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Major League Baseball's opening day technically happened on Wednesday, when the Mariners and Athletics squared off in Tokyo. However, Wednesday's game between the Marlins and Cardinals is being dubbed as "opening night." We turned to Tim Kurkjian of ESPN to help us sort out the confusion and preview the season.
"The baseball season officially has begun, but I am not recognizing opening day until April 4th, and maybe even April 5th, when a whole bunch of teams really start to play," Kurkjian said. "I understand what baseball is trying to do - playing games in Japan in order to globalize the sport a little bit more - but I really am not sure that it's necessary to play games in Japan just to show the Japanese that we play baseball over here in the United States. I think that's common knowledge."
The St. Louis Cardinals, who won the World Series last season, will have to forge on without slugger Albert Pujols, who signed a massive contract to swing the lumber for the Angels in the American League. Despite that, Kurkjian still believes that St. Louis will be able to claw their way into the postseason.
"I still think they're the team to beat in their division. It is not a very strong division. The Brewers have taken a larger step back, in my opinion, than the Cardinals have. The Cardinals lost Albert Pujols, the Brewers lost Prince Fielder, and suddenly, the National League Central is up for grabs."
Kurkjian also said the team the Cardinals defeated in last years World Series, the Texas Rangers, have taken the pain from that loss and used it as motivation for this season.
"They're an improved team," he said. "They added Yu Darvish to the top of their rotation. I think their bullpen is going to be better. They have a really good team. They have a chance to go back [to the World Series] for the third year in a row."
MLB will be featuring a new playoff model this year, where the fourth playoff team in each league (in addition to winners of each division) will be decided by a one-game playoff. Tim said he looks forward to the added drama at the end of each season.
"It's almost impossible to be better than the last game of the season last year with so many teams back and forth, but with more teams in play, I think it's a good thing for the wild card. I think the extra wild card also brings a greater emphasis to the regular season. If you win your division, then you don't have to play in that one-game wild card playoff in order to advance."
This segment aired on March 31, 2012. The audio for this segment is not available.
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