The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Sidelines: Baseball is back

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The Tampa Bay Rays have been one of baseball’s hottest teams. (Photo by Nathan Ray Seebeck for USA TODAY Sports)

Spring has once again sprung and with it comes another season of America’s pastime. Already with just about 25 games played, the season is off to a hot start, with a number of previously losing teams not only succeeding but looking like playoff contenders.

The biggest story going into the year was the vast amount of rule changes that Major League Baseball implemented in order to both speed up the pace of play and guarantee more action. First, a pitch clock has been implemented and it has made an immediate impact on the duration of games. The average length of a baseball game last year was 3 hours and 11 minutes, a time which has shrunk to just 2 hours and 38 minutes in 2023.

The league has also eliminated the shift and increased the size of the bases by 3 inches, which is A LOT of inches. It has led to a small uptick in the number of hits per game, but a massive growth in the stolen base attempts, both of which are making the game vastly more exciting.

Now to the teams actually playing baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays, in one of the most difficult divisions in all of sports, have started hotter than any team has since 1911. Up until April 25, they did not lose a home game, and they are still missing two key pitchers which, once they return, will make them even better.

The Rays are not the only team playing well. This first month has been notable because six out of the 12 teams who are currently over .500, have not played at that level for at least two seasons.

The Pirates and Orioles are the main showcases of that. Breakout star catcher Adley Rutschman and a vastly improved pitching staff have vaulted Baltimore from a team who has not sniffed a positive record since 2018 to a wildcard contender. The same can be said for the Pirates who are riding a wave of consistently good play from all contributors to the top spot in the NL Central, a title they have literally never won before.

The Cubs, who have been halfway between rebuilding and competing since 2020, are suddenly one of the most complete teams in the league, with Cody Bellinger having a career resurgence in Chicago.

While the previously mentioned teams are succeeding due to their homegrown talent, the Rangers have spent ridiculous amounts of money on pre-established players like Jacob DeGrom, and the hefty price tags have finally begun to pay off. They are in first place going into the end of the first month of the season for the first time since Astros came to relevance in 2017.

With all of the new blood in the playoff picture, there still remain many teams whose success is no surprise to anyone. Braves look like the best team in the National League, while the Dodgers are beginning to round into form after a difficult start. The Mets look like they are picking up right where they left off last regular season with contributions up and down their lineup making up for suspect pitching.

In the American League, the Twins and Astros are keeping pace with the rest of the league even as their heavy hitters have struggled in the early going. The Yankees and Blue Jays are back to their winning ways, with the Blue Jay’s lineup looking unstoppable and Garrett Cole leading a Yankees pitching core that hasn’t been touched all year.

Lastly, with all of this positivity comes disappointment. The Phillies, despite signing Trea Turner, have not been able to carry on last year’s postseason success and look to be back to their .500 ways. Things will hopefully change with the additions of Bryce Harper and Ranger Suarez later in the year. The same can be said for the team they played in the NLCS, as even with the addition of Fernando Tatis, the Padres have not been able to separate themselves from the doldrums of their divisions.

The Mariners and the Angels look again to be middle of the road despite all of their attempts to win, even with the Mariners finally making it to the playoffs last season. That the Angels, with two of the top five players in the entire world, are still unable to figure out how to be consistently over .500 is insane to me. Finally, the White Sox, who at one point looked to be the next up-and-coming team in the American League are just depressingly terrible.

Overall, it would be awesome to see these new teams continue to succeed, but realistically, there will be some regression to the mean and the teams that have made it the past five years will once again establish themselves as the teams to beat. It has really been nice while it lasted though.

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About the Contributor
Charlie Berman, Sports Editor
VAP, TRELL, KEHD (cheast, stew, help)

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