Opening day welcomes six managers headed into their first full seasons with their new clubs. But that kind of transition happens every year in the major leagues. This season, though, brings with it tweaks that will fundamentally change the game — not to mention iconic characters on their way out.
- Replay: For the first time, managers will be able to challenge umpires’ calls, much like in the NFL. Each manager receives one challenge — unless he is proven correct, in which case he gets another. Among the plays that can be challenged: force plays, tag plays, hit-by-pitches, fan interference and ground-rule doubles. Among those that can’t: foul tips, balks, balls and strikes, and the “neighborhood play” at second base, during which a middle infielder may or may not touch the bag while turning a double play. All calls will be reviewed by umpires manning a central command center in New York.
- Collisions: This one brings with it gray area. With player safety in mind, runners may not go out of the line to home plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher. Catchers may not block the path to the plate unless they are in possession of the ball. Collisions, though, are still permitted — as long as the catcher has the ball and is in the runner’s direct path to the plate. Replay takes some power away from umpires. But these home-plate collisions are all judgment calls for umpires, who must evaluate whether, say, an off-line throw moved the catcher into the runner’s path, etc.
- Goings: Alex Rodriguez finally put down his sword and accepted a full-year suspension for his Biogenesis involvement, leaving the game without its most polarizing figure, not to mention its active home run leader. That means A-Rod will never again play with teammate-foil Derek Jeter, because the Yankee shortstop will retire after his 20th season. And the man who banned him, Commissioner Bud Selig, will not be around for his reinstatement, because he swears he’ll retire when his contract is up next January.
- Comings: Not to make everything about the Yankees, but right-hander Masahiro Tanaka — and his seven-year, $155-million contract — were imported from Japan to help New York return to the postseason. He went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. And here is a list of potential stars who are on opening day rosters for the first time: Dodgers ouotfielderYasiel Puig, Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha, Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos, Astros outfielder George Springer, Indians right-hander Danny Salazar.
BY THE NUMBERS
Average annual value of the new contract for Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera, should the final two seasons vest. The 10-year deal is worth $292 million guaranteed, with years 11 and 12 good for $30 million each. Should the deal reach 12 years, Cabrera will be 43 at its conclusion following the 2025 season.
Years since Albert Belle signed a five-year, $55-million contract with the White Sox, making him the first $10-million-a-year player. After two seasons in Chicago, Belle opted out of that deal and signed a five-year, $65 million deal with Baltimore
“If I had to pitch [Sunday], I could probably do it. It just wouldn’t feel good.”
– Dodgers left-hander and two-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, who opened the season by pitching 6-2/3 innings of one-run ball against Arizona – in Australia. But he was scratched from his second start, which was scheduled for Sunday night, because of pain in his upper back.
“We didn’t want to do a baseball game strictly with the Blue Jays. … We wanted to create kind of a festival of baseball. We wanted to do a celebration of baseball, because baseball means a lot for the people of Quebec.”
– Simon Arsenault, one of the organizers of a group that brought the Blue Jays and Mets to Montreal for a pair of exhibition games during which the 1994 Expos, the team with the best record in baseball in that strike-shortened year, were honored.
More Post previews of the 2014 MLB season:
Thomas Boswell: It’s hard to quantify a good manager’s value