After hosting the annual Grand Prix race yesterday, the city of St. Petersburg hosts another major sporting event this afternoon — opening day of the Major League Baseball season, with the Rays taking on the Toronto Blue Jays at 4:10 p.m. at Tropicana Field.
Expectations remain high in the Bay area regarding the Rays, picked by many national sports pundits to be a World Series contender. But as the 2014 season begins, the question is, will there be more scoring in the ancient game this year?
In the current Sports Illustrated, baseball writer Tom Verducci reports that the slugging percentage by right-handed hitters fell last year to its lowest level since 1992. That's a problem when the overwhelming number of hitters are right-handed. Verducci reports that only seven right-handed hitters hit 30 home runs last year, a 21-year low for a full season. Only six righthanded batters drove in 100 runs, the fewest since 1988.
But if your idea of a good time at the ballpark is strikeouts, well, there's more of that than ever in the (mostly) post-PED world of baseball.
Meanwhile, it was reported over the weekend that the Rays have further reduced capacity at Tropicana Field, with now less than 32,000 seats available for every home game. Every one of those seats is expected to be filled this afternoon, but is it too early to express concerns about how many people will be at the game tomorrow night? Yeah, it is. We've got six months to express angst about the attendance situation for the club....
In other news… We'll have much more on this blog today about it being the midnight hour to sign up for Obamacare. The White House has been pumping up the fact that over 6 million Americans have signed up for the new government-run healthcare plan since healthcare.gov went live on October 1, but critics wonder: How many are actually paying for their new insurance, and how many just signed up because they lost their previous insurance plan? Maine independent Senator Angus King said the only empirical information available from two states show that the majority who've signed up did not have insurance.
Could AG Pam Bondi be vulnerable this fall? Democrat George Sheldon thinks so. The longtime Florida public servant was in town last week for a couple of fundraisers to help his cause.
And with college basketball now heading into its Final Four weekend, there will be continued focus on the hypocrisy of college sports, and how the young athletes earning millions for their universities continue to get uncompensated (except for their scholarships, of course). Local attorney Chris Griffin, who is on a committee that doles out punishment for NCAA violations, tells CL he fears that an NLRB decision last week regarding Northwestern University's football program wanting to unionize could upset the college game forever.