In what was one of the most controversial decisions in recent World Series history, Tampa Bay Rays Manager Kevin Cash decided to pull his star pitcher only 5 ⅓ innings into Game 6 of the World Series with his team on the brink of elimination being down 3-2 in the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The reason this was such a controversial call was because Blake Snell had been pitching like the ace he was. In fact, he was so dominant so far in that game that he was the first pitcher in World Series history with 9 strikeouts and no walks in less than six innings of work. Up to that point he only had 73 pitches and was helping the Rays cling to a 1-0 lead. The decision to pull Snell came after he gave up a 1-out single in the sixth inning with the Dodgers two best hitters coming up in Mookie Betts and Corey Seager. This would be the start of the third time through the order and the data analytics have shown that Snell’s performance worsens after the first round. For his career, Snell allowed a .592 OPS the first time through, then a .711 and .742 for the second and third time.
It would not be uncommon for a manager to go to their best bullpen arm at this point. However, although Betts normally hits well against left handed pitchers, if you look at his stats for this year, he had the worst slugging percentage of any hitter in baseball against left-handed pitching and Seager is consistently a worse hitter against left-handed pitching. So, with Snell being a left-hander, it would have made sense to to leave him in especially since he had been performing exceptionally well. Instead, Kevin Cash decided to pull Snell citing the fact that he tends to became less effective the third time around the order. Cash then brought in his best reliever in Nick Anderson who was one of the best relievers in all of baseball during the regular season although he was a lot less effective in the postseason due to overuse. Things quickly spiraled out of control for the Rays as Betts would proceed to hit a double to put runners on second and third. The first run would score on a wild pitch and then Betts would score on a groundball to first by Seager where Betts would beat the throw at the plate for the series deciding run. When Betts scored the Dodgers took a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish en route to a World Series clinching Game 6 win.
After the game Kevin Cash was harshly criticized by the media and fans alike for his decision to pull Blake Snell early as it backfired severely and ended up costing the Rays the game. This decision shows one problem that many people have with the new age of analytics in baseball as managers now make their decisions seemingly based off of specific data only. I personally am an advocate for the use of analytics in baseball as I believe that you can gain a much deeper understanding of the game and player performances than you ever could by just watching with the naked eye. However, the problem comes when teams start to eliminate the human aspect of the game and go solely based on the data. While the overall data would suggest in that situation the right move was to pull Blake Snell, the eye test would tell you that pulling him was not the right decision. This is the ace of your staff, the best pitcher on your team, pitching his best game of the season with only 73 pitches thrown so far. Given the situation you need to trust your baseball instincts and experience to stick with your ace, even if the numbers don’t suggest that it’s necessarily the right decision. Sure, over the long term the numbers will be right but in this win or go home moment you should stick with your ace out on the mound unless he gives you a reason not to. Hindsight is 20/20 but in an elimination game, I’d rather risk losing with my best pitcher on the mound.
There has been a lot of debate in this baseball community recently about whether winning the World Series this season would hold as much weight as winning it in other years. This debate is a result of the shortened season caused by the Coronavirus. With the MLB season being only 60 games this year, 102 less games than a normal season, many people feel that winning the World Series is less of an accomplishment because teams did not have to play and win as many games to get to that point. In addition there is also the fact that there is a lot more chance involved in a smaller sample size, so teams can way outperform or underperform their true talent level because of a hot or cold stretch. A lot of this variability gets corrected in a 162 game season because it eliminates the impact of hot and cold stretches and is a good indicator of a team's true talent. In my opinion winning the World Series this year has as much importance as winning it in years past, especially because of the new playoff format that the MLB is implementing this year. Normally the playoffs have the division winners from each league and two wild card teams but this year there will be the division winners and four wild card teams for both the American League and National League. I believe that by adding two additional playoff teams in each league you can offset some of the randomness that will be caused by a shortened season because teams who ran into bad luck but deserve to be in the playoffs now can get in without having to fear that losing their division means they have a small chance at making the playoffs. Plus the playoffs will have the same format except the wild card series are now best of 3 instead of winner take all. The great thing here is that it gives more chances for teams to make it to the playoffs and it makes getting through the playoffs and winning the World Series more difficult than in the past so the difficulty of the playoffs can help offset the shortened regular season which many people view as too easy for teams. So in conclusion this is why I believe that winning the World Series this season should be viewed as just as big of an accomplishment as in other years.
