Baseball is a narrative sport. It’s 162 games, and it reads like a long, romantic novel of a plethora of highs and lows that have an incredibly wide-range of emotions you experience from month-to-month. It is a sport of stories, and that’s what makes it so beautiful. Here are some of the fun, romantic stories that we want to root for and see come to fruition as the season begins.

Jose Ramirez and the Guardians Building Something

The Cleveland Guardians notoriously do not pay players. This is the franchise that has a movie, Major League, where the team actively wants to lose games. They have been cursed. They have dealt every superstar they’ve had (Francisco Lindor, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, and Mike Clevinger, just to name a few) and were one of only five franchises ever to give out a $100 million long-term contract because they never wanted to commit to a player.

Until now.

Jose Ramirez is an absolute superstar of a third baseman, and trade rumors were swirling

Photo: MLB / Facebook.com

all offseason as to whether or not the Guardians would inevitably trade him like they always do, and they agreed to a 5-year, $124 million extension. It was a monumental moment for Cleveland- there were fans on baseball Reddit pages proclaiming this was the happiest they had ever been outside of making the World Series in 2016. They can finally commit and buy a jersey and not fear that he won’t be on the team much longer! Ramirez is 29, he plays with so much joy and flare with every home run he hits, and has all the personality in the world. This is a man who has a chain of himself wearing a chain. Now that the Guardians have their guy locked up, you hope that they can develop talent around him and not stop spending just there. What a great moment for the franchise.

A Worthy Adversary in the AL West

The Astros have dominated the American League West for years now. They’ve made the postseason 6 out of the last 7 years, have made the ALCS 5 years in a row, and the fight hasn’t been particularly close outside of a few competitive Oakland teams. It’s objectively been a boring division that should have much more drama.

Outside of Oakland shipping off any living and breathing talent they have to tank and gut their payroll before their inevitable move, the rest of the division got better and is trying to win! The Angels have the two best players in baseball, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, and they still have been one of the most incompetent franchises in sports that has only gotten Trout to the postseason once in his entire career. They’ve always needed pitching, so they spent every single draft pick they had on pitchers, signed Noah Syndergaard, and deepened their bullpen.

The Mariners have the longest playoff drought of any team in the four major sports, and after coming within 2 games of snapping the streak last year, they signed Cy Young Winner Robbie Ray, made a huge trade for home run mashers Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez, and called up Julio Rodriguez, the 21 year-old #2 overall prospect.

Even the Texas Rangers, who have been either dead last or third in the division every year since 2016, spent quite literally a half a billion dollars on an infield of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to lock them up for the next 8 years; they have plenty of holes to fill over the long haul, but you can’t criticize a team that is spending money and wanting to win games.

That leaves the Astros, who are now without a large portion of their core in Correa, Springer, Cole, and Greinke, and Verlander hasn’t pitched in nearly two years. They’re still going to be the prohibitive favorites due to their depth, winning culture, and ability to develop talent, but a race in the west for once is going to make for some drama given the storylines.

Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies Snapping the Streak

Who’s the team with the second-longest active playoff drought? That would be the Philadelphia Phillies. When Bryce Harper signed his 13-year, $330 million deal, he essentially took a pay cut in order to have the longer guaranteed years because he wanted to finish his career in one place; he wanted to build something and carve a legacy with one last jersey the rest of his tenure as a player with some stability. 

They have not been able to capitalize on one of our generational talent’s prime whatsoever so far. Not even winning an MVP last season with 35 homers and leading the league in doubles, slugging, and OPS could get the Phillies to the playoffs.

As the frustration might be mounting, the Phillies front office at least looked in the mirror, saw the NL East, and addressed it. Not only did they patch up their glaring weakness in the bullpen by adding Jeurys Familia and Corey Knebel, they also added two of the strongest men in baseball to give them even more power in Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber. In a ballpark where the ball flies, we need to see Bryce Harper and this Phillies team playing meaningful games in October. He is a superstar who got the LeBron James treatment on Sports Illustrated as just a teenager, and he now has almost all of the accolades except winning when it counts in Philly.

