With Season 32 just days away from beginning, here are ten things to watch going into Opening Day:
1.) Can the Magma actually get better?
5 seasons ago, the Syracuse Magma (now residing in Minnesota) won an impressive 111 games, dominating the NL North, winning the National League Pennant before losing the World Series to the Chicago Fatties. Despite the Championship defeat, it seemed clear that the next great Plumpy dynasty was upon us. Fast forward to Season 32, and the Magma are coming off of an astonishing 120 win season, that was ended abruptly in an astonishing second round play-off defeat. Now two full seasons removed from it’s last NLCS appearance, the Season 29 champs have to be wondering if this once assumed “dynasty” is turning into an incredible team that was bitten by bad post-season luck too many times. With the past 5 NL Cy Young and past 4 NL MVP award winners on the roster, the Magma aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Anything short of a World Championship in Season 32 will be a disappointment.
2.) Will Boise land a stud with the first overall pick despite 0-0 scouting?
Never before in league history has there been an owner with the top pick so dedicated to winning now, and so disinterested in the draft. Bob’s Basturds have a long history of playing to win now, regardless of the future, which has been taken to new heights this season. Boise has elected to totally punt all amateur scouting, despite having the top pick in the draft, in order to free up more money to sign free agents. With 0-0 scouting, will the Basturds even see a star-caliber player, and if they do somehow manage to draft one, will they even want him?
3.) Can Nashville repeat it’s outstanding season?
In Season 26, jquick1 took over one of the most badly damaged franchises in league history, with the previous owner having saddled the Merchants with multiple, multi-year, multi-million dollar contract for minor league players. With only a handful of future ML prospects in the farm system, the Merchant of Nashville set upon a lengthy rebuilding process. After 4 fourth places finishes in 5 seasons, Nashville broke through the glass ceiling of the ultra-competitive AL south, winning the division by an astonishing 16 games, and clinching the top seed in the American League. Despite a disappointing second round play-off exit, the Merchants have more top prospects ready to contribute at the ML level this season, and are ready to take the next step towards being perennial contenders.
4.) Will Little Rock and San Juan bounce back?
Speaking of the AL South, most pundits had the ‘N Roll and Elephant Seals finishing 1-2 in some order in the division heading into last season. Free agency hit both teams hard though, as San Juan didn’t land an impact pitcher, and Little Rock lost Roger Conroy. Those losses, combined with some shocking under-performances by key players (Fernando Manto and Einar Rivera, we’re looking in your direction) kept both teams from making the play-offs. For San Juan, it was their first missed post-season opportunity in 14 seasons. While Little Rock appears ready to improve from within, San Juan has been a major player in free agency, signing four veteran SPs, including last season’s World Series clinching Game 6 winner, Nicholas Sampson. At some point the rebuild will have to happen in San Juan, but today... today is not that day!
5.) Which teams are most likely to end their post-season droughts?
The Syracuse Wiffleballers franchise won three of the first ten World Series... and haven’t been back to the play-offs since. With new management in its second season, and uber prospect Myron Byrnes ready for ML action, it’s only a matter of time before the Wiffleballers are in the Dance.
In Season 13, the Helena Hellas franchise won the World Series... and haven’t been back to the play-offs since. In fact, the Hellas haven’t finished higher than third in the ultra-competitive AL West since that World Series title. That said, foodew has done a fantastic job retooling this franchise with top prospects, none more valuable than Enos Leonard who is just entering his prime. With an 87 win season under their belts, the Hellas may be more poised than any other team to end its post-season drought.
The Washington D.C. Snipers franchise has been waiting 10 seasons for a play-off team. With the trade of Ace Shelley Olson, it appears the team is re-tooling for the future. With co-Ace Patrick Graham still very young and in his prime, and several top prospects in the farm system, this team should be ready for the post-season in the near future, just not this season.
6.) Can anyone dethrone Pedro Martin from the top of the NL MVP ballot?
Probably not, but we can hope, can’t we?
7.) Who will be competitive in the NL West?
Vancouver has definitely been on the rise lately, but Arizona has perhaps the best pitching prospect in the game in:
8.) Will a team reach .500 in the AL East?
Probably not, but we can hope, can’t we?
9.) Which division will total more wins: the NL East or the AL South?
More importantly, will either division ever total 400 wins in a season? With Washington in re-tool mode, the AL South is the front runner for most total wins amongst the super divisions, but Louisville, Scranton and Durham will all have something to say about that.
10.) Can Scranton and Oakland go back to the World Series?
It’s been seven seasons since a World Series winner has gone back to back, and Oakland is in the aforementioned murderous AL South. That said, both teams have reloaded this off-season and will have legitimate shots at going back to the promised land.