With the baseball season about to start, let's talk trends. We've been inundated with information about the A's and Giants. Now it's time to widen the lens. What are the five key trends in Baseball 2014?
Derek Jeter: It's hard to call a person a trend, but Derek Jeter is a trend. Always has been. He's also an institution. And he's the face of baseball.
Baseball is about to lose its face. Jeter is 39 and was injured most of last season — he played only 17 games — and although he wants to be an everyday player in 2014, it's not clear he can be. This is his final season, his farewell season. Think of it as his farewell tour, and everywhere he goes, fans will honor him. He deserves to be honored.
He will be a sure-thing, first-ballot Hall of Famer when his turn comes. He has worn Yankees pinstripes with dignity — compare him to his sleazy teammate Alex Rodriguez and you get the point. He is a great clutch player, a great postseason player. His lifetime batting average is .312.
He comes to Oakland June 13, 14 and 15. Be there or be square.
Instant Replay: This most certainly is a trend. It's more than a trend. It's a revolution. Baseball has used limited instant replay in the past — like verifying that a home run is a home run. In 2014, baseball is going all in with technology.
A whole lot more gets reviewed in 2014. Like force plays and tags at bases, traps in the outfield and hit batters. Managers get one challenge a game and if their challenge is successful they get another. Hey, is this beginning to sound like football? Umpires can call for replays starting in the seventh inning. All reviews take place in a giant control room in Manhattan that must resemble headquarters for a space shuttle launch.
No one knows how well expanded replay will work. Hopefully, it will not slow down games the way football gets slowed down. Stay tuned.
Guys coming back from PED suspensions. Some big-time cheaters return to the big leagues this season. Nelson Cruz, now with the Orioles, got nailed with a 50-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs in 2013. Jhonny Peralta, now with the Cardinals, got his own 50-game suspension. Cruz signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Orioles. Peralta signed a four-year deal with the Cardinals for $53 million. All of which proves taking PEDs may be morally wrong but definitely pays off in the end.
But the big fish in this group is Ryan Braun, although fish may be the wrong animal. How about weasel? How about skunk? Not that there is anything inherently bad about weasels and skunks, so please don't write me letters defending them.
Braun got suspended 65 games and for the entire postseason in 2013. That was very bad.
But things were worse for him, much worse. He had failed a urine test in 2011 but, as you probably remember, he got off on a technicality. Something about improper handling and delivery of Braun's urine sample. He swore his innocence and was so sincere it made you weep for the poor beleaguered guy. Braun, who is Jewish, launched a campaign against the urine collector Dino Laurenzi, calling him an anti-Semite. Braun tried to ruin Laurenzi's reputation.