Major League Baseball Ready to Hit the Diamonds
The 2018 Major League Baseball (MLB) season begins today, the earliest starting date in baseball history. It is also the first time since 1968 that every teams will start the season on opening day, ensuring that fans will have to wait for their home teams to play ball.
These are just a couple of the changes to the sport this season. There are a number of storylines you may find interesting as the 2018 campaign gets underway. Here are five stories that caught our attention at Tellus News Digest.
Can the Houston Astros Repeat?
No team since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees have repeated as World Series Champions. The Houston Astros have a real shot, however. Not only are they a young team with a lot of talent, but they did not mortgage their future to win the title last season. Second base Jose Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa are two of the 10 best players in the game, and a full season with ace Justin Verlander on the team should make 100 wins a likely outcome. Las Vegas have predicted an Astros repeat, 17/4, and we agree.
Are These the New Bronx Bombers?
Last season, the New York Yankees made outfielder Aaron Judge their everyday right fielder, and he proved to be even better than advertised. Not only did the rookie win the Home Run Hitting Contest, but he clubbed 52 homers while batting .284, driving in 114 and scoring 128. That earned him American League Rookie of the Year honors. In the offseason, the team acquired outfielder Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins, who hit 59 homers last season, while driving in 132. Not since Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris has the middle of this lineup been so formidable. If this team gets any pitching, they will obliterate opponents.
Will Play Ball for Food
During the winter, the MLB Players Association was griping about the number of free agents who did not signed to new deals. The charge of collusion among owners began to rear its ugly head once again, an accusation that had not been made in over 30 years. Some players were signed, but many baseball executives are willing to be patient, as next year’s free agent crop, which will include Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper and Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, is expected to be one of the best. There are some players out there that could come at a bargain price, making a potential playoff team a real World Series threat. This includes closer Greg Holland, starter John Lackey, infielder J.J. Hardy, and outfielders Melky Cabrera and Matt Holiday.
Is Less Really More?
One of the biggest changes this season will be that there is now a limit on mound visits by anyone – players, coaches, and managers – during games. The limit will be six per contest, which is an attempt to speed up the game to attract younger fans who are finding the sport too slow and boring. Reducing mound visits is a way of making the game more enjoyable. How this will exactly be applied is not really known. For example, catchers step a few feet in front of home plate to talk to their pitcher all the time. Does that count as a visit? You can be sure that there are catchers already trying to figure out how to push the limit of this rule to its max.
MLB Improves Safety
Every season, there are incidents in which fans have been injured by foul balls or broken bats going into the stands. This has been part of the game for 130 years but the advent of the smartphone has made the situation much more dangerous. A large number of fans are spending far more time looking at their phones during plays, which has led to some cringeworthy fan injuries being played on ESPN over and over. To help reduce this threat, MLB has mandated that netting be extended down each line. While this may bother some fans who feel that their view will now be obstructed, it should greatly reduce the number of injuries fans incur.
And the Winner Is…
We were on the Houston Astros bandwagon two seasons ago, and were not surprised that they won it all last year. This is a young team that has veteran experience now, and so they are a serious threat to repeat. That gives away our World Series pick, but here is how we predict the divisions to finish out, with playoff predictions.
East – Boston Red Sox
Central – Cleveland Indians
West – Houston Astros
Wild Card Teams: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels
East – Washington Nationals
Central – Milwaukee Brewers
West – Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card Teams: Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies
Wild Card Playoffs: Yankees defeat Angels, Cubs trounce the Rockies
American League Divisional Round: Astros clobber the Indians in four, Red Sox smackdown the Yankees in four.
American League Championship: The Astros put the Red Sox down in six.
National League Divisional Round: Nationals roust the Brewers in three, Dodgers pummel the Cubs in four.
National League Championship: The Nationals undo Dodgers in seven.
World Series: The Astros trounce the Nationals in five.
See you in October with our scorecard and the final results.