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  • Writer's pictureCal Forde

MLB Recap: What’s Happening Around the League

By: Cal Forde

April 24, 2024


Photo Credit: LA Times

Amidst all the chaos surrounding Major League Baseball as it kicked off the 2024 MLB season late last month, viewership and engagement skyrocketed. The MLB opened the season setting records, seeing increases across national and international television, social media, and MLB.TV. In fact, ESPN’s coverage of Opening Night drew the second largest television crowd since Opening Day 2018, drawing an average of 1,578,000 viewers and peaking at 1,821,000 viewers. ESPN’s first Sunday Night Baseball broadcasting between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers was up 17% from 2023. MLB.TV’s airing of the Yankees and Astros on Opening Day shattered their previous viewership record, and total MLB.TV viewership set a record across a four-day period with 436 million minutes viewed, an increase of 6% from Opening Weekend in 2023.  Furthermore, MLB’s Seoul Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres captured an estimated 17 million viewers across all platforms worldwide, more than double the amount of viewers in the Series’ previous airing in 2019. On social media, MLB accounts saw record engagements and followers gained for an opening weekend with 19.8 million engagements and just over 125,000 new followers. Clearly, the first three weeks of the 2024 season have been a huge success for the MLB in terms of fan engagement. 


However, off-field issues have come to light in recent weeks, ones which could even tarnish the integrity of the game. 


Ohtani Scandal

On March 20, 2024, the L.A. Times broke a story of a federal investigation into an illegal Orange County bookkeeper, potentially involving the most famous baseball player on the planet, Shohei Ohtani. Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani’s close friend, had been working for Ohtani as his translator ever since he signed with the Angels in 2017. Allegedly, Mizuhara stole upwards of $16 million from Ohtani over the course of multiple years to cover immense gambling debts. Ohtani’s lawyers stated the star had not authorized any transactions between Mizuhara, which directly contradicted Mizuhara’s statement that Ohtani had loaned money for him to repay his gambling debts. Ultimately, Mizuhara was charged with bank fraud and faces up to 30 years in prison after agreeing to cooperate with authorities and admitting Ohtani had no implication in his gambling addiction. 


Athletics Relocation

Meanwhile, new details have emerged about the ballclub's operations as they transition out of Oakland and (supposedly) to Las Vegas. Earlier this month, the A’s rejected an offer of a five-year extension to remain at the Oakland Coliseum, instead electing to move to the state’s capital in Sacramento to play at a ballpark currently used to host the team’s minor league (AAA level) games. Additionally, the club has elected to drop Oakland from its name entirely, and will simply be called “The Athletics” for the time being. 


The 'Injury Epidemic'

Returning back to the field of play, Spencer Strider of the Atlanta Braves has brought attention to a more pressing issue affecting the entire sport of baseball: the ‘injury epidemic’ among pitchers. Strider exited his start on April 5th due to elbow pain in his throwing arm, and after an MRI, he underwent surgery on his damaged UCL and was ruled out for the rest of the season. When speaking with reporters for the first time since that horrible injury, when asked what he views as the cause of the coined ‘injury epidemic,’ Strider replied “I mean, if you've got three hours, I’ll sit down and have this conversation.” Strider’s response signifies the complexity of the startling number of arm injuries seen in elite pitchers so far this year.  The rate at which prominent pitchers have been picking up serious injuries has been astonishing. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was shut down during spring due to elbow pain. Former Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber underwent Tommy John surgery, a crushing blow for his Cleveland Guardians. Miami Marlins prized prospect Eury Pérez received Tommy John surgery despite being just 21-years-old, while Houston Astros starter Framber Valdez was placed on the injured list with elbow discomfort last week. Of the 28 pitchers on the Dodgers 40-man roster, a whopping 12 of them have undergone at least one major reconstructive surgery, including their star trio of Shohei Ohtani, Clayton Kershaw, and Walker Buehler.


Between the betting scandal surrounding Shohei Ohtani’s stolen money, the ugly relocation saga in Oakland, and the injury crisis among the league’s pitchers, it’s clear that the MLB needs to do some significant damage control. Otherwise, this will not be a season that the league’s fans, players, and franchises will look back on with kindness.

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