10 numbers that can outline the 2022 MLB season

Welcome to the fifth annual Numbers That Define Baseball column, an Athletic tradition like no other. As you’ve probably noticed, I love numbers. But let me tell you what I love about them – and why this column exists.

We now live in a world where you can spend way too many waking hours looking at pages that look like this and this. I know because I’ve done it myself. A thousand times.

If you tumble far enough down one of those rabbit holes, you could almost forget baseball is played by actual humans, on dazzling fields of green. Let’s not forget that, OK?

I sometimes feel as though we now live in a world where a lot of people think the numbers are the game. In truth, what the numbers of baseball do is illuminate the game – in a way the numbers of no other sport can.

That’s the concept that this column always has been devoted to: How can we use numbers to illuminate where baseball is right now, in this season, in this moment in time? As always, there were a zillion options I could have chosen. But I settled on these 10 Numbers That Define Baseball in 2022.

The Magic Number: 162

WHAT IT MEANS: Back in the nightmarish days of, oh, Day 92 of the lockout, I don’t know how many games you thought this season would last. But if your guess was “162,” you were way more optimistic than many, many people in baseball. So here’s to 162, the sweetest number in the baseball universe.

We’re now six decades into the era of 162-game schedules. But you know what happened in five seasons in those six decades? We never did make it to that perfect number, 162. And all five of those seasons scarred this sport.

Four were due to labor debacles – in 1972, 1981, 1994 and 1995. The fifth, in 2020, was a necessary concession to a global pandemic. But every one of those shortened seasons messed with the rhythms of the baseball universe. So in my travels this spring, I found nothing but gratitude that somehow or other, the 162-game season was salvaged in the deal that ended this lockout.

FROM ONE AL EXECUTIVE: “It means there’s no asterisk. There’s no what-if – no `what if we’d played six more games or 20 more games?’ And that’s really meaningful.”

FROM AN NL EXEC: “That’s the magic number. That’s the numbers all the records are weighed against.”

FROM THE SAME AL EXEC: “I can’t tell you what most NBA records are or most NFL records are, because their numbers aren’t the same as our numbers. When the NFL goes to 17 games, it doesn’t change the fabric of their sport. But when you play less than 162 in baseball, it means there’s something different about that season, and it changes everything.”

FROM ANOTHER NL EXEC: “When you live through a lockout where zero games didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility, playing 162 is very, very meaningful. One of the beauties of this game is its tradition and its continuity, so the thought of having two out of three seasons disrupted was a very disheartening concept for me – and many others!”

The Magic Number: 12

WHAT IT MEANS: Until a little over a half-century ago, baseball had just two “playoff” teams. Then four. Then eight. Then 10. And now, thanks to one of the most visible and impactful aspects of the new labor deal, we’ve reached a dozen teams. On one hand, that’s still two fewer than the NFL, four fewer than the NHL and eight fewer than the NBA if you count “play-in” teams as “playoff” teams. But why do we have a feeling that adding those two playoff teams is going to leave its mark on more than just the first week of October?

We transport you now to an alternative universe, where 2021 is being played under 2022 rules. In other words, suppose there had been an extra playoff team in each league last year? A week before the trading deadline, here’s what you would have found:

• The Cubs – who became a massive seller – would have been just one game out of that last wild-card spot.

• The Indians – who unloaded five big leaguers before the deadline – would have been 2 1/2 out, but only one back in the loss column.

• The Nationals – who dealt away eight players – would have been just three games out.

So imagine how much the addition of only one playoff spot could have changed the shape of that deadline, and all that came afterward. Do the Dodgers wind up with Max Scherzer and Trea Turner? Do the Braves get the chance to trade for the NLCS MVP, Eddie Rosario? Do the Giants win 107 games – and hold off the Dodgers – without Kris Bryant?

“I think what 12 (playoff) teams does, more than anything, is push back decision-making at the deadline,” said an NL exec. “I can definitely see more teams saying, ‘If we’re this close, how can we sell?’”

Here is what other execs see:

A DIFFERENT KIND OF DEADLINE BUYER: One AL exec wondered if that extra spot – plus having the wild-card round go from one-and-done to best-of-three – could inspire more teams in the middle to go for it: “Baseball has become more of a have/have-not sport. More 100-win teams. More 90-win teams. But also more 60-win teams. So adding an extra two playoff teams may create a new middle group that feels like, if they can just get there, in a short series, anything can happen.”

