The 2016 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is about to get underway. This sample sample sample MLA essay will provide several fun facts regarding this season. The facts that are reviewed will include:
- The 2016 schedule
- New rules for the season
- The fantasy baseball side
- Baseball diplomacy
- Predictions for the season
The 2016 Major League Baseball 2016 season
Regarding the MLB 2016 schedule, the first thing to know is that the season is about to get underway very shortly. The official schedule was recently released by the MLB itself, so now all baseball fans within the nation can know exactly what match-ups they can look forward to and expect to see over the course of the next several months. As Mailhot has written:
“The Major League Baseball season will start on April 3 with the traditional ESPN Sunday Night Baseball opener and continue with a full slate of games on April 4” (paragraph 2).
However, Mailhot made a small error in this statement, writing it back in September 2015 as he was. Opening day for the 2016 MLB season will, in fact, be on the 3rd of April; but there will not be one but rather three matches that will be played on that day:
- The Pittsburgh Pirates versus the St. Louis Cardinals
- The Toronto Blue Jays versus the Tampa Bay Rays
- The Kansas City Royals versus the New York Mets
This is a change from previous MLB seasons and is based on agreements with the television station ESPN regarding wider broadcasting possibilities. It would seem that at least one baseball team tried to get changes made to the schedule, but failed to do so. Axisa has indicated:
“the [Oakland] Athletics tried and failed to get the 2016 schedule changed because of what they consider heavy travel. Specifically, the A’s will not play back-to-back series on the road against the Rangers and Astros, so they have to make twice as many trips to Texas, and they will also endure separate stretches with 22 of 28 and 14 of 17 days on the road” (paragraph 8).
One could wonder about the relative disadvantages by team sports members that have to spend a disproportional amount of time on the road in this way. For example, Seattle Mariners are almost always the baseball team that travels the most in a given season, due to simple geographical reasons; and the Mariners have also not performed especially well in quite a long time.
It is possible that there is some inverse correlation here between these the two variables of distance traveled and season performance. However, the MLB does not seem to think very much of this, if the organization’s decision regarding the case of the Athletics gives any indication regarding this matter.
The final series of 2016
It is perhaps also worth turning a little attention to the final series of the 2016 MLB season, given that these series often produce significant effects on what teams will move forward and what teams will not. According to Axis, some of the notable final series for the 2016 season will be:
- The Orioles at the Yankees
- The Astros at the Angels
- The Dodgers at the Giants
- The Pirates at the Cardinals
- The Blue Jays at the Red Sox
These series have been deemed notable by this commentator on the basis of hypothetical predictions regarding how the broader 2016 baseball season will pan out for the various teams in question. Such predictions will be discussed later on in the present essay. For now, though, it may be worth turning to some new rules that will be put into place for the 2016 season as a means of better protecting the physical well-being of the athletes within the MLB.
New baseball rules in 2016
The MLB has introduced a couple new rules of play for the 2016 baseball season. One of the main changes has to do what is called the rolling slide: this is when a runner, in an attempt to break up a double play, slides onto the base in such a way that he makes quasi-intentional contact with the baseman. According to Hoffman, the new rule states:
“a slide to break up a double play will have to include a bona fide attempt to reach and remain on the base. Contact with the fielder is permissible, but the runner cannot change his path to initiate contact or engage in a ‘roll block'” (paragraph 4).
This new rule is accompanied by a provision for video reviews at the second base, which will be used if necessary to determine the extent to which the runner has intentionally made contact with the baseman. If the intention is found to be present, then the double play will stand.
This rule has emerged as a result of a specific incident in which:
“Chase Utley’s slide broke Ruben Tejada’s right leg in Game 2 of a National League division series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Mets, put the relatively common tactic of trying to break up a double play was put under a microscope, with many assuming that a change in baseball’s rules would result” (paragraph 1).
The injury behind the rule change
In short, there was a specific case of the rolling slide causing serious harm to an athlete in an important baseball game; and this led to the MLB taking measures to protect other athletes from suffering the same fate in the future. This change takes on especial significance if one considers it in light of recent backlashes within the sport of NFL football after research findings indicating that there is a strong correlation between playing football and experiencing concussions.
In short, the change in the MLB’s rules could be understood as part of a broader emerging consciousness that steps must be taken to promote the safety of professional athletes, irrespective of the physical dangers inherent in sports themselves as such.
It is unclear what level of significance this change in the MLB’s rules will have on the 2016 baseball season. After all, baseball is not intrinsically a contact sport anyway, and consciously tackling a baseman so that he cannot catch the ball has surely always been frowned upon. In this context, the change of rules could perhaps be understood as merely the formalization of an ethos that has already been present within the game all along. Rolling slides were likely never entirely acceptable, but people tended to look the other way. Now that an athlete has gotten seriously hurt as a result of this move, though, it would simply no longer be possible for people to look away.
