Some questions to ponder for MLB's 2015 season

Some questions to ponder for MLB's 2015 season
Major League Baseball Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred, center, smiles after team owners elected him as the next commissioner of Major League Baseball during an owners meeting in Baltimore on Aug. 14. (Steve Ruark / Associated Press)

On Sept. 9, 1992, the Dodgers ended their game with an outfield of Darryl Strawberry in left field, Brett Butler in center and Billy Ashley in right. Kevin Gross pitched a four-hitter and the Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres, 4-1.

The big news in baseball that day was off the field. After a group of owners forced Fay Vincent to resign as commissioner, Bud Selig was selected as an interim replacement. Selig, then owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, kept the job for good.


In 1992, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays did not exist. Neither did the wild card, the division series, interleague play and instant replay. The Brewers played in the American League, the Houston Astros in the National League and the Washington Nationals in Montreal.

Selig's retirement takes effect in January. For the first time in 22 years, a major league season will start without him in charge. A look at some of the issues for the 2015 season:

What changes are on tap as Selig retires?

Rob Manfred, who was Selig's right-hand man, takes over as commissioner. Manfred made his name in negotiating collective bargaining agreements, and baseball has not had a strike or lockout since 1994. Under Selig, baseball's revenues jumped from $1 billion to $9 billion per year. Manfred's priority is to build on that prosperity by broadening the sport's appeal among the young. To that end, Manfred ousted Tim Brosnan, the longtime MLB business chief, and promoted the executives responsible for two of baseball's brightest business stories, Bob Bowman ( and Tony Petitti (MLB Network).

Are the Dodgers new and improved?

The Dodgers won 94 games last season, a total they had topped once since 1985. The new front office swung a sledgehammer anyway, and as a result the Dodgers could have new starters at second base (Howie Kendrick, not Dee Gordon), shortstop (Jimmy Rollins, not Hanley Ramirez), center field (Joc Pederson, not Yasiel Puig), right field (Puig, not Matt Kemp) and catcher (Yasmani Grandal, not A.J. Ellis). The Dodgers also signed talented but often-injured starters Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson for the rotation and threatened to clear out anyone besides Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell from the bullpen. The defense should be better, and so should the clubhouse, but the offense could take a hit.

Are the Angels moving from Anaheim?

The Angels ought to decide that question in the coming year, because the threat to move becomes less viable as the 2019 deadline to opt out of their Angel Stadium lease gets closer. They have held talks about building a ballpark in Tustin, but the years required for government approvals and construction would suggest the Angels must decide relatively soon whether they want to move there in 2020. The Angels and the Anaheim City Council agreed in 2013 to the framework of an agreement — the Angels pay to renovate their stadium, lease surrounding land at $1 per year and develop it to recoup renovation costs — but the team walked away from the deal in September after the mayor led a year of protests over the possibility that the city might not share in any windfall development profits. The sides are expected to restart talks.

Are the Rays moving from Tampa Bay?

After years of a stubborn impasse — the Rays insisted they need a new, outdoor ballpark, and the city of St. Petersburg insisted the team honor a Tropicana Field lease that extends through 2027 — the St. Petersburg City Council this month rejected a proposal to allow the team to look at sites in neighboring Tampa and move there if it pays millions in penalties. Without a new ballpark in the area, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said he would not move the Rays but would sell to a third party who would move them. Montreal is the chic, and most likely, relocation option for an MLB team, but there is no evidence yet that Montreal investors have the $2 billion necessary to buy the team and build a stadium there.

Which general manager is under the most pressure as the 2015 season starts?

That would be Alex Anthopoulos of the Toronto Blue Jays. Two winters ago, Anthopoulos swallowed $164 million in contracts in a trade with the Miami Marlins, acquiring most notably shortstop Jose Reyes and pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson while dealing some since-blossomed prospects. He then traded for defending NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and committed $30 million to him. The Jays finished 23 games out of first place in 2013, 13 games out last year, and Anthopoulos since has traded four prospects for third baseman Josh Donaldson and spent $82 million on catcher Russell Martin. In a weak AL East, it's time for the big-market, big-money Jays to end the majors' longest playoff drought at 21 years.

Which manager is under the most pressure as the 2015 season starts?

That would be Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees, but not because his job is in immediate jeopardy. Girardi will be the ringmaster of baseball's most prominent circus in the spring, when Alex Rodriguez reports to training camp after his 2014 banishment for using performance-enhancing substances and trying to cover it up. Girardi must deal with clubhouse and media gawkers curious about how Rodriguez, who considers himself an everyday player, will conduct himself when the Yankees have Chase Headley at third base and Mark Teixeira at first. The Yankees aren't that good anyway, Rodriguez turns 40 in July, and you wonder whether the team might just pay off his $61 million and make him go away.


In what city are the fans going to apply the most pressure as the 2015 season starts?

Chicago. The Cubs and White Sox each lost 89 games last season. The White Sox have not won a postseason series in 10 years, the Cubs in 12 years. But both teams have loaded up this off-season and are gunning for October. The Cubs, with an unrivaled collection of young position players, imported Manager Joe Maddon, $155-million pitcher Jon Lester and catcher Miguel Montero to accelerate from winning soon to winning now. The White Sox added first baseman-designated hitter Adam LaRoche, outfielder Melky Cabrera, starter Jeff Samardzija, closer Dave Robertson and setup man Zach Duke. But the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates could block the Cubs in the NL Central, and the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians could block the White Sox in the AL Central.