Sometimes, the start of a new Major League Baseball season is so exciting that we forget it's just that: a start. No sport more strongly signifies the phrase, “It's a marathon, not a sprint.” Especially not marathons, which can be run in the time it takes to play about 0.6% of a full MLB season.

When an MLB team we expect to be contenders lays an early egg, or conversely, a team with minimal expectations starts off with a hot streak, our early-season confirmation bias tells us we need to immediately believe things are exactly as they seem. We need to remember, however, that the games count just as much in late April as they do in early April. By the end of the 162-game MLB season, it all blends into one.

Now that we've had a few weeks to digest things, then, which MLB teams were fooling us all when they first came out of the gates? Are there sleeping giants among us? Pretenders falling off their high horses before our very eyes? The answers we seek lie ahead.

New York Mets

Back on April 4, the New York Mets fell to 0-5 after losing the first game of a doubleheader to the Detroit Tigers and were left as one of just two remaining teams in the league without a win. With one of the least touted rotations in baseball and a lineup of struggling veterans, it looked like the Mets might already be done for.

Oh, what a difference two weeks can make. Winners of 12 of their last 15, including the past six straight, these Mets have shown remarkable moxie. They have a top-10 MLB team ERA and OPS, so it's coming together on the mound and at the plate. They went into Truist Park and won a series over the Atlanta Braves, something they've found just about impossible these last two seasons, and just did the same to the Los Angeles Dodgers in Chavez Ravine, with the chance to go for the sweep Sunday.

The only downside, and it's a big one, is that emerging star catcher Francisco Alvarez looks to be sidelined for several months with a torn ligament in his thumb that will require surgery. The Mets hope to have their power-hitting backstop back at some point this season, but that's a serious blow to a team with this kind of momentum. What has been made clear, though, is that this Mets team will do anything but throw in the towel, even without one of their most spirited soldiers.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Home plate umpire DJ Reyburn (middle) reacts to Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton (right) as fellow umpire Brian O'Nora (7) looks on against the Boston Red Sox during the ninth inning at PNC Park. Boston won 4-2.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It really seemed different this year, didn't it? After a hot April and a disappointing midseason slide in 2023, the Pittsburgh Pirates were early-season darlings once again, shooting off to an 11-5 start without a series loss in their first four tries. Then, they ran into those pesky Mets.

After a three-game sweep at Citi Field earlier this week, a lot of the steam was already escaping that Pirates hype train. Then the Boston Red Sox waltzed into PNC Park this weekend and started launching home runs, comfortably taking the first two games to put the Buccos on an L5 streak. If they get swept, they'll have wasted that entire cushion they gave themselves with that brilliant start and be right back at .500.

We knew the pitching was too good to be true. When the Pirates were taking a series from the Baltimore Orioles and splitting with the Philadelphia Phillies, they were relying on shutdown performances from Marco Gonzales and Bailey Falter, castoffs from other big-league rotations. But the hitting wasn't supposed to struggle like it is now and the frustration is palpable.

With just eight runs scored in the past five losses, things are reaching a boiling point. Saturday alone, Rowdy Tellez was slamming his bat after a pop-out in the fourth inning, Mitch Keller was chucking his glove in the dugout after giving up a two-run blast to Masataka Yoshida and Derek Shelton was ejected in the ninth when Michael A. Taylor was called out on a pitch clock violation for strike three. The vibes are turning toxic quickly in Pittsburgh. If the Pirates aren't careful, they'll be bottom-dwellers in the NL Central once again.

Toronto Blue Jays

There was legitimate reason for concern about the Toronto Blue Jays just a week ago. They'd fallen to 6-8 after being dismantled by the Colorado Rockies on a Friday night in Rogers Centre and were dealing with slumps from key players. In the week since, everything has gone exactly according to plan.

After taking two out of three from the first-place New York Yankees, the Blue Jays have nabbed the first two games of their showdown with the San Diego Padres out on the West Coast. Daulton Varsho has been a menace on both sides this week, finally looking like the player the Jays gave up both Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to get their hands on. And the starting pitching, particularly that of Yusei Kikuchi and José Berríos, has been divine.

Even with all that said, the Blue Jays have yet to get major contributions from either Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette or George Springer. With those three batting at the top of their lineup every night, things are bound to go even better if those big bats ever find their form. What started out as an MLB season that looked like trouble for the Blue Jays could end up being even bigger trouble for anyone standing in their path.

Detroit Tigers

After a 5-0 start to the 2024 MLB season, the Tigers have backslid almost all the way to .500, losing 4-3 to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday to fall to 11-10. It started with an embarrassing home series loss to the Oakland Athletics and has continued ever since, with the Tigers failing to win any of their next three series and in danger of dropping another one Sunday.

The Tigers deserve a ton of credit for the way their pitching staff has grown into a powerhouse. They're third in team ERA, equally potent in the rotation and bullpen, and Tarik Skubal is a legitimate ace. But yet again, this team is struggling to hit in one of the least hitter-friendly parks in all of baseball, which is a sight that has grown far too familiar in the Motor City.

It's not pretty: 26th in team OPS, 22nd in runs scored and 28th in home runs. Even with young stars emerging and valuable veterans joining the squad prior to the year, nothing seems to translate to the Tigers scoring enough runs to win ballgames. So unless someone steps up to shoulder the load of this offense soon (looking at you, Spencer Torkelson), the dreams Detroit had of contention in a wide-open AL Central could evaporate by the end of the spring.

Seattle Mariners

Seattle Mariners first baseman Ty France (23) reacts after center fielder Julio Rodriguez (44) scores on an RBI in the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It might have taken a series against the pitiful Colorado Rockies to find the spark, but it appears the Seattle Mariners are still, in fact, a good MLB team. With four wins in a row, the M's have catapulted all the way from the basement of the AL West to just a half-game back of first entering play Sunday.

It would make Mariners fans much, much happier in general if this team would ever string some hits together. They're 27th in runs scored and are once again striking out far too much, fifth-most in baseball. But we knew this team could pitch and Bryce Miller has far outshined expectations, allowing Luis Castillo and George Kirby to get off to slow starts without falling too far below .500 as a team.

With a doubleheader Sunday, the Mariners have the opportunity to grab at least a share of first place in the AL West with a sweep. If Julio Rodríguez decides his annual early-season slump will end soon, perhaps they can really start opening things up and finish April as the frontrunners in that loaded division. Nothing is ever for certain with this franchise, but in 2024, the Mariners have as good a chance as ever to make a run in the topsy-turvy American League.