A NEW MARKET FOR RENT-A-PLAYERS: “The easy answer,” said one NL exec, “is that there will be more buyers and fewer sellers.” But think of the ripple effects of that, not just at the deadline but in the offseason. If there is more demand for the players sellers are dangling in July, he said, then “the middle-class rental free agents (e.g., think Nelson Cruz, Tommy Pham, etc.) may just become a tad more sought after in future offseasons.”

LESS 89-WIN HEARTACHE: There will no doubt be a year where some 80-82 team makes the playoffs. That sounds like some quality talk-show programming waiting to happen. But the truth is, the extra wild-card team would have averaged 87 wins in the Wild Card Game era (2013-21). So what that really means, in many cases, is the potential for less injustice, for legit contenders that have gotten squeezed out through the years: “When you win 89-90-91 games, that’s a good season,” said one exec. “You should feel excited about a season like that. But when you do that and don’t make the playoffs – and we’ve been there – it’s hard for fans or anyone else to feel good about that. So anything that creates more playoff teams like that, I think, is a great thing.”

The Magic Number: 25

WHAT IT MEANS: Spring training normally lasts six weeks. This year, it felt as if it lasted more like six minutes. But for most teams, it actually lasted 25 days. They tried their darndest to make the most of every minute of those 25 days. But the shortness of this spring is guaranteed to reverberate well after Opening Day. How? Thanks for asking.

There wasn’t a single hitter in the state of Florida who even got 40 at-bats this spring. There were only four pitchers – three of them on the Red Sox – who even threw 15 innings. There was no reliever in Florida who even faced 40 hitters.

Here’s the deal with spring training. It’s overrated – until it’s underrated. It’s too long – until it’s too short. So let’s not even debate the reality that this spring was not long enough for a sizable number of players. It clearly was. We’re seeing it now, playing out all over baseball in the first two weeks of this season.

Want a name, just to get things started? How about Zack Wheeler. He was nominated by one exec of an NL East team that is not the Phillies: “He’s the perfect example of what you’re talking about.” Barely threw all winter because of shoulder soreness. Lost more time this spring with an illness. Never faced a single big-league hitter before his first regular-season start. Then took the mound last Sunday with his average fastball velocity down nearly 3 mph from last year.

So what are the other big worries arising from the shortened spring?

HEALTH (WHAT ELSE): We’re coming off the most injury-riddled season in history. So no one should be shocked to learn that we’re headed for one just like it, after the second shortened camp in three years. According to Derek Rhoads, who monitors injuries for Baseball Prospectus, there were 159 non-Covid Injured List placements in the first 12 days of this season – an average of more than 13 per day! That’s nearly identical to the 162 in the first 12 days last season. Shoulder and torso injuries are up. Upper-leg injuries are down. But the trend remains the same. And it’s one every team fears.

PITCHERS’ HEALTH: “Our concern is starting pitchers,” said an AL exec. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that would be the biggest concern of every team. With very few exceptions, we didn’t have enough time to get their pitch counts up.” So how many pitchers rushed to get ready? How many were still struggling through their dead-arm phase after Opening Day? How many were already on the Injured List who wouldn’t have been there in a normal April? And what are the long-term implications of that? Stay tuned.

UNEVEN EARLY SCHEDULES: Obviously, there are many similarities between this year and the even quicker camp leading up to the 60-game mini-season in 2020. But what about the dissimilarities? “I just worry that the teams who get crushed in April and May, with travel and game frequency, will be subject to more injury,” said an NL exec. “2020 saw limited travel once the season started, while this season we, as a league, will experience the most challenging travel schedule in recent history.”

DUBIOUS ROSTER DECISIONS: “What I worry about,” said an AL exec in the final days of spring training, “is that you don’t know your team as well as you normally would. From the day spring training opened, you were trying to get your core players ready. So you just didn’t get a chance to see enough of the other guys. Trying to decide which guys, in your depth group, you’re comfortable with – that’s been really hard.”

NOT SO FUN FACT: In the first 12 days of this season, exactly one starting pitcher threw 100 pitches or more in any game: Nate Eovaldi for the Red Sox, on April 13. How many were there in the first 12 days of 2021? That would be 17. How many were there in 2020, even coming off that three-week camp? Also 17. Any more questions?


