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An off-the-cuff best and worst of the 2023 season

Today's the last day of the MLB regular season (I don't know what's going on with that Marlins-Mets makeup game Monday). It seems like the season has sped by more quickly than any other season I've watched.

There is still a whole postseason to watch -- and it will be agonizing -- but while there's a break in the action, I thought I'd run quickly through some things that I liked and some things I didn't like about the 2023 season. I'm sure I'm forgetting some stuff, because I didn't take very long to dwell on things -- and, frankly, I spend most of the baseball season watching my Dodgers and ignoring everyone else.

But here's what I've got:


The pitch clock

For the previous 15-20 years, if you wanted a fairly quick Major League Baseball game like we experienced in the 1970s and 1980s, you had to hope that a notorious quick worker was on the mound, like Mark Buehrle or Jon Lieber. Otherwise, hold onto your butts, you could be sitting for 4 or 5 hours per game.

I like watching baseball as much as I can, but I had just about had it with unnecessarily long games, and the pitch clock made viewing games so much more manageable. Of course, people had to whine about it, and certain players couldn't adjust early on, but a month or two in, everyone realized things were much improved. Yeah, I'm not crazy about a clock when baseball's best selling point is There Is No Clock, but when players abuse the system, you got to do something. So glad they did.

Stolen bases
I loved stolen bases when I was watching the game as a youngster. I liked them just as much as home runs. I know they are not equal in terms of rate of return and all that by-the-numbers stuff but they were certainly equal in terms of excitement for me. I missed it when they grew out of fashion.
They were back in fashion this year and the individual leaders in stolen bases are starting to resemble the numbers from when I was watching back in the '70s and '80s. Here are the leaders this season:
NL: Ronald Acuna Jr. - 73, Corbin Carroll - 54, CJ Abrams - 45
AL: Esteury Ruiz - 67, Bobby Witt Jr. - 49, Julio Rodriguuez - 37
OK, the AL has a little work to do but this is so much better than five years ago when hardly anyone could even reach 40.

The Dodgers offense

I was prepared for a mediocre Dodgers season in 2023. They didn't seem fully committed in the front office and then all the pitching started falling apart. But I didn't count on the offense scoring 900 runs for the first time since the team moved to Los Angeles. The offense single-handedly has lifted the team to another division title while the pitching crumbled.

I've especially enjoyed watching Freddie Freeman this season. He has spent almost the whole year going 3-for-4 every single game. I think this has been his best season, although you could argue it was 2019 when he hit for a lot more power. He didn't get to 60 doubles, but 59 is bananas, like stuff people did in the 1930s.

The Padres still suck
I have watched teams load up with stars and fall on their faces since the early days of free agency in the late 1970s. The Padres were one of those teams back then and I guess they didn't learn from their original mistakes. You just can't be a perennial winner with solely a collection of hired assassins. But the Padres have been bumbleheads for as long as I've been a fan, and I hope it stays that way.
Oh, and guys like Soto and Machado are very easy to root against. I don't understand how some card collectors devote their entire missions to players like these.

The National League won an All-Star Game!
For the first time in more than 10 years and just the fourth time in the last 25-plus years, my team won the All-Star Game!
I know due to the mushing of the leagues, devotion to one league is kind of an old-man's game, but I'll be devoted to the National League forever. It's just what's right. Admittedly I barely knew who Elias Diaz was when he hit the game-winning home run in the eighth inning, but for me 2023 will be the year that a Rockie finally did something right.

 Someone chased .400

I am probably misremembering a little, but in my younger rooting days, it seemed like there was someone chasing a .400 batting average every year. No one ever did it, but it was exciting to see someone go on an extended run.

It seemed like it had been awhile when Luis Arraez (I have no card of him as a Marlin yet, but they're mostly just photoshop jobs now) started his quest, which lasted into July or so. Just like stolen bases, batting average seems irrelevant today, but seeing someone chase .400 is still exciting, a lot more exciting than someone shooting for an OPS-Plus goal.

The Yankees were mid

Won't say they were bad because they reached.500, but they didn't go anywhere and for a long time that's been an indicator of a successful season in my rooting circle, the Yankees didn't go anywhere.

The Phillies are back in the postseason

I'm not a big Phillies fan or anything -- Brandon Marsh has got to stop that hair thing he is doing -- but after their rise from No. 6 seed to the World Series, it's nice to see it wasn't a fluke.

