Sánchez Córdova: Why you should watch baseball in 2022
Jose Sanchez Cordova | Thursday, April 7, 2022
With the MLB about to start on Thursday, it has been hard to contain my excitement for the return of my favorite sport. But every time I mention it, I get the same few reactions. “Baseball is boring.” “It’s so slow.” “Nothing ever happens.” Or “it takes forever.” This article is my response to those complaints. Here are three reasons why baseball in 2022 is exciting and you should watch it.
This all starts with Shohei Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, who put together the most dominant two-way season in baseball history. He pitched 130.1 innings with a 3.18 ERA and hit 46 home runs while stealing 26 bases. He did everything well.
To put that in perspective, that’s like if a football player played quarterback and threw 30 touchdowns while also playing defensive end and getting 10 sacks. No one has done anything close to this since Babe Ruth in 1919, who some consider the best player ever. And Ohtani did it better and against better competition. He is the definition of “must-see” TV.
Then you look at his teammate Mike Trout, who is one of just 10 players to have won MVP three times. Trout was dealing with injuries last season, but in his last 162-game season (2019) he won MVP. And when he was on the field last year, he was still the best player in the league, earning an All-Star selection despite missing over 100 games. Seeing him come back into a lineup where he will have protection from the reigning MVP will be something to behold.
But if we look past the Los Angeles Angels, there are stars on almost every team in baseball. The Nationals have Juan Soto, who’s basically a modern-day Ted Williams. The Mets have Jacob deGrom, who just had one of the greatest half-seasons anyone has ever pitched. And the defending champion Braves have star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. He could be in the running for a 40/40 season with his crazy home run pop and electrifying speed on the basepaths.
Then there are all the young guys. Three of baseball’s top five prospects made their teams’ opening day roster this year. There’s Julio Rodriguez (Mariners), Spencer Torkelson (Tigers), and the no. 1 prospect in baseball, Bobby Witt Jr. (Royals). And then there’s Wander Franco who debuted for the Rays last season and proceeded to break an American League record for consecutive games on-base for a player in their age-20 season that was set by Mickey Mantle. These guys all promise to make an impact in the big leagues for a long time. These are the stars of the future and we can watch them get their start.
There are so many more players I could name. Fernando Tatís Jr. in San Diego. Vlad Guerrero Jr. in Toronto. Basically the entire Dodgers lineup. Anywhere you look in Major League Baseball you’ve got elite players doing special things on the diamond that you don’t want to miss.
This year is also special for the potential milestones we could see broken this year. A few are only a matter of time and health. This is the case with Miguel Cabrera, a two-time MVP and one of the best hitters of the 2010s, who is chasing the mythical 3,000 hit club. Only 32 players in MLB history have reached the milestone. And only six have both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Cabrera already eclipsed the latter milestone last year. Needing just 13 more hits to reach 3,000, this one is going to happen barring an injury. It will be just one more chapter in a legendary career headed straight to Cooperstown.
Another future Hall of Famer chasing a similar milestone is Albert Pujols, who returns to St. Louis after 10 years in Los Angeles. The Machine is entering this year with 679 home runs, good for fifth all-time. He needs 18 to pass Alex Rodriguez for fourth on that list. In fact, he needs 21 to reach 700, something only three players – Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth – have ever done. This milestone figures to be tougher to attain given Pujols’s more limited role nowadays. But even in a pinch-hit capacity, he hit 17 home runs last year. So it’s definitely a possibility in his final season and the kind of history you don’t want to miss.
The last player I want to highlight is Clayton Kershaw. Another sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer once he retires, Kershaw is one of the greatest pitchers in Dodgers history. This year he has a chance to break the franchise record for strikeouts, needing just 27 more to pass Don Sutton, another Hall of Famer. This one is also pretty much a foregone conclusion if Kershaw stays healthy. It will almost certainly happen in the first month of the season.
There are so many talented teams in baseball this year. And with two additional teams making the postseason this year, the race for October figures to be tight. Especially in the AL East division, where there are four teams with realistic postseason and maybe World Series aspirations. The Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays could all make the postseason this year and challenge for the pennant. They all won 90 games last year and could do so again. This division is going to be a grind and might not be decided until the last week of the season.
The NL East is a similar story. The defending champion Braves got better, bolstering their already great bullpen and adding Matt Olson, one of the best first basemen in the league. The Mets spent aggressively in free agency, adding Max Scherzer and numerous others as new owner Steve Cohen continues his push for star power in Queens. And in Philadelphia, the Phillies put together one of the best lineups in baseball. They added Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber to a lineup that already has NL MVP Bryce Harper. Those three teams will be pushing hard for the postseason, and it will be an exciting race all season.
And on the west coast, you have the juggernaut Dodgers who traded for Freddie Freeman and are about as “World Series or bust” as it gets. They won 106 games last year. But they had to play in the Wild Card Game because the San Francisco Giants won 107. This season we get to find out if the Giants are for real. We also get to see if the Padres, under new manager Bob Melvin, can live up to expectations after a catastrophic end to 2021.
The AL West also has some interesting things to watch out for. First, the Seattle Mariners, who are trying to break a 20-year postseason drought, the longest across the four major North American sports. They got better, adding Robbie Ray and Jesse Winker to a team that won 90 games last year, in what was their best season since 2003.
The LA Angels have already wasted enough of Mike Trout’s prime (and now Shohei Ohtani’s) and spent aggressively to make it to the postseason this year. Not to mention the Texas Rangers who signed Marcus Semien and Corey Seager in two of the off-season’s biggest signings. And then there are the Houston Astros, who have ruled this division in years past but lost Carlos Correa. Despite this, they still feature a stacked lineup and a returning Justin Verlander, making them a team that should be back in October.
All over the league and on every single team there are stars and there are stories. There’s something for everyone, you just have to find it. The 2022 season is shaping up to be one of the most interesting MLB has had in a while. So, I encourage you to find your niche, find a player you love, or a team you like watching. Then it’s just about sitting back and enjoying the show of incredible athletes doing incredible things.