The Point After: Baseball’s glorious spring return

Pat Higgins | Asst. Sports Editor

While Dayton was busy busting your bracket last week, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks played Major League Baseball’s “Opening Series” down under on March 22 in Sydney, Australia. On Sunday, the Dodgers lost on the road to the San Diego Padres on the league’s “Opening Night,” while the San Francisco Giants and teams outside of the National League West enjoyed “Opening Day” on Monday.

Just slap “Opening” in front of any baseball-related term these days and Commissioner Bud Selig will coordinate a national broadcast, I guess.

Regardless of which day you would consider the “official” start of the season, baseball is back and Alex Rodriguez is not (golf clap for that one, Bud). This year in the Wild West that is the salary cap-less Major Leagues, the Yankees place second in the payroll rankings for the first time since 1998 with damages totaling close to $217 million. The Bronx Bombers’ belt is tight compared to the Dodgers. Owner Magic Johnson and company are forking over $235 million in exchange for a shot at the World Series. With ever-increasing club revenues, seven of the league’s 30 teams enter 2014 with a payroll over $150 million.

And you think those fancy-looking sushi trays at Off Ramp are expensive?

Financials aside, the boys of summer took to the diamond on Monday at baseball cathedrals across the country. Everyone and their mother seem to be releasing forecasted standings these days, but as of Monday morning, clubs from Seattle to New York lined the diamond for Opening Day ceremonies to unveil American flags that span entire outfields, all 0-0. Except for those Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Padres, who RSVP’ed first to the commissioner’s office.

Pittsburgh native Neil Walker launched a walk-off homerun into the stands in right field in the bottom of the 10th inning for the Buccos, who will try to clinch consecutive postseason berths for the first time since 1992. The Phillies scored 14 runs in Texas? Talk about an Opening Day miracle, considering general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is paying eight players who are at least 35 years old over $78 million this season.

Around the league, questions surround most every roster. How will the Dodgers use Puig, Kemp, Ethier and Crawford when there are only three outfield spots per night? Speaking of Puig, who will be the next Cuban slugger to surface at a ballpark near you? Is Miguel Cabrera really worth $292 million? Are the Nationals for real this year? Will Albert Pujols return to form in his second year with the Angels? How will the league respond to Ryan Braun’s return? Most importantly, will Ryan Braun and Aaron Rodgers mend their friendship?

Warmer days, walk-offs and web gems are on the way. Following a winter characterized by balmy temperatures, potholes the size of craters and classes in snowstorms, PNC Park reopened its gates on Monday. Spring will soon be here to stay, with summer on-deck.

The hunt for October baseball is on across the league and only time will tell which teams will emerge as contenders. Until then, there’s five months of baseball to enjoy, or loathe when July rolls around and your team is selling at the trade deadline.