By: Will Pembroke, Show Manager
What a year it has been for baseball. The pandemic and stalling negotiations between the MLB and its players’ union threatened to end the season before it even began. Nevertheless, baseball prevailed, yielding one of the weirdest seasons on record. A 60-game regular season ended with the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in a six-game series, followed by a collective sigh of relief that the season finished without cancellation.
Now, regularity has been easier to come by. Spring training is winding down, and a fresh 162 game season is set to begin soon. Here are a few things to keep your eye on as the regular season rolls around this Thursday.
The Astros are not out of the woods yet
Baseball’s cheaters, also known as the Houston Astros, are more than 12 months removed from a multi-year, sign-stealing scandal which left baseball fans and players angered, saddened and unsure how to react.
Last year, the pandemic came at the right time for the ballclub, seeing as there were no fans in attendance to ridicule the team. Now that fans will begin returning to the stands, expect all of the pent-up anger and aggression to come out in full force against Houston.
Only four players remain from the infamous Astros title team: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel. Each of these players turned in below career average performances last season. Was that due to the pandemic? A lack of spring training reps, perhaps? Or was it due to the fact that they were no longer able to steal signs? Only time will tell.
Marlins’ new general manager Kim Ng
The MLB made history this past winter, with the Miami Marlins awarding decades-long executive Kim Ng the full-time general manager position, the first woman to hold such a role in the history of any major U.S. sporting league.
Ng inherits a talented young roster which made it to the postseason last season. The Marlins trio of starting pitchers — Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and budding ace Sixto Sanchez — provide the team with a solid foundation to build on.
Can Miami take the next step and win in the postseason? We will have to find out. But in the Marlins’ favor, there are few people in the MLB who have more experience being around and contributing to victory than Kim Ng.
Can the Reds make a push to contend?
The 2020 MLB season was a rollercoaster for our hometown Cincinnati Reds. Finishing with a 31-29 record, the team found a way into the postseason. Cincinnati might as well have not been there, however, setting an MLB record by going scoreless in 22 innings in their series against the Atlanta Braves.
One would think after a performance like that, the team would have made more of a push to make changes in the offseason. But nope. Instead, the Reds lost ace and NL Cy Young award-winner Trevor Bauer to free agency, among other key players. The team made no moves of note by trade or through free agency to get better, leaving fans wondering what their ceiling is for the 2021 season.
What we do know is that the team will need better offensive seasons out of Joey Votto, Nicholas Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Eugenio Suarez if they have any chance to compete in the postseason.