The baseball season begins Sunday, and by Monday evening, every MLB team will have played a game. Some teams are trying to win a World Series this year. Some teams are perfectly happy with finishing last as they try to rebuild their whole franchise, Cubs and Astros style. But there is a reason to watch every team this season. There is joy to be had everywhere. Here's a look at a great reason for fans to watch every team in 2017.
Baltimore Orioles. Manny Machado is one of those once-in-a-generation players whom we'd all be losing our minds over even more if Mike Trout didn't exist. The Orioles have a Brooks Robinson who hits like peak Cal Ripken and he's only 24 years old. There is much talk about whether or not the Orioles will pony up the cash to keep him in Baltimore. But that has nothing to do with now. Now you just get to watch him every day. Also: Don't forget that Captain America plays for your team, too.
Adam Jones is Captain America pt 2 pic.twitter.com/Uz6FzbuTsD- Athlete Threads (@Athlete_Threads) March 24, 2017
Boston Red Sox. For the past half-decade, it has been worth the price of admission to watch Chris Sale, solely, even when there wasn't much else happening on Chicago's South Side. Now, Red Sox fans get to watch him and Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia and David Price. Also, they're not taking down the Citgo sign.
Chicago White Sox. Yes, Sale is gone, and Jose Quintana is about to be, and you might even have to wave goodbye to Jose Abreu at some point. There's a lot less to see at the ballpark than there used to. But the White Sox now have a definitive plan, and that is ... an improvement. So get excited for these prospects. The White Sox have Yoan Moncada, the top prospect in all of baseball. The best prospect! Is a White Sox player! He's yours! And he's not the only one. The White Sox don't have much, but what they have is plenty to dream on.
Cleveland Indians. Well, your team is probably going to win its division by at least 10 games, so that should give you plenty to watch. If you're looking for a sentimental rooting interest, how about Michael Brantley? No one deserves health more than him, and he's starting to come around just in time. The Indians are headed back to the playoffs this year. It'd be a world kindness to let Brantley come along with them this time.
Detroit Tigers. The Tigers are still headed toward that cliff, and no one is quite sure when they're going to get there, or how steep the fall is going to be once they do. But the Tigers still have Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, two Baseball Studs, and if you've got those guys, you've got plenty to keep you coming to the park. Plus, they're writing books about the People Mover now.
Houston Astros. The Astros' lineup is stacked with future stars, but for my money, the guy I'm most excited to watch isn't any of the young guys at all. The nostalgia factor of seeing Carlos Beltran back in an Astros jersey is off the charts. I don't remember a more dominant non-Bonds offensive force than Beltran during his short stint with the Astros. That 2004 postseason, it was essentially impossible to get him out. That was what Babe Ruth must have looked like.
Kansas City Royals. The blissful post-World Series season is over, and the reckoning for the Royals is coming: You're going to be waving goodbye to lots of World Series heroes this year. But get out there and give them the hand they've earned. They won a World Series! For the Royals! That is still pretty amazing, right? That surely bought more than just one year of goodwill. This could be all for Lorenzo Cain, and Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. You'll remember their names, and that season, forever. See them off in honor.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Albert Pujols is going to hit his 600th homer this year by the All-Star break, maybe a lot sooner. But you know the real reason the Angels are always must-watch.
Minnesota Twins. Most bad teams are dull and depressing, but the Twins, who lost more than 100 games last year, might be bad this year, but they will not be boring. No team with Byron Buxton, potentially the game's most explosive, how-did-he-do-that player, could ever be boring. The Twins have a ton of young talent they'll be showcasing every day this year, deciding who sticks and who doesn't, and while they might not be consistent, there will be regular flashes of brilliance. That's more than you can say for, say, the Padres.
New York Yankees. For decades, Yankees fans have been cheering against time, hoping that their aging, fading superstars could hold off the reaper long enough to squeeze one more title run out of themselves. But that's not what the Yankees are anymore. This season will be a parade of young players, some there from the beginning, some filtering in through the months to come, and each of them will represent the next decade of impending Yankees dominance. You've been waiting for the Yankees to start operating intelligently, spending wisely, investing in young players and then supplementing them with financial muscle. That time is now. You're about to be like the Astros, except with a billion dollars.
Oakland A's. The A's might not be much on the field this year, but it is worth noting that, as a franchise, they are being a lot better to their fans of late. This has been mostly because the Warriors are high-tailing it out of Oakland, and the Raiders are being even crueler. This is the team, for better or worse, that's here right now, and the A's, at last, are starting to make some fan-friendlier moves to try to take advantage of it. The day the Raiders announced their move to Las Vegas, the mayor of Oakland put up an A's flag over City Hall. It's a start.