With the 2020 MLB Playoffs starting many people have very different picks for who they think is going to end up winning the World Series. This can vary anywhere from the young upstart teams like the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox to the all-time great franchises like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. This 2020 season is unlike anything we have ever seen and there is potential for anything to happen. In my opinion I think that the Los Angeles Dodgers will win the 2020 World Series. I believe that this year they are the best team in baseball, as evidenced by their Major League best 43-17 record. They finished three games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays who had the second best record in all of baseball. When it comes to postseason experience the Dodgers have plenty of it having won the NL West the past eight years in a row and having made it to the World Series in 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately they were not able to win the World Series in either of those years. I believe that this is their year though. Their offense is led by 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger and 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts providing the starpower. They also get a lot of offense from sluggers such as Max Muncy, Will Smith, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and others. On top of this potent offense, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a great pitching staff with all-time great Clayton Kershaw and a young superstar in Walker Buehler heading the staff with two other great young starters in Julio Urias and Dustin May. To cap it off they have a bullpen consisting of star closer Kenley Jansen, the young fireballer in Brusdar Graterol as well as Alex Wood, Pedro Baez, Joe Kelly and many other solid relievers. When it comes to depth and star power in all aspects of the game, I think it is impossible to find a team that can match up with the Dodgers. This is why they are my pick to win the 2020 World Series.
Recently the MLB and MLBPA came to an agreement on a bubble plan for the playoffs. This decision is very similar to what both the NHL and NBA did in their return to season after the delay from coronavirus. The agreement for the bubble will be that the American League will play its Division Series games at Petco Park in San Diego and its Championship Series games at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. The National League will be playing its Division Series games at Minute Maid Park in Houston and its Championship Series games at Globe Life Field in Arlington with the World Series also happening at Globe Life Field. Before this the new best of three Wild Card Series will be played at the higher seeded teams’ home ballpark before teams move into the bubble for the rest of the playoffs. Players and their families will be required to quarantine starting the last week of the regular season if they wish to enter the bubble. To ensure this, players will move into quarantine in hotels in the last week of the regular season. Once in quarantine, players are only allowed to leave the hotel for games or for traveling to games. I believe that this was a smart idea for the MLB to implement as it reduces the risk of a potential Covid-19 outbreak among players in the middle of the playoffs. By making players stay in quarantine throughout the playoffs, it strongly reduces the likelihood of a player catching coronavirus as they will not be getting too much outside exposure. The way the season has been going players have free reign to do whatever they want or to go wherever they want before and after games which has led to quite a few outbreaks throughout the regular season. While it was not ideal, an outbreak could be worked around during the regular season however, come the playoffs an outbreak would be a major issue for both scheduling and, as a result, could provide some teams with either competitive advantages or disadvantages. Many people are probably wondering why the MLB is now implementing the bubble rule. I believe that this was a good route to take because you need to especially ensure that there are no outbreaks in the postseason which only lasts a month. Trying to do the entire season in a bubble would’ve been difficult because many players would not have agreed to be in a bubble for four months. I believe that it is essential for the one month of playoffs to be played in a bubble system and think that this was a great decision on the part of the MLB and MLBPA.
Recently most of the focus on the MLB has been the temporary postponement of the season while the country is in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. One thing that may have been overlooked while fans are waiting for the season to begin is the fact that the MLB draft was shortened from 40 rounds to as few as 5 rounds. I think that this is a good idea on account of a few factors. One main reason is that Minor League Baseball just agreed to cut 40 of its minor league teams which means that there are now significantly less spots open in organizations now with so many minor league teams no longer existing. With the loss of revenue to organizations from the season being postponed by the coronavirus, many of these minor league teams being cut knew that they would no longer be able to survive financially. Another reason I believe that it was a good idea to shorten the draft is that now it gives a chance for teams to find semi-pro players who went undrafted and give them a shot at making the majors. With the shorter draft, teams will have to look to semi-pro teams to fill out rosters. This also makes kids more likely to pursue an education or further continue an education as now players who get drafted in the really late rounds can’t make the brash choice of becoming a minor leaguer without getting an education to have a solid backup plan. Lastly, I think that shortening the draft might bring more attention to it as I doubt there are many, if any, people who would watch the entirety of the draft when it is 40 rounds. With it now being only 5 rounds there should be a lot more people willing to watch the whole draft. I believe that there are a lot of other things the MLB could do to make the draft more interesting to watch but that is a topic for another day.
