An around-the-bases look at the 2013 major league season that starts a week from today when the Texas Rangers visit the Houston Astros:
1. STAR SIGHTINGS: Glam slam in L.A.! Josh Hamilton joined Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in a juicy Angels lineup, Zack Greinke zeroed in on the Dodgers. Other top winter destinations: Toronto (R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle) and Boston (Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli).
2. MAKING THEIR MOVES: A half-dozen new managers. Terry Francona (Cleveland), John Farrell (Boston), Mike Redmond (Miami), Bo Porter (Houston) and John Gibbons (Toronto), plus the most intriguing hire: Former shortstop Walt Weiss goes from high school coach to big league skipper in Colorado.
3. REMEMBER ME? Tigers slugger Victor Martinez was injured for all of 2012. Mariano Rivera, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista also finished on the disabled list. They’re back, along with Derek Jeter and Carl Crawford. Let’s wait to see Hanley Ramirez, David Wright and Mark Teixeira — they got hurt at the World Baseball Classic.
4. WE PLAY WHO? The Astros’ shift from the NL to the AL leaves 15 teams in each league. That’ll mean an interleague game most every day. The new-wave scheduling starts April 1 when the Angels visit Cincinnati in a decidedly non-traditional opener.
5. SPEAKING OF THE ASTROS: With a team payroll matching Alex Rodriguez’s salary and coming off 107 losses, Houston could be way out of its league. A possible result: AL West opponents might feast on the Astros, run up win totals and the division could produce both wild cards.
6. OH, BROTHER: Nearly 100 sets of siblings have teamed up in big league history. The Alomars, the Boones, the Ripkens — heck, three Alous once formed the starting outfield for the Giants. Next up, B.J. and Justin Upton for the Braves. Their parents already have season tickets at Turner Field.
7. UPON FURTHER REVIEW: No additional replay this year. Baseball is still trying to decide what to review (out or safe at first base?), which video technology to use and who should make the call. Stand by for 2014. Maybe.
8. DEBATES ON THE FIELD: Fans in Washington still wonder how far they could’ve gone last year if Stephen Strasburg didn’t get shut down. There’s no innings limit on the ace now, as the Nats try to bring the World Series to D.C. San Francisco, meanwhile, aims to win the title for the third time in four years.
9. DEBATES OFF THE FIELD: RBIs vs. VORP. ERA vs. BABIP. The Miguel Cabrera-Mike Trout MVP race ramped up the rhetoric between new stats and old values. Both sides dug in, the arguments got louder, the insults intensified. A little more listening, a lot less yelling might show there’s plenty of middle ground.
10. SEE YA AROUND: Get your tickets now for the Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour. Go see Mo and leave with a memory. Many opposing hitters already got souvenirs — splinters of their bats he shattered with that cut fastball.