Fantasy baseball and changes within the MLB
Every season of baseball is generally accompanied by fans of the sport engaging in fantasy baseball, and the 2016 MLB season will be no different. Fantasy baseball focuses on the various statistics of baseball players and their teams; but these statistics are also related to the broader arcs of the careers of the players and the records that they are in the process of setting. For example, this is one of the following points that has been noted by Cockcroft as crucial for the upcoming 2016 MLB season:
“Miguel Sano’s 35.5 percent strikeout rate last season was the 13th-highest in history among players who came to the plate at least 300 times in a season. His .269 batting average was also the highest of any player with at least 300 plates and a 33.3 percent K rate” (paragraph 6).
Such facts may seem rather arcane and inscrutable to the average outsider to the sport of baseball; but to a fan of the sport and especially those who have an interest in fantasy baseball, facts like this one can contain important meanings and implications. The fact that such analyses are already being rolled out suggests that fantasy baseball will remain in important means of fan participation over the course of the 2016 MLB season.
Baseball and diplomacy
Sports have often taken on a political dimension that transcends simple athletics or entertainment. One thinks, for example, of the significance of the American Olympic team beating their Soviet counterpart in the midst of the Cold War. Baseball has already been utilized in the year 2016 to make a political point. As Korte has reported:
“President Obama capped off his 48-hour visit to Cuba on Tuesday with a final remarkable moment, taking in a rare spring exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Cuban national baseball team in front of 55,000 Cuban and American baseball fans” (paragraph 1).
Obama took this opportunity to make a popular statement to the Cuban people regarding Obama’s call for the end the decades-long embargo against Cuba. Similarly, the MLB will be hosting a game in honor of the black baseball player Jackie Robinson this season (see Axisa). This could have potentially significant political resonances, given the fact that the oppression of the black community within the United States has become one of the key civil rights issues of the day.
Predictions for the 2016 MLB season
Part of the fun of the lead-up to any MLB season, of course, consists of making predictions about how the sport will turn out, and the 2016 season is no different in this regard. Lacques, for example, has provided predictions of win-loss ratios for all of the teams in the MLB, with the leaders in each of the six divisions consisting of the:
- Boston Red Sox
- Chicago White Sox
- Houston Astros
- Washington Nationals
- Chicago Cubs
- San Francisco Giants
The Cubs have the highest ratio in this prediction chart, with 101 wins to 61 losses. This would seem to carry on a long tradition among baseball fans of trying to guess how exactly the Cubs will do in any given MLB season Lacques for his part seems to be very optimistic about this baseball team’s prospects for the 2016 season. This is somewhat interesting to the present writer, given that he himself grew up around the city of Chicago and enjoyed sports as a child.
Regarding the 2016 World Series, Cassavel has suggested:
“the  World Series champion Kansas City Royals are set to defend their crown for the first time in 30 years, and they’ll face some stiff competition in 2016. This past season saw a number of supremely talented young clubs make their next step toward contention. They figure to be back next year, as do a few perennial contenders” (paragraph 2).
Cassavel has proceeded to single out the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Texas Rangers as some of the favorites for winning the World Series championship of 2016.
Of course, though, all such predictions are just educated guesses based on the part performance of these baseball teams as well as the arcs of their success over the course of the years; and until the results actually come in, people ought to feel free to enjoy themselves making predictions of their own. One way or the other, the lead-up to the 2016 MLB season is almost over, given that the season is all set to start on the 3rd of April.
Axisa, Mike. “2016 MLB Schedule Released: Six Things to Know.” CBS. 8 Sep. 2015. http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/25294570/2016-mlb-schedule-released-six-things-to-know.
Brown, David. “MLB Sets Game Times for 2016 Schedule: Here Are the Highlights.” CBS. 19 Jan. 2016. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/25454660/mlb-sets-game-times-for-opening-day-entire-2016-regular-season.
Cassavel, AJ. “Who Will Lay Claim to 2016 World Series Title?”LB.com. 2 Nov. 2015. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. http://m.mlb.com/news/article/156325142/who-will-lay-claim-to-2016-world-series-title.
Cockcroft, Tristan H. “Need-to-Know Facts for the 2016 Fantasy Baseball Season.” ESPN. 22 Mar. 2016. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. http://espn.go.com/fantasy/baseball/story/_/page/mlbdk2k16_facts/need-know-facts-2016-fantasy-baseball-season-mlb.
Hoffman, Benjamin. “New Baseball Rules Take on Rolling Slides and ‘Neighborhood Plays’.” New York Times. 25 Feb. 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/sports/baseball/new-baseball-rules-ban-rolling-block-slides.html?_r=0.
Korte, Gregory. “Obama Brings Baseball Diplomacy to Havana.” USA Today. 22 Mar. 2016. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/03/22/obama-goes-game-does-wave-castro/82126632/.
Lacques, Gabe. “MLB Win Totals: How We See the 2016 Season Unfolding.” USA Today. 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2016/02/15/mlb-2016-win-totals/80389576/.
Mailhot, Jake. “Looking Forward: The 2016 Schedule.” Lookout Landing. 8 Sep. 2015. Web. 22 Mar. 2016. http://www.lookoutlanding.com/2015/9/8/9278897/looking-forward-the-2016-schedule.