The biggest question every single over-reactionary baseball fan and media member poses through the first two weeks of the season is quite simply this…


“Real” means sustainable and legitimate success, as the season is a 162-game marathon. Time after time, we see a team or player get hot through the first month of the season, only for it to actually be a fluke or a disaster that is an afterthought merely a month or two later. There’s a fine line between sustainable, real success and playing the right teams at the right time.

That being said, there have been so many storylines thus far that would be fantastic for the sport if they were indeed year-long, romantic stories that we remember defining the season. 

So far, here are some of the early-season headlines as nominees power-ranked by how much we can romanticize and talk ourselves into as baseball fans, wishing them longevity that would be great for the sport.

5) Tyler Glasnow, Destroyer of Worlds

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The movie of the year last year was Oppenheimer, starring Best Actor-winner Cillian Murphy and cementing him as a Hollywood superstar if he wasn’t already. The non-baseball viewing world essentially exploded on the internet when they found out about Tyler Glasnow, Murphy’s 6’8″ long-haired doppelganger.

Tyler Glasnow has been a career of “what could be” thus far, and he’s ready to be one of the charismatic, ace pitchers in baseball- what we all thought he could be. The 30-year-old has had Cy Young Award-winning caliber stuff when healthy and on the field, but he eclipsed 20 starts for the first time in his career for the first time last season after 7 seasons in Pittsburgh and Tampa withering away due to injuries, losing environments, small markets, or all of the above.

The Dodgers not only made the blockbuster deal to acquire him this offseason, an embarrassment of riches for the pitching staff but also inked him to a $136.5 million 5-year extension despite his injury history; if he’s healthy, he’s a 100 mph flamethrowing Cy Young candidate in a winning environment that’s a bonus piece added to their rotation. If not, you’re the Dodgers with an ungodly amount of money and the best training staff to get something out of him!

Glasnow is finally in a large market playing on the biggest stage for the largest audience and started off the year 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA and only 7 walks on the year with at least 5 innings per start, including a 7 inning, 14 strikeouts, no walk masterclass against the Twins. He’s making batters look silly and finally looks healthy doing it at 30 in a winning situation. His only dud was a surprise loss to the Nationals on the year, but the reality is that the Dodgers saw Glasnow as merely the BONUS piece this offseason, and Glasnow will have time to make adjustments throughout the year if he remains on the field.

The Dodgers have some sort of winning voodoo magic, and we hope to see Tyler keep it up as the surprise ace that just makes the rich get richer as he’s baseball’s destroyer of worlds.

4) The Insane NL Central Race

While the West has the titanic Dodgers-Giants rivalry, the fun Padres, and the NL Champion Diamondbacks, and the East has the electric Braves-Phillies rivalry and the Mets in a New York market, the NL Central was seen as a bit of an afterthought. Each team began the season with preseason win total projections hovering over the mid-80s mark as a mess, with either young and unproven talent or periods of transition, making it an unpredictable choose-your-own-adventure.

If this keeps up, it’s going to be a top-to-bottom division of fun, insane baseball. With each team starting the year at a .500 or better record through 14 games, there’s something to be excited about on every single team.

The Cardinals came in as the preseason favorite (that might largely be because of the name association), and after a year from hell last year, they are holding their own; they just got Sonny Gray and Lars Nootbaar back from injuries. The bats have yet to come alive, but having former MVP candidates Arenado and Goldschmidt paired with Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn, the promising young shortstop makes up for the mediocre pitching that could end up at Shady Oaks Retirement Home by the end of the year.

The Cubs were the sexy team of the division, stealing Craig Counsell from the Brewers and making him the highest-paid manager in history, and took an exciting series from the Dodgers at Wrigley; Bellinger is slumping but got a very Chicago standing ovation before a homer and the “Pitching Philosopher” Shota Imanaga is looking like a bargain free agent signing with 12 strikeouts in 2 games and no earned runs through 3.

Speaking of Milwaukee, they’ve been gladiators. They’re fighting the Mets and Orioles with a chip on their shoulder after presumably taking a step back with a lack of Craig Counsell, Devin Williams being injured, and Corbin Burnes being traded, but we’ve gotten back a reborn Christian Yelich, who was an MVP before the injury bug, Freddy Peralta looking like the ace of the staff, and Rhys Hoskins being the junkyard dog free agent signing galvanizing the clubhouse en route to their 10-4  start. Oh yeah, and Jackson Chourio is only 20 years old and could be the NL Rookie of the Year if he keeps this pace up.

Cincinnati and Pittsburgh could also theoretically be the future with an embarrassment of young talent, from Cincy’s Elly De La Cruz hitting homers inside and outside the park with ease as a freakazoid five-tool player with Spencer Steer being the perfect counterpart as the stable force, top 5 in batting average and RBI. The pitching has to fight off playing in Great American SMALL Park, where the ball tends to fly, but so far, Frankie Montas is doing exactly what Sonny Gray did: leaving the Yankees to the Reds to become an ace pitcher. In Pittsburgh, they’ve gotten miracle extra-inning wins before closer David Bednar blew a few saves, and after last season, when they were the best team in baseball for the first month before their dramatic fall off, we’re reluctant to get burned again. However, they’ve got 10 players batting over .250 and have maybe the best pitching prospect since Strasburg, Paul Skenes, waiting in the wings in the minors to pair with another stud in Jared Jones, who’s started off the year with 25 strikeouts through his first three games in the big leagues.

