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    More than a Sport: The Return of Baseball

    With all due respect to Ted Lasso’s Danny Rojas, baseball is life.

    You never desire something so feverishly as when you don’t have that thing. The MLB’s recently ended lockout lasted for nearly 100 days. And during that time, fans and baseball insiders alike pontificated about everything from the price of bratwurst to Minor League salary pools. The game of baseball traversed over the threshold of a crossroads regarding what the game has become, and proactively, if it has the right leadership (Manfred on the hot seat)? All in pursuit to keep it thriving into the future. Now, you clicked on this article because like me, you know that when at its best, baseball is better than just about any other team sport. Why? For so many reasons. But primarily because of how it makes us feel. Between the superstars of the game both rising and established (Wander Franco, Casey Mize, Shohei Ohtani), and the level of play we are seeing on the diamond currently, there has never been a better time to be a fan of baseball. Let’s dig a little deeper and discuss just what we would have missed out on this season without a new labor agreement, and what to watch for as we prepare to slide head-first into the 2022 MLB season.

    Baseball is a sport entrenched in statistics. Namely “firsts”, such as “first career Major League at-bat”, “first home run”, and even “first helmet sundae”. The upcoming season will be no exception, as the evolution of the game’s rules will see even more firsts. One major, albeit controversial example of this is the arrival of the designated hitter in the National League. Pitchers no longer hit. Meaning the ninth spot for teams like the Cubs might become something more than a guaranteed out. I have always found the designated hitter a superior and much more intriguing strategy to the former National League rules. The game of baseball needed a change to account for an evolution taking place on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Take a player like Shohei Ohtani, who has lethal power from the pitcher’s mound and the batter’s box. He’d have been wasted to only serve as one or the other. It’s players like him and other rising stars around the League that have helped to increase the popularity of the game of baseball and to inspire the potential for some seriously exhilarating matchups. Imagine an ALCS between the Angels and Blue Jays, the A-list star power that it would bring and perhaps the ratings to go with it. And clubs around the MLB seem to be acknowledging this as one of the most active offseasons to date had teams snatching up free agents like shoppers at Costco loading up on wholesale avocados. The Red Sox manly stayed put with their core. But for franchises like Detroit, the time to win could be now with the acquisitions of Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez. The biggest and most perplexing splash in the free agent market came when prized short stop Carlos Correa, who boasted a 7.1 WAR in 2021, signed with the Minnesota Twins? Maybe he’ll be enough to turn his new, floundering squad into a contender, but that seems farfetched. However with Albert Pujols returning to the Cardinals for a nostalgic “Last Dance”, I suppose anything is possible.

    Everywhere you look, changes abound. Good changes? That is to be seen. But certainly change worth tuning in for. And as for the new collective-bargaining agreement between the Owners and MLBPA, rest assured that we will be afforded the opportunity to see how it all plays out. Baseball’s most endearing feature is its tradition. The feeling I described earlier, it’s something almost as tangible as the phone you’re holding in your hand right now to read this article. Baseball gives us cherished memories. The ones you make when you and your kid wear matching “Big Papi” jerseys to Fenway for the first time. That time when you and your buddy witnessing a no-hitter at your favorite pizza place.  If you don’t believe me, consider when baseball starts: the Spring. The season when the snow starts to melt, and a hope more powerful than Luke Skywalker’s green lightsaber bubbles up inside of you. A hope that this might be, just maybe, the year. Baseball is more than a sport, it is a feeling.

    mm
    Thomas Domol
    Tom is a Chicago-based freelance journalist and an avid sports and pop culture enthusiast. Podcasts can be found @domtomol on SoundCloud.Feedback: Contact my email @ [email protected]

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