Updated: April 5, 2010, 9:19 PM ET

Happiest day of all finally here: It's Opening Day

Ravech By Karl Ravech
Opening Day means everybody's got a fresh slate. In 2010, you have between 18 and 22 teams that believe they have a legitimate chance to win. For the fans of those teams -- and certainly the players who will be playing in different cities or for the first time in the majors -- it's a big deal. Opening Day is the best day of the year. Not the World Series. Not Game 7. Opening Day is the best day of the baseball season.

It's a huge deal for fans, especially for those who live in the Northeast or the Midwest, where it has been cold and rainy. For the first time in a long time, people in Washington are excited about baseball. People in Kansas City have their Cy Young pitcher back again. Folks in Minnesota have a new ballpark and can now see the sky when they go to a game. There's reason for optimism throughout the country. There are few teams in the West -- NL and AL -- that don't think they can compete for a division title this year. Even the Padres enter thinking they have a chance to win.

Some say Opening Day is only one game. Many teams have lost on Opening Day and went on to win the World Series. Anyone who denies the symbolic significance of it doesn't understand baseball. There are certain marquee events during the baseball season. The All-Star Game, playoffs, Memorial Day, Fourth of July … they are all important, but Opening Day tops the list. It is incredibly important for organizations, because they are able to parade their offseason work: the players they acquired, along with their new ballparks and new uniforms.

Adrian Beltre
AP Photo/Charles KrupaA new location. Less pressure on him. Short porch in left field. Could be a big year for Adrian Beltre.

Looking ahead, I think the Red Sox's Adrian Beltre will have the biggest turnaround year. The third baseman has a one-year deal and is now playing in a town where he's surrounded by great players. He has a wall in left field that he can hit balls against, and his glove will be appreciated because there's enough offense around him. I think he has a chance to hit 20-30 home runs, be a Gold Glove third baseman and be in the playoffs.

The team to watch for this season is the Cincinnati Reds. Yes, the Reds. The Reds have an excellent pitching staff, and Aroldis Chapman is going to be an interesting story. If they can stay healthy, they have some pretty good offensive players. Joey Votto needs to have a good year. Johnny Cueto needs to be healthy. Plus, they have arguably one of the best second basemen in baseball in Brandon Phillips.

A lot of people have jumped off the Minnesota Twins bandwagon because closer Joe Nathan got hurt, but that isn't smart, because they are a competitive team.

The hardest question is which division is the most competitive. Going by the number of teams, I imagine it would be the NL West. The Rockies are strong. The Diamondbacks will have a bounce-back year. The Giants are really good. Don't forget, too, that the Dodgers won it last year.

There is no division in which one team has separated itself; even the Cardinals aren't a runaway lock in the Central this year. Tampa has joined Boston and New York as a competitive force again. The Florida Marlins are better. The AL West is closer, with Seattle and Texas improving their teams. I don't think the separation from the teams that have historically finished first is nearly as great as it has been.

Let's celebrate Opening Day, not downplay the significance of it. Even when players say it's just another game, it's not. If a player happens to go 3-for-4 with two home runs, he will never forget Opening Day 2010. If a pitcher strikes out seven and throws eight innings, he'll never forget it. Opening Day is the best day of the calendar year.

Karl Ravech hosts "Baseball Tonight."

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Baseball Tonight analysts, ESPN.com writers and SweetSpot Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Sunday's games -- all in Baseball Tonight Live.


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