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The Greyhound

New storylines to dominate 2014 MLB season

Spring is finally here and the weather is getting warmer (sort of), which means the 2014 Major League Baseball season has arrived. The offseason is over and the teams are wrapping up their Spring Training games, either in the Grapefruit League in Florida or the Cactus League in Arizona.
Believe it or not, the regular season has officially begun already, after the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks twice this past weekend during the opening series in Australia. The remaining teams will finish their exhibition games this week before the regular season resumes next week.
Many players were on the move this offseason, but no team really stood out as the winner in free agency. The New York Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury away from their arch-nemesis and defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, and they also inked Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka.
However, the Bronx Bombers also lost All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano to the Mariners, as well as future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera to retirement. The Yankees made the most moves, but it’s hard to call them “winners” of the offseason.
After a frustrating start to the offseason, in which they traded All-Star closer Jim Johnson to the A’s and had a deal with closer Grant Balfour fall through, the Baltimore Orioles finally made some noise, inking All-Star pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and All-Star outfielder and 2011 ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz.
Jimenez brings longevity to an Orioles starting rotation that struggled at times last year with lack of innings pitched, which in turn put added pressure on their bullpen. If Jimenez can return to his 2010 form, or at least duplicate last year’s performance (182.2 innings pitched; 3.30 ERA) the Orioles will be a much improved ballclub.
The biggest trade of the offseason was probably the Detroit Tigers shipping All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. Fielder faded down the stretch during the Tigers’ ALCS loss to the Red Sox last year, but Detroit will still miss his power.
Kinsler, however, will bring durability and patience to an already formidable Tigers lineup. Kinsler’s career batting average is a pedestrian .273, but his career on-base percentage is .349. He will find ways to get on base and score runs for Detroit, making them the American League favorites yet again.
Perhaps the biggest storyline this season is Derek Jeter’s upcoming retirement. The future Hall of Fame shortstop announced that 2014 will be his last year in the big leagues. A healthy Jeter will go a long way for the Yankees returning to the postseason after last year’s rare absence from October baseball.
Tanaka’s first season in the majors will also be something to watch. With the recent struggles of ace CC Sabathia, the Yankees will be relying heavily on the first-year phenom to anchor the pitching staff. Tanaka is one of the few players on the Yankee roster under the age of 30, so his development will be key. If Tanaka struggles, it could be a rough year for the Bombers, and another October-less season.
The upcoming season should be yet another one filled with thrilling pennant races and October heroics. Regardless of many people’s opinions regarding the lack of parity in the majors, the past five World Series champions missed the playoffs the year before winning it all. What does that mean? Watch out for the Nationals, Orioles, Diamondbacks and Yankees this season. Or possibly everybody. Predictions are below.

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera (Tigers)
NL MVP: Bryce Harper (Nationals)

AL Cy Young: David Price (Rays)
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

2014 World Series: Dodgers over Rays (6 games)

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New storylines to dominate 2014 MLB season