I don’t think that I am going out on a limb here when I say the start of the baseball season is possibly the most optimistic time of year. Baseball isn’t particularly unique in this regard, but the length of the season and the Springtime in the air somehow makes it more so than the start of other sports’ seasons.
This season for the Marines is really no exception. Last year the team got so close to the Climax Series – only 0.5 games out; the margin of a single rain-out, or one of those devastating losses to Orix late in the season — so this year we can only hope to get better.
There’s been a few significant changes in the lineup. Ortiz and Zuleta are gone, as is Winston Abreu (not that he spent much time off the injury list last year). In are two new foreign players – Chase Lambin and Gary Burnham – and the much-heralded return to Japan of former Daiei star Tadahito Iguchi. Of the departing players I am most sad to see Ortiz go as I thought him a solid contributor to the club, but the chance to add a talent like Iguchi is certainly worth making the change. It’s also very much worth mentioning that the Marines managed to hold onto all of their significant NPB free agents, especially Shimizu, Hashimoto, and Saburo.
Perhaps it’s just ‘baseball optimism’ and my unashamed fandom, but I really think this team has a a chance to make some waves this year. As I mentioned the team came so very close to qualifying last year, and that was with major turmoil in the pitching staff, early season injuries to Satozaki and Abreu, no production from Zuleta, and a season-ending injury to the fantastic Imae, so with all the key players back from last year and the new additions one can’t help but have big hopes.
As they say, hope springs eternal!