Please Note: The opinions expressed here are individual opinions and should not be considered the opinions of the organization.
"Baseball was, is and always will be the best game in the world"
- Babe Ruth
2020 has been a year where we have seen a lot of firsts for women in the United States. We elected our first ever female Vice President of the U.S. We also saw the first ever female coach of an NFL team appear in the Super Bowl. In continuing with the trend of major firsts for women in 2020, the MLB saw its first ever hiring of a female General Manager. The Miami Marlins decided to make the historic move by hiring Kim Ng to be their General Manager. This was a great example of a woman breaking the glass ceiling in a field usually dominated by men. Despite what some people might think this was not a publicity stunt by the Marlins so they could just say they hired a female GM. Kim Ng is one of the most qualified executives in all of baseball given her past experience. In her almost 30-year career working in baseball she has held numerous high-ranking positions. She was hired to be the assistant GM of the New York Yankees in 1998 and in her four years with the team they won four American League Pennants and three World Series. She would then move on to become the assistant GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers for ten years. In 2011 she decided to move on from the Dodgers where for the past 9 years she held the position of senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball. This was one of the most prestigious positions within MLB’s operations. As you can see, she is more than qualified to earn a GM position but unfortunately accomplishments and experience isn’t the whole story when it comes to earning a position. She had been in the running for many GM positions in the past, but she kept missing out on the position. It would appear that the fact that she was an Asian-American female may have been holding her back from getting the opportunity she deserved. That is why this was such a historic moment when Marlins owner Derek Jeter hired her to become the GM of his team; it had marked the end of the years-long battle she was facing to break through racial and gender barriers.
This upcoming season will be unlike any the MLB has ever experienced. There will be no fans allowed at games, the season is only 60 games, DH’s are allowed in the National League now and players are going to be under constant testing and health regulations with the risk of Covid-19 always lingering in the background. While there are many new health and safety regulations put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus around the league there are no guarantees that they will be effective enough. Already since teams have joined back together for “extended spring trainings” there have been 66 cases of player and staff players who have the virus. This shows that the MLB’s testing regulations have not been able to control the spread of the virus within each team. This is before other teams start playing each other and coming into contact with many more people. As this virus has proven to be a large threat there are players who have already decided to sit out the season to ensure the safety of themselves and their family. There have been 13 players so far who have opted to sit out this upcoming season with the likes of Buster Posey, Ryan Zimmerman, David Price and a few other former all-stars being among them. When it comes to a player receiving pay and service time for sitting out this season the MLB has made a rule that if a player is considered to be at high risk from the virus they will receive their full pay and year of service time towards free agency if applicable. The rules set in place only account for players who are at high-risk, not those with family members who are at high-risk. I think that the MLB should allow players who sit out this season because they have a family member who is high-risk if they get the virus to still get paid. The safety of the players and their families should come above all else and a player shouldn’t have to decide between seeing their family or playing but no being able to see their family the whole season in order to keep them safe. On the other hand, if a player is not high risk or does not have any high-risk family members and he chooses to sit out anyways, I don't think he should be entitled to be paid.
