Last year’s MLB season was undoubtedly memorable. Fans of baseball were rejuvenated by a high energy playoff race throughout the regular season that saw new stars emerge. When playoff time came, fans were treated to games between teams that had not held the spotlight for quite some time. In fact, 2015 was the first time since 2008 in which the World Series did not contain the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants or Cardinals, but rather two teams that had been down on their luck in the past: the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets. While the World Series games themselves were not the most competitive with the Royals winning easily in five games, the series showed that Major League Baseball is not a game that only rewards the richest teams. Heading into the 2016 season, there is well deserved excitement for baseball in hope that this year can be as wildly entertaining as the last.
The 2016 season will not be without some slight changes to the rules. Most notably, perhaps, is a new rule nicknamed the “Chase Utley Rule” in reference to the Dodgers second baseman. Those who watched the National League Divisional Series between the Mets and Dodgers may remember a play in which Chase Utley slid into Mets Shortstop Ruben Tejada in order to prevent a double play for the Mets. While there was no rule in place at the time, the play by Utley was undeniably dirty, especially considering that
Tejada fractured his fibula. Starting in the 2016 season, sliding into infielders to interfere in a play will be considered illegal. While it’s highly unlikely the rule will be applied any more than a handful of times throughout the season, it is a clear indicator of the MLB pushing for player protection on both sides of the ball.
Another small, but equally important change of MLB policy, applies to players’ off-field behavior. Following the footsteps of the NFL, professional baseball will be rightfully cracking down on players involved in domestic violence. This issue recently arose when Yankees relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman was suspended 30 games for fighting with his girlfriend and firing a gun in his house. This crackdown is long overdue and shows that most professional sports are moving in the right direction regarding off field behavior.
Looking forward to the 2016 World Series, some teams to watch are the Mets, Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays. All three teams are loaded with young talent and should be able to make a strong push in the playoffs. Some other teams to keep an eye on that may have surprising seasons are the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks are particularly intriguing in 2016 because they shelled out over $200 million on a six-year contract for ex-Dodgers starting pitcher and former Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke. With the MLB preseason currently underway, baseball fans should be as excited as ever for the upcoming season.