Max Scherzer (Rich Schultz / Getty Images)

The Magic Number: 638.4 million

WHAT IT MEANS: No, that’s not how many days the lockout lasted. And it’s not the number of minutes in your average Yankees-Red Sox game. That’s the number of dollars guaranteed by the five NL East teams to free agents they took off the unemployment lines over the winter. Add in the Braves’ $168-million extension for Matt Olson, and these teams laid out more than three-quarters of a billion dollars this winter!

I regret to announce that I cannot predict who will survive the wild ride in the NL East this season. But here’s one prediction I can guarantee: No matter how much money they spent, all five of these teams will not make the playoffs. And there could be messy ramifications for the teams/front offices/managers who don’t.

IS IT ALL YOU-KNOW-WHO’S FAULT? In a span of 48 hours in the last week of November, that Mets team owned by the richest owner in baseball (Steve Cohen) laid out $204.5 million to Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha. Has the rest of the division been playing catchup since? You decide. “It looks to me,” said one AL exec, “like Mr. Cohen forced everyone else’s hand.”

WHO SPENT THEIR MONEY BEST? Honest answer: We don’t know yet. I got nominations for the Mets ($261.25 million), Braves ($231.5 million, counting Olson) and Phillies ($202.75 million). So that’s a question only the season can answer – as always!

ANY CHANCE IT WAS ACTUALLY THE MARLINS? The Marlins doled out a combined $89 million to Avisaíl García and Jorge Soler. Add those bats to their electric young rotation, and this is an intriguing team, even though it wouldn’t seem to be as advanced as the big spenders. “I don’t know how anybody else feels about the Marlins,” said an AL exec. “But sometimes those teams get good before they’re ready to get good.”

THESE TEAMS PROBABLY AREN’T DONE! Think this through logically, as if you were running one of these teams. When you’ve already invested this much in any season, it means you’ve set the bar high enough that you can’t spend the next six months on cruise control. So could we be three months away from another round of this transactions war? “At the deadline, somebody in this group will have to make a decision,” said one rival exec, “on whether to step out and acquire this year’s Trea Turner or trade for this year’s best starter. Since Steve Cohen bought the Mets, they haven’t done that. The Phillies haven’t shown any willingness to trade their best prospects. But somebody is going to have to do something at the deadline that makes them uncomfortable.”

 The Magic Number(s): 158 and 141

WHAT IT MEANS: There’s no business like Shoh business. And there are no numbers like Shohei Ohtani numbers. So what are those two numbers, you ask? Well, 158 was his OPS-Plus as a hitter last season – better than Freddie Freeman! And 141 was his ERA-Plus as a pitcher – better than Gerrit Cole! Is it humanly possible for him to be that dominant again on both sides of the ball? Let’s discuss.

How do you predict the future when there’s almost no precedent to draw from in the past? How do we know what’s possible when we’re watching someone do what has literally never been done?

So could Shohei Ohtani do it again? Could he be even better this year than last? I couldn’t find anyone who would make that bet. I also couldn’t find anyone who wouldn’t love to be wrong about that.

FROM AN NL EXEC: “I would bet that we won’t see him be that dominant on both sides of the ball again. But he is a unicorn, so I wouldn’t put anything past him. Selfishly, I want him to do it again, because I think it’s just an incredibly cool thing for baseball.”

IF THEY HAD TO PICK ONE AREA HE’D BE BETTER… It would be on the mound, where everyone saw him take a big step forward in the second half of last year: “His stuff got better,” said an AL exec. “His execution got better. But that’s not really the question. The question is, can he stay healthy doing both?”

THEY CHANGED THE RULES – JUST FOR HIM: This sport paid Ohtani the ultimate compliment last month. It changed the rules of baseball just for him. If there is now a “Shohei Ohtani Rule” (which allows him to stay in the game as a DH after he finishes pitching), isn’t that a statement that baseball is fully invested in having this man keep doing the impossible? “There are very few people in history they’ve changed the rules for,” said one exec. “Bob Gibson (lowered the mound). Wilt Chamberlain (NBA banned the dunk). And now Shohei Ohtani. They don’t change the rules for anyone unless they’re a great, great player.”

