As we get ready to head into the 2023 Major League Baseball season in earnest, I'd like to have a talk about enjoying the moment. For a good number of teams heading into this season, we're talking to a fan base that could be watching a World Series champion.
To be clear, I'm only talking to fan bases of teams with a chance to win the World Series. A decent number of you can skip down to the rankings right now (A's fans, just show yourself out and save the annoyance).
It is a ride to be enjoyed. I would know. As our resident Cubs fan, I experienced 2016. If I could go back in time and tell myself anything, well, I absolutely wouldn't say a word. One of the things that makes a World Series title so great for a fan is you don't know it's coming. Sure, you can believe it is. You can suspect. You can hope for it. You can be confident. But you don't actually know. I do wish on the few bad stretches I didn't get so down and worried and self-loathing ("why do I always do this to myself?!?!?"), but then again, that's what makes the highs so high, right?
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One thing I'm glad I avoided was the prospect hugging. That is, if your favorite team looks like it can win the World Series, why be so overly concerned with prospects, especially those in the lower levels, when looking to bolster the MLB roster? Just look at the 2021 Braves and all the moves made after the Ronald Acuña Jr. injury. They had been hovering around .500 all season -- in fact, they were never over .500 until into August -- and were still aggressive in making moves to shore up for a possible playoff run. Now they have a flag that'll fly forever reading "2021 World Series champions."
I never fretted dealing prospects to shore up that Cubs team. One can't always be staring at the future, otherwise the present never happens. I'm sure that someone would love to argue that the Cubs "only" won one championship, but that's more than an overwhelming majority of the league since 2015. I wouldn't trade it.
In looking toward this coming season, I'm really hoping fans of, say, the San Diego Padres embrace the present and throw out all worries about "what if" regarding any prospects being traded by the Wildman A.J. Preller ahead of the deadline. The Padres have never won the World Series! What are you waiting for? Root for this team and enjoy it like this is the year. They are certainly good enough.
- The Guardians have the longest franchise drought at 74 years. They went to the ALDS last year. Don't prospect hug! Go for it!
- The Brewers have never won it all. They are good enough to make a run. Embrace the now.
- The Mariners haven't either and are just coming off a thrilling playoff series win over the Blue Jays. Enjoy the moment.
- Twelve teams haven't won the title in over 30 years. Among those, the Twins (31), Mets (36) and, I guess, Orioles (39) have designs on taking this one.
Have fun with it, as much as you reasonably can.
I know the counterargument to this is that only one team wins per year and if your favorite team fails to come through with the title, you must then look ahead. Let the front offices worry about that during the day-to-day grind. We're fans. We don't control those moves, so why harp on them during a season in which our favorite team is playing incredible baseball? I'd rather not.
I don't know much, but I do know we could all do better in embracing a joyous team when it comes along instead of worrying about what comes afterward in the sports world. Enjoy the ride until it's over. That's the best advice a formerly long-suffering Cubs fan can give.
Oh, and if any Astros fans need me to tell them how awesome their team is, I already did that at the start of spring training. I mention this because anytime I don't mention a No. 1 team in the introduction, there's inevitably a deluge of "you ranked [insert team] number one but made NO MENTION of them before that?" from some disgruntled fans (and, no, I'm not singling out Astros fans -- every fanbase does it). Seems those people haven't gotten to the memo to enjoy the ride, huh? Why get angry about petty things when someone says you are rooting for the best team in the league?
