It’s that time of year again! Our correspondents Vincent and Michael Thomas, a father-son team of avid and knowledgeable baseball fans, are sharing their annual preview and guide to the 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) season. Here’s what you need to know: 10 great 2022 storylines to follow to keep you engaged all summer and equipped to talk MLB news and big events like an expert this season. Batter up!
the 2022 MLB season is finally here!
We interrupt the reports of and commentary on the war in Ukraine, the B.A2 coronavirus variant and all matters related to Will Smith with an important public service announcement.
The 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is actually underway. Despite the drama of a labor dispute and a last-minute agreement, Opening Day went off without a hitch on Thursday, April 7. Woo hoo!
Come on. Admit it. Even if you are not an avid baseball fan, just hearing the words “the start of the baseball season” brings feelings of hope, renewal, and child-like joy. Opening Day for MLB is proof positive that spring has actually arrived after a long hard winter. And anything seems possible.[white_box]
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With Easter, Passover, and Ramadan all coinciding in the month of April, many of us will soon gather with family, friends, and neighbors. More of us will return to work in the office this month, too.
We’re here to ensure that you’ll be ready when the conversation turns to the MLB season. We enthusiastically present our fifth annual list of ten great storylines to follow this MLB season – the most engaging conversation topics (at least, so far) for baseball in 2022.
10 great storylines to follow in MLB Season 2022
1. Better Late Than Never
In last year’s MLB Opening Day post, we admonished everyone to “enjoy Opening Day this year. There might not be one in 2022.”
The owners of the 30 MLB teams and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) almost made us look prescient. The owners imposed a lockout on the MLBPA on December 2, 2021. Immediately after the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between MLB and the MLBPA expired. For the next three months, the two sides did almost nothing to resolve their disagreement.
Spring Training did not start in mid-February as scheduled. Rob Manfred, the MLB Commissioner, canceled pre-season games and the games scheduled for the first week of the regular season.
Finally, at the proverbial eleventh hour with the deadline to start the season looming, the owners and the MLBPA agreed on a new CBA. Just in time to play a full 162-game schedule. Opening Day 2022 was originally scheduled for Thursday, March 30. It ended up being Thursday, April 7. Better late than never.
2. MLB Playoffs: More Selective or Less Selective Admissions?
One change that the owners wanted in the new CBA, and the MLBPA didn’t want, was an increase in the number of teams who qualify for the championship playoffs at the end of the season.
The owners wanted to increase the number from ten (five in each league) to fourteen. The MLBPA wanted to maintain the number at ten. The two sides agreed to a compromise: twelve (six in each league.)
So, at the end of this season, the three teams who win the East, Central, and West Divisions in the American and National Leagues will earn playoff berths. They will be joined by the three teams in each league who have the best records among the teams that did not win their division.
Proponents argue that this change will bring the excitement of pennant-race and playoff baseball to more cities. Skeptics respond that it will diminish the importance of the regular season.
Whether you like this idea or not, you can easily show the MLB fans in your life that you are up to date on their favorite sport by saying “looks like we get more games in October this year!”
3. With Two More Playoff Berths Available, Is This Going to Be the Year We Finally Make It?
We predict that the Toronto Blue Jays (East,) Chicago White Sox (Central,) and Houston Astros (West) will win their divisions in the American League. The Seattle Mariners and two East Division teams – the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox – will join them in the playoffs.
In the National League, the Atlanta Braves (East,) Milwaukee Brewers (Central,) and Los Angeles Dodgers (West) will win their divisions. The next three in will be the New York Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the San Francisco Giants.
The best of the rest: American League: the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, and Detroit Tigers. National League: the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres.
World Series Champion predictions: Vince: Dodgers defeat Blue Jays. Michael: Blue Jays defeat Giants.
4. What’s the Ohtani Rule? Let Me Tell You About It.
The new CBA established several rule changes. For the first time since 1973, when the American League adopted the Designated Pinch Hitter (DH) rule and the National League did not, both leagues will play all their games with a DH.
the DH rule
MLB established the DH rule 49 years ago because MLB pitchers are, generally, very bad hitters. The DH rule allows each team to designate one reserve player who will bat in lieu of the pitcher (pinch hit) every time it is the pitcher’s turn to bat. MLB hoped that allowing both teams to replace a very bad hitter with the best hitter from among their reserve players would result in games being more exciting for fans because both teams would score more runs. After resisting this change for decades, the National League will transition to using the DH rule in its games for the first time in 2022.
