This is an extended version of a story that appears in ESPN The Magazine's March 31 MLB Preview Issue. Subscribe today!
THIS SPRING MLB announced a rule change that all but eliminates the home plate collision. As part of our Confidential series, we surveyed 143 players and found that a strong majority (65 percent) dislikes the new rule. "They're changing baseball," says one veteran catcher. "It's a terrible rule." As you can see from the results below, players also had strong feelings on several other topics.
Who will win the World Series?
NL starting pitcher: "I think if the season had been a little bit longer last year, the Nationals might have won the World Series. So watch out for them. I think it will be the Nationals against the Cardinals in the National League, with the Cardinals winning in seven games, then winning the World Series too."
AL All-Star: "Boston still has a nice roster, but you have to think the Cardinals are just as good as last year, maybe a little better. Michael Wacha looked scary good last postseason; with him and [Adam] Wainwright, the Cardinals will be a handful in a playoff series."
If you could have any player in MLB for the next three years, who would it be?
1. Mike Trout, Angels: 45 percent; 2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: 25 percent; 3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 9 percent
If Mike Trout were a free agent, what salary would you pay him? What about Miguel Cabrera?
Average answer for Trout: $27.8 million per year
Average answer for Cabrera: $27.3 million per year
NL outfielder on Mike Trout: "What he's doing is sick. I'd pay Trout $1 more than Cabrera, whatever that would be. The numbers Trout has put up the past two years are about as good as you'll ever see, and Cabrera is right there with him."
AL reliever on Miguel Cabrera: "He's transcended the game from a hitting aspect and made a position change two times in the last few years."
Do you agree or disagree with Joe Girardi that MLB is ready for an openly gay player?
NL All-Star: "We come in here and we're all trying to do the same thing. Who cares what a guy does in his own time?"
NL infielder: "Are there people who are going to give a guy a hard time? Yeah, but not too many. There will be a couple of jerks. But the majority of people are going to be like, 'So what?'"
Would you vote to kick A-Rod out of the union?
NL All-Star: "I was very disappointed he was suing the union. It's a union that's helped him make so much money and given every advantage to so many players. It's like a fraternity brother saying he's out of the fraternity and going with another one. He had a choice to make, and he's made it about him, not about us together."
AL outfielder: "With A-Rod's drug involvement history being so expansive, I don't have any tolerance for that. I mean, guys who have played the game clean are getting overshadowed by guys who are still getting away with using drugs."
In your best estimate, what percentage of MLB players are still taking PEDs?
AL All-Star: "It's close to zero. The awareness has gotten better each year. Players realize they're not going to get away with it. The system has worked, and the players who were on the fence aren't doing it."
AL outfielder: "Twenty percent. Higher for sure than the number of ones that got caught. Those guys only got caught last year because an employee leaked all the records, otherwise they would have gotten away with it. Look at Ryan Braun. He was on one of the most complex doping regimens there is, so just take that and you know there have to be more."
AL slugger: "I think the number is probably about 10 percent, but that's not counting Adderall as a PED. If you included guys who are using Adderall, wow, that number would be through the roof."
If it were legal in every state and with MLB, would you consider using marijuana for pain relief?
NL reliever: "That's an interesting question. I don't know if there's a sport-related injury that would be helped by that. But anything's possible, as long as you don't have guys lighting up in the bullpen."
Who's the most overrated player in MLB?
AL All-Star: "I like Bryce Harper. I think he's going to be really good. But the attention for him -- and for Puig, to a certain extent -- is overkill. It's just been hype so far."
Which team is the most underrated in baseball?
1. A's: 23 percent; 2. Astros: 10 percent; T3. Pirates, Rays, Royals: 8 percent
AL MVP candidate: "The A's have been pretty good, but they're not sexy, so they fly under the radar. No reason they can't get back to the playoffs."
NL veteran: "The Astros are going to be bad again, but I was impressed by what I saw in spring training. They're bad, but they're not 100-loss bad. I think they will surprise some people. They're going in the right direction."
Which team is most overhyped?
NL outfielder: "The Yankees are the center of attention every year, so it's fun to watch them when they're going to be as bad as they will be this year. They're just so old that there's no way that lineup stays together. And even if they all stay healthy, it's hard to see where guys aren't tailing off."
True or false: I feel like MLB's concussion treatment is good.
True: 94 percent; False: 6 percent
AL infielder: "True. The biggest thing they did was not making it a two-week trip to the DL. Now that it's only a week, more guys will come forward if they think they're having a problem."
Would you pay a starting pitcher $215 million?
Yes: 80 percent; No: 20 percent
AL catcher: "If he's named Clayton Kershaw, yeah. With Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, you saw that not only should you pay for starting pitching, but they're worth it. Now are they worth as much as Mike Trout? No."
Would you be in favor of an MLB salary cap?
Yes: 6 percent; No: 94 percent
NL infielder: "Absolutely not. The owners make so much money as it is. They wouldn't be paying guys what they do if they couldn't make that back."
AL pitcher: "No way. That's a horrible question. If that's really a question, I am ending the interview right now."
Reporting by: Morty Ain, Patrick Cain, Anna K. Clemmons, Louise K. Cornetta, Dan Friedell and Stacey Pressman
*Not all 143 players answered every question. Percentages are rounded.
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