and opening the season with stud prospect Brandon Belt in the starting lineup.  Of course, if the Giants go down in flames I’d be the last person to complain.

* I can’t wait for the Royals’ season to go down the drain because it could let fans everywhere get a good look at their loaded farm system in action.  Kansas City has been a baseball wasteland for too long and I’d love to see a wave of home-grown talent turn that franchise back into a contender.  It’s time to see whether all of general manager Dayton Moore’s talk about “The Process” was B.S. or not.

* How many times can the legendary Peter Gammons italicize “know” in his MLB.com columns this season?  I love reading almost anything Gammons writes (even his random “ppkdg hlfhdshg lnfgn” butt-posts to Twitter) but I’m starting to get amused by his frequent use of know.

* How many times can blogger Murray Chass make an ass of himself in his blog? That’s right old man, you’re a blogger just like the rest of us.

* How many times can the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins sound like a cranky old fart in his blogs and newspaper columns?  Chass and Jenkins often come across as dinosaurs roaring in futile anger at an asteroid hurtling toward the Earth.  Sabermetrics and sports blogs are part of the discussion now guys, deal with it.  If you’re a baseball fan all the freely available news, stats and opinions about baseball online make this a golden age to passionately follow the game.  But maybe that’s why Chass and Jenkins are so bent out of shape.  No one needs them anymore.

* How many endless pitching changes and different lineups can Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa throw out there as he tries to squeeze a playoff run out of what could be his final season working with Albert Pujols?  I hope St. Louis can make a run at the playoffs but I think losing ace Adam Wainwright is going to be too  much to overcome.

* How long before trade rumors start swirling around impending free agent Prince Fielder? I know I picked the Brewers as a contender this season but I could just as easily see them falling apart if Zack Greinke flakes out, Rickie Weeks gets hurt and closer John Axford flops in the ninth inning.  If that happens all eyes will be on the top trade target in baseball.

* I’m going to roll the dice and bet on Marlins man-child slugger Mike Stanton dominating Baseball Tonight’s homer highlights on ESPN. I can easily see the kid going to the opposite field and hammering some splash shots in San Francisco.

* What are the chances that Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel and Frank Francisco are still playing for the Blue Jays at the end of the season? Those guys have “trade bait” written all over them.

* Same goes for Heath Bell in San Diego. If I was a Padres fan I’d be depressed going from a near-miss in last season’s suprise run at the NL West title to a likely last place finish this year with stars Adrian Gonzalez and Bell thriving elsewhere.  I feel your pain Friars fans, I’ve seen way too many stars shipped out of Oakland over the years.

* Who’s going to be the first manager to get canned?  If the A’s stay healthy and get off to a slow start I’d like to see Bob Geren get a pink slip but he probably has more job security than just about any manager in the game. It pays to be the best man at your general manager’s wedding, doesn’t it?

* Can high priced, wildly frustrating Daisuke Matsuzaka deliver a solid season for the Red Sox?  I have faith in former A’s pitching coach Curt Young working some magic with Dice-K.  Just changing Matsuzaka’s between-starts routine in spring training seems to be paying off with imxproved results.

* How many Yankees and Red Sox games can ESPN broadcast?  I don’t know about you, but I like seeing teams from all around the league and it’d be nice if the good folks in Bristol gave us a little more variety.

* Speaking of ESPN, I’m looking forward to Joe Morgan-free broadcasts.  Now that Morgan is out of the picture all we need to do is find some way to get Tim McCarver off the air and national broadcasts will be a little less annoying for everyone in America.

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