Tom Brady fired deep on deep on a Hail Mary pass, seeking a prayer that could keep the Patriots away from what seemed like an inevitable defeat. Instead, it fell incomplete in the end zone, ending the New England Patriots season in Super Bowl XLVI as the New York Giants were crowned champions. As the dust settles over a week later, sports fans begin to turn their attention toward the upcoming Major League Baseball season, which features several interesting headlines.
In New England, the late September collapse of the Boston Red Sox evolved into significant personal changes. Former general manager Theo Epstein has left town for Chicago, as he becomes the President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs. Also departing is manager Terry Francona, who won two World Series championships in his time in Boston.
Ben Cherington had been a part of the Red Sox baseball operations office since 1999, and was a natural fit to slide in as the new general manager. On the other hand, Boston’s search for a new manager led to Bobby Valentine, a controversial figure in baseball spending years managing in both America and Japan.
Meanwhile changes have taken place on the field for the Red Sox as well. Closer Jonathan Papelbon signed a massive 4-year $50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Infielders Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie were traded in the offseason for pitching. J.D. Drew is a free agent and has looked ready for retirement for a while now. Even the futures of veterans Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek are up in the air. But that’s the fun of welcoming a new baseball season: the changes that take place across the league.
The rival New York Yankees traded their big name prospect, catcher Jesus Montero to Seattle in exchange for starter Michael Pineda. He figures to get more run support in New York than he did with the lowly Mariners. They also signed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda on the same day, instantly restructuring their rotation which also includes Ivan Nova and CC Sabathia.
In Los Angeles, the Angels had a huge day at the end of the Winter Meetings, signing both slugger Albert Pujols and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson. Now loaded with starters, Los Angeles looks to reclaim the American League West division from the Texas Rangers, who made an international response to Angels’ moves.
Texas signed Japanese ace Yu Darvish to a 6-year $60 million contract to add depth to their weak rotation. It should be fun to see whether the Rangers or Angels come out on top in 2012 as their rosters are great, but nearly opposites. The Rangers have a loaded offense with question marks in their rotation while the Angels have one of the best rotations in baseball, but have an aging offense with newfound hope from Pujols.
The other huge name on the free agent market this offseason was Prince Fielder, a massive slugger who had spent his career in Milwaukee. Now he joins the Detroit Tigers where he’ll become a part of one of the best offensive duos in baseball, teaming up with Miguel Cabrera.
Cabrera’s former team, the Florida Marlins are making some big changes as well for 2012. With a new stadium, new uniforms, and a new name, the Miami Marlins decided to start spending this offseason with the hope of attracting fans. They lured in closer Heath Bell, starter Mark Buehrle, and added Jose Reyes to their infield joining Hanley Ramirez.
No matter who you’re rooting for in the 2012 season, there will certainly be plenty to watch for all summer long.