What to follow in the new baseball season

Doc, I hope you’re ready for prime time, because the entire baseball world will be watching.

Doc, I hope you’re ready for prime time, because the entire baseball world will be watching.

Remember, Roy Halladay, the grass is always greener on the other side but for the first time that greener grass will come with the expectation of a World Series title, pressure you’ve never had to even contemplate in Toronto. And the fans in Philadelphia will share very little of that famous brotherly Love if you stumble early — a far cry from getting ignored in the Big Smoke.

Halladay getting traded to the Philadelphia Phillies was baseball’s biggest off season story and as it develops it will continue to be along with Cliff Lee being jettisoned to Seattle as part of the acquisition.

With 2010 getting underway on Sunday here now are the other nine big story lines to keep an eye for the season.

2) Stephen Strasburg — no rookie in any sport has been as anticipated since Sidney Crosby was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005. Now will the flame throwing righty be able to breath life back into the organization for the first time since they were the Montreal Expos and getting locked out of the 1994 World Series?

3) Tim Lincecum — The deceptive starter for the San Francisco Giants has won back-to-back Cy Young awards and doesn’t turn 26 until June 15. Becoming the third pitcher in the game to win three consecutive Cy Youngs will not be easy.

4) The AL East — as tired as the story line gets, the AL almost always has to go through the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. This off season the World Series Champion New York Yankees re-loaded with the additions of Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson while saying goodbye to Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. The Red Sox meanwhile topped up their rotation with Angels ace John Lakey but have holes in their lineup.

5 )The Minnesota Twins — If any team in the American League outside of the East has a legitimate chance of making hay in October it is the Twinkies. With home town hero and reigning AL MVP catcher Joe Mauer now locked up in an eight-year $184-million extension, Justin Morneau a lock for another 35-homer 100-RBI season and a solid but unspectacular rotation they should be playing in the snow in the fall in their new outdoor ball park.

6) Albert Pujols — The fans latest big hope for a clean superstar. With a long line of stars that have fallen under the dark cloud of steroids an performance enhancing drugs, the three time NL MVP has never been linked to any and swears he never has used. An old story and line we’ve heard many times, but c’mon, he really means it.

7) The return to glory brigade — Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto. All have battled through personal demons and in the last couple of years all have turned into franchise players. Greinke won the AL Cy Young last year after almost falling out of baseball altogether. Hamilton did fall out of baseball altogether but return from his fight with drug abuse three years ago with CIncinatti before turning into one of the games most feared sluggers two seasons ago in Texas — but was felled by injuries last year. Votto, a Canadian, battled depression early last season only to return to mash 25 homers and 84 RBI in just 131 games with the Reds.

8) Jason Heyward — the other rookie phenom. Has made batting practice a must see event for veterans who watched Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire do the same but as seasoned veterans. Has drawn comparisons to hall of famers ranging from the “Crime Dog” Fred McGriff to Hank Aaron.

9) The Toronto Blue Jays — Because this is Canada and we will be unable to escape the coverage during the summer. Just how bad will this season of pain be as they are torn down to the studs?

10) The Chicago Cubs — Maybe my personal feelings are getting involved on this solution, but hey it’s my column. It has now been 101 years since they last won the World Series, unfortunately this will likely become season 102. They have as much talent as any team in the game, but much of that talent comes with major question marks ranging from health to personality to age. It will take everything falling into place for Wrigley Field to be packed for a Fall Classic.