The Magic Number: 16,686

WHAT IT MEANS: Have you noticed that a slew of big, hard-throwing dudes march out of every bullpen in baseball nowadays? Of course you have. But I bet you never counted up all of those dudes. Well, I did. And there were 16,686 appearances last season by the world’s greatest relief pitchers (and not-so-greatest). That’s not merely the most ever in any season. It’s nearly 3,000 more relievers than we saw as recently as 2011! Will this parade ever end?

You know what almost everybody in baseball seems to agree on? There are too many freaking pitching changes. You know what everybody in front offices around baseball is willing to do about it? Pretty much nothing.

“Because it’s so easy,” said one exec, “to play Plug and Play – and go get another arm.”

And those arms just keep on coming. How much has bullpen usage increased over the last two decades? Buckle up that seatbelt. Here you go.

RELIEF APPEARANCES PER SEASON

2021: 16,686
2011: 13,894
2001: 12,767

(Source: Baseball-reference.com/Stathead) 

WHAT MLB IS DOING ABOUT IT: Two new rules, both aimed at this bullpen epidemic, go into effect next month: Roster limits (no more than 13 active pitchers on a staff) and a cap on how many times any player can be freely optioned to the minors in a given season (five). So…

WILL THE NEW RULES WORK? “The five-option limit will play some role,” said one AL exec. “And the 13-pitcher limit may impact it a little. But to be honest, I don’t think this will change the way teams put pitching staffs together.” If the data tells these teams that a certain reliever in Triple-A matches up better with the next team on their schedule than that last arm in their bullpen, guess who’s coming up and guess who’s going down? “As much as the commissioner’s office may try to dissuade us from doing things,” said the same exec, “there aren’t enough guard rails in place. Even five options is still a lot. You can still move a guy up and down once a month. And that’s what’s going to happen.”

The Magic Number: 78

 WHAT IT MEANS: I had a tough time deciding which magic number I wanted to pick to illustrate how much the job of “starting pitcher” has changed in the last few years. I almost went with 5.02 (as in 5.02 innings per start), if only because 2021 nearly became the first full season in history in which starting pitchers averaged under five innings per start. But I went instead with 78. What’s that number? Believe it or not, only 78 pitchers in the entire sport made 25 starts or more last season. That’s just 2.5 per team. Old Hoss Radbourn would not approve!

For 100 years, starting pitchers were the marquee attractions in this sport. And then…

Faster than you could say, “opener,” everything about how teams define that position has changed. As recently as 2014, there were still 104 pitchers making at least 25 starts. And 34 pitchers working at least 200 innings. And 88 pitchers logging enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Here’s the abrupt turn since:

YEAR 25+ GS 200+ IP QUALIFIERS

2014

104

34

88

2015

93

28

78

2016

92

15

74

2017

91

15

58

2018

92

13

57

2019

90

15

61

2021

78

4

39

(Source: baseball-reference.com/Stathead)

Obviously, the 2021 numbers reflect a very real connection between the 60-game mini-season of 2020 and the challenge of ramping back up to 162 games last year. But… “I don’t think that number will go back to pre-pandemic levels,” one NL exec predicted. And why is that? The reasons aren’t as clear-cut as you’d think. Here are two very different takes from two exceptionally thoughtful front-office minds:

PRIORITIES HAVE CHANGED: “Most teams are building pitching staffs around relief pitching now, not starting pitching,” said one exec. “I know the commissioner’s office is trying to find ways to incentivize letting starting pitchers go five, six, seven innings, because those great starting-pitcher matchups are what fans want to see … But it’s not working. I watched minor-league games this spring where it seemed like every pitcher threw 70-80 percent breaking balls. If you do that, you’re not throwing six or seven innings. And that’s where the game is heading, in the age of Trackman and Rapsodo.”

IT’S ABOUT HEALTH, NOT DATA: “Every team wants starters who can go deep,” said another exec. “There isn’t a manager in baseball who doesn’t want Max Scherzer. No manager is rushing to replace his best starter after five innings and put in his fifth-best reliever. That’s just a fact. But there are only a certain number of guys who can actually do that – have great stuff that doesn’t fade, are matchup-proof, can give you both quality and bulk. The problem is that starting pitchers are having a harder time than ever staying healthy and carrying bulk. And I don’t know what the answer is. We’ve tried just about everything. We haven’t found anything concrete that we know is going to work.”


