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Countdown to MLB Opening Day: Clocks, Shift Bans, Ohtani & Judge

by Ethan Kim
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Major League Baseball is changing – with Aaron Judge risking his own home run record, Shohei Ohtani famous for both pitching and swinging, and Dusty Baker wanting to win another World Series ring. All-Stars from all over have a new way to play which involves them playing each of the opposing teams. It sounds like something out of a movie – but it’s real!

Thursday is the start of a big day for baseball! Games are being played at four different stadiums: Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. And here’s something that’s great news – no snow on this day so you don’t have to worry about it ruining your experience!

MLB Makes it All About the Clock

Manny Machado broke a rule about the time between pitches at spring training and it was annoying. During a game between the Braves and Red Sox, the timing of one of the pitches ended up deciding the outcome and it was unexpected. If top players like Max Scherzer or Nolan Arenado get timed out during an important moment, people are likely to get really angry.

Major League Baseball (MLB) decided that something needed to be done about the long amounts of time in games when nothing exciting was happening. For example, batters were just adjusting their batting gloves while pitchers were playing with the rubber. Games usually lasted for more than three hours, so MLB wanted to make the game faster!

Baseball players now have to follow the clock – Gerrit Cole and Max Fried have 15 seconds to throw with no one on base, but 20 seconds when there are runners. And hitters like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Mookie Betts must prepare quickly too!

At first, things went really well as the spring training games this year were shorter than before. However, when these games moved to stadiums like Busch Stadium, Camden Yards and Petco Park, it seemed like umpires kept wanting to finish them faster.

New MLB Ruling Now Benefits Left-Handed Sluggers!

Bigtime sluggers like Kyle Schwarber, the National League home run champ, 2020 World Series MVP Corey Seager, and other left-handed batters should be really happy with this new ruling. That’s because they won’t get blocked by three infielders on the right side anymore when they hit to pull.

In recent years, there have been a lot of defensive shifts in baseball which has caused batting averages to drop really low. As a result, players like José Ramírez or Cody Bellinger were thrown out from shallow-to-medium right field.

Baseball used to allow players on the field to shift their positions in order to give themselves a better chance of winning. But, this wasn’t popular with fans so MLB (Major League Baseball) stopped it. These days, two infielders must stay on either side of second base and also no playing deep on grass to catch hits. This means that more ground balls will probably sneak through for singles than before, which could result in fewer no-hitters or near-gem games.

Will Shohei Ohtani Bid Farewell to the Los Angeles Angels?

On opening day at Oakland, everyone will be keeping an eye on Shohei Ohtani. What people are really interested in is what role he’ll end up playing with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Japanese sensation is one of the most talented and well-known players in the world – he helped his country win the World Baseball Classic and even earned the MVP trophy for striking out Angels teammate Mike Trout.

This year, Ohtani can leave the Angels. He hasn’t been able to take them to the postseason since he joined in 2018 and even though superstar Trout has never won a playoff game – that’s another problem.

At 28, it looks like Ohtani might be leaving soon if they don’t start winning. The Angels have two choices; to trade him off to another team that really wants him or risk losing him forever without getting anything in return.

Red Sox Secure WBC Champ Masataka Yoshida As Clean-up Hitter Before Debut

Jacob deGrom, who won two Cy Young Awards, left New York for Texas. Meanwhile Justin Verlander, a three-time Cy Young Award winner renowned for powerful pitching, joined the Mets.

Trea Turner moved to the Phillies to team up with his friend Bryce Harper. Xander Bogaerts made San Diego’s lineup more exciting which already included players like Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr (who is currently suspended).

Luis Arraez, who is an AL batting champion, was traded to Miami from Minnesota and Jose Abreu, a former MVP player signed with Houston Astros, the winners of the World Series.

One of the most interesting news is that of Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida. He helped Japan win in WBC (World Baseball Classic) and he will be playing as Boston’s clean up hitter even before his debut on Major League.

“Stealing a Change for the Better

Stolen bases have become not-so-popular recently, and the stats back it up. Jon Berti from Miami stole the most bases in 2020, but it was only 41 – this is actually the lowest amount for the leader since 1963 when Maury Wills and Luis Aparicio each got 40 steals.

Executives are hoping that bigger bases, which are 18-inch squares instead of 15-inch squares, will attract more people who like to run fast. This makes the distance between the bags a bit shorter. The Red Sox manager Alex Cora said they look like pizza boxes. Also, pitchers won’t be able to make as many pickoff throws.

Do you want to see baseball stars like Randy Arozarena, Bobby Witt Jr., and Ronald Acuña Jr. run a lot? How about Andrés Giménez and others bunting in more surprise plays and creating more hitting opportunities for themselves? There’s an easy fix— make the base paths shorter by reducing them from ninety feet to just eighty-eight feet!

The NFL (National Football League) changed the way their game is played by increasing the difficulty in the extra-point try. The NBA (National Basketball Association) also changed things a few years ago by introducing a 3-point shot. Baseball is one of the most beloved sports, but its distances of 90 feet and 60 feet 6 inches may not be permanent since younger fans want more action.

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