Baseball fans rejoice!
Another Major League Baseball season is upon us. Last year we saw the Red Sox defy the odds and win the World Series in six games over the St. Louis Cardinals under first-year manager John Farrell.
The Red Sox unloaded $21.3 million in payroll with a blockbuster trade the summer of 2012 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Newcomers Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli wowed fans with their stellar play and yes, fantastic facial hair.
Then, there was the coming of Xander Bogaerts, a sure-handed shortstop with some pop in his bat.
Bogaerts is one of the Red Sox question marks coming into the season for his first full 162 game grind -- can the rookie have an All-Star year?
It certainly looks like he has the capability to do so.
Anybody remember former Cleveland Indian center fielder Grady Sizemore?
Sizemore has played sporadically since 2011 with multiple injuries, but Boston decided to give the former two-time gold-glover a fighting chance.
And, he exceeded expectations in spring training. Sizemore belted a home run on opening day against Baltimore for the Red Sox's only run of the game in a 2-1 loss.
In a climatic twist, Red Sox manager John Farrell informed the media after the game that Camden Yards was the site of Sizemore's last home run, which came in 2011.
If that's not good Karma, I don't know what is.
Baseball fans are a unique bunch. You have your lifers who watch all 162 games, regardless of how their team is performing.
Then there are the bandwagoners -- almost every fan base has them.
They are the ones who drive up your merchandise sales, but some cannot even name a current player in the starting lineup.
My point being, fans of all varieties are going to be tested this season with the inception of the latest instant replay technology. And, if you thought baseball could not get any slower ... well, it has.
Let me start off by saying that I am all for managers being given the ability to challenge questionable calls that occur throughout the course of the game, but the challenges have to be used within reason.
Say your team falls behind 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and your runner is called out at the plate, but you think he beat the tag ... then you should be able to have the play reviewed. If your team is up 11-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning and the base-runner is caught stealing, but the manager thinks he was ahead of the tag, you should not be able to challenge. It is against the unwritten rule of baseball to steal when you are up by that many runs.
Here is how the rule works: Managers are given one challenge per game, according to an article published on MLB.com. If said challenge is successful, the manager will receive an additional one to be used later in the game. Ninety-percent of all plays are able to be reviewed.
All plays will be reviewed by a rotation of umpires at MLB headquarters, "big brother," if you will, in New York City. Understand?
Not so fast, my friends. The MLB has thrown in another wrinkle for us fans to sit and twiddle our thumbs about. Each team has a staff member who will be in the control room painstakingly looking over every play and determining if it is worthy of a challenge. A signal will then be relayed to the clubhouse to alert the manager to request that the play be challenged. A play is nonreviewable once the pitcher toes the rubber.
If you thought four-and-a-half-hours of a Red Sox-Yankees game was brutal, be prepared for more waiting during the regular season. Stock up on refreshments and snacks -- it'll be a long wait. Especially if you are at the ballpark. Concession stands might see a bit more traffic when a challenge is called as fans get restless.
There is some good to the new rule, though. Then-Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Armando Galarraga, now with Houston, would likely have a perfect game in June of 2010, had it not been for first-base umpire Jim Joyce ruling that Cleveland base-runner Jason Donald reached the bag safely. The video clearly showed that Galarraga had tagged the bag, but with no replay technology, Joyce's initial call was final.
In cases where a game or record performance is on the line, instant replay is the way to go.
Good things come to those who wait ... and baseball fans will certainly have plenty of that to do this season.
In case you are wondering about my win total prediction for the Red Sox -- 88 games seems like a good number to me.