The Aftermath Of The MLB Lockout
As soap opera goes, they had us on the edge of our seats. After 99 days of fits and starts, posturing and spinning, with seemingly no hope of playing a full, 162-game season, the Major League Baseball players and owners finally got it together to make a deal and end the league-imposed lockout.
There will, indeed, be a full slate of baseball in 2022.
For fans like myself, it was a mixture of relief and exhaustion. Did it really have to go as far as it did? With all of the other, far more important things going on in the world, was it really necessary for baseball to hold us hostage and turn the off-season into one, long, miserable slog? Nope. It did not. But at the end of it all, we do have an opening date set for April 7 and a flurry of player movement and activity that has been compressed into a three-week window of Let’s Make A Deal.
Player Moves For The 2022 Season
Freddie Freeman, the face of the World Champion Atlanta Braves, is now a Dodger. Hie has been replaced by slugger Matt Olsen, formerly of the Oakland A’s, a team who’ve undertaken yet another rebuilding (tanking) job until the team gets a new stadium–which they’ve been clamoring for since the Nixon Administration… or, if the rumors are true, they end up moving to Las Vegas.
Trevor Story just signed with the Boston Red Sox. Josh Donaldson was traded to the Yankees. Javy Biaz now plays for the Tigers and, in two of the more inexplicables in recent memory, Carlos Correa is somehow a Minnesota Twin and Kris Bryant signed a mega-deal to play for the Colorado Rockies. And on and on and on. It’s as if the period quaintly known as the Hot Stove season was injected with steroids.
Now what this all means for the season to come will be determined on the field, as always. Teams that “win” the off-season aren’t guaranteed a spot in the playoffs (which have now been expanded to twelve teams, a bargaining chip the owners cashed in). But we who love the game also love sharing our opinions about what’s going to happen, so here are mine:
The Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets are expected to duke it out for the title. The Braves have a balanced lineup, excellent starters one through five and just signed former Dodger Kenley Janssen to close. The Mets have the two-headed monster of Jacob DeGrom and Max Scherzer at the top of their rotation, plus new owner Steve Cohen’s billions to spend on anything else they’ll need.
But don’t sleep on the Phillies, who’ve added Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos to an already scary lineup, while giving them perhaps the worst defense in baseball. The Washington Nationals have the best hitter in the game, Juan Soto, but too many other question marks. And the Miami Marlins will play 162 games and lose around ninety of them.
The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals are the choices here. Neither team dips heavily into the free agent market, but somehow are competative every year. Milwaukee has great pitching and will win a bunch of 2-1 games. The Cards will, as always, perform their voodoo magic to coax ninety wins…somehow. Otherwise, it’s kind of a mess. Pittsburgh continues to rebuild (tank). Cincinnati is in the midst of doing the same. And the Cubs are kind of in the middle—re-tooling instead of re-building, led by the signing of Japanese star Seiya Suzuki.
A beast of a division. The Dodgers have the best starting lineup in baseball since the Cincinati’s Big Red Machine of the 1970s. The Giants are solid top to bottom—kind of the Tampa Bay Rays of the National League. San Diego will be better, but their pitchers have to stay healthy. Colorado was sneaky competent last year and just added Bryant. Even Arizona will have its moments. It’s a minefield.
If the NL West is a minefield, the AL East is Omaha Beach. Toronto is the new king of the hill here. Great, young lineup of stars led by Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, plus improved starting pitching. The aforementioned Tampa Bay Rays can never be discounted to analyze their way into 90 wins or so. And we haven’t even talked about the perennial rivals, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who I think will fight it out for third and fourth, with the Yankees getting a slight edge due to better pitching, As for the Baltimore Orioles, they moved their fences back thirty feet which will nullify the only thing the team really had going for it: right-handed power. Nice going, guys,
Suddenly a very interesting place. The White Sox are still the class of the division, but Minnesota and Detroit are signaling their intention of joining the party with their free agent acquisitions. Cleveland will pitch wonderfully, as they always too, while simultanously cobbling together the cheapest outfield they can possibly put together. The Kansas City Royals, with promising young pitchers and the anticipated debut of uber-prospect Bobby Witt Jr., will also make some noise this year. It should be fun.
Houston is still far and away the favorite, even with the loss of Correa. But their starting pitching has some question marks. Will Justin Verlander regain his Hall of Fame-caliber form, after two years off due to Tommy John surgery? Is Lance McCullers ever going to pitch a full season without getting hurt? It should still be enough to hold off the rising Seattle Mariners, who’ve added last year ‘s Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to a solid young team with the best farm system in baseball.
The Angels welcome back Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon to join Shohei Ohtani for a trio of superstars. Unfortunately, with the exception of the otherworldly Ohtani, the other two can’t pitch. And neither can the rest of this team. Oakland, like Cincinnati, is selling off its’ best assets and won’t be a factor. And the Texas Rangers, despite the flashy signings of Corey Seager and Marcus Semian, have perhaps even worse starting pitching than the Angels.
So that’s my two cents heading into the 2022 season. But no matter which team you root for, the sweetest words we’re going to hear in a couple of weeks is…Play Ball!