Juan Soto takes the field (Daniel Shirey / MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Magic Number: 501

WHAT IT MEANS: There are hitters who control the strike zone. There are hitters who have a knack for getting on base. And then there’s Juan Soto – a man who had a .501 on-base percentage over his last (gulp) 97 games last season. As my friend, Paul (Hembo) Hembekides, of ESPN, has reminded me, the last qualifying NL hitter not named Barry Bonds to have a .500 OBP over a full season was … Rogers Hornsby … 98 years ago. So Juan Soto can’t possibly do that over the next six months, right? Or can he?

The more I’ve thought about this number – a .500 on-base percentage – the more I’ve come to understand what it truly means. It’s the stuff of legends.

Here’s the list of every qualifying hitter in the last 100 seasons who had a .500 OBP over any full season (or multiple seasons):

Barry Bonds
Ted Williams
Babe Ruth
Rogers Hornsby

Whoever they are.

Just for fun, let’s add three extra names – of hitters who never did that in a calendar year but did have a .500 OBP over a 162-game span across multiple seasons (with at least 450 plate appearances: Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and (naturally) Jason Giambi. (H/T: baseball-reference/Stathead)

So now ask yourself this: Does Juan Soto belong in that group? Is it really humanly possible for a guy who is just 23 years old to reach base more times in a season than not reach base?

“I’d be surprised if he did it,” said one AL exec. “But if there’s anybody in our game who could do it, it would be him.”

And also, there’s this: If ever there were a set of circumstances where the planets lined up to make it feasible, it’s happening right now. A genius-level hitting prodigy. Elite pitch recognition. And a lineup around him where there is basically no one else to fear.

“How can he not get the Bonds treatment?” wondered one NL exec. “It’s so easy to say, `We’re not letting that guy beat us.’”

We’re only two weeks into this season. But are we hearing the Nationals’ opponents saying that? C’mon. Loud and clear.

• Percentage of pitches Soto saw in the strike zone in the Nats’ first 13 games, according to FanGraphs: Just 34.7 percent (10th lowest rate in baseball).

•  Percentage of first-pitch strikes thrown to Soto in those first 13 games: Only 39.7 percent (lowest rate in MLB).

Now here is what that means: Pitch-tracking data goes back just 20 years. Want to guess how many other qualifying hitters have ever been under 40 percent over any full season in both of those categories? If you guessed none, excellent work!

Next question. Want to guess the only hitter who even came close? Barry Bonds would be another excellent guess. In 2004, he had a 41.3 zone percentage and a 39.5 first-pitch strike percentage. In a related development, he wound up that season with a .609 OBP – not to mention 232 walks.

Now we’re seeing teams treat Juan Soto with even more avoidance. So can Soto channel enough Bonds-ian discipline to take full advantage of the pure terror his opponents obviously have of giving him anything to hit – at least on purpose – in a big spot?

“My question is: Can he stay on point over a full season like Barry did?” the same NL exec wondered. “And when he gets those three pitches to hit a week, can he do the damage that Barry did?”

The Magic Number: 3,000

WHAT IT MEANS: The meaning of baseball’s most storied numbers may not be what it used to be. But we can reflect on that some other time, because 3,000 hits is one of those numbers that hasn’t faded, that may never fade. And the artist still known as Miguel Cabrera finished his game Wednesday just a single hit away – but not just from that 3,000-Hit Club. If you add those 3,000 hits to his other remarkable accomplishments, he’s in staggering company. These numbers are always a reason to reflect on the talent of the men who achieve them. So what do you say we do that now with Miggy? 

With every stroll toward the batter’s box at Comerica Park, Miguel Cabrera’s spectacular collection of numbers shine brightly on the giant video board in left field. Have we fully comprehended them? I think we should.

3,000 HITS, 500 HOMERS – Only six other men in history are a member of this club. Two have PED asterisks (Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro). The others, you may have heard of: Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Albert Pujols, Eddie Murray. But let’s keep rolling.

3,000 HITS, 500 HOMERS, .300 AVERAGE – It’ll be just Aaron, Mays … and Miggy in this cool club.

3,000 HITS, 500 HOMERS, 600 DOUBLES – Aaron and Pujols to Miggy: “Come on down!”

3,000 HITS, 500 HOMERS, 2 MVP AWARDS – Miggy gets to join just Mays, Pujols and A-Rod in this group.

