billy crystal at the yankees game

Actor Billy Crystal shakes hands with Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka before throwing the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees opening day baseball game against the Boston Red Sox.

Welcome to Major League Baseball, 2022.

Right off the bat, so to speak, the so-called “Ghost Runner” rule stinks.

That’s the rule where, in every extra inning, the last batter of the previous inning starts the next on second base. Sure, it helped the Red Sox take an extra-inning lead against the Yankees in Friday’s opener in The Bronx. It is a terrible rule, and should not have been reinstated.

I do understand why the poobahs of Major League Baseball elected to have the rule come back. The desire of games not extending to 14 or 15 innings is desirable. I am not certain this, in the long run, is going to shorten games. After all, if the runner on second base scores in the top and then in the bottom of the 10th, we’ll move along to the 11th. If the same thing happens in the 11th, we move to the 12th, and so forth.

It is more understandable in the minor leagues, where rosters are much more limited. If a big league teams goes through several pitchers in a long, extra-inning contest, it can call up a few pitchers on an emergency basis.

The “Ghost Runner” rule is, in my opinion, a solution in search of a problem.

But the biggest change for 2022 is the use of the universal designated hitter. That’s right, the National League no longer allows the pitcher to hit.

The designated hitter is something I have long disliked. In a perfect world, the American League would allow pitchers to hit. I have also, however, said it is past time for both leagues to have the DH.

I don’t have to like it, but I also understand that having the DH in the American League and not in the National League is not a good way for Major League Baseball to operate. During interleague play, it was unfair for National League teams to use the DH, especially when their rosters are constructed differently than those in the American League. It was equally unfair for teams like the Sox or Yankees to either sit their DH against the Phillies or Reds, or play them in the field and have to sit another player.

If interleague play did not exist, I would not be bothered by the split between the leagues. Those interleague games could determine if a team makes the postseason or not. So playing by the same rules is not a bad thing.

And before I look ahead to the season, say hello to Boston right-handed relief pitcher Kutter Crawford. He was a 16th-round pick out of Florida Gulf Coast in 2017. Undoubtedly, Crawford throws a cut fastball, known as a cutter, one that Josh Donaldson hit. It found a hole, and the Yankees had a 5-4 win in 11 innings.

Say howdy to Chicago White Sox reliever Aaron Bummer. Bummer is a really awful name for a reliever, almost as bad as former University of Pittsburgh kicker Chris Blewitt.

Now, to break out the Magic Eight-Ball and look ahead to the season.

In the big picture, the team to beat resides in Los Angeles. It’s a Dodgers team that did lose Max Scherzer, but still has Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw, both potential aces. The addition of former Atlanta Braves slugger Freddie Freeman adds to a really stout offensive lineup. If the Dodgers stay healthy and play to their potential, it might be tough for anyone to catch them.

In February, I thought the Mets — you read that right — might have had a chance to overtake the Dodgers. But the team in Queens seems to be cursed.

They sign Scherzer and then Jacob deGrom goes on the Injured List. The two of them could make the Mets pitching staff formidable. The jury is still out.

Now, to the Red Sox and Yankees.

The baseball world seems impressed with Toronto, and why wouldn’t you be? Solid rotation. Good bats. The Jays have what you want in a potential division champion.

The Red Sox and Yankees have potential albatross pitchers. For the Yankees, it’s Gerrit Cole who did not look like an ace in Friday’s opener against Boston. He needs to be an ace for the Yankees to not have to score a lot of runs to win.

Chris Sale is the potential albatross for Boston. The fact that he is on the 60-day Injured List has to concern fans in Red Sox Nation. A rib issue landed him on the IL as of April 4. So assuming he gets healthy by June, Sale will still be two months behind in his preparation.

Boston is going to need him to make the playoffs. It can’t be Nathan Eovaldi and a bunch of guys, or it is going to be a long summer in New England.

Here are one man’s division champions. American League East, Toronto; American League Central, Chicago White Sox; American League West, Houston. National League East, Atlanta; National League Central, St. Louis; National League West, Los Angeles Dodgers.

Let’s play baseball.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.