Opinion: Baseball returns from lockout

Vladimir+Guerrero+Jr.+looks+to+lead+the+Blue+Jays+to+a+championship.

Dan Hamilton / USA TODAY Sports / CC BY-SA 4.0

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looks to lead the Blue Jays to a championship.

To the excitement of sports bettors, analysts, and fans, baseball is finally back. The 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) season began on April 7.

The uncertainty of last year’s offseason finally came to a close with a new deal between the league and players association. Lengthy negotiations began last December when MLB owners instituted the lockout. This became the first work stoppage since the 1994-1995 player strike. 

With the season long overdue, teams and players alike seek to prove themselves across the pending 162 games.

Last season, the Atlanta Braves battled through a gauntlet en route to their World Series title. However unlikely a back-to-back may be, their moves in free agency have helped. While the Braves lost star first baseman Freddie Freeman, all-star Matt Olson was acquired from the Oakland Athletics and was immediately extended with an 8-year $168 million deal. The Braves also upgraded their bullpen with the signing of Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen. With the return of superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves look to repeat their championship. 

My pick to win the 2022 World Series is the Toronto Blue Jays. From top to bottom, Toronto is one of the most balanced teams in the league. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 2021 breakout season nearly won him the Triple Crown (the leader in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in). With the departure of Cy Young pitcher Robbie Ray, the Blue Jays added all-stars Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi to complement Jose Berrios and rising star Alek Manoah. The Jays’ defense was bolstered by trading for Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman. 

What we did last year was the trailer, now you guys are going to see the movie.”

— Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Every year there is always an overachiever or a sleeper team. In 2021, the San Francisco Giants shocked many by winning 107 games, claiming the best record in the MLB. I believe that the Los Angeles Angels will follow a similar path this season.

Coming off his historical MVP season, Shohei Ohtani continues to impress during spring training and will carry the momentum into the coming season. Barring further injury concerns, Mike Trout’s return adds another weapon to a lineup including Ohtani, David Fletcher, and Jared Walsh. Despite an injury-plagued 2021, star third baseman Anthony Rendon looks to make his full return this season. Their pitching rotation has also been upgraded with the addition of Noah Syndergaard, along with Ryan Tepera and Michael Lorenzen, to the bullpen.

With every overachiever, there’s always an underachiever. Last year, the San Diego Padres were the main culprit. The Padres’ star-studded roster could not elevate them into the playoff picture. A team containing superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., veteran third baseman Manny Machado, and former Cy Young pitcher Blake Snell finished just third in the NL West. 

In 2022, I predict that the New York Mets will be a bust. Ace pitcher Jacob Degrom has had a lengthy injury history and will miss significant time due to a shoulder injury. New addition Max Scherzer has also struggled with injuries of his own, the latest of which is a hamstring issue. Shortstop Francisco Lindor has seen his production plummet over the past few years with all major offensive stats down. It remains to be seen whether he can bounce back in 2022. The Mets bullpen continues to be a concern with Edwin Diaz’s inconsistent play. 

As thirty teams across the country gear up for the season, the storylines follow. Will the Braves run it back? Can Ohtani and Trout make a postseason run? Will Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finally claim his triple crown? We’ll find out as the season unfolds.