With regular season action less than two weeks away, all baseball fans want is to get started. For them, there’s nothing better than those summer afternoons spent at the ballpark with hot dog in hand. Given the slow offseason, The McGill Tribune pressed fast-forward on the MLB remote to provide a look at how the 2018 season might look at its midpoint.
It’s July 16. Winter is a distant memory, and we’re hours away from the greatest skills competition in sports: The Home Run Derby. With half of the MLB season behind us, it’s a perfect time to look back at the last three months of baseball action.
Fresh off an early off-season acquisition of reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, the New York Yankees are looking strong and mighty so far. Stanton has teamed up with outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sánchez to form one of baseball’s most deadly trios in the middle of the Yankees lineup. With that shutdown bullpen still intact from last season’s ALCS run, the Bombers are ready to make a play for Houston’s throne.
Ronald Acuña has been a revelation for the Braves since rising up to the majors, mashing homers and keeping his team competitive. In the American League, Los Angeles Angels’ two-way dynamo Shohei Ohtani has experienced a bit of a learning curve. After some early struggles, he looks a lot more comfortable on the mound but the Angels are still hoping to see the bat come around in time for the stretch run.
In the Playoff Hunt
With the July 31 trade deadline only weeks away, the contenders and pretenders are starting to reveal themselves. The Minnesota Twins deftly added a boatload of talent in the offseason—including starters Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn—at minimal cost. They’re right in the thick of things in the AL Wild Card race, only two games ahead of surprise contenders in the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, and one game behind the Boston Red Sox for the first spot.
The Miami Marlins sold off Stanton to the Yankees in December, but they weren’t done there: Miami dealt outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna to the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. Both beneficiaries are in the heat of the NL Central race, only a few games behind the Chicago Cubs, whose bolstered rotation with Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood has been excellent.
The San Francisco Giants built the ultimate 2013 superteam in the offseason, adding Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, and the results have been promising. But, with the aforementioned wealth of contenders in the NL wildcard race—plus Jake Arrieta and the Philadelphia Phillies—it looks unlikely that they’ll find themselves in the postseason.
An offseason rule change restricting mound visits hasn’t clicked the way Commissioner Rob Manfred would have liked. Teams are now restricted to six mound visits per game without having to make a pitching change, and they are still coming to grips with how and when to use them. The adjustment has made little impact on the pace of play to this point, but more rule changes seem to be on the horizon. Manfred has spoken of his desire to add a pitch clock next season, and Minor League Baseball is testing out new extra inning rules, similar to those used in international play.
It’s certainly possible that baseball is re-entering an era of dominant powers. The Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs look poised to make another run to their leagues’ championship series, and baseball doesn’t feel quite as competitively balanced as it’s been in years past.
However, as the dog days of summer heat up and make a sharp turn into fall baseball, don’t count out teams like the Red Sox and the Washington Nationals. Both have new managers leading the way—but, then again, even they were in the postseason last time around. Whatever the coming months may bring, fans are set to witness a new volume in a classic baseball story.