For sports fans around the world, there’s no time quite like spring.
The overlap between certain competitions ending and others beginning means we see plenty of action on all sorts of pitches, diamonds, courts, and greens.
Joining the fray this week is one of the more venerable sports around, as America’s pastime – baseball – kicks off its season with Major League Baseball’s Opening Day.
The action technically started Sunday night, as the Houston Astros defeated the Texas Rangers, 8-2. But the rest of the Majors gets started Monday, with the first hot dogs served and “play ball!” shouted.
With five months and 162 games ahead, storylines abound this season, as the San Francisco Giants attempt to retain their World Series crown, ascendant superstar Mike Trout hopes to improve on a historic rookie season, and the always-dominant New York Yankees embark on what could be an uncharacteristically frustrating season.
But let’s not forget about the potential records and milestones that could come our way this upcoming season.
The Yankee Way
When a team constructs its roster like the Yankees have – laden with talented but older, established, declining players – it comes with a few inevitabilities. One, the odds of injury are much greater, as evidenced in the story linked above. Two, many members of the team will always be approaching impressive career milestones.
This year’s Bronx Bombers are no different, with icons Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez (L-R, above) all continuing their march up the historical stat sheet.
Rivera already owns the record for the most career saves. He’s just back to add to his total 608 after missing most of last season due to injury. “Mo” has already announced he will retire after the season, giving fans one last glimpse this year at the most dominant relief pitcher of all time.
Jeter, meanwhile, has a chance to creep closer to one of the sport’s most hallowed records: the most career hits, held by Pete Rose with 4,256. The Yankee captain, who begins the season on the disabled list with an injured ankle, owns 3,304 career knocks, good for 11th all-time. Considering he averages around 207 hits per full season played, Jeter has an outside chance to reach 3,500 this year and could catch Rose if he keeps up recent production for another five seasons or so.
Lastly, another injured superstar, Rodriguez continues adding chapters to his career. When he, too, returns from injury this year, A-Rod will find himself 50 RBIs shy of 2,000, a plateau only three other players have ever reached. Hank Aaron’s record of 2,297 may still be in sight if Rodriguez can recuperate fully and string together a few more seasons of high-end production.
A Country for Old Men
Two of MLB’s longest-tenured players are both without jobs at the moment, but could each return and threaten a few records themselves.
Longtime slugger Jim Thome currently sits second on the career strikeouts list, an ignominious record to say the least. But, having one’s name atop any historic category must count for something! Should the free agent find a home, Thome would need to strike out just 49 more times to overtake Reggie Jackson’s career mark of 2,597 for first place.
And ageless pitcher Jamie Moyer – in actuality a very ageful 50 years old – pitched as recently as last season at age 49. Throwing for the Colorado Rockies, Moyer broke records for the oldest pitcher to ever win a game and oldest player to record an RBI. It’s a longshot that Moyer will find a home in the Majors this season, but then again, it was a longshot to ever expect a 49-year-old to record an MLB win too.
Expect the Unexpected?
The great thing about single-season records is that fans often never see them coming. Barry Bonds’ 73 home runs in 2001. Ichiro Suzuki’s 262 hits in 2004. Who knows what we might see in 2013?
It’s doubtful, but maybe pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg lets his arm run completely wild and challenges Nolan Ryan’s modern-era 383-strikeout season. Maybe Trout or Matt Kemp – who has promised it before – become the first-ever players to join the 50/50 Club. Is there a sparkplug leadoff hitter on the Washington Nationals or Toronto Blue Jays who could topple the most at-bats in a season? A shutdown closer who could notch a 63-save year?
There’s only one way to find out – time to play ball.