Preseason has new rules and missing stars
The Santa Clara
February 28, 2019
The sights, sounds and smells of spring—chalk stripes, the crack of a bat and the smack of a catcher’s mitt—have arrived just in time for baseball fans to emerge from the long, cold winter and fill the stadiums of their favorite teams.
The first Major League Baseball (MLB) Spring Training games kicked off on Feb. 21 in Arizona and Florida, and will continue until Opening Day on March 28. With the baseball drought finally over, MLB players are eager to get back out on the diamond.
“I’m always excited to start Spring Training,” Los Angeles Angels center-fielder Mike Trout said. “I love spring. I love getting ready for the season.”
This year’s spring training schedule is slightly different from those in the past, as some games will be played internationally.
The Diamondbacks and the Rockies will meet for a pair of games to be played in Monterrey, Mexico at Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey on March 9-10. This will serve as a precursor for other games to be played around the globe during the regular season. Later on, the Mariners and Athletics will play a two-game series in Tokyo to start the 2019 season on March 20-21, and the Yankees and Red Sox bring their rivalry to England’s London Stadium on June 29-30.
A new rule—a 20-second pitch clock—is also being inaugurated in spring training this year before being set in stone for the regular season. The pitch clock will operate in-between pitches—the enforcement and penalties for violating the rule will become tougher as spring training draws toward its conclusion.
The average game time in MLB in 2018 was three hours and four minutes—down four minutes from 2017—but that is still a long time in speedy 21st century life.
MLB views its new initiative as a positive method of quickening the pace of games. “It’s just another part of the progression of the game,” Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told MLB.com. “Who doesn’t like being efficient with time without rushing? I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.”
The idea of a pitch clock has faced resistance from players, especially from pitchers who work slower on the mound. Of the 468 pitchers to throw at least 30 innings last year, all but six averaged more than 20 seconds in between pitches suggesting that adjustments will have to be made to pitching styles and techniques, and the overall nature of professional baseball itself.
“Having a pitch clock, if you have ball-strike implications, that’s messing with the fabric of the game,” Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer said to the Associated Press. “There’s no clock in baseball and there’s no clock in baseball for a reason.”
For now, there are roughly four weeks of spring training to see if the pitch clock experiment will end speeding up—or undermining—America’s pastime.
Meanwhile, the Bryce Harper lotto, which has riveted many fans this off-season, may finally be nearing a conclusion. Harper, a free agent, remains unsigned to any MLB team even as spring training gets underway.
However, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported Monday that Harper is “expected to make his decision by the end of this week.”
The Philadelphia Phillies remain in the hunt for the super-star free agent, reportedly setting a deadline on his decision. The Los Angeles Dodgers met with Harper earlier this week. He is searching for a contract that extends 10 years or more, but according to Jeff Passan at ESPN.com, the Dodgers have “long been opposed to very long-term deals.” For Bay Area fans, there are still rumors that the Giants remain interested.
Another young talent recently confirmed Harper may still have a chance to get his wish of a high-paying, longterm contract. Last week, Manny Machado signed a 10-year contract for $300 million with the San Diego Padres—making the buzz swell around Harper’s contract prospect.
If one thing is certain, it’s that Opening Day waits for no one—even superstars. And for fans in ballparks in Arizona and Florida, players are taking batting practice, the weather is warm and the beer is cold.
And, for now at least, every team has a chance to be in the World Series.
Contact Lacey Yahnke at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.