While COVID-19 has postponed and even threatened to cancel the 2020 Major League Baseball season, it’s finally time to play ball. Following months of contentious negotiations between owners and players, the MLB and MLB Players Association (MLBPA) have agreed to play a 60-game season. Players will report to “spring” training on July 1, with the regular season beginning on either July 23 or 24.
However, the season is still scheduled to conclude by the end of September, meaning the race to October will be fast and furious. Couple that with the threat of COVID-19 outbreaks infecting players and no fans in attendance––well, this is going to be one strange season. Here are five of the most intriguing (non-COVID-related) questions, answered. ––Ed.
1. Are Houston’s problems too big?
No team in MLB history has crashed to Earth faster than the Astros. An odious incident of sex-ism and reputation smearing turned them into villains, then a sign-stealing scandal cost them their World Series–winning manager and GM. And their ace, Gerrit Cole, left for the Yankees. But they’re still loaded. Don’t sleep on them.
2. Is the robot (umpire) apocalypse upon us?
Almost. Known as the automated ball-strike system, the robots will feed pitching calls to an ump’s earbuds. They’ll be in the minors this year, then MLB in 2021. Don’t fear them: They work.
3. But there is a big rule change, yes?
Yes! From now on, each new pitcher must either retire the side or face at least three hitters. Expect huge strategic changes.
4. Are the Yankees going to run away with this thing?
Let’s hope not but possibly. Gerrit Cole gives them the only thing they were missing—a true ace—so if he stays healthy, and the Yanks get even an ounce more of good fortune than in 2019, it’s over.
5. So the Nationals have no chance to repeat?
Actually, they do. They have waves of young talent, and their rotation still has its Scherzer-Strasbourg one-two punch. Losing third baseman Anthony Rendon will hurt, but they can withstand it.
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