The general managers have done their part by assembling the rosters, and the players, coaches and managers have been sweating under a hot sun in Florida and Arizona since mid-February to prepare for the season.
Now it's up to the marketing folks to stoke the interest by coming up with something pithy and insightful. So without further delay, we present the 30 Major League Baseball team slogans for Campaign 2008:
American League East
Boston Red Sox: "Workers of the World, Unite"
The defending champions, with their mega-payroll, 388-game sellout streak and an overbearing fan base, struck a blow for the little guy when they refused to travel to Japan unless the coaches and support staff were fairly compensated for the trip. This slogan should win the Sox the support of the uncommitted delegates, and it easily beat our second choice -- "Team Boras."
New York Yankees: "Compassionate Conservatism"
These aren't your daddy's go-for-the-jugular Yankees. One day they're granting 60-year-old Billy Crystal his lifelong wish with a cameo appearance at designated hitter. The next day, they're flying to Blacksburg, Va., for an exhibition game at Virginia Tech in a show of sympathy for a campus torn by tragedy. The next thing you know, general manager Brian Cashman will be making noise about reducing the team's gargantuan payroll.
Toronto Blue Jays: "Check Your Cares at Customs"
The Blue Jays think they acquired some needed grit and a winning attitude when they picked up former Cardinals David Eckstein and Scott Rolen. Can Rolen put his shoulder problems behind him and regain his All-Star form of two years ago? The chances have improved significantly now that he's 819 miles and a border station removed from his pal Tony La Russa in St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Rays: "You Can Take the Devil out of the Rays, But It Still Won't Get Rocco Baldelli off the Disabled List"
In one of the sadder, overlooked stories of spring, the former wunderkind was diagnosed with a "mitochondrial abnormality" that leaves him extremely fatigued after short workouts. At this point, you have to wonder whether Baldelli will ever come close to realizing the promise he displayed at age 21. For all the strides the Rays have made, it's amazing to think where they would be with a healthy Baldelli and Josh Hamilton in that lineup.
Baltimore Orioles: "Welcome to Loss Angelos"
On the positive side, the Orioles made two productive trades over the winter to bring in outfield phenom Adam Jones and a passel of young talent. But a franchise that has endured 10 straight losing seasons (aggregate record: 723 wins, 896 losses) under owner Peter Angelos has a long way to go before it changes the downbeat mentality at Camden Yards.
American League Central
Detroit Tigers: "Horsepower Never Goes out of Style"
The heck with hybrids and environmental sensitivity. Detroit's 2008 model is a monument to high-scoring, window-busting excess. If Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and friends are as good as people say, the Tigers will become the first team since the 1999 Cleveland Indians to score 1,000 runs. Now, about that bullpen ...
Cleveland Indians: "In Pronk We Trust"
Travis Hafner, Cleveland's affable Javier Bardem look-alike, had an admittedly sub-par year in 2007 even though he finished with 24 home runs and 100 RBIs. The Indians appear to have enough pitching with C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona leading the rotation, but they could use a Hafner revival if they want to avoid being outgunned by Detroit.
Minnesota Twins: "Ask Not What Carl Pohlad Can Do for You. Ask What You Can Do for Carl Pohlad"
So Minnesota taxpayers foot the bill for a $522 million stadium to allow the Twins to compete with the big boys and retain the franchise mainstays -- and the Twins proceed to trade Johan Santana and let Torii Hunter walk because the gazillionaire owner doesn't want to pay to keep them? Isn't this the sort of faith-busting move that takes place only in Washington, D.C.?
Chicago White Sox: "Loose Lips Sink Ships"
Heck, St. Patrick's Day hadn't even arrived and manager Ozzie Guillen was telling reporters that the White Sox should consider making a change if the team stumbles again this season. "If I'm not the answer, they have a right to do what they want to do," Guillen said last week. Just imagine what the quotable Oz will say if the Sox crap out in their 11-game stretch against Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota to open the season.
