What a great day today is.
Unless you've been distracted by a recent basketball coaching change or following football's spring practices — seriously, neither have a meaningful game in August — you woke up this morning with a smile on your face.
It's Opening Day.
That's right. The Major League Baseball season is here.
After a month and a half of spring training — watching minor-league hitters get over-hyped because they hit a home run against a veteran pitcher — the 162-game season is finally here.
Still reading? Awesome. That means you're a baseball fanatic. (Believe in sabermetrics?)
Do the Phillies have the best rotation of all time?
Did the Red Sox acquire enough offensive production to win another World Series?
Only time will tell, but here are five predictions for the MLB season:
1. Derek Jeter becomes the first Yankee to reach the 3,000-hit milestone but has a lackluster year.
The 36-year-old Yankee captain is nearing the end of his career. In the final year of his current contract, Jeter is hoping for one final payday before hanging up his cleats. The problem is, Jeter's production (.270 batting average and 10 home runs last season) won't come anywhere close to the money he wants. In the end, the Yankees will overpay — when do they not — for the future Hall of Famer, and he will retire as a Yankee in a few seasons. The only real question is what position Jeter will move to.
2. The Red Sox — thanks to new outfielder Carl Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez — lead baseball in nearly every offensive category.
Crawford has been a very good player for the past nine seasons with the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. Last season, he hit .307 and smashed a career-high 19 home runs. But his biggest asset is his speed. The ranging outfielder has stolen more than 45 bases in every season in which he's played at least 140 games. Gonzalez, acquired by trade from the San Diego Padres, moves from the pitcher-friendly PETCO Park to Fenway Park. A left-handed hitter, Gonzalez will thrive with the short right-field wall and contend for AL MVP honors.
3. Albert Pujols quietly bats .320 with 40 long balls and drives in 125 runs and is in contention for the Triple Crown until the last month of the season.
By far the best player in baseball (just ask Brad Lidge about the home run Pujols hit in the 2005 NLCS that still hasn't landed), Pujols routinely puts up MVP-like numbers every season. Also a yearly Gold Glove candidate at first base, Pujols will even surpass the expectations for him this year. Like Jeter, Pujols is in the final year of his contract and will most likely at least test the free agent market. Will the Cardinals allow one of the greatest baseball players of all time to walk — pun intended — instead of giving him a grand-slam contract?
4. Bryce Harper hits more than 35 home runs ... all in the minor leagues.
The hype surrounding the 19-year-old phenom paralleled that of LeBron James and Jimmy Clausen out of high school. Harper left high school early, got his GED and played at a junior college last year to be eligible for the 2010 MLB Draft. He was the No. 1 overall pick by the Washington Nationals and was invited to the team's spring training this year. Still, Harper isn't ready for "The Show" yet, though if desperate for fans and attention, the Nationals could call up Harper in September.
5. New Brave Fredi Gonzalez fails to fill the void left by long-time Atlanta manager Bobby Cox by not getting ejected from a game this year.
In all seriousness, it's the beginning of a new era in Atlanta. Cox retired last season as arguably the best regular-season manager in baseball history. Cox led the Braves to 14 consecutive division titles and a World Series victory in 1995.
6. The Tennessee Smokies capture the Southern League title.
Not technically in the major leagues, they're local and have weekly $1 hot dog nights.
—Matt Dixon is a senior in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.