We are all most one-third of the way through the 2023 baseball season. With the new rules that are being enforced my fellow writer here on Double Over Time, Steve, suggested that I write some more general articles where I cover things happening around the sports world not just with my favorite teams. So with my love for baseball growing again after being laser focused on my beloved Cubs for the last ten years or more due to family related things that were filling my time I am going to start writing an “Around The League” post at least once a month during the season that covers the happenings in each division.
American League East
Thanks to the new rules and a 13-0 start by the Tampa Bay Rays the New York Yankees and their arch rival Boston Red Sox find themselves near the bottom of the strongest division in the league after being busy this offseason. There is not much of a conversation to be had at the Yankees here though because they have not missed the playoffs ever in my life. That said, my second favorite team has been the Red Sox since 2003 when a classmate of mine got me to understand many things about Red Sox history. Between them and the Rays there is a chance we see a flipped result by seasons end with the Red Sox finding themselves back in the playoffs.
Stories to watch:
- Devers: His .309 OBP and .264 BA are both slightly lower than his career averages and significantly lower than they were last season. He has been getting hot this month and already has 13 homeruns with 8 weeks before the All Star Game and five weeks until the official midway point in the season.
- The Surging Baltimore Orioles who have won seven of their last ten and their offense has been generally pretty hot this month.
American League Central
The AL Central is shaping up to have the weakest representation in this years playoffs based on early predictions with the Minnesota Twins leading the charge and having the only record above .500 in the division. The big headlines out of the AL Central recently have come out of the south side of Chicago. The White Sox pitching staff in the last week has seen a couple of strong outings from their starters including a career start from Michael Kopech last night. The biggest story from the south side this season has been calls for Jerry Reinsdorf to sell the team because of little he is willing to spend on the team.
Stories to watch:
- White Sox: Will they buy or sell at the deadline? Kopech is a free agent after this year so they might make a white flag trade.
- Twins Bullpen: They are desperate for bullpen help right now.
American League West
Most of the focus in the AL West is on the cheaters and the Rangers. The only other team that is stealing some headlines is the Angels thank you to Shohei Ohtani who will be a free agent when the season is over and is expected to get upwards of $60 million per year. Oakland got their moment in the sun a few weeks ago when news broke that they are officially becoming the Las Vegas A’s starting in the 2027 season.
Stories to watch:
- Shohei Ohtani: With the historic contract that he is expected to get this offseason the question being asked is, “Will the Angels trade him at the deadline or let him walk in the winter?”. They’d be stupid not to trade him to a team that is contending or even a non-contender that is interested in extending him to complete the trade. He is our generations first top notch two-way player and with the universal DH all of the other 29 teams would love to make him the face of their franchise for the next ten years.
- Jose Altuve’s Return: Back in March he suffered a broken thumb while playing in the World Baseball Classic. The question: Is he actually back at full strength?
National League East
The biggest news out of the NL East so far this year has been related to rules being enforced. Max Scherzer being suspended back in April for using banned substances while on the mound. He was only the first one to be caught though, earlier this week the Yankees Domingo German was suspended for the same reason. Not much happening in the NL East as the entire division is watching the Braves basically run away and hide after their busy off season.
National League Central
There is a tie for first in the weakest division with the Cubs sitting in third. The last time the Cardinals were in last place I was two years old. Much like the Yankees, the Cardinals will not be in last place all year. They saw their hall of fame catcher retire at the end of last season then promptly stole Willson off the market when the Cubs did not bother to even make him an offer because they did not like his pitch framing ability. The big headlines out of the NL Central aside from how bad the Cardinals have been so far this season have been mostly out of Wrigleyville with the Cubs expected to be an average team and finish .500 this season for the first time since the pandemic shortened season in 2020 when they won the division.
Stories to watch:
- Willson Contreras: A couple weeks ago many Cubs and Cardinals fans alike were claiming that Willson was being made into the scapegoat because of how bad the Cardinals pitching has been mediocre at best. It does not help that Adam Wainwright is showing his age and on his way out.
- The return of Kyle Hendricks: Kyle has not pitched in a Major League game since last July 5, 2022. He is also just a few weeks away from having full no-trade rights due to being a 10-5 guy. Some think Jed might try to trade him before those rights kick in.
- The re-call of Hayden Wesneski from Iowa: Whether or not the Cubs trade Hendricks when they demoted Hayden earlier this week Ross said that they sent him to Iowa to give him a reset. This guy is expected to form into an ace and has had a bad start to the season. Obviously with Kyle due back any day now they needed to have room in the rotation for him. When the time comes for Wesneski to return Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly, or Jamison Taillon could be pushed to the bullpen or traded.
National League West
As expected the Dodgers are running away and hiding in the West. Surprisingly though the Giants and Padres are behind are in third and fourth place after their very busy off seasons. There has not been a ton going on that in the NL West this season that has caught my attention because much like the Braves in the NL East it’s been all about the Dodgers. The only headline so far this season out of the NL West worth mentioning, in my opinion, is Freddie Freeman’s historic homer earlier this week that put him in the 300 homer / 1000 RBI club.
With that… it’s time for first pitch around the league on this fine Saturday!
If you cannot play with them, root for them!