I'll never be a fan of the wild card era and I'm hoping the new postseason format will limit the number of times a six seed sneaks into the World Series because I much prefer seeing two really good teams play each other in the final rather than one really good team and one riding a hot streak.

And I still dislike the 2014 Washington Nationals for who they let in.

OK, that was too many words!

Moving On.

The AL Central
The worst part of three divisions per league/conference in major sports is one division sucking beyond what any professional league should suck. Past leagues like the NFL's NFC Central and the NHL's Norris Division used to be examples of why baseball was better and now MLB has its own Norris Division -- the AL Central.

Part of me hopes that the Minnesota Twins somehow beat everyone for the Series title just to save the AL Central from joke status for at least one year. I don't think enough people talk about how awful the AL Central is and I can't help but think that it would be less of a black eye for MLB if we had the old AL East and AL West, which would look something like this:

AL East
1. Baltimore Orioles: 101-61
2. Tampa Bay Rays: 99-63
3. Toronto Blue Jays: 89-73
4. N.Y. Yankees: 82-80
5. Boston Red Sox: 78-84
6. Detroit Tigers: 78-84
7. Cleveland Guardians: 76-86
AL West
1. Houston Astros: 90-72
2. Texas Rangers: 90-72
3. Seattle Mariners: 88-74
4. Minnesota Twins: 87-75
5. L.A. Angels: 73-89
6. Chicago White Sox: 61-101
7. Kansas City Royals: 56-106
8. Oakland A's: 50-112
That looks a lot more professional to me than a whole division of teams drowning under .500. You could still do all your wild-card stuff with this configuration, too.

Home runs

Even with the return to stolen bases and the elimination of the shift, it's pretty clear that teams are still relying mostly on home runs for their offense.

Nothing brings it into focus more for me than when I'm at work, compiling the MLB roundups for the games that night. Just about every summary, unless a pitcher happens to have really good day, is which players hit home runs? And it's home run after home run. Four, five a game, easily, for many games.

I was hoping for more singles and doubles this year. Maybe there have been. But nobody's writing about them.

Oh, I'm not devoting a category on this because I've complained about it enough, but I will always hold a grudge against MLB for what it did to extra innings.

The Astros

About two weeks ago, it looked like a pretty peaceful postseason. The Yankees, Giants and Padres were out. The Reds and Mariners might sneak in. And the Astros and Diamondbacks were questionable.

Well we can't have nice things because the Reds and Mariners and Cubs imploded and now the Diamondbacks are in and, ugh, we're stuck watching the Astros again.

Put aside my dislike of them for the cheating scandal, I'm just sick of them. If they focused the camera only on Dusty Baker during their postseason games, I could handle it, but no, we've got to see Bregman and Altuve AGAIN and their .... fans in the stands (I'll be nice). Someone please eliminate them early.


It's pretty clear that the younger generation needs to have their props, their dances, their over-the-top celebrations. I don't get it, it seems to me like the game isn't interesting enough to them so they have to devise extra things to keep their attention.

That's probably not the reason, they're probably just having fun, but it's goofy as hell -- seeing every Dodger doing "The Freddie" at second base. But, hey, some of it makes decent baseball cards, so I don't mind that much ... just as long as they're not damn short-prints.

Really terrible teams

The Kansas City Royals weren't quite terrible enough to finish in the top 10 of my earlier post about the worst teams since I became a fan, although seeing Zack Greinke go 1-15 with a plus-5 ERA was painful.

But the Oakland A's stayed on pace and finished with a .309 win percentage, which is the fourth-worst since the late 1970s. Only the 2003 and 2019 Tigers and the 2018 Orioles were worse.

It seems that there's a really awful team in baseball almost every year now and that's not good for baseball. Sometimes I think we need to focus our attention a little less on OMG, OHTANI HIT ANOTHER ONE and how to fix teams like the Oakland A's.

But baseball is here to make us feel good so I get it.

Hope you enjoyed at least some of the 2023 season. And if your team is in the postseason, I hope your October experience doesn't ruin everything.

My expectations are low, so I don't plan on having my heart crushed this year. 

P.S.: Acuna deserves the MVP (sorry, Mookie). Also, RIP, Tim Wakefield and Go Bills.