What happens when a team has a pitcher who is also an excellent hitter? Should a team who finds a player with this rare combination of skills be penalized by being forced to take him out of the game as a batter, thereby losing the benefit of his hitting skills, because it wants to bring a substitute (relief) pitcher into the game?
the ohtani rule
This is not a hypothetical question. Shohei Ohtani, the 2021 American League Most Valuable Player, compiled a record of nine wins and two losses, with a 3.18 earned run average, as a pitcher last year. As a hitter, he hit 46 home runs, drove in 100 runs, scored 103 runs, and stole 26 bases. To avoid penalizing the Angels, and any other team with a pitcher like Mr. Ohtani (see Hunter Greene of the Cincinnati Reds, below,) the owners and the MLBPA agreed to a new rule that permits a team to list a player as both the pitcher and the DH, and then remove him from the game in one role, but not the other. Baseball reporters and fans began to refer to this new rule as “the Ohtani Rule” immediately after MLB announced it.
5. Who Are the Cleveland Guardians?
Cleveland’s MLB team used the name “Indians” from 1915 to 2021. After years of resisting the pleas of Native Americans and others to change the team’s name, Cleveland’s current owner, Paul Dolan, decided to change the team’s name to “Guardians” after the end of the 2021 season.
Mr. Dolan was inspired to choose “Guardians” from a list of over 1,200 potential names generated by fans because of the large landmark stone edifices — referred to as traffic guardians — that flank both ends of Cleveland’s Hope Memorial Bridge.
6. Bobby Witt, Jr. Is the Next Big Thing. Remember That You Heard It here First.
75% of the word “news” is the word “new.” You are practically guaranteed to start an animated conversation with a baseball fan and impress them with your knowledge of the game by identifying the most promising new players for the 2022 season.
bobby Witt Jr.
MLB talent evaluators and baseball reporters are raving about Bobby Witt, Jr., a shortstop for the Kansas City Royals. Mr. Witt’s father, Bobby Witt, Sr. had a 16-year MLB career as a pitcher with the Texas Rangers and several other teams. Mr. Witt has demonstrated that he has the agility necessary to excel as a fielder at shortstop, the speed to excel as a baserunner, and the strength to hit home runs.
Although Mr. Witt has garnered the most media coverage, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Hunter Greene may be the most intriguing young player poised to debut in 2022.
Mr. Greene displayed such excellence as both a pitcher and as a hitter and fielder at shortstop in high school that he presented a dilemma to the team that drafted him: should he be deployed as pitcher or as an infielder? Mr. Greene’s success was viewed as even more noteworthy because he is an African American from Los Angeles.
He excelled at precisely the time that MLB was making a concerted effort to convince more highly skilled African American athletes to choose baseball over football, basketball, or other sports. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine as a high school senior in 2017, becoming only the 13th high school athlete ever to appear on the magazine’s iconic cover and was the top high school prospect in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft and was the second player selected overall.
Five years later, Mr. Greene will debut with the Reds as a pitcher who can throw his fastball at a velocity of 100 miles per hour. If his batting skills haven’t diminished, he and the Reds could become the first beneficiaries of the new “Ohtani Rule” after the Angels and Mr. Ohtani himself.
Other promising newcomers
American League: Shane Baz, Rays, Julio Rodriguez, Mariners, Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson, Tigers, and Adley Rutschman, Baltimore Orioles. National League: Bryson Stott, Phillies, Joey Bart, Giants, and Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates.
7. What? Freddie Freeman Doesn’t Play for the Braves Anymore?
Because the owners’ lockout and the CBA negotiations were the dominant offseason MLB stories, even serious fans may have lost track of the players who changed teams since the end of the 2021 World Series. You can help your family, friends, and work colleagues get caught up!
Of the players who changed teams, none are more notable than first baseman Freddie Freeman, who chose to join the Dodgers after his agreement with the Braves expired at the end of last season.
Mr. Freeman, the 2020 National League Most Valuable Player. He had a 12-season career with the Braves that culminated in the Braves winning the 2021 World Series last October. He was beloved by Braves fans, and generally viewed as the “face of the franchise.” Every respected commentator predicted that Mr. Freeman and the Braves would agree to a new contract after the 2021 season and opined that Mr. Freeman wanted to play for the Braves for the remainder of his career. Mr. Freeman and the Braves were unable to agree on contract terms.
