As the snow melts and fields return to pristine condition, pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training to prepare for another 162 games of thrills, diving plays and monster home runs.
There is so much to look forward to as the 2016 MLB season looms ahead. But here are some of the big things to look out for as opening day rolls around:
1. The Return Of Dominant Starting Pitching
Last season proved that the MLB is not just a league of dominant hitters. Both the starting pitchers and closers proved their worth in both the regular season and the post-season, thereby re-emphasizing the major role they play in the game.
The World Series champions — the Kansas City Royals — were one of the teams who relied on pitching as a whole. It doesn't matter whether they used starters or a dominant bullpen; the Royals proved pitching wins games.
But it wasn't just the Royals. From Dallas Keuchel to Jake Arrieta, pitching dominance was abundant throughout the league. Besides, there were seven no-hitters this past season: seven.
Ready for more dominant performances? They're coming this 2016 season.
2. A New Era Of The Game
With David Ortiz making the announcement about his anticipated retirement after the 2016 season, we are finding more and more players finishing off their careers in outstanding fashions. We've known players like Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki and Ortiz for several years.
With the MLB failing to attract younger viewers because of the sport's slower nature, cycling out the older players with younger, phenomenally talented athletes might bring more viewers from the younger generation.
Bringing new players to watch and idolize the game is creating a faster pace to America's pastime. These past few seasons, the highlight reels have been crawling with youthful athletes doing amazing things, both on the field and at the plate. This is bringing true excitement back to the game.
Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant all prove great talent is coming up through the minor leagues. Who will it be this year?
3. Old Faces, New Places
You're crazy if you aren't excited to see big-name, free agents take on a whole new team. Some players have failed after signing with new teams — ahem, Robinson Cano — while others have felt right at home.
I'll be excited to see some of the big trades from the off-season play out on the field. Aroldis Chapman will take over the role of closer for the already-stacked back end of the Yankees bullpen.
Johnny Cueto will seek to become the staff ace in San Francisco. David Price once again takes over the AL East in a completely different uniform. Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller take over Arizona to (hopefully) help bring the Diamondbacks back to the World Series.
See? There are so many different places to look for these new additions. But will they prove their value to their squads, or will they falter in their new home ballparks?
4. The All-Star Game
Truth be told, the last few All-Star games have been boring (aside from the recognition of two baseball greats: Jeter and Mariano Rivera). But after watching the NBA All-Star competition this year, it has become clear that maybe Rob Manfred needs to take a page out of Adam Silver's book and change things up a bit.
All in all, we want to see something different and exciting. We want to see the best of the best — regardless of the person who is the most popular — play on that field for home field advantage.
Maybe the NBA All-Star game sparked some creativity into the minds of the MLB. At least, we can hope so. Your move, Manfred.
When it comes to sports, there is no better place to be than at the ball field this summer. There is no other sport you'll want to watch.