We need this to be a dogfight for 162 games from all five teams, please.

3) Braggadocious Yankees Fever

Now, by no means does this mean that the collective audience is rooting for the actual success of the 27-ring, pinstripe-clutching “evil empire.” However, it’s been a while since Yankee fans have gone back to their old confident selves as the villains of the sport, and it simply feels right being able to have the juggernaut of emotion, be it positive or (mostly) negative.

Even when the Yanks were making it to the ALCS with Aaron Judge before inevitably losing to the Astros in their success, this iteration of the Yankees is not the Yankees we’ve known since winning the World Series in 2009. There’s been loud apathy or misery from the fans even in the success due to the failure to go out and get the big swing free agent, the calling for Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman’s jobs, the “soft” nature and the “consistent inconsistency” in that they’ve largely relied upon Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to be behemoths before suffering an injury, much like the rest of their roster. The point being that the fans openly wallowing in the cracks of their armor even in their success made them appear less than the hateable juggernaut as the Yankee powerhouse of old where they did not seem like serious people.

These are not those Yankees so far. Even without Gerrit Cole to start the year and Stanton and Judge getting off to a slow start, these Yankees are disciplined and winning like a serious roster that makes the boastful empire back in business. Juan Soto has already practically earned a blank check, much less his pinstripes, from the Bronx faithful after being the smart player he is at the plate, drawing 15 walks with 15 RBIs and atoning for the ALCS losses in their opening series sweep in Houston with an incredible pickoff throw at the plate. Anthony Volpe is also top 5 in on-base percentage in the absence of the sluggers and looks like the next great Yankee shortstop post-Jeter at just 22 years old. On top of that, they’re puffing their chests out with a pitching staff leading the league in wins and saves, and is second in ERA even without their Cy Young pitcher! Nestor Cortes is twirling it, Stroman is looking like an ideal signing, and Carlos Rodon is looking like a prime bounce-back candidate. A 12-4 start with wins over quality teams as well in their opening series has them scoffing at the doubters that had them missing out on the postseason due to the “plucky” Orioles, the desperate Blue Jays, or the computer-driven machine Rays in the division.

Who needs Blake Snell? Who needs Jordan Montgomery? The confident and cocky Yankees of the evil empire are back! Rooting for their downfall or success either way is going to make the American League much more theatrical.

2) The Mike Trout Renaissance

Mike Trout has been the biggest tragic hero of baseball for the past decade. Our generation’s Mickey Mantle, with three MVPs and 11 All-Stars, is 0-3 in the playoffs with one hit in a sweep in 2014. Now in the twilight of his career, he’s been loyal to a fault on an incompetent Angels team that failed to build around him, couldn’t even get to the postseason with him AND Shohei Ohtani on it before he jumped ship, and has had chronic injuries the past several seasons. In an era of sports where negotiating movement and requesting trades have become so commonplace other than certain diva situations, Trout has even been criticized for not speaking up as much as he needs to, as he’s earned the right to be selfish, yet is still signed through 2030 with the underworld that is the Los Angeles Angels as they rebuild and hope to at the very least get Anthony Rendon to show up to work.

Trout and the Angels were an afterthought after Ohtani wised up and signed across town; the Angels may not be relevant at all come June, but Mike Trout looks like Mike Trout again, and that was something we weren’t certain we’d get again. He’s had 6 laser home runs, he’s making diving catches in center field, and he’s playing for a new manager in Ron Washington that could get him to be happy about baseball again. Even if the Angels finish near the bottom of the AL West, we need Mike Trout to continue to look like the player that we all want him to be; we’re not sure how much longer we may have it or if we may see anything like him again.*

*If the Angels are under .500 in June and Mike Trout is an MVP, we all are storming the office of Arte Moreno to burn his contract and staging a coup to get him on a winning roster.

1) Bobby Witt Jr. Leap

In a league full of Jr.’, it’s saying something that the Kansas City Royals broadcasting team has already bestowed the definitive nickname of “Junior” on 23 year-old Bobby Witt Jr. in just his third season in the big leagues.

It looks every bit as earned so far.

The Royals have done A LOT of losing since winning their 2014 World Series, essentially stripping down the entire roster aside from Salvador Perez, and they also have had a bottom-two farm system the past two seasons. Simply put, it didn’t look like it was going to be getting better any time soon, and they may have a new ballpark plan on the way despite a beautiful Kauffman Stadium already.

Their lone bright spot was inking their second overall pick, Bobby Witt Jr., their 5-tool shortstop, to an 11-year extension this preseason. If anything, going forward, the franchise has their guy to build around.

He’s already looking like the superstar that they think he can be in Kansas City and making that deal look worth every penny ahead of schedule. There are plays he makes in the field that look like prime Jeter with his arm speed. Following a season in which he had 30 home runs, 49 stolen bases, and led the league in triples, he’s carried the Royals to near the top of the AL Central, including a 7-game win streak and a bludgeoning of the Astros as he’s hit 4 homers, 3 triples, and batting .333/.389/667 as the pleasant surprise to start the year.

It’s one thing to be what we hoped he would be, but for him to live up to and exceed our expectations this early is something one can only hope is just the beginning.

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