Mar. 30 marked the Opening Day of the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB). Following a wild offseason full of countless signings and trades, all 30 teams set out to claim World Series Champion. The defending champions, the Houston Astros, began their journey to defend their title, alongside World Series runner-ups Philadelphia Phillies who actively addressed their weaknesses in the offseason and bolstered their roster talent with the signing of star shortstop Trea Turner.
To recap the 2023 offseason, All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa opted out of contract agreements with both the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets and agreed to a six-year, 200-million-dollar contract with his former team, the Minnesota Twins. Boston Red Sox’s third baseman Rafael Devers returned on an 11-year, 331-million-dollar extension. The biggest decision of the offseason resulted in outfielder Aaron Judge remaining with the New York Yankees on a nine-year, 360-million-dollar contract.
The Los Angeles Dodgers began Opening Day with the best odds to win the 2023 World Series, followed by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Astros suffered their first loss since the World Series in a 3-2 defeat by the Chicago White Sox. Meanwhile, the reigning National League (NL) champion Phillies started the season very sluggishly. Through their first six games, the Phillies lost five, plummeting them to the bottom of the NL standings.
Newly introduced rule changes made an instant impact on the game. The shift rule change requires all four infielders to be in correct positioning with two infielders on each side of second base.
However, no rule change has been more impactful than the pitch clock. When runners are on base, the pitchers must throw their next pitch within 20 seconds of their previous pitch. Pitchers must throw their next pitch within 15 seconds of their previous when no runners are on base. Batters must respect the pitchers’ rest time and step into the batter’s box with at least eight seconds remaining on the pitch clock.
The impact of this rule added shortened games and advantages for the batter instead of the pitcher. Increased action has transformed baseball into more appealing entertainment for sports fans. Not only can pitchers violate the new pitch clock rule, but batters can be penalized with a strike for violating the rule as well.
Recently, San Diego Padres’ third baseman Manny Machado received a strikeout via an infraction of the pitch count. Machado attempted to call a timeout, but the umpire refused, resulting in an automatic strike, Machado’s third of the at-bat. Machado continued to argue his case and eventually got ejected from the game. This marked the league’s first strikeout and ejection as a result of the pitch clock.
As the season approaches full swing in the summer, sports fans will surely be glued to baseball for its revolutionary changes and open race for the World Series.
(Sources: Bleacher Report, CBS News, ESPN, Fox Sports)