For most of the last 13 months, the focus has been on reasons why baseball wouldn't be played in a normal way. The pandemic was far and away the most important one, of course, but MLB and the MLBPA have also taken shots at each other and disagreed at every turn, and the actual rules of the game are seemingly under constant attack.
But here we are on April 1, with a normal opening day and the knowledge that all 30 teams will have fans in the stands this season. The hope is that at some point in the summer ballparks are packed again. For now, we'll settle for limited capacity and a firm commitment to a 162-game season. As the MLB season kicks off, here's our first look at how the 30 teams shape up:
30. Pirates: They're going to be awful, but at least they retain their crown as the most likely home for former Giants. The 40-man roster includes Tyler Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton and Bryan Reynolds, with Andrew Susac and Jandel Gustave there as non-roster invitees.
29. Orioles: Matt Harvey, formerly The Dark Knight, is getting another shot in a big league rotation. He had his contract purchased by the Orioles two days before his 32nd birthday.
28. Rockies: They lost Nolan Arenado for peanuts and star shortstop Trevor Story will be the next to go, likely joining a loaded free agent shortstop class in seven months. It's hard to see how they compete in the NL West again until they make some huge changes in the front office.
27. Rangers: Former A's star Khris Davis joined a rebuild, but he won't be on the field for Opening Day. Davis suffered a Grade 2 quad strain while running out a bunt single late in camp and will miss about a month.
26. Tigers: They quietly might be building something great, with five of their prospects ranking in MLB Pipeline's top 25, but this season is all about Miggy's Milestones. Former MVP Miguel Cabrera is 134 hits from 3,000 and 13 homers from 500.
25. Marlins: They recently removed the fish tank behind home plate, meaning the only cool things about their ballpark -- that tank, the sculpture in center field, the nightclub in left field and Giancarlo Stanton hitting homers off the back wall -- are all gone. Lame.
24. Mariners: In outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, some say they have two of the top five prospects in all of baseball. Now they just have to wait for them to arrive ...
23. Royals: The Power Rankings Committee (of one) gives them a ton of credit for actually spending this offseason and adding Andrew Benintendi via trade. If their young pitchers arrive and thrive, they could be a sleeper in a division with two playoff teams at the top.
22. Diamondbacks: Madison Bumgarner had 16 strikeouts in 11 1/3 spring innings and mixed in a quick-pitch (that he possibly learned from Johnny Cueto) from different arm angles. Those Giants-Diamondbacks games will be a lot more fun if he's in the midst of a bounce-back season.
21. Reds: They went for it in 2020, then basically sat out the ensuing offseason and lost Trevor Bauer. That's not a great overall plan in a division that's still there for the taking.
20. Red Sox: Former Giants first-rounder Christian Arroyo had a solid spring and made their Opening Day roster as a reserve infielder. The second baseman is still just 25.
19. Giants: FanGraphs projects them at 76-86, which would be a fifth consecutive losing season. PavsGraphs is slightly more optimistic with a deep lineup and roster that's full of very motivated free-agents-to-be, projecting them at an even 81-81.
18. Cubs: They were supposed to be a dynasty. Instead, Theo Epstein, Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Kyle Schwarber all ended up elsewhere in recent months and they're looking at Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez hitting free agency after this season. On the flip side, Matt Duffy made their roster, so maybe we shouldn't be too hard on them.
17. Indians: Nobody does a better job of developing young pitching. Nobody does a better job of failing to take advantage of it.
16. Phillies: Another clubhouse filled with familiar names. Matt Moore (!) is back after a year in Japan and will get a rotation spot. Sam Coonrod had a huge spring. Andrew McCutchen will be a big part of their lineup at the age of 34.
15. Brewers: Did you know Christian Yelich, the 2018 MVP, hit .205 last season and was worth just 0.5 WAR? He looks like his old self this spring, and a return to form could have the Brewers in position to challenge for the division crown.
14. Angels: It would be really, really cool if Shohei Ohtani could stay healthy and take a run at a true two-way season. He hit .552 this spring with five homers and hit 100 mph on the mound.
13. A's: Jesus Luzardo's 65 mph breaking ball -- The Turkey Sub -- was one of the funnier stories of the spring. The A's could really use a breakout season from the former top prospect after suffering some big losses in the offseason.
12. Nationals: They added a lot of veteran depth this offseason in Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, Josh Bell and Brad Hand, but all eyes will be on MVP frontrunner Juan Soto, who had a .490 OBP and slugged .695 last season. He legit might be on the verge of having a Barry Bonds-type season.
11. Cardinals: The Giants haven't announced what they'll do with the power-boosting archway this season, but they should at the very least open it alllll the way up on July 5. That's when Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt come to town as teammates.
10. Astros: As we were reminded in Superbad, people don't forget. They're about to play in front of fans for the first time since being exposed, and they open in Oakland, which is just absolutely perfect.
9. Twins: Kind of an odd team from a national perspective. They're not built around an ace or a young superstar like Tatis or Soto, and there's not much star power here, period. But they have a roster filled with guys who are well above-average and no obvious holes, and should be back in the playoffs for a third straight year.
8. Blue Jays: Losing closer Kirby Yates is a blow, and George Springer is banged up already. But Vlad Jr. looks poised for a breakout season after dropping 42 pounds and adding Marcus Semien will be huge for a young infield. Also they have Joe Panik still, which is important.
7. Rays: They lost Blake Snell and Charlie Morton but still have a deep rotation in a season when that'll be more important than ever. Their biggest question heading into the year might be what they do with Wander Franco, the game's top prospect. The 20-year-old hasn't played above A-ball yet but should be an option this summer.
6. Braves: They still have a little Giants East thing going with Drew Smyly in their rotation and Will Smith as the closer. Pablo Sandoval and Ehire Adrianza, who first played together eight years ago in San Francisco, both made the bench.
5. White Sox: Losing Eloy Jimenez (torn pectoral) for five to six months is an absolutely brutal blow, but they still have a loaded young lineup, deep rotation and Liam Hendriks in the ninth. They'll be fine.
4. Mets: Something always goes wrong for the Mets, but right now you should buy the hype. In Jacob deGrom, who somehow added velo, and Francisco Lindor, they have preseason Cy Young and MVP candidates. They'll get a midseason boost when Noah Syndergaard returns from Tommy John.
3. Yankees: The lineup is loaded, with former top prospect Clint Frazier now mixed in with DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres and others. The questions will come in the rotation, where they hope Corey Kluber looks like his old self and Jameson Taillon takes a leap after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
2. Padres: The darlings of the offseason, they would have a better shot of ending the Dodgers' eight-year run atop the division if they were fully healthy. Mike Clevinger (Tommy John) will miss the entire season and Dinelson Lamet (elbow) will miss the start of it. But ... they added Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, and who knows what Fernando Tatis Jr. is truly capable of. The NL West has a second superpower.
1. Dodgers: Don't overthink it. They're the reigning champs, and basically every contributor is still in his prime. Oh, they also added reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer to an already stacked rotation, David Price is back after opting out of 2020, and super-prospect Gavin Lux is now in the mix. If it was Dodgers vs. The Field, the Dodgers still might be the choice.