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Believe it or not, Opening Day is almost upon us.

In just a few days, Major League Baseball will hit the field for the start of the 2021 season. It remains to be seen how teams will respond this year, after the truncated season of 2020. And this year will be plenty different as well. Teams will be playing before a limited or no audience. COVID issues may (and almost certainly will) still arise. There’s even talk of some change in the physical makeup of the ball itself.

It will be different. And yet … the bat will still crack. The glove will still pop. Familiar faces will display their usual excellence and unknowns will display unexpected transcendence. And for the more data-driven – the numbers will continue to tell you the truth. The joy of that part of baseball is that there will ALWAYS be more numbers.

We all love it for different reasons.

So we’ll see if the Los Angeles Dodgers can become the first back-to-back MLB champs in a generation. We’ll see if MVPs Jose Abreu and Freddie Freeman can follow up on their award-winning seasons. We’ll see if Cy Young winners Shane Bieber and Trevor Bauer can manage a second straight great year. We’ll find out which young phenoms are the real deal and which are fool’s gold, which long-timers are out of gas or still have a little left in the tank.

It’s a complicated time in the world, and sports fandom is not exempt. Whether you think these games could be happening more safely (or not happening at all), the reality is that the 2021 season is going to take place, for better or worse. Here are one man’s thoughts on how that season might play out.

Play ball!

(Division winners = x; Wild Card winners = y)

Published in Cover Story

It might be hard to believe, considering how much snow we’ve seen recently, but spring is here. Whatever the weather says, the truth is that baseball season is just around the corner! Spring training is coming to a conclusion – we’re on the verge of seeing games that count!

There’s plenty to be excited about in 2018. The Houston Astros look ready to hit the field as defending champions for the first time in their history. We might get our first legitimate two-way player in nearly a century thanks to the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani. Young superstars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are playing for what will likely prove to be record-shattering free agent contracts. Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw will continue to build on their Hall of Fame careers.

And once again, I have staved off the inevitable reality of age; we have not one, but two major league baseball players who are older than I am – pitcher Bartolo Colon, now with the Minnesota Twins, and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who has returned to the Seattle Mariners, the team where his storied MLB career began.

As for the specifics – who knows? There are going to be a lot of home runs and a lot of strikeouts. There will be stars who perform to expectations and unknowns who shock the world. There will be delightful highs and unfortunate lows. There’s no way to say for certain what will go down on the field in 2018.

But let’s give it a go anyway.

(Division winners – x; Wild Card teams – y)

Published in Cover Story

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