Carlos Correa and the Minnesota Twins to be Villains

In the aftermath of the Houston Astros cheating scandal, no one was more vocal and adamant in playing the heel role in any press conference or in-game antic than Carlos Correa. He was the prized free agent shortstop this offseason known for flaunting the “It’s my time” watch celebration, taunting any of the doubters with quotes like “I know a lot of people are mad! What are they going to say now?” Well, rather than go re-sign with the big market teams on a long-term agreement, he has an opt-out option year after year in Minnesota for 3-years at $105 million. He now has taken over a team in Minnesota that has talented faces on the roster like Byron Buxton and made other new additions this offseason in hopes to compete for the AL Central. Baseball needs more villains. An entertaining Minnesota Twins team with Correa barking back and forth with Tim Anderson and the White Sox in their rivalry games is great theater, and Correa leans into that role. A successful Twins team is just another team invited to the party and would be incredibly fun.

Seiya Suzuki and the Scrappy Chicago Cubs

Seiya Suzuki was this year’s highly-touted international prospect that wanted to play on the big stage and voyage from the Japanese Nippon League to MLB, and there was a competitive bidding war for the five-tool player that can hit for average, has some pop, can field, and steal bases. It came as a bit of a surprise when he committed to the Chicago Cubs and signed a 5-year deal- the Cubs were coming off of a losing season in which the last of their major core in their World Series run, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber, were all dealt at the trade deadline. It was presumed that they want to get young and cheap fast and cut as much payroll as possible. They’ve had a bit of an odd offseason, though, where they went from trying to tank to potentially giving off the impression that they think they can compete with this dramatically different roster. They signed Mets All Star pitcher Marcus Stroman, were reportedly in on Carlos Correa, and then convinced Seiya Suzuki to come and win in Chicago! No one knows the direction of the Cubs, but they want to win in the most underdog way possible again.

Suzuki also has all the personality in the world that we’ve seen so far and should be an electrifying player. In his opening press conference, he just openly said “Mike Trout, I love you” when asked why he chose to wear number 27. He’s always smiling around the team and plays with a joy about him that you can’t help but gravitate towards him and root for his success in the league going forward.

The Cubs are back as underdogs again, and now they don’t have the 108 year curse hanging over their head- they just get to play with house money.

Matt Olson and the Braves to Protect their Crown

Freddie Freeman has been THE face of the Atlanta Braves for nearly a decade. He won an MVP, led them to a World Series, and there are countless soundbites of him being a charismatic leader and one of the brightest names of the league. So, when the first baseman became a free agent this offseason and the Braves decided to go in a different direction, the league was pretty shocked.

Freddie Freeman is now a Los Angeles Dodger, and it’s weird to say the least. He’s entering his age 32 season, and will likely be solid for one of the deepest teams in baseball for what could possibly be his final big contract. The Braves might have gotten a younger, discounted Freddie Freeman that is from the area, and we might not have even seen what he could really be just yet. They traded for Matt Olson from Oakland, a 28 year-old stallion that hits bombs, has two Gold Gloves, and is now going to be THE man in Atlanta for the next 8-years on the contract they gave him. Sure, there is going to be some backlash to not extending the man that brought so much to the Braves and is a player deserving of a statue one day in the concourse, but it is absolutely intriguing to see them transition from one stud first baseman mantle to the next in Olson. You want to root for him so that he does well as Freddie’s replacement on this ring tour- you don’t want people up in arms wishing they had just re-signed Freddie. Olson seems to be the perfect fit to play the humble leader on a team that already has all of the personality in the world to defend their ring with guys like Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson. With new faces in their locker room, they won’t be complacent or content with their ring at all- they’ll be young and hungry for more.

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