National / Sports / April 8, 2009

Passing the torch: new MLB season brings fresh outlook

Opening Day for the Major League Baseball season is just a few days removed.

Over the past weekend, people enjoyed hot dogs and beers while watching their favorite team in their most recent attempt at securing a playoff spot and, ultimately, a championship.

Whether your team has a 100-year drought or they are the defending champs, the new season brings renewed hope and excitement for fans everywhere. The new season also brings an air of sadness.

Greg Maddux, arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time, retired over the off-season. Mike Mussina, a 270-game winner who won 20 games in a season for the first time in his career retired as well. Baseball will move on without these two outstanding players, but it will not be the same. Their legacy will live on and somebody else will take up the tourch.

Here are a few of the future torch-bearers I am excited about this year:

Kevin Slowey, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, is going to be a very solid Major League pitcher. He has excellent control, walking a Maddux-esque 24 in 160 innings last year. He could easily win 15 games slotted behind Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker in the Twins’ rotation.

Jayson Werth, an outfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies, experienced some injuries early in his career. Last year, he showed a glimpse of what he can do when healthy and he should only improve slotted between Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez in the Phillies’ lineup.

Pablo Sandoval, third baseman for the San Francisco Giants, hit .345 after a September call-up last season. He is expected to hit in the middle of the lineup for what should be a much improved ball club.

Mike Aviles, the shortstop for the Kansas City Royals, just finished playing shortstop for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. He has some pop in his bat and will hit for a decently high average. Speedy Aviles is expected to hit in the 2-hole for the Royals, who could be a surprise contender this year.

Chris Davis, first baseman for the Texas Rangers, shows tremendous power and is expected to hit in the middle of a high-octane line-up. His slugging stats from last year compare favorably to Josh Hamilton’s if projected over a full season.

It will not be quite the same watching Kevin Slowey make quick work of hitters as it was watching Greg Maddux. But who knows, maybe Kevin Slowey will be the Greg Maddux of the next generation.

Maybe, Chris Davis and Pablo Sandoval will be the next generation of power hitters. Maybe Mike Aviles is the next Derek Jeter.

Whatever the case may be, the next generation will be just as exciting to watch as the previous. While it hurts to see the last one go, one can always find hope in the next.

James Clark

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