Once again a new baseball season is upon us, so that can only mean one thing: theme song time! Who's the lucky artist this year? For 2010 it was Cheap Trick, for 2011 it was The Ramones, and for 2012 it is...The Monkees! The Monkees? Yes, The Monkees. The made-for-TV band that ended up putting an indelible mark on '60s pop music is a longtime favorite of mine, and I'll give 'em their due any day of the week! I also just want to say, for the record, that I had been planning to use The Monkees this year even before David Jones' untimely death, so this isn't an attempt to jump on any sort of nostalgia bandwagon. Let's begin, shall we?
Arizona Diamondbacks: "It's Not Too Late," Justus, 1996.
To buy tickets, that is! Despite winning the division last year, the Diamondbacks had more success on the field than at the gate. Even in the playoffs they had trouble selling out. Will the fans in Arizona be inspired to show up at the ballpark more often now that this team has proven its worth?
Colorado Rockies: "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," More of the Monkees, 1967.
The Rockies aren't among the league's heaviest spenders, but doggone it, when they have stars, they lock them up. Carlos Gonzalez is signed through 2017, and Troy Tulowitzki is signed through 2021. Clearly the Rockies have no desire to be a high-level farm club for the big-money franchises.
Los Angeles Dodgers: "We Were Made For Each Other," The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees, 1968.
Frank McCourt is finally gone, and in his place is none other than...Magic Johnson? Believe it. Yes, Johnson made his name in a different sport, but he spent his entire pro career in L.A., and the beloved athlete's face brings a ton of marketability to the franchise. He's looking to put the Dodgers on equal footing with the Lakers popularity-wise, and if he succeeds, his own popularity might reach levels it hasn't seen in decades. If this goes the way they're hoping, it'll be a win for both sides.
San Diego Padres: "Changes," Missing Links, Volume Two, 1990.
New GM. New young first base prospect. New logo. New uniforms. The Padres tend not to generate much excitement outside of their home city, mostly due to the fact that they often seem like a bland, stale franchise, but they weren't content to twiddle their thumbs this offseason. The next major transition might be the one to a new owner.
San Francisco Giants: "All Alone in the Dark," Changes, 1970.
Brian Sabean seems to be the last GM left whose front office doesn't have any use for Sabermetrics. Not that it's stopped them from putting together a World Series Champion, of course, but I'm sure Giant fans can only wonder what type of team they'd have with a more stat-savvy guy at the top.
Chicago Cubs: "You Just May Be the One," Headquarters, 1967.
Many front offices have come and gone on the north side of Chicago. For the last several decades they've have had the goal of ending a significant futility streak, and all have failed in their efforts. But what ho! Who is this that now runs the show? Why, it's Theo Epstein, the GM who helped bust the title drought in Boston! This guy knows a thing or two about long-suffering franchises, and he very well could be the man Cub fans have been waiting for to get that pesky monkey off their backs!
Cincinnati Reds: "Don't Call on Me," Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd., 1967.
The Reds had a closer. His name was Ryan Madson. Before Spring Training was over, Madson was lost to elbow surgery and a closer-by-committee was looking like the route they were taking. Who are the candidates? Sean Marshall (career 7-for-14 in save situations), Nick Masset (4-for-18), Bill Bray (3-for-11), Aroldis Chapman (1-for-4) and Jose Arredondo (0-for-9). When Dusty Baker dials the bullpen, he'd better hope someone reliable is waiting for him on the other end.
Houston Astros: "Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye," The Monkees Present, 1969.
After half a century of history in the Senior Circuit, the Astros will be playing their final season there this year. As the distinction between the two leagues is watered down before our very eyes, we can only use this season to say farewell to another beautiful tradition.
Milwaukee Brewers: "Good Clean Fun," The Monkees Present, 1969.
Oh, the drama! Ryan Braun has brought a great deal of enjoyment to the Milwaukee faithful with his on-field heroics, and until this offseason it was never questioned whether he had done so by illegal means. His failed PED test last December suddenly put a cloud of doubt over his 2011 MVP season, and it took an unprecedented overturning of a test result to get his name cleared. The Cream City rooters can now kick back and relax, knowing that the great time they're having watching this guy play is unsullied by questionable chemicals.