Seattle Mariners. Calling it here: This is the year the playoff drought ends, and it'll be Felix Hernandez pitching in the AL Wild Card Game. You have to get on board for that.
Tampa Bay Rays. That rotation, top-to-bottom, could be the best in the division, if not the best in the AL. Also, Evan Longoria -- who is basically your franchise's Stan Musial, or Carl Yastrzemski -- has a glorious new beard. And there isn't much on earth better than a baseball game, and Tropicana Field continues to have cheaper prices, and more available tickets, than you'll find anywhere in the whole sport.
Texas Rangers. You've got one of the most electrifying young talents in the sport in Rougned Odor. And you have the old man Adrian Beltre, who is going to be putting up six-WAR seasons when he's 56. And they play together every day.
Toronto Blue Jays. Jose Bautista might be hated everywhere else in baseball, but Toronto will always welcome him with open arms. He might be a villain, but he is your villain. And Bautista's primed to have a rebound year for a team that looks like it's up for one last run. If he gives you a moment half as thrilling as this one, he's earned double his salary already.
Arizona Diamondbacks. Well, it is not last year, and that is an improvement no matter what. But now A.J. Pollock is back, and the rotation looks better, and Dave Stewart is gone, and jeez, compared to all that, everything just looks wonderful out here.
Atlanta Braves. They're opening a brand-new stadium that's worth checking out. Especially when Bartolo Colon is pitching in it.
Chicago Cubs. They just won the World Series? They're the Cubs, and they just won the World Series? That seems worthy of further exploration, no?
Cincinnati Reds. Is this the toughest one on this whole list? It might be. Even the Reds' unquestioned superstar, Joey Votto, is a superstar in the way that's efficient and undeniable but also not unusually thrilling to watch. Great American Ball Park gives up lots of home runs, and home runs are fun, so there is that. Also, you have a guy in your rotation who played basketball for St. John's and can do this:
Colorado Rockies. I believe this is a borderline playoff team, and even if you don't, we can all agree that this is a team that is going to hit a ton of home runs and play many, many entertaining games. Seriously, the Rockies are your sleeper MLB.TV team of the year. A blast all around. Though I still wish they had Edwin Encarnacion.
Los Angeles Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw pitches every fifth day. Also, every game Vin Scully doesn't call now will make you remember how wonderful Vin Scully was.
Miami Marlins. They're hosting the All-Star Game this year, so even if you don't make it out to a regular-season game, it's worth it to see how they handle an ASG. And come on, there's never a bad reason to go to Miami, to be honest.
Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have a lot of young talent coming, but I'd like to focus on Ryan Braun. Braun is the third-best player in Brewers history, and he darned-near got them to a World Series in 2011, and he has been the face of this franchise (for better and for worse) for a decade. He's going to get traded this season, so this is your last chance to see him as a Brewer. That is not nothing.
New York Mets. Yoenis Cespedes is one of those transcendent players who is capable of making your jaw drop on any particular night. And there isn't a human being on the planet who throws the way that Noah Syndergaard does when healthy.
Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies are still in their transitional period, so you're basically looking at two things at Citizens Bank Park this year. You're waiting for J.P. Crawford, and you're goofing around with the Phanatic. There is nothing wrong with either one of those.
Pittsburgh Pirates. This could be the best outfield in the Majors, and that's not even accounting for the prospects who are coming. But the best reason to go see the Pirates is what's always the best reason to go see the Pirates, whether they're good or not: That gorgeous, gorgeous ballpark. And lord help you if you get to see a postseason game there. They lose their minds in the best way.
St. Louis Cardinals. Carlos Martinez himself is worth the price of admission, but I'll go here with Dexter Fowler, who this Cards fan has already decided is one of his favorites of all time even though he still hasn't played a single regular-season game. The Cardinals need him so desperately, in so many ways, that it's sort of terrifying to contemplate life without him.
San Diego Padres. They're the only game in town now, which means you can stroll over to the ballpark, catch a few innings, go eat a taco, lie around the beach and think about how stupid it is that anyone lives anywhere else in America other than San Diego.
San Francisco Giants. They've got the best park in the Major Leagues, they've got Hunter Pence running into walls, they've got Buster Posey putting together a Hall of Fame career, they've got Madison Bumgarner doing the same thing, and seriously have you seen that park?
Washington Nationals. The funny thing about Bryce Harper's 2016 season was that even though it was a major disappointment -- and it truly was -- he still was as compelling a player to watch on a day-to-day basis as anyone in the game. He does things that no one else in the game can do, with a style that no one can else can match. You either hate him or love him, but you can't look away. Baseball needs more guys like that. Baseball needs hundreds.