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by user Xinoph
New Year's Eve may have been three months ago, but the real 2006 starts today, with the first game of the MLB regular season, tonight on ESPN.
This season will start with the same series it ended with, at least for two teams: the Tribe and the ChiSox face off for the first of a three-game series in Chicago (Games 2 & 3 are Tuesday & Wednesday).
The White Sox and the Indians, you'll recall, finished their regular season in what should have been a tense three-game series. The surging Indians had reduced Chicago's lead to a mere game and a half a few days before; by the time they played each other, the White Sox were back ahead by four games. The only suspense of that series came paired with the other divisional series that weekend in the American League: Red Sox-Yankees.
Like the Tribe, the BoSox gave up a chance to regain the divisional lead in the last week of the regular season. Unlike the Tribe, the BoSox had actually led for most of the regular season. Cleveland, facing Chicago's J/V team (Ozzie Guillen had decided to rest most of his starters for that series), failed to win a single game. The only effect of that Chicago-Cleveland series was to push the Tribe out of the postseason, clinching the Wild Card for the Red Sox and the A.L. East for the Yankees. Thanks to the Tribe, the last Red Sox-Yankees game of 2005 - a game I attended - was meaningless. Though, of course, it was fun to watch the Sox win 10-1. Even if it did feel like a Portland Sea Dogs-Trenton Thunder game by the 6th inning.
Hopefully this series will start Cleveland off on a better foot. Hopefully the A.L. Central will be a heated race for the entire season this year, rather than just the last two weeks. Hopefully Boston won't wave good-bye to the division title in the LAST WEEK OF THE SEASON, and hopefully this year they'll make a postseason trip worthwhile. Hopefully the steroids investigation is competent, effective, and has meaningful results. Hopefully my team improves and stays relatively healthy. Hopefully there aren't any surprise revelations about any player I like, and hopefully Johnny Damon gets injured in the first week of the season. (Even better if it's in Fenway)
Really, though, like most of you I hope that this Cleveland-Chicago game is the mark of an exciting regular season, with improvements by mediocre teams and great divisional races. New stars rising, fading ones shining, and a surprise contender or two.
Because that's what baseball is all about.
Sun 04/02/06, 10:38 am EST