Fans are most optimistic on MLB Opening Day, because every team is undefeated and anything is possible.
The 2019 MLB season opens today with a full slate of games. Baseball fans are already versed on the common storylines, from the possibility of a Red Sox repeat to rule changes and the anticipated performances of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Both superstars signed $300 million contracts with rebuilding squads.
Culturally speaking… these are 5 things that I wish would occur during the 2019 season.
1. A Black MLB catcher of significance emerges
MLB hasn’t had a black catcher that was worth spit since Charles Johnson retired in 2005. The Top 10 MLB catching prospects the past two years have been white or Hispanic. The only Black catcher of note is the Dodgers’ 13-year-veteran Russell Martin and he’s 35 years old.
It would be great to see a brother behind the dish for some team before the season is over, but first we need more Black catchers in the minor leagues. In 2017, the total number of African-American minor-league catchers in all of baseball was five, or one for every six clubs.
2. Giancarlo Stanton hits 50 bombs and shuts up spoiled Yankees fans who complained that his 38 bombs and 100 RBI in 2018 wasn’t good enough.
With Aaron Judge out at crucial points last season, Stanton had to carry the Yankees at times. He got booed way too often for a guy that almost hit 40 jacks. This offseason, Yankees fans were whining about how the Stanton contract stopped them from getting Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Stanton will have a better season than both.
3. Another Black manager
The fact that Dave Roberts is the only Black manager in the sport is problematic and troubling. MLB has plenty of Black managerial candidates — some with experience and others waiting for the same opportunity that white rookie managers are getting.
There are many black coaches who want to be managers and get overlooked. Of the six new managers, only the Angels’ Brad Ausmus has managed in the majors. The rest are new: David Bell (Reds), Rocco Baldelli (Twins), Chris Woodward (Rangers), Brandon Hyde (Orioles) and Charlie Montoyo (Blue Jays).
Just one more Black manager would be cool. At least a number that’s more reflective of the nearly 8 percent Black players that comprise MLB rosters.
4. Two-way wonder Shohei Ohtani returns healthy, wins Cy Young and contends for MVP.
Ohtani is slowly but surely working his way back from Tommy John surgery that he underwent last October. Before he got injured, the two-way Japanese phenom was the story in baseball, accomplishing feats that we have never seen in our lifetimes.
Ohtani went 4-2 in 10 starts as a pitcher and posted a 3.31 ERA. As a hitter he was equally effective, slugging .564 and producing a .285 batting average with 22 homers and 61 RBI in just 326 at-bats. He ran away with the AL Rookie of the Year voting with 91 percent share of the votes.
Hopefully the Angels will reconsider their decision to make him strictly a DH. He’d be an MVP candidate because he’s the only guy in MLB that can do what he does. He’s solid, but far less remarkable as just a hitter.
5. Baseball’s two most celebrated prospects, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr., live up to the hype.
Vlad is the namesake of his Hall of Fame dad and is recognized as the premiere prospect in the American League. The 20-year-old phenom’s projected rookie stats rank with the all-time greats.
Vlad’s 90th percentile PECOTA projection: .349/.412/.588 161 DRC+
It’s one of the craziest projections I’ve ever seen written down.
I mean, Ichiro’s rookie season – when he was AL MVP – was .350/.381/.457
Ted Williams rookie season: .327/.436./.609 154 DRC+
— Rob Silver (@RobSilver) March 18, 2019
He’s the cornerstone of the Toronto Blue Jays rebuild and one of four top prospects that will get significant playing time this season.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 27, 2019
Tatis is the son of an MLB journeyman. The Padres shortstop is expected to dwarf his dad in career accomplishments and be a young spark for the Padres. Manny Machado has agreed to return to third base to make room for Tatis. Enough said.