If you’re reading this, you’ve survived the 5 months of off-season baseball, and your favorite team is finally taking the field, all with one goal in mind, winning the World Series. Last year we saw the beards of Boston, go on a magical run following the Boston Marathon tragedy, in which they capped off the season with a world championship. While they appear to be loaded up again and hope to return to that magical place, other teams across the league have made necessary moves to try to reach that pinnacle point. Let’s take a look at some of the major storylines to follow for the 2014 season.
1) The Seattle Mariners: In the off-season, the Seattle Mariners went on a spending spree, signing Robinson Cano, Logan Morrison, Fernando Rodney, Corey Hart, and a few other pieces. Yes you read that correctly, Robinson Cano is now a Seattle Mariner after signing a 10 year/$240 million dollar contract to go to the Pacific Northwest. While I completely disagree with his move, I don’t think the Mariners have done enough to compete just yet. They are definitely loaded in the rotation with Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and young stud Taijuan Walker, I’m not sure they’ve got enough offensively. Yes they made some key moves, but can Corey Hart stay healthy for 100 games? Can Logan Morrison finally be the ballplayer, he was once thought to be? Will catcher Mike Zunino live up to the 3rd overall draft pick he once was? The Mariners can definitely compete this year, and should finish above .500, but there’s just too many question marks to say they’re a for sure playoff contender.
2) American League East: In what has been the toughest division in baseball over the past decade, what team will be coming out of the AL East this year? The defending champion, Boston Red Sox, are locked and loaded to go even with the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury to their rival New York Yankees. The team has a few new faces with A.J. Pierzynski, Grady Sizemore, and Edward Mujica, but the core that led them to the title a year ago, is still there and ready to repeat. The New York Yankees, while losing Robinson Cano, spent a ton of money in the off-season, bringing in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Japanese sensation, Masahiro Tanaka. These signings and it being “The Captain’s” (Derek Jeter) final season, could be what gets them back into the postseason and ready to make a run at the title. The Tampa Bay Rays, will be fighting for the top spot as well, as they come into the 2014 season, with pretty much the same club as last year. Joe Madden somehow gets the most out of these guys, and they should be in the hunt for the AL East crown, and more. The Baltimore Orioles have added Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz for the 2014 season, and they’re looking to get back to the postseason behind Chris Davis and Adam Jones’ bats. Finally, we’ve got the Toronto Blue Jays, who are hoping the money spent in last year’s off-season, finally pays off. Jose Reyes says he wasn’t healthy last year, and he is now, and you’re going to see the Jose Reyes of old. If that’s the case, along with R.A. Dickey being the Cy-Young winner he once was, this team has enough firepower on the offensive end to compete.
3) The Detroit Tigers: Can the 2014 Detroit Tigers finally put it all together, and get over the hump? The Tigers have been one of the league’s best these past few years, led by Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander and others, but have yet to bring home a World Series title. Following the 2013 postseason loss to the Boston Red Sox, GM Dave Dombrowski did some housekeeping. That started at the top, when Jim Leyland decided to resign as manager, and the Tigers hired former Tigers/Astros catcher, Brad Ausmus to run the show. He also parted ways with Omar Infante, Doug Fister, Jhonny Peralta, and the big move, he traded Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. They also signed Kinsler’s former teammate, Joe Nathan to help the back of the bullpen. While many didn’t understand the Kinsler for Fielder trade, it was a necessary move in my eyes, as they just signed Miguel Cabrera to a $292 million dollar extension, and are going to have to pay Max Scherzer following this season. Will the above moves be what finally brings the city of Detroit another title? We can only wait and see.
4) The Replay System: As you all know, we have had the use of instant replay for determining if balls were fair or foul or a home run or not a home run. Well now, Major League Baseball has taken a huge step further adding a ton of new reviews. The first change, is managers can now challenge a maximum of two plays and only get the second challenge if they’re right the first time. Umpires will review plays in the seventh inning or later, similar to the NFL inside of the 2:00 of either half. It’s no longer just challenging home runs or fair or foul, you can now challenge the following:
The Command Center in New York
- Ground-rule doubles
- Fan interference calls
- Boundary calls (managers may not, however, challenge home run or potential home run calls)
- Force plays at all bases, except whether a middle infielder touched second base during the attempt to “turn” a double play
- Tag plays on the base paths—whether a runner was tagged or whether the runner touched a base (an appeal is still required ahead of the latter)
- Fair/foul calls on balls hit into the outfield
- Catch/trap calls on balls hit into the outfield
- Time plays (whether or not a run scored prior to the third out)
- Whether a runner passed a preceding runner
- Scorekeeping issues, including the count, number of outs, score or substitutions
Once a call is challenged, the crew chief umpire will requests a video review, and fellow umpires in New York’s Replay Command Center will watch video of the play in question using the “indisputable video evidence” standard when deciding whether to overturn a call. There’s bound to be some issues at first, and it will take some time getting used to this, but the most important thing here is getting calls right, and this should allow MLB to get the calls right.
My Predictions for 2014:
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Wild Cards: New York Yankees and Oakland A’s
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL East: Atlanta Braves
Wild Cards: Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds
AL Champions: Detroit Tigers
NL Champions: St. Louis Cardinals
World Series Champions: Detroit Tigers