Kansas City Royals: "Good Seats Are Still Available"
Where's the beef? You'll have better luck finding it at Gates Bar-B-Q or Arthur Bryant's than the Kansas City batting order, which ranked last in the majors in home runs in 2007. The Royals gave Jose Guillen $36 million to provide middle-of-the-order muscle. But general manager Dayton Moore's long-term building project will hinge on how quickly Alex Gordon and Billy Butler adapt to the big leagues and embrace the expectations.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels: "It's a Small-Ball World, After All"
After getting swept by Boston in the Division Series, the Angels made a lot of noise about complementing Vladimir Guerrero in the order. Torii Hunter will help, but the Angels will continue to rely heavily on the stolen base, hit-and-run and aggressive baserunning approach that defines Mike Scioscia's managerial mind-set. That formula might be more promising if John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar weren't both on the disabled list to start the season.
Seattle Mariners: "It's Raining Expectations"
The Mariners overpaid for Carlos Silva and traded half the farm system for Erik Bedard, so a second-place finish won't fly this season. If the team gets off to a slow start, the locals will start hammering general manager Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren and turn their attention to broadcaster Dave Niehaus' Hall of Fame speech.
Oakland Athletics: "Change You Can Believe In"
A lot of general managers would have difficulty selling the idea of trading away Dan Haren and Nick Swisher in the same winter. Not Billy Beane, whose track record is good enough that the Oakland veterans have faith in his judgment to rebuild on the fly. "I think it was the right move as far as the organization is concerned," said third baseman Eric Chavez, "and Billy has always taken care of the organization first." Hey, it's nice being Billy Beane.
Texas Rangers: "Pitching Free -- Since 1993!"
Yes, it was 15 years ago that the Rangers compiled a 4.28 team ERA, and they haven't matched it since. Will the Kevin Millwood-Vicente Padilla-Jason Jennings-Kason Gabbard-Luis Mendoza contingent make Rangers fans stop yearning for the days of Kevin Brown, Kenny Rogers, Charlie Leibrandt, Roger Pavlik and a 46-year-old Nolan Ryan? General manager Jon Daniels certainly hopes so.
National League East
New York Mets: "We're More Amazin' Than the Phillies"
The Mets, still smarting from their historic September collapse, take the feud with their tormentors from Philadelphia to a completely different level.
Atlanta Braves: "Lordy, Lordy, Look Who's 40"
Try Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, who first teamed up in Atlanta two decades ago as part of a starting rotation that included Rick Mahler, Pete and Zane Smith and Kevin Coffman. The 1988 Braves finished last in the National League West at 54-106. This version should be significantly better -- provided the two geezers and medical disaster Mike Hampton hold up this season.
Florida Marlins: "We Just Saved a Ton of Money on Our Payroll by Switching to Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin"
Yes, Kevin Gregg is the team's resident high roller at $2.5 million, and apathy reigns supreme. The Marlins drew a major league-low 1.37 million fans with Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis on the roster last season. Now that they're gone, Dolphins Stadium should be a great place to go and curl up with a good book. That three-game weekend series with Kansas City in mid-May will be one tough ticket.
Washington Nationals: "We'll Be Lucky to Win 70 Games, But the Concessions at the New Ballpark Should be Great"
When you release your 2007 Opening Day starter (John Patterson) before the equipment truck begins loading for the trip north, it's tough to sell your team's division title hopes. So the Nationals will keep the fans fat and relatively happy with sushi, cherry pie, veggie burgers, Boardwalk Fries and a $6 concoction known as the Dinger, which features vanilla ice cream sandwiched between chocolate cookies.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs: "We're Cursed. We're Lovable. We're So Overdue"
Yep, it's been 100 years since Three Finger Brown and Ed Reulbach pitched the Cubs to the promised land in the 1908 World Series. With Lou Piniella's constant lineup tinkering, Kosuke Fukudome's adjustment to the U.S., the closer competition and those always-compelling Brian Roberts trade rumors, it seems like a century has passed since the Cubs arrived in spring training.
