Albert Pujols. The NL MVP runner-up led his team to a World Series Championship, and their potential return to the Fall Classic rests mostly on his broad shoulders.
Barry Bonds. The controversial slugger enters the 2007 season only 21 home runs shy of Hank Aaron’s record. His progress toward that total will depend on his health, however.
Curse of the Billy Goat. The Cubbies’ championship drought is approaching 100 years, and with their shaky starting rotation this season, it appears that Cubs fans will come even closer to the century mark of the curse.
Dollar Dog Days. If you go to ‘Nova and have not experienced the glee of a Dollar Dog Day, I highly suggest attending the Phillies’ first Dollar Dog Day on April 4 at Citizen’s Bank Park.
Eric Gagne. This former lights-out closer from L.A. has swapped his Dodger blue for Texas blue. Gagne, a former Cy Young Award winner, will need to get over his previous injuries and get his fastball back up to the upper 90s.
Fredi Gonzalez. The new manager of the Florida Marlins has rather large shoes to fill after the departure of Joe Girardi, the reigning NL Manager of the Year.
Gary Matthews Jr. After signing a multi-million dollar contract with the Angels, Matthews was hit with a barrage of human growth hormone allegations. We will soon see if these accusations affect his play.
Howie Kendrick. Matthews Jr.’s new teammate in Anaheim is ready to break out at second base.
Interleague Play. These once controversial games have sparked the interest of fans since their creation in the 1997 season. The 10th anniversary of AL vs. NL will be as exciting in 2007 as during its infancy.
Justin Verlander. After becoming the first Tiger to win the Rookie of the Year Award in nearly 20 years, this young fireballer is primed for a run at the Cy Young and possibly a World Series trophy for the Motor City.
Ken Griffey Jr. The Reds have been consistently disappointed in their overpaid superstar’s constant struggles with injuries since they acquired Junior in 1999. His move to right field may help the aging Griffey.
Lance Berkman. Berkman has hit 45 homers and driven in 136 runs in his career year of 2006. Berkman will need to produce a similar effort to boost the weakened Astros into the postseason.
Matsuzaka. “Dice-K” is being hailed as the next great thing in Bean Town. Twenty wins could be within reach for this “gyroballer.”
New Era Caps. MLB cap provider New Era has created a new line of caps that will be made from polyester fabric, a nice change from 100 percent wool.
Ozzie Guillen. This controversial manager of the White Sox needs to get his talented team back to championship form after a disappointing 2006 campaign.
Pedro Martinez. Martinez’s date of return from rotator cuff surgery will play a major role in the success of the Mets this season.
Quick starts. Historically, teams that don’t start well don’t finish the season well.
Ryan Howard. Howard is considered by many as the first pure power hitter of the post-steroid era. Though difficult, it wouldn’t be shocking if he surpasses the 60-homer plateau.
San Francisco. The Giants will host the 2007 installment of the Midsummer Classic. The NL will be looking to win for the first time in 11 years.
Torre. The boss in Yankee land was close to pulling the plug on Torre early in the offseason, but Steinbrenner never handed a pink slip to his coach. This season may be General Torre’s last stand in the Bronx.
Utley. After putting on 20 pounds of muscle, the Phillies stud has separated himself from the other second basemen in the NL. His sweet swing from the left side should produce another 30 HR/100 RBI season.
Vernon Wells. Wells became $126 million richer in the offseason, but he can’t let the money get to his head in the always difficult AL East.
Willie Randolph. The Mets manager has done an admirable job in his first two seasons in Queens, but Mets fans are hungry for more than just wins. Randolph will have to manage a weak starting rotation well if the Mets plan to get to the Fall Classic.
Xavier Nady. Not much to say here except thanks to Xavier of the Pittsburgh Pirates for filling in this spot.
Youth. The new generation of stars including Howard, Miguel Cabrera, Johan Santana and Jose Reyes has replaced the old guard of the “tainted era.”
Zimmerman. Washington doesn’t have much to cheer about these days, but the “Z”-man at the hot corner should provide some excitement in the nation’s capital.
Justin DiBiase is a sophomore civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]