The constantly changing face of baseball is the dominant theme once again as the 1985 season opens in ballparks across the land today and tomorrow. The traditional pennant predictions still get some of the spotlight, to be sure. Can Detroit become the first team to repeat a World Series victory -- or even a pennant -- in this decade? Will the Chicago Cubs do it again in their division -- and maybe this time go on to capture their first pennant since World War II? Were the San Diego Padres for real? Can Minnesota or Chicago challenge Kansas City in the American League West?
There are individual exploits to be savored, too -- topped by the excitement of Pete Rose closing in on Ty Cobb's record of 4,191 hits. But most of all the game which once epitomized the status quo is notable nowadays for the new look it presents each year.
``You can't tell the players without a scorecard,'' cry the vendors. And once again in this ninth consecutive season of the free-agent era, they aren't kidding.
Bruce Sutter, the game's top relief pitcher, will be throwing his split-fingered fastball for Atlanta rather than St. Louis this summer thanks to a six-year contract worth a reported $9.6 million. Meanwhile slugging outfielder Fred Lynn continues the coast-to-coast odyssey which has taken him from college stardom in Los Angeles to MVP honors in Boston, back to California, and now back East again to Baltimore.
Then there are the annual battles of megabuck salaries and Madison Avenue hype in New York. The Yankees signed speedster Rickey Henderson and acquired Dale Berra, who in addition to playing shorstop happens to be Manager Yogi's son. The Mets countered by luring All-Star catcher Gary Carter from Montreal. And these names just scratch the surface of the parade of familiar faces wearing new uniforms via trade or free-agentry.