|They didn't make it through the spring unscathed with the losses of Jose Altuve and Lance McCullers Jr., but as of now I'm undeterred.||--||2-1|
|MONSTER Juan Soto season on the horizon. And you could argue they'll have two other top-five MVP finishers.||--||0-2|
|There's enough talent here to make me look incredibly stupid for not having the Braves as an easy and obvious number one heading into the year. They might be there for most of the season. There are a few questions, though, as with every team.||--||2-0|
|The bullpen was already the biggest question mark and the loss of Edwin Díaz was obviously major, but remember he was just pretty good in 2021 and horrible in 2019. It's a good illustration of how volatile relievers are. It's also the most acquirable position in front of the trade deadline. All this is to say, it's plausible to believe somehow the Mets end the season with a good bullpen.||1||2-1|
|The Carlos Rodón injury, especially given his history of arm issues, is a huge concern going in. It's a bigger deal to me than the Díaz injury to the Mets, hence the swap. Still a loaded team, of course.||1||1-1|
|The is the least talented Dodgers team in years. It's also still the Dodgers and, well, look at the 2019 Nationals and 2021 Braves. Maybe this Dodgers team takes the title in a full season for the firs time since 1988.||--||1-1|
|I'm less bullish on them than last year (I predicted the Jays to win the World Series), but maybe I was just a year early to the party. There's plenty of talent.||--||1-1|
|On one hand, the Tyler Glasnow injury is a bummer, but on the other, I'm not sure how many innings he was really going to work this year. Maybe this oblique injury helps the Rays consolidate what would've been a full season of work into, say, 2/3 of the year. Hey, spring is the time for optimism, right?||--||2-0|
|Awful news on Rhys Hoskins, man. That sucked. Perhaps it can be balanced out a little bit with a much faster return than expected from Bryce Harper? They were, heading into the spring, a better overall team this year than last anyway.||--||0-2|
|One of the most exciting questions in baseball this year: What will Julio Rodríguez do for his encore?||--||1-1|
|If everything breaks right -- I'm talking something in the range of the 90th percentile outcome for everyone, including Jordan Walker -- this is one of the scariest offenses in baseball.||--||1-1|
|Three Brewers pitchers have won a Cy Young Award before. None have done it twice. Yet. C'mon down, Corbin Burnes.||--||1-1|
|The Guardians feasted on the AL Central in head-to-head games last season and now the schedule isn't nearly as unbalanced as before. Will that matter?||--||1-1|
|Shohei Ohtani striking out Mike Trout to end the World Baseball Classic was such great theater and those triple digit cutters that were moving like sliders were really not fair. Anthony Rendon is an X-factor and, for those who care about such matters, he's put up big numbers in the spring. As for the bump, I'll admit I'm falling for the whole "Angels breakout" again. Once a sucker, always a sucker.||3||1-1|
|Since spring is the time for optimism, there's a route here where the Twins have a really good rotation, 1-5, this season. It's on the table.||1||2-0|
|On the flip side to the Guardians comment, the Red Sox are a textbook example of a team that should, in theory at least, be helped greatly by the schedule change. They were a pitiful 26-50 against the AL East last year while playing playoff-caliber baseball against every other division. Of course, it's a different team after plenty of turnover, including the departure of Xander Bogaerts. That's why I said "in theory."||2||1-1|
|They have already dealt with injury concerns in the oft-injured portion (read: Most of) the rotation. That means it's out of the way and the regular season will go smoothly! Sure.||2||2-0|
|I don't know, man. Scrolling up and down the lineup, depth chart, rotation, bullpen, etc., this certainly isn't a bad team. It's just generally uninspiring.||--||1-1|
|Broken record time (I love how this was in danger of never being a thing again but now it's way more of a thing than, say, a skipping CD ... sorry, back to the comment): If we're talking about just upside here, as this is the time for optimism, a Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito rotation top three has excellent upside while Luis Robert has MVP upside and is still only 25.||--||1-2|
|The lack of an aggressive offseason is particularly troubling when looking ahead at next season's barren free agency class. Are they just going prospect-only here? It's hard to find teams emerging from a radical rebuild to win a World Series without supplementing the young talent with established stars. I guess the 2017 Astros? They signed veterans Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Charlie Morton, which didn't knock your socks off at the time. They also brought in Yuli Gurriel (2017 was his first full-time season stateside but he was 33). Of course, they don't win without trading for a guy named Justin Verlander. Are the Orioles trading for a future Hall of Famer this year or next? I just think this wave of young talent should be supplemented and this past offseason represented an amazing opportunity. Perhaps I'm wrong. That wouldn't be new.||1||1-1|
|There's a path to contention. It's not likely, but there's a path. Tough division, but take note of what I've mentioned a few times above: The schedule is much more balanced now.||1||1-2|
|I'm allowed to avoid the optimism here with a special exception as a fan. I don't have much. I do think they'll be better, but I don't find the playoff chances too compelling. Mediocrity seems more likely.||2||1-1|
|The popular NL Rookie of the Year pick is going to be Jordan Walker. And while that doesn't mean people are necessarily sleeping on D-Backs speedster Corbin Carroll, I'll remind you to not sleep on my pick, Mr. Carroll. Also, if there's a breakout team among those considered to be bottom-feeding types, I'll take the Diamondbacks.||--||1-1|
|The batting order actually has some potential, specifically the top half or so.||--||0-2|
|Optimistic spin: It's hard to see things going much worse than in 2022.||--||0-2|
|Loving Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo and don't forget Graham Ashcraft!||--||1-1|
|Oneil Cruz will be a fixture on the All-Fun Team for a decade-plus.||--||1-1|
|I do think Kris Bryant is going to have a big season. Honestly.||1||2-0|
|It'll be a fun year for those who peer into the future to get a better grasp on how fruitful the Trea Turner/Max Scherzer (specifically Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz) and Juan Soto (CJ Abrams and MacKenzie Gore) trades will be. All four will have significant roles this season.||1||0-2|
|Sorry, Oakland. I've got nothing.||--||1-1|