MLB Season Begins (at last)

Ryan Stuzin, Staff Writer

After speculation as to whether or not there would be a Major League Baseball (MLB) season at all this year, the 99-day lockout by the owners has finally ended. The close of the lockout came just in the nick of time, allowing for a full 162-game season that begins on the afternoon of April 7. The season starts off with the oldest rivalry in the sport: the New York Yankees will face off with the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. 

The delayed start to the season is not the only noteworthy development; the MLB has changed some rules as well. The most significant change (and perhaps most controversial) is that the National League (NL) will now join the American League (AL) in using designated hitters as a replacement for pitchers in the batting lineup. Many NL fans are not too happy about this – some find pitchers batting to be a “purer” form of the game that allows for more managerial strategizing. Nevertheless, this has been much discussed for some time now given the poor performance of most pitchers at the plate. 

Another big rule change is the so-called “Ohtani Rule”: a pitcher who is taken out of the game can stay in the batting order as a designated hitter. The rule was nicknamed for pitcher Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels due to his prowess as both a pitcher and a hitter. However, it seems unlikely that this rule will be used for many other pitchers in the game – Ohtani is a once-in-a-generation player, and he is the first truly elite double threat since Babe Ruth, who never even did both at the same time. The MLB has also decided to keep the rule that both teams start each extra inning with a runner on second base. Again, some baseball purists were opposed to this rule when it was first implemented last season, but it speeds games up, and the league has decided to keep it.

In addition to these rule changes, we have seen a few big free agency signings and player moves during the offseason. Pitcher Max Scherzer, one of the best starting pitchers of the last decade, signed with the New York Mets on a three-year, $130 million contract. Scherzer, now paired with Jacob deGrom, whom some consider the best pitcher in baseball (barring injuries), will create an elite starting rotation for the Mets. This has all been put into question, however, as recent reports have said that deGrom might miss “significant time” due to a shoulder injury (according to ESPN). 

Shortstop Carlos Correa went to the Minnesota Twins on a three-year, $105 million contract. Correa is considered around the league to be a top-three player at his position (particularly Bleacher Report, which has him first), and with his elite offensive and defensive talent, the Twins very well could have turned themselves into playoff contenders. 

Perhaps the most frightening addition is the Los Angeles Dodgers’ signing of first baseman Freddie Freeman to a six-year, $162 million contract. Freeman, who just won a World Series with the Atlanta Braves last season, looks to go back-to-back, as he joins an absolutely stacked Dodgers lineup. And if you are not sure just how dominant the Dodgers now are, baseball analysts and reporters, including those who work for FOX Sports, think that the current LA lineup could stack up against, and possibly be better than, last year’s NL All-Star lineup. 

Also notable was the Texas Rangers, who made two big signings: shortstop Corey Seager on a ten-year, $325 million contract, and second baseman Marcus Semien on a seven-year, $175 million contract. The Rangers have been rather disappointing in recent years, so they are looking to have a big bounce-back year. 

And a big surprise from free agency was how quiet the Yankees and Red Sox were – two teams that usually spend big in the offseason. Perhaps they both think they are already talented enough to win it all. Unfortunately, as a Yankee fan, I have some doubts.

Oh, and one more thing for fans to know: the Cleveland Indians will now be known as the “Guardians.” This was, of course, an appropriate change, but the name (at least to me) is a curious choice.