Pittsburgh Pirates: "Just a Game," Instant Replay, 1969.
In Pittsburgh, there are some sports that are a pretty big deal. Steelers football? Yeah, that's one's practically a religion. Penguins hockey? Yeah, that generates many a turnstile click. Pirates baseball? Well, considering this team is probably looking at its 20th straight losing season, how can we expect the Steel Citiers to take it that seriously?
St. Louis Cardinals: "Hard to Believe," Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd., 1967.
It still shocks and horrifies me that the Cardinals are the reigning champions. After losing Adam Wainwright for the season, squeaking into the playoffs on the last day and being one out away from losing the World Series in consecutive innings, they overcame all the odds, and by no means deservedly (hey, this is my blog, and I'm free to throw my editorial comments anytime I want). Baseball, though, is made to break your heart, and it never stops us from coming back for more. After losing Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa and replacing them with Carlos Beltran and a skipper with no previous managerial experience, they probably shouldn't be expected to repeat. Then again, I'm the same guy who said last year that they had no chance of winning it without Wainwright. With this franchise you just never know. They have a certain knack for making you miserable.
Atlanta Braves: "Run Away From Life," Justus, 1996.
That final day of last season surely leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of the Braves. If they'd won, they could've forced a tiebreaker for a chance to go to the playoffs. The fact that they lost at home after 13 innings though? Ooh. That's gotta sting. Indeed, they were only a tally short of preventing their season's death in Game 162. So close, and yet, so far.
Miami Marlins: "Star Collector," Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd., 1967.
Jose Reyes. Mark Buehrle. Carlos Zambrano. Heath Bell. All have been All-Stars, all have joined the Marlins for the 2012 season. Aaron Rowand would've technically counted too, if he had made the team. No longer are the Marlins a "develop-'em-and-trade-'em-when-they-get-too-expensive" organization, but one that acquires the established players.
New York Mets: "Tear Drop City," Instant Replay, 1969.
When you think of big cities in America, you think of New York. While the Mets are digging themselves out of the hole they've found themselves in the last few seasons, they still have a long way to go. You never have to ask a Met fan twice to feel sorry for himself (sharing a city with the Yankees tends to make one lose perspective), so the eye water should be flowing all over certain parts of the U.S.'s largest metropolis.
Philadelphia Phillies: "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)," More of the Monkees, 1967.
Things are still good in Philadelphia, but with their best players aging, a so-so minor league system and Ryan Howard eating up way too much payroll down the road, Phillie fans had better cling to the present day while it lasts.
Washington Nationals: "Take a Giant Step," The Monkees, 1966.
With a revamped rotation and some exciting young up-and-comers, the perennially-lower-tier Nationals are in a position to make some noise this year. If this franchise could make its first postseason appearance since 1981, it would truly be a sizable stride forward.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: "I'll Spend My Life With You," Headquarters, 1967.
Did you see that contract they gave to Albert Pujols? Ten years as a player, then ten more years offering his services to the team, not to mention perks galore? By the time that thing expires the Cardinal portion of his career will be a distant memory. He'll be forever known as Albert the Angel (of Anaheim).
Oakland Athletics: "I Wanna Be Free," The Monkees, 1966.
Everyone knows the A's need to get out of Oakland Coliseum. Everyone knows a move to San Jose would make perfect sense. Unfortunately, everyone also knows the Giants aren't willing to concede their territorial rights to Silicon Valley. Right now the Athletics are pretty much stuck in their current situation. They see the waves out on the blue sea and can only look in envy.
Seattle Mariners: "All the King's Horses," Missing Links, Volume Two, 1990.
The last two years in King County, Washington have been noteworthy for their good starting pitching. Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award in 2010, their staff has been among AL leaders in innings pitched per start, and Cliff Lee, Erik Bedard, Michael Pineda and Doug Fister have all passed through. The Mariners are hoping their offense does a little more of the heavy lifting this year, but it'd be nice if they could continue getting strong contributions from their rotation.
