Five storylines to follow as the 2022 Major League Baseball season kicks off with Opening Day Thursday. 1 – Lockout ends, but can the sport grow its fanbase?
MLB’s 2022 season appeared in jeopardy when owners locked out players in early December amid disagreements over the terms of a new five-year labor agreement. The parties finally reached an agreement and the lockout ended last month without any games being called off, providing relief to those who feared a prolonged work stoppage would alienate fans.
Instead, fans seem eager to get back to the ballpark. On the day the season start date was finalized, online ticket retailer StubHub said it saw ticket sales jump 235%. While this is good news in the short term, baseball has yet to find answers to counter its declining TV viewership and aging fan base.
To do so, he will need to attract the next generation of fans by spotlighting emerging talents like Ronald Acuna Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto and playing on team rivalries in the crowded North American sports market. . 2 – Can the Braves repeat as champions? The Atlanta Braves were the surprise winners of last year’s World Series, winning the best-of-seven series 4-2 over the Houston Astros despite winning just 88 games in the regular season.
The club lost slugger Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers in the offseason but still have plenty of pop in a roster that includes Acuna, who will look to return in May from a torn right ACL, as well as Marcell Ozuna, Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall. The pitching team that includes Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson received a boost with the addition of closer Kenley Jansen last month.
This Braves team has no obvious holes and all the pieces they need to win the NL East and more. 3 – Back-to-back Ohtani MVPs? Los Angeles Angels two-way star Ohtani had one of the most impressive seasons in baseball history last year as a hitter and pitcher and was later named the unanimous winner of the AL MVP award 2021.
He earned comparisons to Hall of Famer Babe Ruth as he went 9-2 on the mound while hitting 46 homers. He graced the cover of Sony’s “MLB The Show 22” video game. There’s no reason to think he won’t be able to do it again – provided the 27-year-old Japanese can stay healthy.
Ohtani hit his third spring training home run on Sunday and will be the opening day starter for the first time in his MLB career on Thursday against the Astros. The rulebook has even been changed to reflect his unique talents.
On the days he pitches, he will also be listed as a designated hitter, meaning he can stay in the game to bat even after finishing on the mound in what has been dubbed the “Shohei Ohtani Rule”. All signs point to Ohtani making even more history this season. 4 – Big names in new teams
Some of the biggest names in the game will be donning new uniforms this season and it will be fascinating to see how they fit into their new surroundings and when they face their old teams. Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer has signed a three-year, $130 million contract with the Mets and the right-hander could face his former team, the Washington Nationals, on Opening Day.
Shortstop Corey Seager signed a massive $325 million 10-year deal with the Texas Rangers that saw him leave the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he won the 2020 World Series MVP award. Seager will be a stalwart for Rangers alongside Marcus Semien, who signed a seven-year, $175 million deal in December to join Rangers.
Former Brave Freeman will wear Dodger blue and join a team most consider the favorites to win the title, while rival San Francisco Giants have added former Dodger and Brave Joc Pederson to their roster. 5 – Players return from injury Nine-time MLB All-Star Mike Trout, who is already considered by many to be one of the greatest players of all time, is set to return for the Angels after having missed most of last season with a torn calf muscle.
If he’s fully healthy, the underperforming Angels team could have a real chance in the AL West, where they’ll be looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014. The Houston Astros and tough –starting right-hander Justin Verlander, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
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