Baseball Sports

Baseball United gets off the ground with inaugural draft

Former MLB names included in an initial crop of players.

Dubai-based Baseball United held their inaugural player draft on Oct. 24. Of the first 32 selections, 29 of the total selections were former Major League Baseball players, according to the league. That’s a 45 per cent ratio.

The league currently consists of four teams: the Mumbai Cobras, Karachi Monarchs, Dubai Wolves, and Abu Dhabi Falcons. It is the first-ever professional baseball league in the Middle East. “Our mission is to inspire one billion new fans to fall in love with baseball,” the Baseball United website reads.

The league was founded in July 2022 with hall-of-famers Barry Larkin and Mariano Rivera forming the initial ownership group. Former shortstop Elvis Andrus joined ownership in April 2023 and former first baseman Ryan Howard joined the group in Sept. 2023. Former players Adrian Beltre and Felix Hernandez soon followed suit.

The first overall selection by the Mumbai Cobras was pitcher Karan Patel, who was drafted in the seventh round—200th overall—of the 2019 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. He was the first player of Indian descent drafted into the MLB. His father is from Mumbai.

Notable former MLB players such as Didi Gregorius, Pablo Sandoval, Robinson Canó, Andrelton Simmons and Bartolo Colón were also drafted into the league. There were players from 25 different countries selected in the draft, including three players from Canada.

“Putting players on teams makes everything much more real for everyone involved,” Chairman and CEO of Baseball United Kash Shaikh said about the draft. “We have All-Stars, former top draft picks and a mix of veterans and younger guys to help carry the game across the world. I’m very happy for all our players.”

The league is quickly growing in popularity. Its official Instagram account already has over 59,000 followers and that number is only growing. The league will debut with its All-Star Showcase on Nov. 24 and 25. As of now, it is unclear if the showcase will be televised or streamed, but it will be a two-game series between two all-star teams at Dubai International Stadium.


Who will be the American and National Leagues’ MLB MVPs in 2023?

With the regular season over, the debate is on for who should win the two MLB league MVPs.

After each Major League Baseball (MLB) season, fans debate over who is most deserving to win their respective league’s MVP title. Why is this such a hot topic of conversation? 

The MLB consists of two leagues—the American League (AL) and the National League (NL). The MLB selects two writers from each team’s city to submit a ballot on who they think should win MVP in each league. Once the votes are tallied and the two players are selected, the winners will go down in history with the greats, including the likes of Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson.

This MLB season was a special one on the topic of MVP candidates.

In the NL, baseball fans witnessed an outstanding season from Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. Betts finished top five in the MLB in hits, runs batted in (RBI), walks, runs scored and batting average— the amount of hits a batter gets in a season divided by the number of their at bats.

He also led the MLB in a new statistic that analysts like to use to weigh the skill of players called wins above replacement (WAR), the estimated amount of wins the player added to their team’s record in a season. Betts, who finished with 8.4 WAR, took home NL player of the month honours in August, hitting 11 home runs in 29 games.

While Betts’ season was one to remember, it is hard to overlook one of the most talented offences of all time, the Atlanta Braves—led by first baseman Matt Olson and right-fielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who formed a dangerous one-two punch all season long. 

Olson put up his career’s best numbers by far this year, hitting 54 home runs and 139 RBI, leading the MLB in both categories. He also played all 162 games during the regular season—only one other MLB player accomplished that this year. To top off his impressive season, Olson was one of the nine NL nominees for the Hank Aaron Award, granted to the best offensive player in each league. With a season like this, he has a good shot at winning league MVP, but with the talent across the NL this season, it is certainly not a run away.

Meanwhile, Acuña Jr. had one of the best offensive years in MLB history. Acuña Jr. became the first player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs (41 total) and steal 70 bases (73 total) in the same season. To put this into perspective, the next closest player to this performance never got over 50 stolen bases. Acuña Jr., the three-time 2023 NL player of the month winner, finished the year top five in almost every category one can think of and managed to get on base 42 per cent of all plate appearances. Acuña Jr.’s historic year was simply remarkable and is one that should secure him the NL MVP in 2023.

Like in the NL, the AL had no shortage of skill. Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager put together a nice year, leading the AL in doubles and finishing top five in various categories. With a 6.9 WAR in 2023, Seager helped carry his team from 68 wins in 2022 to 90 wins and a playoff berth in 2023. The all-star had a very good year and will be essential to his team’s success in the playoffs.

Despite Seager putting up a personal best year in the statistics department, it does not seem to be a close race between him and the batter/pitcher hybrid who is considered to many as the best all-around player of all time, Shohei Ohtani. Before being shut down late in the season due to injuries, Ohtani finished with a phenomenal 10 WAR to lead the MLB. Not only did Ohtani lead the AL in many of the major offensive statistical categories, but he also had a very solid year on the mound. In 2023, Ohtani won 10 of the 15 games he pitched in, threw a complete-game shut-out, and was the only batter in the MLB to pitch as a starter.

