After a tempestuous winter in which Hot Stove season barely reached a low simmer, it is with relief that today is reported by ESPN to be the earliest Opening Day in MLB history. Twenty-six of the thirty teams will start their season today (the Pirates-Tigers and Nationals-Reds games are both rained out until tomorrow) but just twelve will make the playoffs and only one team holding the Commissioner’s trophy as "World Champions”. Fans will have plenty to cheer and boo over the next six months while eating their peanuts, whether in the stands or at home watching on television.

With the long season in mind here are some of the things fans should be watching for.

Throw out the numbers and projections

One of the biggest questions for the new season will be whether or not the record-setting home run pace from last year, which saw 6,105 combined home runs, will continue to climb or settle back into normal levels. One team hoping it doesn’t is the New York Yankees who in addition to boasting reigning American League Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, have now added former Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton and his 59 long balls from 2017 into their ranks. Other teams looking to strike it big with their new additions will include their divisional rival Boston Red Sox who signed J.D.

Martinez after he conked 45 homers last year. A surprise addition to that list is the San Diego Padres who signed Eric Hosmer attempting to spearhead a rebuild. On the pitcher's mound, the Chicago Cubs will be hoping new relief addition Brandon Morrow can help shore a bullpen that imploded in the 2017 postseason. On the other end of the spectrum, the question as to how many games the dismantled Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers will lose after their subtractions and whether they can challenge the 100 loss mark or whether they will be truly ignominious.

Defending champion Houston could face usurpers

Specifically, beyond the teams who have already been mentioned, the team who the Astros beat in last year's Fall Classic, the Los Angeles Dodgers led by three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, will once again figure to be in the running. Other contenders include Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals and the Cleveland Indians with their ace Corey Kluber.

This would normally be the part of the article where I try and peer into my crystal ball and tell you which of these teams has the best numbers, probability, and odds from Las Vegas to actually pull it off, but I won't. Because any prediction I make for a 162 game season would probably be laughable by game number 30, never mind in six months. For now let us follow the advice of Walt Whitman and "go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms — the game of ball is glorious." Play ball!