It’s that time, the major league baseball season is ready to get started. The big differences this year include attempting to play a full 162 game schedule, plus playoffs and World Series. The second big difference is that there will be fans in the stands. That is a marked difference from the shortened 60 game season of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic is far from over MLB feels safe in going with their full schedule. So far in spring training with all the pandemic protocols in place there have been very few, isolated COVID cases which bodes well for MLB. Now that the vaccines are readily available and age restrictions are being lifted all over the country, the players are eager to get them to continue to keep this virus under control and stop the spread. That is a good thing for everyone, players, their families, staff and the fans.
There are still very strict protocols that have to be followed just as last year when it comes to travel, access to the outside world and pressers after games. Most teams will not have their radio and TV crews traveling on the road again, at least for the time being. Once again, because of border COVID protocol the Toronto Blue Jays will not be opening their season in Toronto, but this year playing home games at their spring home in Dunedin, Florida, at least through the month of April. As for the fans most ball parks will be allowing about 20% of capacity to attend games with all the COVID protocols in place or everyone’s protection.
Additionally MLB and the MLBPA, the players union, are wrestling with the problem of this year’s All Star game in Atlanta. Because of recent new voting laws passed in the state of Georgia there is a chance that MLB with an okay from the MLBPA will move the game from Atlanta to another city. MLB and the players union will be meeting to discuss this situation very soon. Both the NFL and NBA moved their Super Bowl and NBA All Star games from cities because of what the leagues deemed political wrongs. So this is a development to keep an eye on .
Now that we have gotten that part of it out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty about the upcoming season. Considering last year’s shortened, and rushed, season and then training restrictions in the off season, going into this spring training was a challenge for everyone on as variety of levels. So much so that there were a boatload of early injuries, mostly not serious and season ending, but enough to see that just about every team will have key players on the IL come opening day.
So what can we expect in 2021 and what are the predictions? Let’s start off with last year’s World Series teams the Dodger and Rays. The Dodgers are the obvious favorites, but not so fast. Yes, they have a very solid team and adding Trevor Bauer makes them stronger. However, the up and coming San Diego Padres have arrived. They went full bore in the off season getting Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and other players, extending the fantastic Fernando Tatis Jr, with a massive contract and other moves. I don’t see the Dodgers winning 100 games this year but I do see the Padres winning the NL West. As for the Rays, last year was not a fluke and even with the loss of Snell and Morton I still think this team is strong enough to repeat in the AL East because of three things, manager Kevin Cash, breakout years from a couple of players like Lowe and Meadows, plus Randy Arozarena and the depth and versatility this team has at every position, especially pitching. The Yankees will be the Yankees, good, scary and beset with major injuries; it’s just part of their DNA. Toronto is on the upswing but I still feel their pitching will hold them back, but they might be a wild card. For me the Rays top the 90 win mark and will win the AL East again. One final point….I do not see any MLB team winning 100 games this year.
Now we really come to the fun part……..I get out my crystal ball (actually plastic!) and predict the division winners, post season and individual honors. So here we go.
AL East – Rays NL East – Braves AL WC -Yankees, White Sox
AL Central – Twins NL Central – Milwaukee NL WC – Marlins, Dodgers
AL West – Oakland NL West – San Diego
AL Champs – Rays NL Champs – San Diego
World Series – Goes seven games Rays win the World Series.
AL MVP – Mike Trout NL MVP – Fernando Tatis Jr.
AL Cy Young – Tyler Glasnow NL Cy Young – Jack Flaherty
AL ROY – Andrew Vaughn NL ROY – Ke’ Bryan Hayes
AL MOY – Charlie Montoyo NL MOY – Jayce Tingler
So there you have it folks, my thoughts and predictions on the 2021 season. Let’s hope for the best and they can get all 162 games in with no COVID problems. If all goes right with the vaccines and people getting their shots that should lead to increases in the number of fans allowed to attend games as well. I’m looking for a 2021 MLB season filled with fun, excitement, surprises and being a big part of getting life back to normal. Now…………PLAY BALL!!
Art Koch, National Features & DVD Editor, NightMoves Magazine and AAN