Had the 2022 AL MVP Aaron Judge not sustained the foot injury that kept him on the sideline for two months, we may be having a different discussion about who should win MVP. But with these statistics, especially with 27 games missed, Ohtani could be the clear winner for AL MVP in 2023.

The 2023 season will go down in MLB history as one of the most entertaining to watch. With the playoffs underway, time will tell who wins their respective leagues’ MVP award. Once the World Series concludes, the winners will be announced. World Series Championship or not, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Shohei Ohtani should be making some space in their trophy cabinets.


Major sports leagues’ power rankings

 Looking at the most dominant teams in all major sports leagues

While it’s been a tough year for sports with COVID-19, we’ve been lucky enough to witness a championship in all four major sports. With two of the four major sports leagues already into their seasons, one having recently concluded and one on the verge of starting, let’s take a look at the top five teams in their respective sport.

National Basketball Association (NBA)

  1. Utah Jazz (27-8) 

No one would have expected the Utah Jazz to be sitting comfortably in first in the NBA standings. Led by all-stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, this team has been firing on all cylinders, winning 23 of their past 27 games. The Jazz are out for vengeance after losing seven games to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of last season’s postseason.

  1. Brooklyn Nets (23-13)

Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving have been on fire this season, averaging 121 points per game. On the other hand, their defence has been a different story. However, it’s been improving every game. It’s championship or bust for this superteam.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (24-11)

The Lakers will always be near the top of the NBA standings as long as LeBron James is healthy. However, they have looked a bit lost recently; losing four of seven Anthony Davis went down with a calf injury. The good news: it’s not supposed to be long-term. A healthy Lakers team in the playoffs is the team to beat.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers (24-12)

The Clippers have been almost unbeatable when both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are in the lineup. The problem is actually to have them both dressed up at the same time, as they have had multiple injuries.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (23-12)

Team leader Joel Embiid has been a pleasure to watch this season and has been playing like a MVP candidate. Could a deep playoff run finally be in store for a 76ers team with so much to offer? Only time will tell.

 National Hockey League (NHL)

  1. Toronto Maple Leafs (17-4-2)

The Maple Leafs have been the hottest team in the NHL recently, with Auston Matthews leading the way. The superstar is leading the NHL in goals with 20 in 18 games. Can he score 50 goals in the shortened season?

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-4-1)

The reigning Stanley Cup champions came out of the gate hot. Even with some injuries, the core of this team looks as good as ever. Winger Nikita Kucherov is also inching closer to a return. Watch out.

  1. Florida Panthers (13-4-4)

The Panthers might have the most underrated offensive duo in the NHL with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau. Chris Driedger has also been a revelation in goal, while starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has been underwhelming.

  1. Vegas Golden Knights (13-4-1)

The Golden Knights have been getting consistent offence throughout their lineup. However, the main reason for their success has been Marc-Andre Fleury. He’s leading the league in almost every goaltending category.

  1. Boston Bruins (12-5-2)

The Bruins always seem to be near the top. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak are playing like the best line in hockey and are wreaking havoc in the loaded East division. Not to mention their great goalie tandem.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Who’s going to stop the Dodgers? Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price and newly acquired Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer. All of this with the best batting in baseball. Good luck to everyone else.

  1. San Diego Padres

The Padres conquered the offseason, signing Fernando Tatis Jr. to the longest deal in baseball history while also trading for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell. The Padres may be on their way to dominating baseball for years.

  1. New York Yankees

It’s going to be interesting early on for Yankee fans. This team looks dominant on paper, as they finally have a healthy Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. If Gerrit Cole performs as usual and Corey Kluber shows glimpses of his 2017 self, it’s game on.

  1. Atlanta Braves

Last season, The Braves were one game away from the World Series without their superstar Mike Soroka. A healthy rotation mixed in with a dominant offence led by Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. is going to be a joy to watch.

  1. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are going to be one of the most exciting young teams to follow. Their roster is as deep as anyone, and the acquisition of Lance Lynn may be the most underrated move of the offseason.

National Football League (NFL)

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As reigning Super Bowl champions, the number one spot is theirs to lose. Back-to-back championships are entirely possible.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

The core will be returning, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes is going to be hungrier than ever. The Chiefs will be the odds-on favourite to win it all next season.

  1. Buffalo Bills

It’s finally time for everyone to respect the Bills. With a dynamic young quarterback in Josh Allen, talented receivers and a top 10 defence, this team’s future is bright.

  1. Green Bay Packers

Could Aaron Rodgers force a trade to end his tenure with the Packers if they don’t fulfill his needs in the offseason? Time will tell, but the clock is ticking on the Packers’ championship window.

  1. Los Angeles Rams  

The Rams boast an elite defence with Aaron Donald leading the pack. They just needed an upgrade on offence to really emerge as Super Bowl contenders. Getting Matthew Stafford was perhaps the answer.




Graphic by Taylor Reddam

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