In my opinion, I think that softball is sexist. One reason is that even though it is similar to baseball, they made the game simpler. Instead of having a diameter of about 2.87 inches like a baseball, a softball has a diameter of 3.8 inches and while a baseball is white a softball is neon yellow. This allows a softball player to see the ball better and to be more likely to make contact with the ball. Another reason softball is sexist is that when baseball players reach the age of 13 they are required to use a drop 3 bat which is heavier and a lot harder to swing while softball players can stick with the lighter bats with a drop that is around 10. Softball is also sexist because the distance between the bases is shorter than in baseball. It is unfortunate that even though girls are allowed to play baseball when they are young, they are pushed towards playing softball once they reach high school age. Some girls who may want to continue to play baseball are basically forced into playing softball. If they prefer to play softball that is one thing, but they should have the option to play either. I think they should create both a boys baseball and girls baseball team like they do with soccer and basketball. An example of a time when this happened was during World War 2 because most of the baseball players were overseas fighting. This was portrayed in the movie "A League of Their Own." It talks about how during World War 2 a women’s baseball league was set up to provide baseball for America in a difficult time. I think they should create a league just like that one.There should be the same rules just the league would be all girls. I think this would be fair because with softball it gives the impression that girls are weaker and less talented than boys which is clearly not the case.
In an offseason that has been unusually slow with free agent signings we have already seen quite a few blockbuster trades occur. The first occurred when the San Diego Padres acquired former Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays for a package highlighted by prospects Luis Patino and Francisco Mejia. Not to be outdone by themselves, the Padres then went on to acquire 2020 NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs for a package revolving around starter Zach Davies and four prospects. The Padres were not the only team making some big trades this offseason though. Recently the New York Mets acquired All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starter Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians for shortstops Andres Gimenez and Ahmed Rosario in addition to top prospects Isiah Greene and Josh Wolf. These trades both helped their respective teams greatly as it addressed what was probably the weaker points of both teams.
The San Diego Padres surprised many people in 2020 by making the playoffs and almost stole the division from the Los Angeles Dodgers. With a potent offense fittingly named Slam-Diego during the year, the Padres have an offense that can compete with almost anyone in baseball. While the offense centers around the left side of the infield duo in Fernando Tatis Jr and Manny Machado, the rest of the lineup is full of great hitters that can do damage. The thing that really held the Padres back was their starting pitching. They had a solid 1-2 punch in Zach Davies and breakout star Dinelson Lamet but after that the rotation left a lot to be desired especially with Chris Paddack not quite replicating his great rookie year. They had seemingly addressed this by trading for Cleveland star Mike Clevinger. Unfortunately, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery a few weeks after joining the Padres and is expected to miss the entirety of the 2021 season. What better way to sure up your rotation than to trade for two Cy Young caliber pitchers. Now the Padres will be entering 2021 with one of the deadliest big threes in baseball.
While the Padres are looking like one of the scariest teams in baseball for 2021, you can’t write off the New York Mets. The Mets are probably the biggest what-if team in all of baseball. The Mets have all the talent in the world with a great young offense and possibly the most talented rotation in baseball, when healthy. That has been the statement that has defined the Mets for the past few years: when healthy. If you look at the Mets rotation it has the potential to be not only the best in baseball but one of the best we’ve seen in the past few decades. The ace of their rotation is Jacob DeGrom who is considered by pretty much every baseball expert to be the best pitcher in baseball. He won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2018 and 2019 while finishing third in the Covid shortened 2020 season. You could not ask for a better pitcher to lead your rotation. He is followed up by All-Stars Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, who when healthy are two of the best pitchers in baseball. The reason that the trade with the Indians matters so much is that it was able to give the Mets rotation the thing they were missing which was depth. On a lot of teams Carlos Carrasco would be a number two starter. In my opinion he has been one of the most underrated pitchers for years. On the Mets he is going to be their number four starter. This rotation is in my opinion the best in baseball. The marquee acquisition with Cleveland was not Carrasco but shortstop Francisco Lindor. The Mets have been lacking consistency out their shortstop position for a while. No better way to fix this than by acquiring a top three shortstop in baseball. Lindor is a gold glove caliber fielder who can hit for power from both sides of the plate while getting on base at an elite level. This move helps to solidify the Mets infield while giving them a huge threat at the top of their lineup.
Looking back at these trades I believe that the Padres have put themselves closer to winning a World Series than the Mets have due to the fact that they seemingly only had one glaring weakness that they more than adequately fixed while the Mets still have one or two things they still need to sure up on top of making sure they can finally keep their players healthy. While I think the Padres are in a better spot currently, especially given their great success last year, I think the Mets are not done with making moves as new owner Steve Cohen has indicated and a lot can change before the season begins.
