2018 MLB Preview: 5 Stories to Watch

ballThe baseball season is back and the long road to the World Series starts again with a theme beginning to form throughout the league.

The last two years have seen long-suffering fan bases find their way to the top with generations of fans being able to see a title for the first time ever.

In 2016 it was the end of the longest drought in professional sports when the Chicago Cubs ended a 107-year streak.

It was one of the greatest years for many sports fans who didn’t have any team in the fight as they were able to see the loveable losers take home a title.

That long-awaited title was supposed to be followed up by the era of the Cubs but the year after was as tough as every year is after a championship.

Instead, a new team rose to the top with the Houston Astros taking their first title in the history of the team.

It might not have been the same amount of time than the fan base had to suffer but 55 years is still a long time to wait.

Their first title ever was a big one for the city and the fanbase who had just come through Hurricane Harvey to see a championship.

The win also set up a bit of a routine as teams have been breaking through to become first-time chance or first-time in a long-time champs.

There are any number of teams looking to do the same thing this year and there is only one team on that short list that has ever tasted success.

In Cleveland, the last time they rose to the top of the league was in 1948 but they have come close in the last few years.

Meanwhile, the rest of the teams have never won a World Series including Texas, Milwaukee, San Diego, Washington and Seattle.

Every one of those teams will look to continue the trend but like any year the marathon that is the MLB season will be their toughest competition.

They need to stay healthy throughout the 162 games in the season while also ensuring that all of their players play at or above their potential.

It is a tough thing to do and only the teams that can figure it all out an put it together can make that run.

Will it be one of the teams that has struggled for a long time that can keep things interesting or will an old power come back to take a title?

That process begins now as the season starts and the marathon starts with 32 teams all taking their shot at a great start towards October baseball.

freeagency

The division between players and ownership in every league is seemingly growing as the years move on. Whether it be an issue of teams not agreeing with the way that players use their platform or simply disagreeing with the decisions that the league and owners make. Disagreements are becoming a regular thing and that might not be a good thing for leagues when they look ahead to Collective Bargaining Agreements. Luckily for the MLB their CBA is in place until 2021 leading to some stability in the league. That hasn’t stopped from the players and management growing further apart over the off-season. Like in any league the off-season is one of speculation when players take their chances and teams look to build a contender. A big part of that off-season is the free agency period when players who no longer have contracts look to choose from the highest bidders to find their new homes. There were plenty of big names on the market this year and plenty of teams looking for that extra piece that might want to shell out the money to buy a player that can help them make a run. This year things were shaping up very differently though as some of the biggest names in the free agent market were left on the shelf well into Spring Training. This year has been one of the worst for free agents ever with over 100 free agents unsigned by the time Spring Training began. Never before has there been so many players available and so little interest in signing them. For the players and the MLBPA, that lack of interest is very suspicious as they have claimed that teams have gotten together to drive prices down. With contracts continuing to rise in every league the players suspect that the teams have planned to keep prices low by tanking the demand for players. Regardless of what the truth is the fact is that the players and the teams are growing apart is not good for the league. This type of division leads to long and trying labour disputes as distrust grows and both sides begin to bicker. It will be the job of Rob Manfred to try to smooth things over and although he has time before the next CBA this division can get out of hand quickly.

Aaron Judge,Giancarlo Stanton

The MLB has had plenty of great teams throughout their history but in the 1990s one team separated themselves from the rest. They were almost unstoppable during that time and earned a nickname that was appropriate for the time. It was the time of the home run with offence at an all-time high and the Yankees did it the best out of everyone. The Bronx Bombers were born out of an era where home runs seemed to be the only way to win ball games and championships. The Yankees put together a lineup of killers who hit home runs at a rapid pace and took four titles from 1995 to 2000. When the era ended due to the end of the steroid era the Yankees were still good but were not the dominant team again. After the era where steroids led to massive offensive numbers the league cracked down and defence took over. Without the power from the bats, the league struggled to put up the same numbers both on the scoreboard and in the ratings. That lasted for a long time as pitchers began to take over and managers began to find better ways to play defence. Successful teams stopped relying on home runs to win games and with that, the Yankees began to fall back in with everyone else thanks to an older team and far less power than before. The era of defence and pitching has begun to end though as last year marked the best season for home runs ever. Some might say that it was juiced balls that led to the big numbers others think that hitters are taking new approaches and catching up to the power pitching. The Yankees were one of the leaders in that new power thanks to their young stars. Namely, Aaron Judge who took over the league last year winning the rookie of the year and competing with Giancarlo Stanton for the home run title, although he did slow down at the end of the season. As the Yankees enter a new season they are leaning in looking to get that same dominant team and creating another Bronx Bombers team. They took a big step towards that when they signed Stanton bringing two of the hardest hitting players together in what is the best power-hitting tandem in the league.

