>Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where the Big Ten Conference and its teams always get the respect they so rightly deserve.
Opening Day in Major League Baseball is one of the greatest days on the sports calendar every year. Maybe I feel that way because I grew up playing the game, and I’m a die-hard Twins fan. But on this day, every year, even fans of the Royals and Pirates can realistically dream of a World Series run. They have the same record as everyone else, after all…
On this Opening Day, I’ll be watching two things:
- The Twins (duh!). My local nine seems poised (on paper) to win another division title, as long as they can beat back the injury bug and hit well with RISP like they did last season. The fact that Sports Illustrated picked them to win the AL Central has me a bit worried (that magazine’s curse, especially for NFL teams, is legendary). But, worst case scenario, this has been a fun team to watch pretty much every day because of their lineup, pitching and defense. I expect more of the same this season.
- The economics of the game. This economy has seemingly impacted everyone, unless you’re John Calipari or Manny Ramirez. Will teams – especially the smaller market ones – continue to draw well, or will this be the dreaded sport/season when economics catch up with pro sports leagues? MLB is the first league to start a new season in this recession, yet the Twins have already sold 1.2 million tickets for the 2009 campaign. That’s a strong number of pre-sales, and presumably there will be many more at the gates if the team can make a run. But Minneapolis/St. Paul, like many other markets, has been hit hard – and could still fall harder. Will the Twins be a rallying point for the community, or a luxury area residents can’t afford? And what about teams/markets like Pittsburgh, or Kansas City, or Seattle, or heaven forbid – New York?
It should be another interesting season in MLB. I’ll be tuned in, that’s for sure. My World Series Prediction: Twins over Cubs, in 7 games. And there will be much rejoicing.
And – I haven’t forgotten – my NCAA Title Game Prediction: North Carolina 82, Michigan State 80. Sparty is a heckuva lot better than anyone gives them credit for, and they’re a far better team than the one that played UNC and lost by 35 earlier in the season. Plus, they’re playing at home. But UNC, led by the Chosen One himself Tyler Hansbrough, is the 2008-09 Team of Destiny. The Tar Heels are one game away from another title, and this is exactly the game that Tyler and company deferred their millions to come back to school and win. All season, they’ve wanted it more than any other team in the nation, and they surely have the talent. Don’t expect them to choke now after coming this far.
That’s all for now. I’m out like the Minnesota Wild.