162 reasons to be excited for Major League Baseball this year…
(1) For Opening Day, where everyone is 0-0 and even the Cubs can dream of a championship season.
(2) For presidential first pitches.
(3-4) For baseball in Japan, where two regular season games were played last week between Seattle and Oakland.
(5) Because Bobby Valentine is back in baseball…
(6) which gives the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry a new twist and new life…
(7) which means no fried chicken or beer during the middle of games for Boston…
(8) which means the players should be a little more focused during games…
(9) and hopefully, for more disguises.
(10) Because this will be future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones’ final season. He is one of the best switch hitters of all time, up there with Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray…
(11) and Chipper will have played all 19 of his seasons with the same team…
(12) and all but two of them for the same manager, Bobby Cox.
(13-39) Because there will be about 27 weeks of Kevin Millar’s daily “Got Heem” segment on Intentional Talk, which is always hilarious.
(40) If you have no idea what I am talking about, here’s the Giants’ Brian Wilson (another reason to be excited), who created the term:
(41) For hot dogs at the park.
(42) For Jackie Robinson Day, where every player wears the number 42 in honor of the man who broke the color barrier in baseball; giving inspiration and hope to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s.
(43) The No. 42 is retired throughout MLB (Yankees legendary closer Mariano Rivera was already wearing it when baseball retired the number league-wide, but he was allowed to keep it and will be the last man to wear that number).
(44) The number worn by the real Home Run King, Hank Aaron, who played for the Braves before finishing his career with the Brewers. He hit 755 career home runs.
(45) John Kruk on Baseball Tonight.
(46) Because we had “Tebowmania” in the NFL and “Linsanity” in the NBA this year, we will surely get a phenomenon in the MLB? I’m guessing “Strasmas” in Washington for Stephen Strasburg.
(47) Tom Glavine, who wore No. 47 and is one of the past two 300-game winners who will be in the booth for Atlanta Braves games this season.
(48) Speaking of 300-game winners, only the recently un-retired Andy Pettitte (240) and the “I’ll never retire” Jamie Moyer (267) are active pitchers with more than 200 wins.
(49) Because Jamie Moyer is still playing. At 49 years old, he is the oldest player in baseball after making the Colorado Rockies starting rotation this year.
(50) Because the Marlins opened a brand new ballpark…
(51) debuted a new name…
(52) and a new logo this season.
(53) Because the Marlins also made a ton of moves, including hiring media favorite Ozzie Guillen as manager.
(54) Because the Marlins also signed Ozzie’s former ace from Chicago, Mark Buehrle…
(55) and closer Heath Bell…
(56) and signed shortstop Jose Reyes to a huge deal…
(57) which means Hanley Ramirez is reluctantly moving from shortstop to third base…
(58) which makes you wonder if there will be any drama from Ramirez, since drama has happened with him in the past.
(59) Because if all of these moves can’t improve attendance, then baseball in Miami will never succeed. So, maybe some other city (like Charlotte, N.C. or Nashville) will get a team.
(60) Because the mound is 60 feet and 6 inches away from home plate, which probably feels too close when your are trying to hit the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman, who was clocked at 105 MPH on the radar gun in 2010.
(61) For Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs in a single season without the aid of PED’s, which can’t be said about the guys who passed him (Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds…).
(62) So maybe this is the season we see someone hit a clean 62…
(63) though after the strange overturn of Ryan Braun’s PED suspension, who knows if baseball is actually testing the players correctly. My excitement is for the hope that MLB will test correctly.
(64) For Magic Johnson, who is part of the ownership group that bought the Los Angeles Dodgers, and who will be great for L.A. and MLB as a whole.
(65) Speaking of Los Angeles, the team from Anaheim signed Albert Pujols…
(66) which figures to make the rivalry between them and the Texas Rangers a lot more intense.
(67) Because Josh Hamilton is in a contract year for Texas, and guys usually put up career numbers during those seasons. Will Hamilton help the Rangers get back to their third straight World Series?
(68) Because with Albert Pujols gone, as well as legendary manager Tony La Russa, it will be interesting to see if the Cardinals will be able to make it back to the playoffs and defend their championship crown.
(69) Because Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” system of managing an organization resulted in a few playoff appearances and a great movie (although it still hasn’t brought Oakland a championship. So, I’m hoping for a Hollywood-like season for the A’s.
(70) For Peter Gammons (I’m pretty sure he once covered Babe Ruth), who will be covering baseball yet again this year.
(71) For Bob Costas occasionally calling games for the MLB Network, which takes you back to the 90′s with baseball on NBC.
(72-75) Because the AL East race could go in four different ways this year – Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston, and New York should all be in the mix.
