Baseball starts, late

The new season of the North American baseball championship, the Major League, begins today, one week late. On the traditional Opening Day – almost a national holiday for the United States, which has been repeated every spring for over a century – the two biggest rivals in the league, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, should have opened the season in a kind of rematch of the last playoff qualifiers that Boston won last fall. However, due to bad weather, the game was postponed. The championship will then open in Chicago, where the Cubs will host the Milwaukee Brewers.

From here on, the regular season will come to life with its rather slow but at the same time frenetic rhythms and still difficult to understand for those who are only used to those of European sports. It will be played every day, more or less at any time of day: sometimes even twice within 24 hours, as in the case of the Yankees, who on April 17 will face the Baltimore Orioles in two matches 19 hours apart. on the other (in Italy at one in the morning and then at seven in the evening).

Each of the thirty teams in the league will have 162 regular season games at their disposal between now and October 5 – on average almost one a day – to qualify for the playoffs and try to win the World Series, the championship finals that last year were won by the Atlanta Braves for the first time since 1995.

The new baseball season is particularly awaited because it will have many new features, yet it risked not starting. Last December, in fact, all the activities related to the championship had been blocked in the first lockout of the Major League in almost thirty years: the previous one, in 1994, had canceled an entire season and had repercussions for many years. Since December the championship has been blocked pending an agreement between the owners of the thirty teams and the players’ union, divided on the terms of the new collective agreement after the expiry of the previous one.

The players’ union demanded adequate compensation for the youngest, greater contractual freedom and an increase in the salary cap for each team (ie how much each team can spend on salaries) from 210 to 245 million dollars. It also called for greater competitiveness within the league through a series of structural reforms. The owners, on the other hand, believed that the players already enjoyed one of the best collective agreements in North American professional sport and had other needs, such as the expansion of the playoffs, played by ten teams until last season.

The lockout it continued for over three months and postponed the Opening Day scheduled for the end of March, which further tightened the timing of the regular season. Finally, on March 12, the parties reached an agreement. The players have mainly obtained the increase in the salary cap from 210 to 233 million dollars and the increase of the minimum wages, while the owners – in addition to having granted lower increases than those requested by the players – have obtained the expansion of the playoffs from 10 to 12 teams.

The latter is one of the main innovations that will be seen this year. Another concerns the introduction of a new electronic device that should prevent cases such as the stolen signals scandal a few years ago, when the Houston Astros were discovered using a ploy – even a rather artisanal one – to decipher the launch signals that the opposing receivers did to teammates on the mound. The new device is called PitchCom and has been tested during preparation. It is a small push-button panel that the receiver wears on the forearm to communicate to the launcher the type of launch to be made via an audio signal.

In addition, some rules on the alternation of batters and pitchers have been changed and the teams have changed a lot. To avoid being stuck with the market too long, last December, until the last day before lockout, the teams had rushed to invest a total of $ 1.4 billion in signings and contract renewals. The most important engagement was that of Max Scherzer, pitcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers who joined the New York Mets with a contract worth 130 million dollars for three years.

At least half of the teams in the championship start with the ambition of winning the World Series. Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves are considered the most complete at the start. Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, and Minnesota Twins might be the surprises. The New York Yankees are considered among the favorites as always, for the value of the team and the importance of their name, but they have not won the finals even for thirteen years and will have as usual a lot of pressure from the first to the last game.

Ultimately, a team will look different than it did in the last century. This season the former Cleveland Indians will debut as Cleveland Guardians. For years the old name had been at the center of discussions for its racist and offensive connotation towards the Native American community. Three years ago, the team had already removed its most famous symbol, the caricature drawing of the “Chief Wahoo”, but had kept the name, despite the criticisms, pending a definitive rebranding. Guardians refers to the statues found on Cleveland’s Hope Memorial Bridge, called “Traffic Guardians”.

– Read also: In baseball, you need to know what’s in your hat

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