MULTIPLE BATTING TITLES AND HOME RUN TITLES, PLUS 3,000/500 – For half a century, only one man could say he’d done all that: Henry Aaron. He’s about to get company.

3,000 HITS, 500 HOMERS AND A TRIPLE CROWN – So who else has done this? No one else has done this. Only Miguel Cabrera. What a career.

“I’ve tried to always remind our players,” his manager, A.J. Hinch told me recently, “we’re playing with – and I’m managing – a living legend.”

The Magic Number: 58

WHAT IT MEANS: How often do we ever see what is happening this year in St. Louis – where Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols have rolled up a combined 58 seasons in the big leagues? They have won a World Series together. They’ve played together in three different decades. And now they’ll finish up three remarkable careers together, as teammates. So how rare is that? Let’s tell you exactly how rare. 

Goodbyes are hard. That’s true in life. That’s true in sports. But when they happen together, with three players of this magnitude, there is joy mixed with the sadness – and a dazzling pile of history to boot.

THE 17-YEAR REUNION – These three first became teammates in September of 2005, when Wainwright arrived in the big leagues for the first time. So imagine three men playing their first season and last season together as teammates – 17 years apart. Our friends at STATS dived into how unique that is, and found…

Only one other teammate trio in history has done that. Their names might sound familiar: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, whose first season with the Yankees was 1995 and final season together was 2013. Good company.

For the record, this note did not also require them to finish their careers in that final season together. So if this is really it for Molina, Wainwright and Pujols, they’ll be the only threesome ever to go out with a 17-year reunion.

THE 17/17/17 CLUB – OK, let’s look at this another way – and just hone in on trios ending their careers with the same team. According to STATS, these are the only four teams in history that had three players, all with at least 17 seasons in the big leagues, who played their final game for the same team in the same year.

TEAM PLAYER1 (SEASON) PLAYER2 (SEASON) PLAYER3 (SEASON)

1928 Philadelphia Athletics

Joe Bush (17)

Tris Speaker (22)

Ty Cobb (24)

1967 California Angels

Lew Burdette (18)

Jimmy Piersall (17)

Curt Simmons (20)

1975 Kansas City Royals

Vada Pinson (18)

Lindy McDaniel (21)

Harmon Killebrew (22)

1984 Oakland Athletics

Joe Morgan (22)

Tom Burgmeier (17)

Mike Torrez (18)

But none of those triumvirates consisted of players who also had extensive histories with each other or with that team. So can we remind you again that this journey of Molina, Wainwright and Wainwright is historically unique?

Or we could spin this wheel in yet one more direction. STATS looked at every combination of three players with at least 58 combined seasons who went out with the same team. Those 1928 A’s and 1975 Royals are two of them. The other three:

TEAM PLAYER 1 (SEASON) PLAYER 2 (SEASON) PLAYER 3 (SEASON) TOTAL SEASONS

1935 Boston Braves

Larry Benton (13)

Babe Ruth (22)

Rabbit Maranville (23)

58

1986 Cincinnati Reds

Tony Perez (23)

Pete Rose (24)

John Denny (13)

60

1988 Minnesota Twins

Steve Carlton (24)

Joe Niekro (22)

Tippy Martinez (14)

60

But once again, this wasn’t a sneak preview of the Yadi/Waino/Albert Show. Only Perez and Rose had extensive history with their franchise and each other – but Denny played just that one season with the Reds. So who else has done what these three Cardinals icons have done? Right. Nobody.

COOLER BY THE DOZEN – Granted, Pujols has been away for a decade. But this will still be his 12th season with the Cardinals, meaning that all three of these men have at least a dozen seasons wearing this uniform. So what would it mean for them to do that and play the final game of their careers with this team?

You undoubtedly know precisely what it means. According to STATS, no other set of three teammates has ever played at least 12 seasons for any team (even if they weren’t all together) – and then finished their careers with that team in the same season.

So take a deep breath and consider what you’re watching. You might never see it again.

“They’re like one of those classic rock bands,” one NL exec quipped. “And now they’re getting the band back together and going on tour again. They don’t sound quite the same. They don’t party quite as hard. But it’s still great to see them. And it means you could have two of them (Pujols and Molina) go into the Hall of Fame together in five years. It’s so special. What great payback to the greatest fans in baseball.”

(Top photo of Shohei Ohtani: (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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