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Spring Training has sprung and the MLB regular season is right around the corner. I (a baseball fan) encourage all other sports fans (baseball or not) to jump headfirst into the 2023 MLB season because it's going to be just as fun as is chaotic. The MLB season goes from March until November, so you might as well grow to like it!
And for the "baseball is boring" crowd, the MLB is trying okay? There are a lot of things happening this year that will contribute to a quicker and more exciting game. So let's make baseball fun again. Here are five things you should know heading into the 2023 MLB season.
I’ll start talking about the best player in baseball by using some little historic bits:
In 2022, Ohtani became the first player in the modern era to qualify for both the hitting and pitching leaderboards in one season.
In order to qualify, a player must average 3.1 plate appearances and one inning pitched per game over the course of the season. Ohtani had 586 at-bats against 166 innings pitched. To be able to do both of those things at a professional level is one thing, but to then put up the numbers Ohtani put up is another.
Shohei Ohtani is the first player in MLB history to hit 30 homers and register 10 wins on the mound in the same season.
Shohei Ohtani is the only player in AL/NL history with at least 30 homers and 100 strikeouts in 2021 (46 homers and struck out 156 batters) and did it again in 2022 (34 HRs, 219 Ks)
THAT IS JUST ABSURD!!! I seriously urge all of you—baseball fans and non-baseball fans alike—to watch a few Angels games this season and marvel at the specimen that is Shohei Ohtani. He's an alien.
It’s taken way too long, but the MLB is finally starting to market their game around the young, exciting stars. The perfect example of this is Miami Marlins shortstop Jazz Chisolm Jr. being named the cover athlete for MLB The Show 23. Is Chisolm Jr. a top-five player in baseball? No. Is he a top-10 player? Probably not. But he undoubtedly brings a style of play that gets everyone watching excitedly whenever he’s involved.
This new revolutionary period in baseball comes after many of the ‘unwritten rules’ have been called into question, challenged, and labeled outdated by modern baseball players and fans. This has led to a divide among baseball fans—those who prefer to keep "America’s pastime" the way it is, and those who want to see more fun, excitement, and personality in the game.
There are many examples of this in recent years. From Tony La Russa getting mad at Yermín Mercedes for hitting a home run, to the uproar Ronald Acuna Jr. caused amongst geriatric baseball fans on Twitter with his Dominican Winter League home run celebration.
In my opinion, baseball is heading exactly in the direction it needs to and players like Acuña Jr. and Chisolm Jr. are going to make the sport cool again.
The MLB has introduced some new rules, made temporary ones permanent, and banned some things to hopefully make the game quicker and more exciting.
Here's a look at what's different this season.
The Pitch-Clock: Pitchers are now required to throw a pitch within 15 seconds when there are no runners on base (and within 20 seconds when there are runners). If a pitcher doesn't release the ball in time, they'll be charged a ball to the count. If a batter isn't ready for the pitch in time, they incur a strike.
The Banning of Shifts: The four infielders must be within the boundary of the infield when the pitcher is on the rubber. Infielders may not switch sides. In other words, a team cannot reposition its best defender on the side of the infield the batter is more likely to hit the ball to.
Extra-Innings Designated Runner: Beginning in the 10th inning, a runner will be placed on second base, and in every subsequent extra inning after that, until a winner is determined.
Base Size Change: First base, second base and third base size has been increased from a 15” square to an 18” square.
If you’re unfamiliar with the World Baseball Classic, think of it as the World Cup of baseball—except not nearly as popular or respected! The WBC occurs every four years but was postponed in 2021 due to COVID-19. Now it’s back with some of the best players in baseball competing (including your favorite MLB stars) on an international stage.
The World Baseball Classic also offers MLB-free agents a chance to show teams that they deserve a roster spot on a major league team, while young prospects get the chance to expedite their road to the bigs.
Okay now that we've talked about everything from Shohei Ohtani's talent to the rule changes and how the MLB is marketing its game—it's time to talk about what's important for the 2023 season: What teams will be good? What teams will be bad? What teams will be fun?
1. Houston Astros
Yes, this team is a dynasty. World Series in four of the last six years, winning two — albeit with a fat asterisk next to their 2017 season. Anyway, this team has only gotten better in the offseason and currently has the shortest odds in all of baseball to repeat as champions in (meaning, it's considered likely to happen!).
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
This is a team that has won their division 9 out of the last 10 years, so yeah the Dodgers are good. While the regular season success hasn’t translated to the postseason (they have only one World Series win despite making the postseason literally every year since 2013), it's hard not to see this team at the top of the national league again.
3. Atlanta Braves
The Braves play a brand of baseball that is as fundamental as it is fun to watch. While the departure of All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson hurts, Atlanta has proven they can still be elite despite losing key, star players (ie. Freddie Freeman's debacle after Atlanta’s World Series win in 2021). This roster is young, but still somehow seasoned with postseason play, and a next-man-up mentality.
1. Oakland Athletics
This is easily the worst-run franchise in baseball. The Billy Beane moneybag mentality has seemingly expired in Oakland as Oakland sits dead last in the league and payroll, and the roster shows it. The A’s are projected to be the worst team in baseball in 2023 and even more forward-looking—out of Oakland in the near future. I have a feeling this team will be moving to Vegas in the next few years.
2. Washington Nationals
Just three years removed from a World Series title, the Nationals are VERY BAD! Think back to that 2019 World Series roster: Max Scherzer - GONE. Trea Turner - GONE. Juan Soto - GONE. The front office fumbled these players, but Washington DID get a World Series out of it. One way for owners of sports teams to maximize money? Win the championship and then don’t spend any money!
3. Kansas City Royals
I really wish the Royals were good. But they are just not. They do have Bobby Witt Jr., who was until last year one of the up-and-coming stars in the game today. The Royals do play in what might be the worst division in baseball—the American League Central. This will be a growing year in KC — not a championship year. At least the Chiefs just gave the city a parade and the Kansas City Current are very good!
1. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels possess what many believe are the two best players in all of baseball in Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. While the Angels have squandered some pretty crazy seasons from these two by only making the playoffs just once in the last decade. What would be more fun than watching these two play on the biggest stage when the games matter most?
2. Miami Marlins
Okay, do not expect the Marlins to be good. But you can expect them to be very fun. Headlined by shortstop Jazz Chisolm Jr., this team is full of young guys were have finally made their highly anticipated major league debuts and now will be expected to start to put it together and make a World Series run in the next few years. But there’s a lot to like about this Marlins team, who perfectly embodies the city of Miami on a baseball field.
3. Baltimore Orioles
Easily the most surprising, biggest cinderella story of the 2022 season was the Baltimore Orioles! A team projected to be the worst in all of baseball was in the playoff hunt until damn near September! Expectations are a little different in Baltimore this year. A young core led by the 2019 first overall draft pick Adley Rutschman and the current top prospect in baseball Gunnar Henderson will surely make some noise this season and will be a fun team to root for in a competitive division with the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays.