Going into the 2015 season is the beginning of a new era for baseball. With former commissioner Bud Selig stepping down, it ushers in the Rob Manfred era in baseball. With that change, there are always some rule changes and some other minor things that are tweaked usually in the first 100 days. One of those big things was the new pace of play rules that were implemented.
This season, there are some good storylines on and off of the field. I came up with my top 4 storylines/questions and broke them down for you right here:
- How will the new “pace of play” rules affect the game?
When the new pace of play rules first came out, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. First of all, I was glad that they didn’t go to a “pitch clock” but these new rules aren’t anything way outside of the box. For baseball to be able to compete with other sports, it needs to pick up its pace. People may not like that, but it’s a reality.
There is one thing in this whole rule-change extravaganza that makes me shake my head a bit. If new commissioner Rob Manfred wants offensive numbers to increase, wouldn’t he want hitters to be comfortable at the plate and not have to keep one foot in the box? The time in between innings makes total sense along with the bullpen rules makes sense, but the one foot in the box thing is plain Little League and it isn’t something that is all that enjoyable.
If players like David Ortiz are already coming out and saying that they are opposed to this, this can only cause problems going forward in regards to keeping one foot in the batters box. Baseball is a game that is supposed to take a little bit of time. If there is more offense in the game, the games will take longer anyways and with the other rules being implemented, I think Rob Manfred went a little too far on this one.
All in all, the rules shouldn’t be that much of a factor if players don’t complain about them. But, if players don’t feel comfortable with these new rules, something is going to have the change. In the end, the players are the ones playing the game.
- Is offensive production going to increase?
The past couple of seasons, offensive production has declined by a wide margin. This, in my opinion, is attributed to the pitching this league has to offer. When you have guys like Hernandez, Kershaw, Scherzer, Wainwright, etc., it doesn’t really matter who is at the plate because they are going to get you out in one way or another.
This season however, I do see offensive numbers going up. Good hitters make adjustments when they face good pitchers enough times, and I think hitters can make that next step and have some success. With runs per game hovering at an average of about 4, it would be good for baseball to have that number increase at least just a little bit in 2015.
Just for the sake of an entertainment factor, I hope offense increases this season. While seeing a good pitchers duel once in a while is fun to watch, I think the average fan would rather see a 10-9 ballgame or something along those lines. If that is the case, I can see the average fan maybe become a bigger fan and that is what helps this game we all love grow and become as big as it can be.
- Is there a true favorite heading into the season to win the World Series?
This season more than ever, I feel like there isn’t one true favorite heading into the season. There are a lot of good teams, but there isn’t that one team going in that stands out as a true favorite. You could make a case for the Nationals, and a good one at that, but even they have some flaws to work out in the bottom of their order.
Not having a true favorite is a good thing for baseball. Having parity in a game that not too long ago (and maybe still is) was dominated by the same teams every year is a step in the right direction. Now teams like the Mariners, Pirates, Orioles, etc. all are potential favorites to win their respective divisions while not too long ago, they were teams in smaller markets that were at the bottom of their divisions year in and year out.
Giving you my top three teams would be a tough predicament. This season has the potential to be a season where you don’t see the normal teams succeed. With Derek Jeter now retired, this is a new era in baseball with new superstars and new teams that are making that next step or have already. I’m anxious to see what that will bring in the 2015 season.
- Will the top of the food chain in baseball change?
With so many young teams finally ready to break through, this year could be the season that changes things at the top of the pecking order. Teams like the Cubs, Pirates, Padres, Mariners, and White Sox are all viable contenders for a playoff spot that haven’t been ready to break through in the past few season. They finally have the pieces to compete with the Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants, etc. and the other teams that have been at the top for so long.
I might get some heat for this, but I think it is good for baseball that the Yankees are going through a bit of adversity. They have been the face of baseball for a long time now and it is time that they take a back seat and let some other teams back into the spotlight that may not have been there for quite some time. It is always refreshing to see a team that build from the bottom up like the Astros are doing and the Cubs are completing very shortly. It gives everyone a perspective that says you don’t always need money to be successful. The Oakland A’s have lived off of that for the past decade and they’ve done okay the past few seasons.
I hope we get some new teams into the Postseason this year because it will open our game up to new audiences that may not have been there before. For markets and cities that haven’t seen playoff baseball for a long time, this season could be the chance that they finally get that in their city. For example, Seattle was one game away from the Postseason in 2014 and they could feel it. Watching the Seahawks win back to back NFC Championships, has to have Mariners fans just a bit anxious about what it would be like to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Lets see what this season brings us a top the food chain in baseball and I think it is the year for a bit of change up top.
Seattle sports fan and MLB writer for International Sports Hub