With Opening Day approaching and his starting first baseman position vacant, Braves General Manager Alex Anthopoulus shocked the baseball world. He traded four of his most promising young minor league players to the Oakland Athletics for Matt Olson, the Athletics’ All-Star, Gold Glove award-winning first baseman. Mr. Freeman then committed to play for the Dodgers.
This storyline is even more interesting because Mr. Olson grew up in the Atlanta metropolitan area, and Mr. Freeman grew up near Los Angeles. Both men are returning home, hoping to build on their successes.
Other noteworthy transitions
Shortstops Carlos Correa to the Twins, Trevor Story to the Red Sox, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to the Texas Rangers, and Javier Baez to the Tigers. Mr. Story and Mr. Semien will change positions from shortstop to second base on their new teams. 2021 American League Cy Young Award (best pitcher) winner Robbie Ray to the Mariners. Pitcher Max Scherzer to the Mets. And third baseman Matt Chapman to the Blue Jays.
8. Wear Shoes to Yankees and Red Sox Games: There’s Shattered Ceiling Glass on the Floor.
For the second consecutive offseason, MLB teams hired women for and promoted women into roles that had previously been filled only by men.
In January, the Yankees promoted minor league hitting coach Rachel Balkovec to the position of Manager for the Tampa Tarpons, their “Low-A” level minor league team. Ms. Balkovec will become the first woman to serve as a full-time manager for a MLB-affiliated team.
In that same month, the Red Sox hired Bianca Smith as a minor league coach. Ms. Smith will become the first Black woman to serve as a coach in professional baseball.
11 women will serve as on-field coaches for MLB-affiliated major and minor league teams in the 2022 season. Seven of them are new hires. Women have shattered the metaphorical glass ceiling on their advancement into leadership positions in baseball once again.
9. Miguel Cabrera Will Get Hit Number 3,000 and Albert Pujols Will Complete His Farewell Tour.
Mr. Cabrera, the Tigers’ DH/First Baseman, enters the 2022 season with 2, 987 hits, 502 home runs, and a .310 batting average in his MLB career. He will become only the seventh player in MLB history to have both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs when he hits safely for the 13th time this season.
Mr. Pujols is one of the other six players. In the offseason, he left the Dodgers to return to the Cardinals, the team with whom he started his career. He announced that he will retire after the 2022 season.
Entering his 22nd and final season with 679 home runs, he could become only the fourth MLB player ever to hit 700 home runs or could pass the retired star Alex Rodriguez (696 home runs) to become fourth on the MLB list of career home run hitters. Cardinals fans love and respect their teams’ best players more than any other MLB fan base (sorry, Yankees fans.) If you plan to attend Mr. Pujols’s final home game in St. Louis, pack enough tissues to dry your own tears and those of others.
10. Did You Know That April 15, 2022, is the 75th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Appearance as the First Black Player in Major League Baseball?
On April 15, 1947, Mr. Robinson made his debut as a rookie first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers (note: the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958.) By playing in that game, Mr. Robinson “broke the [MLB] color barrier” – the unwritten agreement among MLB owners that Black players would be excluded, and that only players identified as “white” would be allowed to play in the MLB. Mr. Robinson played so well for the Dodgers in the 1947 season that he earned the National League’s Rookie of the Year award.
Mr. Robinson’s breakthrough and success were accomplished with grace despite the threats on his life. He is widely credited as having contributed to African Americans’ success in obtaining changes to both law and custom regarding our civil rights in the second half of the 20th century. President Obama publicly stated that “There is a direct line from Jackie Robinson to me standing here today” during his presidency. As they have done on every April 15 since 2008, all MLB players, managers, and coaches will wear jersey number 42. This year, to celebrate the 75th anniversary, the number 42 on every team’s jersey will be in the color “Dodger blue.”
Don’t attempt to adjust the color on your monitor if you are watching a game on the 15th. Just be reminded and inspired.
the storylines to follow in MLB Season 2022
That’s our inside guide with 10 great storylines to follow during the MLB 2022 season. Now you’ve got everything you need to hold your own when the topic turns to baseball this weekend.
join our community
For access to insider ideas and information on the world of luxury, sign up for our Dandelion Chandelier Newsletter here. And see luxury in a new light.
Vincent Thomas is a community college academic dean, a former practicing attorney, and the brother of Dandelion Chandelier founder Pamela Thomas-Graham. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His favorite Major League Baseball team is the Detroit Tigers.
Michael Thomas is a senior at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio; an Economics major and Spanish minor; and the nephew of Dandelion Chandelier founder Pamela Thomas-Graham. His favorite Major League Baseball team is the Minnesota Twins.