I have mentioned this before, but allow me a few lines this morning to repeat myself:
- I know enough about astronomy to know that what we call “Springtime” starts at the time of the vernal equinox which in 2023 happened on March 20 at 5:24 EDT. Moreover, I understand why the celestial events at that moment in time mark a terrestrial change for Planet Earth.
- I know enough about meteorology and societal norms to know that most “weather people” believe that “Springtime” begins on March 1st.
- Notwithstanding the two points above, I believe that “Springtime” starts with Opening Day for the MLB season.
So, for me, today is the first day of Spring…
I will usher in the 2023 MLB season with commentary today, but baseball is something that makes a fan “play the long game”. There might be a cataclysmic negative event in the first week of the MLB season but it is highly unlikely that there will be any positive event of a similar magnitude. The fortunes of teams will ebb and flow over the next six months; the idea is for the good teams to start well and then to keep on, keeping on.
In the 2023 season, fans will see the introduction of the pitch clock. There are other rules changes for the season, but the others will likely be seriously overshadowed by the pitch clock. I have given the pitch clock positive reviews/commentary here in the past. Today, I want to point you to a column in the Washington Post by “columnist emeritus”, Thomas Boswell. It appeared in yesterday’s print edition; it is written by one of baseball’s best observers and chroniclers; do yourself a favor and read it here.
I cannot express my enthusiasm for the changes that the pitch clock will make starting in 2023 nearly as eloquently as Thomas Boswell did. I expect the changes to be profound and positive.
If you believe that Spring Training trends carry over into the regular season, you should also expect to see significantly more base stealing attempts in the upcoming season. That was the case in Spring Training and more attempts to steal a base provides for more game action on the field. I am hopeful that this trend will carry over into the regular season; we shall see.
Locally, the Washington Nationals should be better than they were last season. That is setting the bar awfully low because the Nats lost 107 games in 2022. However, the Nats made some trades at the deadline last year acquiring some young talent that could provide for the core of a good club in a year or three. CJ Abrams is a young shortstop who can play at the major league level; he is an excellent fielder and could develop into a serious threat at the plate even if he never develops a “home run stroke”. Two young pitchers, MacKenzie Gore and Josiah Gray, show promise even if their stats are not sterling to date.
- A reasonable goal for the Nats in 2022 is to lose fewer than 100 games.
- A goal that should send Nats’ execs into paroxysms would be for the team to lose fewer than 90 games.
Just up the road from here in Baltimore, the Orioles are coming to the 2023 season with a surprising result from 2022. After what seemed like an eternal “rebuild” the Orioles finished last year with a winning record at 83-79. I surely did not expect that and other than commentators at blatantly fanboy sites, I don’t think anyone else expected that either.
The challenge this year is for the Orioles’ extremely young roster to build on last year and prove to the world that it was not a statistical freak. If the Orioles exhibit even a smidgen of “regression to the mean” by the roster in general, a second consecutive winning season will be out of the question. Having said all that, I really believe that catcher Adley Rutschman is a budding star in MLB who will be a “face of the franchise” player for a long time. If you are a baseball fan in a part of the country significantly distant from Baltimore, try to pay attention to Adley Rutschman and his career development.
In terms of players to watch, I think Boston’s Masataka Yoshida stands out for 2023. The Sox paid a hefty price to sign him from the Japanese League where he hit .336 last year and posted an OPS of just over 1.000. Can he do anything close to that in MLB? That is why it pays to keep an eye on his performance.
I suspect that the Oakland A’s will be in the news a lot in 2023 but not about anything related to baseball on the field; the stories will be about the team moving out of Oakland. The negotiations on the major development project in Oakland that would include a new stadium for the team are proceeding at a crawl except for times when the two sides have to speak to the public about the negotiations – – at which point they always profess to have made progress. Here is a fact:
- The A’s lease for the Oakland Coliseum – or whatever they are going to call it this year – expires after the 2024 season.
As Snuffy Smith used to say in the old comic strip, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, “Times a wastin’”
Here are a few predictions for the upcoming season:
- I like the Angels and the Mariners to fight it out for a playoff slot this year out of the AL West which will be won by the Astros – – even if it takes Jose Altuve until Father’s Day to get back in the lineup.
- I like the Padres to beat the Dodgers in the NL West this year – – but the Dodgers will be in the playoffs
- I like the Guardians to win the AL Central; they were the only team there to finish over .500 in 2022 and I don’t see the Guardians collapsing nor do I see any other team excelling sufficiently to overtake the Guardians in 2023.
- I like the Cards to repeat as the NL Central champs. They won the division last year by 7 games and I don’t see how any of the teams in the division closed that large a gap in the off-season.
- I like the Braves to win the NL East – – and I will be surprised if the Phillies can make the playoffs in 2023 given their injury situation with Harper and Hoskins. The Mets will set MLB records for the amount of money spent on payroll in a season this year – – but that is not going to translate into a division title in Queens.
- I like the Blue Jays in the AL East and I think they will be pressed by the Rays for the top spot in the AL East.
Finally, let me close this rant devoted to baseball with an observation by former MLB Commissioner, A. Bartlett Giamatti:
“[Baseball] breaks you heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops, and leaves you to face the fall alone.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………