New York and Boston may be located in the Northeast, but together they invariably suck up all the oxygen of the baseball world. Sure, Boston is the world champ, and we know that the Red Sox, New York Yankees and New York Mets have baseball's highest payrolls. But every spring, do we have to be subjected to all the talk about these teams? (I'm sick of it, and I'm a Mets fan.)
This year, everyone is yapping about how Boston could be a dynasty. Or how the Yanks will fare with a new manager, Joe Girardi, and a new boss, George Steinbrenner's son, Hank, a meddler who may manage to bring back the dysfunctional feel of the old Bronx Zoo. And those poor Mets will their new ace, Johan Santana, help them rebound from last season's historic collapse? Not to mention all the New York players caught up in the steroid morass, in particular Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and now A-Rod whom Jose Canseco said he introduced to a steroid supplier (Rodriguez has refused to comment).
See, even we find it hard to stop talking about the two cities' ballclubs. So with the rest of the country in mind, TIME.com offers a guide to the 2008 baseball season outside the Boston-New York bubble.
1. Tiger Power
Thanks to some off-season shuffling, the Detroit Tigers lineup is now a murderers' row. The club traded for one of the best young hitters in the game, Florida third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who hit .320 last season, with 34 home runs and 119 RBI. The team also acquired Jacque Jones, who batted .332 after the All-Star break with the Chicago Cubs, and Edgar Renteria, long one of the most solid offensive shortstops in baseball (though his defense has declined). Magglio Ordonez, the '07 AL batting champ, and the always dangerous Gary Sheffield return from last year. How good is this lineup? Jones will bat ninth, and catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, a probable future Hall of Famer, will bat eighth. One burning question: will pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who came from Florida with Cabrera, recapture his prime form?
2. Anyone Want Barry?
Barry Bonds, baseball's all-time home run king is available. He would really, really would like to work for you. Honestly, even at 43, he can help your team win a few more games, or at least sell some more tickets. Yet, with a perjury indictment hanging over him, baseball is shunning Barry Bonds. Let's see what happens come June or July, when a contender needs those extra runs, or a cellar-dweller needs some publicity. Any publicity.
3. Are the Rockies For Real?
God's team won an unfathomable 21 of 22 games before being swept in the World Series (we'll gladly fail to mention the sweepers). Some skeptics still insist it's a fluke of nature namely, the thin Coors Field air that plays tricks on other teams. Others have been converted, and believe that the Rockies should be a formidable foe over the long haul. The team did lose sparkplug second baseman Kaz Matsui to free agency, but outfielder Brad Hawpe won't be underrated for long. As long as the Coors Field humidor helps Colorado pitchers keep the ball from flying out of the park, the Rockies should keep rolling.
4. Torre Story
New manager Joe Torre heads west from you-know-where to take over in L.A., where he he'll try to heal a Dodger clubhouse in which the vets like Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra and young guys like Matt Kemp and James Loney have previously failed to get along. New centerfielder Andruw Jones hit just .222 in his last Atlanta season he'll need to get his bat back if Torre can work his magic once again.
5. Tribe Vibe
Detroit gets all the AL Central ink because of their scary lineup, but fans shouldn't forget that the Indians were one game away from the World Series last season before they blew a 3-1 lead to Boston. Can pitchers C.C. Sabathia, the AL Cy Young winner, and phenom Fausto Carmona repeat their '07 success on the mound, while Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez try to match their sterling years at the plate?