Texas Rangers: "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World," Pool It!, 1987.
The Rangers' international scouting is highly regarded in the industry. Their prized international signing this year is Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, who could provide the team with the ace they need after losing C.J. Wilson. If there's a potentially useful player out there somewhere, the Rangers will track him down.
Chicago White Sox: "Goin' Down," b-side, 1967.
The Sox went "All In" last year and failed to achieve results commensurate with the commitment. It led to Ozzie Guillen's firing at the end of the season, followed by the departures of Mark Buehrle and Carlos Quentin in the offseason. The Chisox don't have much in the way of youth, and the most noteworthy major leaguer they added over the winter was Kosuke Fukudome. I think it's safe to say that their place in the 2012 standings will be below that of their 2011 third-place finish.
Cleveland Indians: "I Don't Think You Know Me," Missing Links, 1987.
Fausto Carmona- er...Roberto Hernandez's false identity situation has been the biggest story of the Indians' offseason, and it's resulted in a reduced salary for the pitcher. Throw in the fact that Carmona- er, Hernandez has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career, and the Indians really have no idea what to expect from him if indeed he does play this season. Sigh...what are they gonna do with this guy?
Detroit Tigers: "Daddy's Song," Head, 1968.
Say, have you heard this little number before? The Tigers have a heavy-set first baseman named Fielder, and he even has a 50-homer season to his credit! It was true in the early-to-mid-'90s, and it's true once again. Many of us know about Prince Fielder's strained relationship with his father, but he's following in his footsteps regardless.
Kansas City Royals: "Nine Times Blue," Missing Links, 1987.
The Royals haven't had a winning record since 2003. While they play in a weak division and have several promising players, many of those youngsters are still developing, and there are plenty of holes elsewhere on the roster, like the pitching staff and the bottom of the order. While the future looks bright in K.C., the odds are good that this will be the ninth straight year without the Royals' hue of azure bringing over-.500 happiness.
Minnesota Twins: "Unlucky Stars," Justus, 1996.
Between Justin Morneau's career-threatening concussion, Joe Mauer's injuries that might move him out from behind the plate and Francisco Liriano's frequent health issues, the Twins haven't had the best of luck with their marquee players. If these guys can't be physically sound and performing at an optimal level, it looks like another long season is in store for Minnesota.
Baltimore Orioles: "Looking For the Good Times," The Monkees Present, 1969.
I think it's safe to say that the Orioles' fortunes simply haven't been all that good since they abandoned their old cartoon bird logo. Well, good news! That winsome little fellow is back, and the team now bears some resemblance to the O's of brighter days. Hey, it's a start.
Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees: "Pillow Time," The Monkees Present, 1969.
Are we officially Yankees-and-Red Soxed out? These teams are always winners because they can afford to throw money at just about any free agent they want, and it's a given that they're both going to be in the playoff hunt every year. Neither one has anything left to prove, and all the hype their "rivalry" generates is of little interest to anyone who's a fan of neither side. These two teams are supposed to be baseball's meal tickets, but let's face it: There's been nothing compelling about them for years. Throw in the fact that they're MLB's two slowest-paced teams and you've got a recipe for a snoozer anytime one of them is one the field. Are the mainstream media going to get the hint?
Tampa Bay Rays: "Sweet Young Thing," The Monkees, 1966.
Matt Moore is a kid with upside. He's got so much upside, in fact, that the Rays signed him to a deal that could potentially keep him in Tampa Bay for the next eight years. His time at the major league level has been thus far brief, but it's also been thus far brilliant. Truly, Friedman and Co. are high on this young man, and his performance in what should be his official rookie season is something people all over baseball are looking forward to.
Toronto Blue Jays: "Gettin' In," Pool It!, 1987.
The Blue Jays have had a pretty good team for much of the Wild Card era, but they've been unable to reach the playoffs due to the stacked division they play in. With the new second Wild Card, their chances of finding a spot in the postseason might be the best they've been since their 1993 title.
2011 ultimately went down in history as a nightmare, so the time has come for redemption! Teams, let's make 2012 one of the greatest seasons in history!