USP MLB: MIAMI MARLINS-PRESS CONFERENCE S [ENTER SUPPCAT] USA FL

The Miami Marlins have not been a team that many fear over the last few years as they have repeatedly been one of the worst teams. It has been that way for a while and it is far from the on-field product that is the only issue. Ownership has been weak throughout their time in Miami with the team getting money for a new stadium from the city then selling their best players. It has left the Marlins as a team with a complicated relationship with the city that they are a part of. This season is supposed to be a fresh start though as Jeffrey Loria is not a part of the MLB any longer after selling the Marlins. In his place is one of the most legendary players of his generation taking a new step in his career. Derek Jeter may not be the money behind the new ownership group but there is no doubt that he is the face. Not only is he one of the bigger names in the group but Jeter is taking a hands-on approach to team ownership. Whereas there are other people fitting most of the bill Jeter is going to be the guy that will look to turn this franchise into a winner. He has a long history of greatness in the league as one of the greatest Yankees to play the game. Jeter was a leader on the team for years and was one of the most consistent players in the league throughout that time. Now he tries to take that leadership to a new organization and turn things around. It has been a rough start for Jeter though and although he is not the decision maker in all things he is certainly the one taking all of the criticism. The team began a rebuild in all sense of the word despite the fact that they refuse to state that they are rebuilding. They traded away Stanton and fired a number of people while beginning to shift their business practices. It is all an attempt to start from the bottom and build a real winner even if it takes some time to do that. Jeter has not been received well as a result of these moves but he is trying to change things and although he is taking over a terrible team he is also trying to bring his winning ways to Miami.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game

Since Rob Manfred took over as the Commissioner of Baseball in 2015 he has been on a mission to try to save baseball from itself. There is no argument that baseball is by far the slowest sport out of the major North American sports. The game develops slower than any other of the major sports and the time in between action is far more. That is simply the way the game has been for decades but in a new time, it is not translating very well. Consumers are losing their patience more and more with attention spans shrinking at a rapid rate. That is affecting the MLB more than any other league because of the pace of play. When Manfred took over his role that became one of his biggest mandates, to adjust the pace of play. He has been on a mission from the time he took office to try to find ways to speed up the game. It hasn’t been an easy thing to do though as he has experienced some resistance as he tries to change the game. The latest round of changes expressed the level to which the teams are willing to go in order to increase the pace of play. There was a lot more resistance this time around especially when it came to the always controversial pitch clock. That is the idea that the MLB introduce a clock to restrict the time between pitches which is meant to speed up the set up which can sometimes be painfully long. That has been an idea that has gotten little traction though as teams and players don’t want to mess with the process of a pitcher no matter how long they may take. Although Manfred didn’t get that passed this year there will still be some changes. This year the teams will be limited to six mound visits in a game reducing that strategy that managers sometimes use to slow down the game or give a bullpen pitcher more time. There will also be a shorter clock during commercial breaks forcing the batters and the pitchers to be ready quicker when games return from commercials. These might not be the steps that Manfred wanted but they are steps as pace of play continues to be his mission.

japanesestar

It seems like every year the MLB sees a new international player that grabs the interest of every fan and every team. Last year everyone awaited the decision of the latest star this time from Japan but unlike the others, he provided a bit more of a debate. Shohei Ohtani was a different type of player than the MLB had seen from anywhere in the world. He represented the long line of great pitchers that have come through the Nippon League with the weapons many have shown from that league. Multiple pitches and a 100mph fastball made him a desirable prospect to take a chance on in hopes that he could bring the ability to the MLB. What made him different though was that he was also a true power hitter in Japan hitting 22 home runs in 2016 while playing in 105 games. During his time he was used as an almost every day player getting time in the outfield and on the mound to become the most well-rounded prospect that the MLB had ever seen. His decision came earlier in the off-season when he made the call to join the Los Angeles Angels citing his comfortable feeling with the team. The more likely decision making reason was the fact that the Angels are in the American League and have a designated hitter. The team likely said that they would give him time at bat along with being a pitcher but now is the real test. Will the league see a two-way player for the first time in decades? The game continues to evolve and although plenty of players have pitched and hit that hasn’t been the case in a long time. Now the league will see whether or not that can happen but it won’t be easy as Ohtani will need to prove he can do both. There is little question about whether or not he can pitch as he has everything needed to be successful. Then again, most Japanese pitchers struggle with the adjustment to a new league, a better league, and many break down before they can show much. The biggest question will be whether or not he can hit against MLB pitching because there is no doubt that the Angels won’t be too patient in waiting for him to adjust but it will be fun to watch.

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