Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s officially baseball season. We’ve been following the major news here on At Home Plate all offseason, and now it’s time to recap some of the major storylines heading into the 2014 season.
There’s been plenty of shifting among players, and some teams have already begun reporting to spring training. The winter has seemed endless, but finally baseball is back.
Expanded Instant Replay
This will be the first year of expanded instant replay, in which managers are given the opportunity to challenge disputed calls. All 30 clubs approved the motion.
All disputed calls will be reviewed at MLB’s headquarters in New York City, and if a portion of a challenge is overturned, the manager gets to hold onto that challenge.
After the seventh inning, the crew chief can choose to review a call as well.
Will games take longer? Will fans care as long as the key calls are made correctly, even if that means needing to be reviewed?
The system will be implemented in spring training so all involved personnel can get some seasoning with the new measures.
Red Sox vs. Yankees Renewed
Well, the rivalry never really died, but the Red Sox and Yankees are both gearing up for big seasons.
Boston, of course, won the 2013 World Series and will return a very similar team. But the Yankees have revamped their roster to include former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and prized Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka, not to mention the healthy returns of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.
This race should be a dogfight all summer between these two teams. And they both will have to worry about fending off the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles -- and maybe even the Toronto Blue Jays if that team plays up to its potential.
AL West Looking Stacked
The Texas Rangers were not content after missing the World Series last season after making it the previous two seasons. The team added Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo and is looking very strong heading into the season.
But the other teams will not be folding just because Texas improved. The “Moneyball” A’s should again be competitive with no matter who they throw out there, and the Seattle Mariners made a huge splash by signing Robinson Cano.
And imagine if the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim played up to snuff. That’s four legitimate teams that can vie for the division title. Should be very interesting.
The Los Angeles Dodgers made Clayton Kershaw the highest-paid player in the bigs when they signed the talented lefty to a seven-year, $215 million contract. Now it’s up to the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner to live up that contract.
He’s done nothing but be stellar in his career, but now that the huge paychecks will be rolling in, the pressure is on to continue that pace. The Dodgers should score plenty of runs for him, so it’s tough to think that he’ll struggle.
Are Pirates for Real?
The Pittsburgh Pirates finally made the postseason last year after a 20-year hiatus. A collection of young talent and a few veterans allowed the team to end its playoff drought.
But will last season’s success translate to this year? The team didn’t do much to add players this offseason, but all the youngsters have another year of seasoning under their belt.
The reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen will continue to lead, and Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte and Neil Walker all seem poised to get better.
Losing the veteran A.J. Burnett to free agency is a hit to the starting rotation, but staff has enough depth to make it for that loss.
The St. Louis Cardinals -- even though they lost several big names from their World Series team -- and the Cincinnati Reds should challenge the Pirates in the NL Central.
Was this team just a flash in the pan last year or does it have what it takes for sustained success? That and more will be determined during the 2014 MLB season.
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