Examining early storylines as 2017 MLB season begins

The start of the 2017 MLB season brings a new opportunity for all teams. (credit: Philip Wilkins via Buffalo Rising) The start of the 2017 MLB season brings a new opportunity for all teams. (credit: Philip Wilkins via Buffalo Rising)

Baseball, the sport long known as America’s pastime, is returning to the center stage of sports as basketball and hockey begin winding down. The 2017 MLB season began early this month, and as the season finds its groove, it’s time to consider some of the storylines to watch out for.

Can the Chicago Cubs win it all (again)?

The Curse of the Billy Goat, named after a tavern whose owner was forced to leave Wrigley Field due to the odor of his goat during Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, has been a thorn in the side of Cubs fans for decades.

In 2016, the Chicago Cubs finally broke the curse, winning their first World Series in 108 years. Coming back from being down 1–3, they played a thrilling Game 7 in 10 innings that will be remembered for a long time. But what about 2017? It’s a good possibility that the Cubs will make the playoffs and get the chance at a run for another championship.

Most of their key players, including Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Ben Zobrist will be back, while the team as a whole is quite young. The absence of serious, tough competition in the National League Central division also helps the team’s chances. The Cubs have begun the season slowly, but the season is just getting warmed up.

Bryce Harper, MVP 2.0?

In 2015, Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper made good on his Rookie of the Year award from three years prior to win the National League Most Valuable Player at 23, the youngest to do so by unanimous decision.

Harper had an absolutely mind-boggling year, with 118 runs, 42 homers, and a .460 on base percentage. The statistics kept going: .649 slugging, 198 OPS+, and 124 walks.

Harper’s 2016 season was not bad by any means, but simply looked subpar when compared to his monster season the year before (and the high possibility he was dealing with injuries).

Now at 24, can Harper return to his 2015 form and lead the Nationals in challenging the Cubs?

Who is a contender?

Like all sports leagues, MLB is dominated by a few perennially good teams, along with a couple up-and-comers. The Cubs are a team built to last. Who is up there with them?

The Boston Red Sox has a young group in their stout offense, and their bullpen is complete with Craig Kimbrel. Others include the Cleveland Indians, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nationals, and the New York Mets. Don’t count out the young New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are looking to bounce back after a down year in 2016. All that’s certain is that there will be a surprise.