Spring Training Starts on Friday and Baseball is Officially Back

So the Precious Pats lost to the Earnest Eagles or something like that, the NBA has been renamed  to the Now Buying Anyone, and the Blackhawks are in last in the central so who cares about hockey. Time for the best sport to take the main stage. It is time to grab a bag of seeds, sharpen some pencils and fill out scorecards. It is time to live, breathe, and enjoy baseball once again.

First things first. On Monday Major League Baseball released updates and changes to some rules to speed up pace of play, which is in line with Commissioner Manfred’s legislation so far. The main changes being made are to reduce the amount of time in between innings to 2:05/2:25/2:55 minutes, depending on the stage of play (regular season vs playoffs) and how the game is being televised (local vs national broadcasts). MLB also placed a limit on mound visits at 6 per game. For the casual viewer, mound visits can often seem unnecessary and excessive, so limiting these visits should help draw interest from the not-so-diehard fans and eliminate dead time. These changes shouldn’t impact the game too much and honestly I’m all for less commercials which both limitations will help. The only negative impact I can see this really having on the game is pitchers not getting to warm up fully when coming in, however if you aren’t ready to come out of the bullpen maybe you shouldn’t be taking the mound. This of course is coming from a guy who can hit maybe 70 mph on a good day while throwing out his back.

As for the blockbuster deals that have been slow to come until recently there is much to look over. The big four I’ll briefly touch upon are Shohei Ohtani, Giancarlo Stanton, Yu Darvish, and JD Martinez.

Ohtani, the highly touted Japanese superstar, looks to be a big move for the Angels. He bolsters what could be a really strong starting rotation (assuming everyone stays healthy). Ohtani, who some have compared to the great Babe Ruth, figures to DH for the Angels on days he’s not pitching, as he brings some serious pop at the plate in addition to his 100 mph fastball. Japan has seen its fair share of rags and riches, but Ohtani is already looking at riches starting off with a few million which will skyrocket depending on his success over the next couple of years. Time will tell if Ohtani’s success in Japan will translate to the Big Leagues.

Stanton on the other hand is already an established player in the MLB with almost unmatched power. Traded from the hapless Miami Marlins to the juggernaut New York Yankees, Stanton will have a chance to play alongside the reigning AL Rookie of the Year in Aaron Judge (who also brings some serious power to the plate). Watching the bomb brothers should be a fun activity for the year even if we all wish the Yankees would just crumble into nothingness for a few decades.

Darvish went from sunny Los Angeles (Dodgers) to the dark side, or the North Side, I should say, of the city I call home – Chicago. This move is especially interesting, given that he is going from one contender to another, as the Dodgers and Cubs have faced off in the NLCS each of the last two years. Darvish signed a gigantic $21 million a year contract that could turn out to be exactly what the Cubs need to regain their dominance in the pitching world replacing schmucks like Mike Montgomery (who will remain as the Cubs’ swingman in the bullpen) and the (maybe) has been Jake Arrieta.

Martinez has also made some splashes recently with his shows of power, hitting 29 home runs after being traded to the Diamondbacks halfway through last season. However I think that the Yankees will out hit Martinez’s Red Sox this year in the AL East, forcing them to compete for a wild card spot.

As for my team, the Chicago White Sox, who will be entirely dependent on the young arms and legs they have been stacking up for the last few years. My hope will be a contending .500 team this year, a Division title next year, and as I am often quoted saying, World Series Champs in 2020. That is all I will say for my good guys for now, but more will come as Spring Training gets going underway, and I will have more to say on that matter as I will be seeing (hopefully) Stanton and Judge next weekend play against the Phillies in Clearwater Florida.

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