I know, it’s early in the 2023 MLB season. But tell me there haven’t been a lot of things happening. From small teams playing like giants and becoming MLB odds darlings, no, not the ones in San Francisco, to the pitch clock showing up to save the game from eternal boredom, there’s plenty to talk about after the first couple of months of action.
As the action continues, here are some of the most important points we’ve learned:
The Pitch Clock Changed the Game
If everybody could bow their heads for a moment, a moment of silence in memory of the overly long baseball games is about to begin. Ok, now that we got that out of the way, can we all agree that the pitch clock has come as a much-needed breath of fresh air?
I’ve been a fan of baseball my whole life and an advocate of trying to get everyone around me to love the game. One of the main reasons that usually deterred fans away was how long each game would take. But now, with the pitch clock helping to shorten playing time, it feels as if baseball has gotten a much-needed facelift.
Just like the NBA has the 24-second shot clock and the NFL has the 40- and 25-second play clocks, both to make the game faster and smoother, the pitch clock is doing the same for MLB. And while it took pitchers some time to adjust, I’d be willing to bet that if asked about their opinions, most if not all ball players would give a thumbs up.
With the average time of games now around 27 minutes shorter than what it used to be, watching baseball has become enjoyable for the masses once again. You still get the thrills, the homers, the pitching duels, and everything, but in a slightly more condensed version and we’re here for it.
Small Budget Teams Ball Like Titans
I said it a few days ago and I stand by it. The Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are bringing the heat this year and it’s about time people start buying into them more.
This season thus far we’ve come to learn that there are more than a couple of ways to build a winning team. You can be like the LA Dodgers or Texas Rangers for example. You whip out your checkbook, offer big bucks and a life full of celebrity sightings like LA or great BBQ like Texas, and watch players flock to you.
There are teams like the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays, too. They invest in the free-agency market but base their roster building on developing talent and retaining home-grown players. And then there are teams like the Orioles and Rays.
They’ve managed to develop their teams through strong farm systems, being smart when it comes to offering deals and letting analytics, masterful scouting and some sort of voodoo magic do the rest.
If you look at the standings, teams with big checkbooks, besides the Dodgers, are lagging against small-budget teams. The Rays are the best team in professional baseball It’s not just a fact, but one everyone with some understanding of the game can agree upon.
The Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Arizona Diamondbacks won’t remain far behind. What do they all have in common? Yes, small payrolls but rosters full of young talent looking to break out.
Baseball in New York Is Not Where It Should Be
The New York Yankees and New York Mets have two of the heftiest budgets in all of pro baseball. They have rosters stacked with bonafide stars. At the beginning of the season, both were seen as two of the top teams to follow in the race for the MLB World Series title. But after the first couple of months, both are far from where everyone expected them to be
If we were to compare both squads, the Yankees do hold the city bragging rights over the Mets, but with both teams riding in the middle of their divisions, that doesn’t leave much to brag about. The Yankees look like they can’t seem to catch a break against the Rays and Orioles in the AL East, and the Mets? They look more like the “Mehts.”
It’s still early in the season, and a lot usually changes after the All-Star break. From the looks of it though, just scraping by to make it to the playoffs, as it feels like both teams are playing, is not acceptable. It’s the Yankees and Mets we’re talking about. It’s New York, the biggest sports city in the U.S., something needs to change.
Ohtani Is for Real, But We Already Knew That
Every sport has that one player who is the definition of over the top. Not because of personality, or antics, but because of how dominant they are when they perform. Soccer has Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, who can score goals in his sleep. Basketball has Steph Curry, a man who can probably drain a three, eat a hot dog and park his car at Chase Center at the same time. In baseball, there’s Shohei Ohtani.
Shohei Ohtani racks up 10 Ks and lowers his ERA to 2.91.
He leads American League pitchers with 90 strikeouts. pic.twitter.com/GGM88zrJ7A
— MLB (@MLB) May 28, 2023
The LA Angels superstar can do it all. He can pitch, bat, and field, all in such a dominant form that he could probably win the Cy Young and MLB MVP awards in the same season. With five wins and only one loss, and a 2.91 ERA pitching, plus 12 home runs already, “The Unicorn” is unstoppable. His only problem might be the team he’s playing on.
The Angels are good, don’t get me wrong. But they’re not a squad worthy of having Ohtani and Mike Trout, arguably the two best baseball players in the world, there without any signs of title contention on their horizon.
As Ohtani continues dominating left and right the reality of it all just comes to show that Angels fans should be getting ready for the worst scenario. Which is? The one in which they’ll have to live through the sorrow of having to see baseball’s most impressive talent leave their team at the end of the season for another squad that can actually offer him a chance to contend.
One thing is true though. Once Ohtani hits the market, not a lot of teams will be able to pony up the money he’ll be looking to score. But whoever does land him, like the Dodgers or Yankees for example, would be getting the best baseball player the game has seen in a long time.