By Tori Kitchens
Major League Baseball (MLB) is back! Today marks Opening Day of the 2023 MLB season.
The 2022 season ended with an American League (AL) victory in the World Series for the Houston Astros over the National League’s (NL) Philadelphia Phillies. The Astros won in six games, ending the Phillies’ impressive postseason run in Houston.
Last year’s regular season ended with the New York Yankees winning the AL East, the Cleveland Guardians winning the AL Central, the Astros winning the AL West, the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets tying for the win of the NL East, the St. Louis Cardinals winning the NL Central, and the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the AL West.
ESPN writers, analysts, and editors made their predictions of the season outcome. They predicted that the regular season winners from the AL will be the same, and the Astros will become the AL champions.
The NL, on the other hand, having undergone many changes to their ball clubs, have very different outcome positions. The Braves were chosen to win the NL East significantly over the Mets, the Cardinals are predicted to win the NL Central, and the San Diego Padres were predicted to edge out the Dodgers in the NL West. The Padres were also chosen to edge out the Braves in the NL championship.
The ESPN voters were in favor of an NL team becoming the 2023 World Series champions but were split between the Braves and the Padres. The Braves have 2022 NL Rookie of the Year finalist Spencer Strider (pitcher) and the 2022 NL Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II (outfield) to continue their impressive starts in the majors. The Padres organization is one with a lot of talent with five strong batters to leadoff their order. Fernando Tatis, Jr. will make his return in late April following injuries from last season and a suspension on account of performance enhancing drugs.
MLB play may look a little different this year as rule changes will be implemented. Infield shifts are prohibited, a new pitch clock is enforced, pitchers are only allowed to make two pickoff attempts per batter, and the size of bases are increased from 15 to 18 inches to reduce injuries. We have seen previews of some of these changes in spring training games and are being introduced in college ball as well.
Many transactions occurred during the offseason with the most dramatic being shortstop Carlos Correa. This infielder’s name was brought up multiple times during the offseason as he opted out of his contract with the Minnesota Twins. Correa was set to sign with the San Francisco Giants, but, due to concerns of a weak ankle, the baseball club was timid to let him sign on the dotted line, which would grant him a 13-year, $350 million deal. In the middle of the night on December 21, Correa agreed to a 12-year, $315 million contract with the Mets, which stood as a major threat in the NL East. More concerns arose in the Mets ball club surrounding Correa’s ankle, so he returned to the Twins where he signed a six-year $200 million contract.
Braves fans, like myself, were heartbroken following the loss of former first baseman Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers following the World Series win in 2021. The Braves organization and fans took another hard hit as hometown hero Dansby Swanson’s contract expired. Swanson is one of the league’s most dynamic players and shortstops. On Dec. 17, he announced he would join his new wife, professional soccer player Mallory [Pugh] Swanson, in Chicago and sign a 7-year, $177 million contract with the Cubs organization.
Two more notable transactions included former Dodgers infielder Justin Turner and former Mets ace pitcher Jacob deGrom. Turner will return to AL competition as he suits up for the Boston Red Sox. He will face his former team, the Baltimore Orioles, during opening weekend. DeGrom will make his Texas Rangers and American League (AL) debut as the ace pitcher against the Phillies.
Season Opening Series:
Atlanta Braves @ Washington Nationals
San Francisco Giants @ New York Yankees
Baltimore Orioles @ Boston Red Sox
Milwaukee Brewers @ Chicago Cubs
Detroit Tigers @ Tampa Bay Rays
Philadelphia Phillies @ Texas Rangers
Pittsburgh Pirates @ Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies @ San Diego Padres
Toronto Blue Jays @ St. Louis Cardinals
Minnesota Twins @ Kansas City Royals
New York Mets @ Miami Marlins
Chicago White Sox @ Houston Astros
Los Angeles Angels @ Oakland Athletics
Arizona Diamondbacks @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Cleveland Guardians @ Seattle Mariners