A year ago, a still incomplete Hot Stove League dominated our annual feature “30 teams, 30 questions”, which was always published around the clock.
This year? The big names have signed. The dust, however, only subsided due to the illegal scandal of stealing signs.
If I were to play baseball, I would certainly choose this poison. People seem to love the Astros dumpster and its many tentacles. A 2018 Red Sox report from Rob Manfred is expected shortly. The slow free agencies of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were just annoyed.
So let's strive for it. As always, these are the questions the teams are trying to answer at the time they leave the camp in March, as opposed to concerns that will persist throughout the season.
Let's move from the first to the worst, from the defending champions to the tigers:
1. Washington Nationals. Who will play third base? I don't know yet, and neither do the Nats. Former Met Asdrubal Cabrera and rookie Carter Kieboom are the two best candidates.
2. Houston Astros. Can the ever popular Dusty Baker, 70 years old and appearing as manager in his fifth major league, unite this historically shaken but still quite talented group?
3. New York Yankees. How versatile will the healed Miguel Andujar Aaron Boone be?
4. St. Louis Cardinals. Who will prevail as the fifth starter? Kwang-Hyun Kim and Carlos Martinez are rated top.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers. How will the Dodgers outfield align and will it include Joc Pederson, whose dealings with the angels have just been impaled?
6. Minnesota Twins. Does the brittle pitcher Rich Hill, which is still healthy, make it through the Grapefruit League?
7. Atlanta Braves. Who will replace the late Josh Donaldson on the third base?
8. Tampa Bay Rays. Will the team use the relaxed pace of spring training to learn French?
9. Oakland A’s. How will Mike Fiers adapt to his new place as baseball's most famous whistleblower?
10. Milwaukee Brewers. Can takeover overtake Luis Uria's returning starter Orlando Arcia as start breaker?
11. Cleveland Indians. Who will form the end of the starting rotation after Corey Kluber's offseason trade to Texas?
12. New York Mets. How will rookie manager Luis Rojas, who has less than a month to prepare for this gig, be in the spotlight for the first time?
13. Arizona Diamondbacks. Will Madison Bumgarner, a giant of a lifetime, adapt quickly to his new job?
14. Boston Red Sox. After the coach Alex Cora, the best player Mookie Betts and the expensive, top-class pitcher David Price have lost, the Bosox – officially still without a manager at the moment – can use the next over six weeks to stabilize and at least score one goal achieve placeholders?
15. Chicago Cubs. Can the new manager David Ross find the secret sauce in this core, which has steadily declined since the 2016 championship?
16. Philadelphia Phillies. Will Didi Gregorius look more like his surgical self before Tommy John after his Subpar forced him to sign a pillow contract in 2019?
17. Texas Rangers. How close can his old self look to Kluber who was injured last year?
18. San Francisco Giants. How will Gabe Kapler deal with his second chance after a very shaky first manager run with the Phillies?
19. Cincinnati Reds. How will the Reds suddenly deal with the increased demands and hopes after so many years on the dumps?
20. Chicago White Sox. Can you build on a prosperous winter and convince yourself that you are legitimate?
21. Los Angeles Angels. Is it a two-way wonder that Shohei Ohtani is ready to contribute both on the hill and with his racket?
22. Colorado Rockies. Will management and franchise player Nolan Arenado, for whom so little has been done since agreeing on a mammoth extension about a year ago, oppose it?
23. San Diego Padres. Can the new skipper Jayce Tingler start unlocking the mojo that this fascinating group of talents has yet to discover?
24. Pittsburgh Pirates. What rhythm will the recently arrived pirate leadership group (President Travis Williams, General Manager Ben Cherington and Manager Derek Shelton) take after cleaning the house to establish a new culture?
25. Seattle Mariners. At the end of the Cactus League game, will Seattle decide to withdraw Jarred Kelenic's number in honor of his upcoming size?
26. Toronto Blue Jays. How ready will Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has been at risk of injury in the course of his career, to double his efforts in 2019?
27. Kansas City Royals. Is the veteran catcher and team boss Salvador Perez, who missed last season due to Tommy John's surgery in his right elbow, ready to take his starting position again?
28. Miami Marlins. How competitive are these guys who didn't stop for the first time in Derek Jeter's tenure in the exciting National League East, but joined them?
29. Baltimore Orioles. What can you do to convince the Baltimore people to spend their money on them?
30. Detroit Tigers. Will Austin Romine, who has had his first chance after serving as a long-time Yankees reservist, leave his mark on the young Pitchers of the Tigers, including those who start the season in minors?
This week's pop quiz question came from Gary Mintz of South Huntington: In a 1967 episode of "Gilligan’s Island", the Castaways listen to the radio while a news story with a baseball score from the previous day is played. Which two teams played in the game?
No more baseball oscars – I'm not sure they were entertaining enough to warrant the effort – but I'm submitting the best picture of 2019 for baseball fans: "Uncut Gems". Because first of all it's great. Second, because star Adam Sandler produced "The Benchwarmers" and his co-star Idina Menzel, who smashed it at the actual Oscars last night, sang the national anthem at the 2014 All-Star Game.
Your answer to the pop quiz is the Mets and the Dodgers.
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