(76-78) Because the NL East race has three primary contenders: Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Miami…
(79) and the Nationals are rapidly improving and could find themselves in the race as well…
(80) though you have to wonder if the Braves will feel the effects of last season’s epic collapse (not likely, though, which is why I’m excited).
(81) Because Prince Fielder signed with Detroit, where his father Cecil once played…
(82) and which Tiger fans surely love…
(83) especially since they are the favorite to win the AL Central now.
(84) For Brian Wilson’s beard.
(85) For the Nasty Boys 2.0 – Atlanta’s Kimbrel, Venters, and O’Flaherty.
(86) Because Marlins’ ace Josh Johnson is fully healthy and a prime Cy Young candidate in the NL.
(87) For Ozzie Guillen press conferences.
(88) For Bobby Valentine press conferences.
(89) For R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball.
(90) Because Theo Epstein is now the general manger of the other cursed MLB franchise, the Chicago Cubs. He helped break the Curse of the Bambino, why not break the Curse of the Billy Goat?
(91) For Day games at Wrigley Field in the summer.
(92) For games in Miami without rain delays (The new stadium has a retractable dome).
(93) For day games in the summer in Atlanta. Even though everyone seems miserable – players, fans, umpires, and even dogs on Bark in the Park days – the snow cone vendors make this a bearable day…
(94) For empty $2,000 seats behind the plate in Yankee Stadium. (I know, it’s a strange thing to be excited about, but no regular season baseball game is worth that much.)
(95) The possibility that the Pirates could end their streak of futility (19 straight losing seasons). I have hope because they did so well last year by leading their division midway through the summer.
(96) For MLB.TV, which streams every game through the internet.
(97) The number of home runs Toronto’s Jose Bautista has hit the past two seasons.
(98) Because if you build it he will come.
(99) Because baseball is America’s pastime.
(100) Because Stone Cold said so.
(101) For making trips to cities just to watch baseball.
(102) The number of games the Phillies won last year, even though it resulted in a disappointing first round exit in the NLDS.
(103) For John Smoltz’s terrible jokes on the MLB Network.
(104) For the home run derby.
(105) For baseball movies on TV like The Sandlot…
(106) and Field of Dreams…
(107) and Major League…
(108) and The Rookie…
(109) and Bryce Johnson’s favorite, Rookie of the Year.
(110) Because there will be 10 teams to make the playoffs this year, so your favorite team can remain in the race just a little longer.
(111) Because there needs to be something to watch on TV during the many off days involved in the NBA playoffs.
(112) For Fenway Park.
(113) For the train in Houston.
(114) Because the All-Star game is always played at 100 percent effort.
(115) Because the Mets can actually score runs at home, now that they have moved the walls in.
(116) To see phenom Bryce Harper’s eventual arrival into the big leagues.
(117) To see if Yu Darvish can make the transition from Japan.
(118) Because Kansas City will host the All-Star game and has legitimate hopes to finally have a winning season.
(119) Because recently retired players Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura take over for the Cardinals and the White Sox, respectively. Will they command the barely younger clubhouses’ respect?
(120) To see if the addition of Jonathan Papelbon as closer will give the Phillies the best pitching staff ever.
(121) For walk-off homers.
(122) For homer-stealing catches at the wall.
(123) To see Rick Ankiel’s arm in the outfield.
(124) To see whether or not Adam Dunn will break double digits in hits off of lefties (just six last season).
(125) Because pitching legend Curt Schilling is on Baseball Tonight. (Bloody dress socks?)
(126) For any Brian Wilson interview.
(127) To see Angels’ closer Jordan Walden’s funky pitching motion.
(128) For another year of MLB The Show on PS3.
(129) To see if Ubaldo Jimenez can find his 2010 form and help the Indians make the playoffs.
(130) For Justin Verlander’s dominance on the mound.
(131) Because Matt Kemp says he wants to be the first 50-50 player (50 HRs, 50 SBs).
(133) Because Giants catcher Buster Posey is back from injury.
(134) For 19-inning games that last into the wee hours of the morning.
(135) For the 2,430 games that will be played this season.
(136-145) For the first night that baseball will have all 10 of ESPN’s Top 10 plays.
(146-155) For the first night that baseball will have all 10 of ESPN’s Bottom 10 plays.
(156) Because Orioles fans probably still believe Cal Ripken Jr. could still help their terrible team.
(157) Because Orioles fans probably think that even Tim Tebow could help their terrible team.
(158) To see youth baseball players emulate their favorite player’s batting stance.
(159) For MLB’s RBI baseball program, which stands for “Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities.”
(160) For the two and a half hours you pay close attention to the game and nothing happens…
(161) and for the 3 seconds that some fans look away (or get something from the concessions) and miss a home run.
(162) And for attempting to write a column this long and absurd.