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Opening Day 2019: New, fun, random things in store this season

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Opening Day is Thursday, so today we’re previewing. In addition to the stuff, like this, we’ll be posting this morning, be sure to join us for a 2019 season preview on the MyTeams App at 2PM Eastern Time.

We’ve posted our National League Preview and American League Preview. And, though they’ll almost certainly be wrong, here are our predictions for 2019. Now let’s look at some of the new, random and fun things in store for the 2019 season.

The New Faces

If you only follow your team closely and if your team is returning Casey O’RetiredCatcher as manager for the 19th straight season, you may not be aware of the new faces in dugouts across the league. There are six new skippers in the bigs this year: David Bell with the Reds, Chris Woodward with the Rangers, Charlie Montoyo with the Blue Jays, Brad Ausmus with the Angels, Rocco Baldelli with the Twins and Brandon Hyde with the Orioles.

There are also several new general managers/president of baseball operations guys, though you’ve had a better chance to get to know them during the hot stove season:Brodie Van Wagenen with the Mets, Farhan Zaidi with the Giants, and Mike Elias with the Orioles.


The New Looks

Only two teams have made wholesale changes to their standard uniform. The Indians, you know well by now, have removed Chief Wahoo from their caps and sleeves, with a Block-C appearing on all caps now. Otherwise they look more or less the same. The Marlins have undergone a complete renovation:

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There will, obviously, be a lot of random alternates and things. And the Reds will be doing throwbacks all season long. Some of them are pretty wild.


The Stadiums

This will be the Texas Rangers’ final season at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Next year they will be moving to Globe Life Field, just next door. The “old” park opened way, way, way back in 1994, so I hope its decrepit and crumbling walls and antiquated electrical and plumbing systems don’t injure someone before the season is out.

Two parks are getting new names: the stadium of the Seattle Mariners — formerly Safeco Field — is now T-Mobile Park. The home field of the San Francisco Giants will get its fourth name since opening in 2000: Oracle Park.


The Schedule

Given that we — and Major League Baseball for that matter — tend to see the early regular season games which occur in Japan or Australia or other international locations as special cases, Thursday is truly Opening Day. Let the record reflect that March 28 is the earliest Opening Day in Major League Baseball history. It beats last year’s previous record by one day.

Those two games between the A’s and Mariners last week are not the only international games this year. There will be two series in Mexico: the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds will play in Monterrey, Mexico on April 13 and 14. The Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels will play in Monterrey on May 4 and 5. There will also be the first ever regular season games played in the United Kingdom, with the Boston Red Sox “hosting” the New York Yankees at London Stadium on June 29 and 30.

There will likewise be a couple of domestic games played in non-traditional settings: the Kansas City Royals will face the Detroit Tigers at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska on June 13, two days before the College World Series. On August 18 the MLB Little League Classic will be held at at BB&T Ballpark in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, coinciding with the Little League World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs will meet in this, the third installment of the Classic.


The Milestones

No monumentally historic career records or milestones seem to be within striking distance for anyone in 2019, but here are some round and/or divisible-by-five numbers that will get a shoutout when they happen:

  • Robinson Cano is 30 hits away from 2500, With 44 hits Cano will move into the Top 100 all-time;
  • Ian Kinsler is 57 hits away from 2000;
  • Albert Pujols could really move up on the all-time hits list. He’s currently at 24th all-time, and will pass people in front of him with his 8th, 29th, 34th, 60th, 61st, 71st, 73rd, 85th, and 103rd hits of the season, moving him all the way up to 15th place.
  • Miguel Cabrera is 35 homers away from 500;
  • Edwin Encarnacion is 20 dingers away from 400. Nelson Cruz is 40 away.
  • Mark Reynolds (6), Jay Bruce (14), Justin Upton (14), Chris Davis (17), Matt Kemp (20), Evan Longoria (23) and Joey Votto (31) could all get to 300 homers;
  • Albert Pujols can pass Willie Mays for 5th on the all-time on the home run list if he hits 28.
  • Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton and Joey Votto are almost all assured of getting to 1,000 career runs scored this year. Matt Kemp needs 72 to get there. It’s unclear if he’ll play enough to do so;
  • Pujols is 18 RBI away from 2000 in his career. When he gets there he’ll move into 5th all-time;
  • Ryan Zimmerman (12), Jose Bautista (25), Brian McCann (27), Nick Markakis (31), and Evan Longoria (54) could all reach 1000 career RBI in 2019;
  • CC Sabathia is four wins away from 250 career wins;
  • Bartolo Colon is three wins away from 250 career wins, but he’s unemployed and it’s not clear if anyone will give him a chance to pitch again;
  • Zack Greinke is 13 wins away from 200;
  • CC Sabathia is 14 Ks away from 3,000 career strikeouts;
  • Justin Verlander is 294 away from 3,000. A longshot — last year was his career high with 290 — but he’ll get close;
  • Ervin Santana (79), David Price (147), and Chris Sale (211) are within reach of 2000 career strikeouts;
  • Kenley Jansen is 32 saves away from 300; and
  • Craig Kimbrel, currently 14th — can move into 8th all-time on the career saves list, passing people when if/when he gets to 9, 15, 26, 35, 36, and 45 saves this season. Of course he’ll need a job to do that and he’s currently unemployed.

May the odds be ever in your favor, fellas.


The Farewell Tours

We already bid Ichiro Suzuki adieu following his two-game appearance in the Japan Series last week. We already know that this year will be the final season for two other greats as well: Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia announced last November that he will retire at the end of the season. In February Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced he will retire at the end of the season as well.


The Retirement Parties

Two numbers will be retired this season. On June 8, Adrian Beltre will have his #29 retired by the Texas Rangers. On June 15 Joe Mauer will have his #7 retired by the Minnesota Twins.

And, of course, a whole lotta stuff we can in no way predict will happen will, in fact, happen in 2019. That much you can bet on.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

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Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with MLive.com.

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.