Old Cards said…
Nice rundown. Yes. Go back to two divisions and I like your breakdown. I too do not understand the over-the-top celebrations and that includes football where they celebrate on every play!
bryan was here said…
As far as the home run celebrations in the dugout go, I'm rather amused by them. After all, these are grown-ass men playing a kid's game. Let them have their fun. The fans love it.
I don't mind some of the celebratory actions as long as it isn't distracting from the live play going on. I'm also okay with three league divisions as long as the team is actually located in that "geo location", ie NL West? ATL huh? The good ole days, definitely better. Loving the HR's , SB's, high avgs, and even the high K count. Oh, I was talking about my Braves hehehe. As for the MVP I agree with you Acuna. But I can still argue Matt Olson's case as well as Mookie and Freddie. Just look at those 4 players. WoW! Hoping not to see your team in the NLCS. Looking forward to us razzing each other for another month.
Chris said…
I don't think I've watched more than an inning or two of baseball since the 2021 ALCS. The game is just much too different, from the over-celebrating to the ads on the field/jerseys, to the expanded playoffs. It seems like every day I hear/read/see a new reason to dislike another ballplayer.

I'm happy the Mets, Yankees, and Padres couldn't buy their way into a postseason that's so easy to make the Mariners(last year) and marlins(this year can get in. At the same time... I just don't care enough about any player or team competing right now. I'm so ready for hockey season.

Norris Division..great reference there. Those teams were bad, and bloody lol.
1984 Tigers said…
Definitely loved the faster games plus the recent years switching of minimum batters a reliever must face. It was in the late 80s that the "save Bob McClure" in the bullpen for a late appearance vs key lefty like Brett, Baines, Mattingly became the rage. Plus no more Goose Gossage or Willie Hernandez getting 2 plus inning saves. My tigers went 35 17 vs Central yep came up way short! Why 3 and 22 combined vs teams like Zona, Phil, Baltimore, Tampa, Boston. But very happy to see the progress this year 78 wins and Spencer Torkelson 2nd year was much better. Hoping he can follow in the footsteps of Mike Schmidt. Take a look at the career stats of those two guys in the early years. Plus, Miguel Cabrera passed a lot of people on the all time list and ended up with 511 tied with Mel Ott. As for the Norris Division, I fondly remember those days. The only reason the Wings could make the playoffs was because each Division top 4 made the playoffs. There were some Divisions where the 5th place team would have been in 3rd or even 2nd in the Norris.
Bo said…
When there were only four divisions, in 1987, the Twins won the West with a record two games worse than this team, and won the World Series.
After years of misery, the Orioles being a fun team to watch - and then exceeding expectations by winning the division - has been my top story of the year.

Pitch clock is right up there; Not once this season did I yell "GET ON WITH IT!!!!" at the TV.
GCA said…
As soon as I read the first line, I was like "Oh good, I'll find out about things that happened this season". Because I haven't watched a thing and all I know is I should have watched my Orioles. I'll jump back on the bandwagon with the post season and hope they last a while.

Glad to hear the clock and no shifts worked out. Disgusted to hear about the ads on the uni's...
I came into this season cursing Manfred for the pitch clock but I've definitely come around. Larger bases too.

One thing that has got to go, and didn't get enough attention in the post, was the ghost runner in extra innings. Just awful, so I guess I can continue to curse Manfred for that...
AdamE said…
When I am watching at home I love the clock. The shorter games is a big improvement. However, I have a friend that I meet every couple weeks to watch a game (for about 4 seasons we met every week on Tuesday but kids/life). When we watch a game at a sports bar I hate the clock. We are socializing while watching and we are constantly saying what happened. That never used to happen; we might not have seen it live would at least see them replay what happened. The game now moves so quick that the broadcasters don't have time to replay everything and now we miss stuff.

Something you missed in your season review is the lack or Errors. It isn't like there were no errors they just didn't count anything as an error this year. It was just weird.

The Padres season make no sense. They have a five of the best position players in the game, the Cy Young winner, one of the best closers in baseball, the second lowest team ERA, and out scored opponents by 99 runs this year yet still missed the playoffs. I doubt there has ever been a team like them, ever.
Nick said…
I don't know when people like the Padres & Mets are going to learn that you can't simply buy a good team. Not only were the Padres in particular bad this year, but they've set themselves up for years of similar mediocrity to come. It just doesn't work.

Also, as someone who had reasonably high expectations for the 2023 White Sox, this season was excruciating to watch - became apparent pretty quickly that they'd be miserable. (Here's to a high draft pick, though!)
Jafronius said…
Fun post. The clock worked out great. I like the increased stolen bases but not the limits in throwing over...seems to be why there's more SBs. My Cubs got tired and that bummed me out.
Fuji said…
The A's and Padres struggled this year... but they managed to make it into this post :D