I love opening day. Each year, baseball returns, bringing with it endless optimism about your favorite team’s chances. What about Missouri’s teams? The Royals will be far better than the team that lost 97 games last year. They are not ready to contend for the playoffs yet, but they’re heading in the right direction. Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney lead one of the most exciting young lineups in baseball, and they will hit. Unfortunately, they won’t pitch very well. The pitchers are young, and they will suffer growing pains. Prediction: The Royals will threaten the .500 mark, and win 78 games.The Cardinals have high hopes, with good reason. Darryl Kile, Pat Hentgen and Andy Benes have joined the rotation. Two of them will be solid, one will break down. Rick Ankiel will be the rookie of the year, and pitcher Matt Morris will be the Comeback Player of the year. Dave Veres will not be great as the closer, but he’ll be good enough. With Fernando Vina and Jim Edmonds, the offense will click, and the Cards will win. Prediction: The Reds will fade because of poor starting pitching. The Cards win 97 games and edge Houston. Play ball.