Baseball is back! After a long and laborious series of negotiations over player safety (but largely about money), the players union and the MLB have agreed to a shortened 60 game season. And believe it or not, October is just around the corner.
Baseball is a game of uncertainty, and the only thing we can be certain of, is that we have no f*ckin clue what to expect. If Covid-19 sneaks its way into one clubhouse, that could spell the end of a season for that team
Atlanta Braves All Star 1st Baseman Freddie Freeman gave a harrowing account of his battle with the vicious disease, saying, “Please don’t take me,” as he fought for his life with the respiratory virus.
But the players have agreed, they want to get paid, the execs want the games to be played, and the rush for the World Series is now on its way
With it comes strange rule changes, sloppy unpreparedness, and social protesting
So what can we expect from this years’ MLB season?
High scoring games
Sluggers always anticipate home runs and talk up that portion of the game. But when pitchers are saying it too, you know there’s bound to be at least a few reasons to expect a hitter’s season
- Players will be sloppy. Most of them haven’t played at all since the season shut down, and therefore haven’t played competitively since last year. There are more likely to be Errors and extra men on base, and therefore more runs
- Pitchers haven’t had the same time to get prepared. They usually fine tune their planned pitches for the season during spring training, which has been completely forgone except for a few exhibition games like the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds had
- The majority of the season will be played in hot and muggy months. The ball travels further in warm air because it’s less dense, and there’s no spring time to even out the home run stretch of the summer
- We live in the age of the home run. The modern game is all about launch angles and bat path, and swinging for the fences. We thought Aaron Judge was a rookie of the century two years ago when he broke the home run record for a rookie. Pete Alonso of the crosstown Mets broke it again last year en route to NL Rookie of the Year
- There is a universal DH. In addition to rules like a 3 batter minimum for relief pitchers, and a starting man on 2nd in extra innings, the NL is getting a Designated Hitter. He’ll be gone again next year, but will return in 2022 thanks to the new CBA
Will social protests be around?
Yep. We’ve already seen it in the exhibition games, when players were allowed to kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Bruce Maxwell, former player of the Oakland Athletics, remains the only player to kneel before a professional competitive MLB game during the National Anthem. That will change tonight when the season kicks off with the Marlins at the Braves
Many players are expected to show their support for social justices, and will be given the space to do so
There will be a large focus on the coronavirus, and proper social distancing and health requirements. For the most part, it seems players are following health guidelines from the CDC, but we will see what happens as the season goes on
A lot of the players seem aware of the fact that one carrier can debilitate a clubhouse
Players have been tested not quite to the level of the NBA bubble, but many teams are organizing their own testing kits and centers to help ease the burden off the MLB, but also to protect their own organization. As it stands, there’s about 36 hours between test and results for the MLB, which is enough time for an asymptomatic positive to spread the disease
The most important discipline will be on the road and in hotel rooms… when players are away from home will they be able to refrain from hookups? How do you get mad at a guy for visiting his family in Illinois when he plays in California, and accidentally picks up COVID? It will be interesting and hopefully safe and easy
Who will be the winners?
Well Mike Trout is always a safe bet for AL MVP. He now has Anthony Rendon in the lineup as well which could potentially be the deadliest back to back combo in the MLB
Bryce Harper looks set to avenge his poor debut season in Philly, and at 27, he’s just now entering his peak. He’ll be fighting it out with Mookie Betts, who just this morning inked a massive 13 year 380 million dollar contract, and with Ronal Acuna Jr and Christian Yelich, for NL MVP
Gerrit Cole is the safe bet for AL Cy Young, as he’s almost unquestionably the best pitcher in baseball, playing in front of the best lineup, and the cherry on top is his 10 games against the Baltimore Orioles. Go O’s!
I’m picking Max Scherzer, strikeout king for NL Cy Young. The guy missed a month last year and still struck out over 200 batters. He won’t reach that total this year, but expect him to continue to be a force
His biggest competition will be legend Clayton Kershaw, and Jacob deGrom, who’s won the award 2x in a row now despite the heavy competition
Yankees are the easiest choice and just might win it all. Now they’ve added Gerrit Cole, the Red Sox are unlikely to recover from losing David Price and Mooki Betts, the Orioles will challenge for worst team, and the Rays are creative and crafty, but shouldn’t be a major threat to New York supremacy
This division is wide open, but we’re going with the White Sox as an underdog. They’ve got a young core in Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, but added free agent experience as well. The Twins are a safe bet as last year’s surprise success as well
The Astros look set to continue their dominance west of the Mississippi. However, they’ve lost Gerrit Cole which opens the door for the ever dangerous Billy Beane and A’s baseball to sneak into first. In a season expected to be strange, Mike Trout’s Angels could be a dark horse with Anthony Rendon and the super athlete Shohei Ohtani finally healthy.
AL WILD CARD
Since we went with the underdog White Sox, we’ll say the Twins have the best shot at the wild card, right next to the Rays, baseball’s tricksters. Oakland, Anaheim, Cleveland, and the currently homeless Toronto Blue Jays seem ready to put out winning teams to be considered too
I’m betting the Phillies make a resurgence, here, after their disappointing 2019, Harper should look to make good on his record breaking contract while there’s top to bottom quality throughout the roster. They’ll be looking to upset the star studded rising Braves, while Washington has one of the best rotations in baseball
This might be the most competitive division, but the Reds are a safe bet with their deep starting rotation. The Brewers have Christian Yelich and a balanced squad, while recently the Cubs and Cardinals have been turning out competitive seasons
Dodgers are stacked this year. Great starters and lineup. This team won 106 games last year and just added David Price and Mookie Betts. I don’t expect anyone to mount a serious challenge
NL WILD CARD
Going with the underdog Phillies to win the division, the Braves and Nationals will take the wildcard spots. The Brewers are likely to put in a legitimate chase here as well