Comeback Player of the Year is an award that is given out to a player who is viewed to have had the biggest re-emergence in the league. This award is typically given out to players who are either coming off of a major season ending surgery that limited their production in prior years or players who had fallen off production wise only to return back to being an extremely productive player. This past year the AL Comeback Player of the Year award went to Salvador Perez who was coming off season ending Tommy John surgery in 2019 and the NL Comeback Player of the Year award went to Daniel Bard who after not playing in the MLB for seven years came back and pitched to a 3.65 ERA in 23 appearances, racking up 6 saves. For the 2021 season my prediction for AL Comeback Player of the Year is Joey Gallo and my prediction for NL Comeback Player of the Year is Stephen Strasburg. Joey Gallo is a player who has all the potential in the world but has yet to put everything together in a season while also staying healthy. Gallo has possibly the most raw power out of any player in the MLB. In 2017 and 2018 he hit 41 and 40 home runs respectively. These are superstar numbers for any player yet Gallo was not quite considered a superstar. This was because he had trouble hitting anything besides home runs. In the same years he topped 40 home runs his batting average was below .210 which is very bad. 2019 looked like the year he was finally putting it all together as he made his first All-Star team and was batting .253 with 22 home runs in 70 games before he suffered a season ending injury. When he returned in 2020 he did not look like the same player he had the year before as he batted .181 with only 10 home runs in the 57 games he played in the shortened season. The only bright spot was that he won a gold glove for his outfield play. I believe that if he could get back to the form he was showing in 2020 mixing his insane power with at least an average batting average to go along with gold glove defense he has the potential to be one of the best players in the MLB. For the NL Comeback Player of the Year, Stephen Strasburg is the clear favorite in my opinion. Strasburg is one of the most talented pitchers in all of baseball. The 2009 first overall pick has been an All-Star three times on top of winning the 2019 World Series MVP Award. Before the 2020 season Strasburg signed a 7-year, $245 million contract with the Nationals. Expectations were sky-high going into 2020 with him being a favorite for the NL Cy Young Award. Unfortunately, he only played in two games in 2020 with the second one being limited to one inning due to a nerve issue in his pitching hand. With him back to full health for the 2021 season, I can see him bouncing back and producing at an All-Star level once again.
As the pandemic stemming from the Covid-19 virus starts to slow down most professional sports leagues are gearing up to resume their seasons again as soon as they can. The MLS is set to resume in late June and the NBA and NHL are both planning on resuming play sometime in July as long as there are no further setbacks. The NFL is getting ready to start allowing players to start going to their teams facilities to prep for the upcoming season in the fall. Four of the five major US sports seem to be on track to resume soon and salvage what was supposed to be a lost season due to the pandemic. The only exception to this is the MLB. Opening Day was set for late March but the pandemic began sweeping the nation in early to mid-March, delaying the start to the season. Unfortunately there seems to be no progress towards starting the season anytime soon. The big cause of this is the issue of how players are going to be paid. The MLBPA had agreed that all players would be paid a percentage of their yearly salaries based off of the percentage of game the season would be. For example, if the season was 81 games, so half a normal season, players would only receive 50% of their original yearly salary. This logically seems like a pretty fair deal but then the MLB owners proposed a new deal where player would each be paid a certain amount based off of the teams revenue for the year as owners know their teams won’t be making as much money since the season would be most likely played without fans. This proposition would lead to the players taking more pay cuts in addition to the initial pay cut they agreed upon. As a result the players association filed a grievance against the team owners for significantly reducing players’ salaries and taking advantage of the players. While I do understand that players these players are making millions of dollars so a pay cut isn’t that significant, this is a major issue for players rights. The owners are trying to turn back on contractual agreements with these players and many players fear that if they give in now, the owners will continue to push harder to gain power and restrict the players rights. The most recent update from Commissioner Manfred states that he isn’t sure that there will be a 2020 season and there was a letter sent to the MLBPA from the MLB saying that until players waive any legal claims against the league that there will be no 2020 season. Unfortunately based off of the information that we know of there seems to be a lot of animosity between the players union and the owners. These have been issues that have plagued the MLB for a long time and unfortunately in this case the problems could cost the MLB season.