Milwaukee Brewers: "Dislocation Station"
Center fielder Bill Hall is moving to third base, third baseman Ryan Braun is shifting to left field, and Tony Gwynn Jr., Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler will handle center until Mike Cameron returns from his 25-game suspension. Chris Capuano's elbow is shot, Yovani Gallardo is coming off knee surgery and J.J. Hardy has dropped 10 pounds because of a mysterious illness this spring. Then there's Prince Fielder, America's favorite vegetarian, who's not happy with his contract situation. If the summer is half as interesting as the spring, the Brewers will definitely merit watching.
Cincinnati Reds: "Electric Avenue"
Young pitchers Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez lit up radar guns all spring to make Grapefruit League scouts gush and crack Cincinnati's Opening Day rotation. We don't mean to belabor the obvious, but let's hope Cueto and Volquez have a more productive, extended run under manager Dusty Baker than Mark Prior and Kerry Wood did in Chicago.
St. Louis Cardinals: "Magnetic Resonance Imaging Tests 'R Us"
The Cardinals have a heck of a starting rotation, provided some of these guys can lift their arms above their shoulders in May. Manager Tony La Russa will need a contribution from surgery triplets Matt Clement, Mark Mulder and Chris Carpenter if the Redbirds hope to avoid a repeat of last year's 78-win season. Or worse.
Houston Astros: "Paging Mr. Scott ... Mr. Mike Scott"
The Astros fortified their offense by picking up Miguel Tejada to complement Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence in the order, but the pitching was as bad as advertised in spring training. Who's going to back up Roy Oswalt in the rotation? Maybe it's time for Jim Deshaies to leave the broadcast booth behind and reinvent himself as a 47-year-old knuckleballer.
Pittsburgh Pirates: "Fifteen Losing Seasons and Counting, But We Didn't Have a Single Active Player Named in the Mitchell Report"
New club president Frank Coonelly and general manager Neal Huntington have a realistic long-term view and some smart ideas, but Pirates fans have grown a tad defeatist since the end of the Mike "Spanky" LaValliere era. New scouting methods and an increased presence in Latin America are great for the long run, but it won't do much to ease the discomfort from another nondescript season at PNC Park.
National League West
Colorado Rockies: "Every Day's a Holliday"
That's left fielder Matt Holliday, who hit .340 with 36 home runs, finished second to Jimmy Rollins in the MVP race and is now appearing with LaDainian Tomlinson, Steve Nash and assorted other stars in Nike's "My Better is Better" ad campaign. Holliday isn't even the Rockies' most charismatic young player, but our alternative slogan idea -- "Every Day's a Tulowitzki" -- didn't make much sense.
Arizona Diamondbacks: "No Country for Old Men"
General manager Josh Byrnes resisted the temptation to acquire an impact veteran bat -- and allowed clubhouse favorite Tony Clark to leave through free agency -- in the expectation that Stephen Drew, Justin Upton, Chris Young and the kids will continue to progress in 2008. Arizona's best offensive month last year was September, when the D-backs compiled an .811 team OPS, so there's reason to believe Byrnes is correct.
Los Angeles Dodgers: "Start Spreadin' the News"
Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt, who made his money running commuter parking lots in Boston, made a bold move in November by hiring former Yankees manager Joe Torre to a three-year, $13 million deal. That's a welcome development for Dodgers fans and not so great for reliever Scott Proctor, who stands a 50-50 chance of having his shoulder attached to the rest of his body in September.
San Diego Padres: "The 'Pen is Mightier than the Sword"
No one does a better job of finding good relievers with limited resources than Padres general manager Kevin Towers. Last year San Diego led the majors with a 3.01 bullpen ERA, so it was tough to take when future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman coughed up two games in the final weekend. Hoffman will try to redeem himself this season with help from Heath Bell, Cla Meredith and friends.
San Francisco Giants: "We Put the '0' in San Francisco"
Sure, the Giants are having a great time playing cards in the clubhouse, holding weekly bowling tournaments and bonding as a team in Barry Bonds' absence. But with catcher Bengie Molina ticketed to bat cleanup once he recovers from a spring training quadriceps injury, it's hard to see them improving on their major league-worst .387 slugging percentage -- or their 71 victories.