Remember back when this all started we were finishing up our Playing Pepper series? With so many things different now, I thought I’d shoot a few quick questions to a representative of each team to see how things were looking for them. Let’s start with the AL East!
|Baltimore||Domenic Vadala||Birdland Crush||DomenicVadala||2020 Pepper|
|Boston||Ruben Lipszyc||Ruben's Baseball||Baseball_Ruben||2020 Pepper|
|New York||Tom Krosnowski||Pinstripe Alley||PinstripeAlley||2020 Pepper|
|Tampa Bay||Mat Germain||Mat_Germain_||2020 Pepper|
|Toronto||Kate Stanwick||Bluebird Banter||OhKStan||2020 Pepper|
C70: Does the shortened season work for or against your team?
Domenic: Well first off keep in mind that 2019 was the first full season of a total rebuild for the Orioles. So odds are a sixty-game season in 2020 won’t have much affect on them at all – short of delaying the rebuild a bit. However if there’s an immediate affect in 2020, I’d say it would work for the Orioles. With an expanded playoff system, sixty games is almost perfect for something fluky to happen. If you get on a few elongated winning streaks, you could find yourself in contention. You just never know.
Ruben: The Red Sox are very short on starting pitching. With David Price getting traded, Chris Sale out for the season, and now Eduardo Rodriguez diagnosed with COVID, our rotation is Nathan Eovaldi, and then pray for a lot of rain. Guys like Martin Perez, Ryan Weber, and Collin McHugh are fine as #5 starters or fill ins, but when these are the 2,3,4 pitchers in the rotation, the fewer games that are played, the better. Alex Verdugo was also unavailable earlier this season, and now he’s fully healthy, so overall the shorter season can only help the Red Sox.
Tom: As far as the Yankees are concerned, shortening the season probably helps them more than it hurts them. The Yankees are expected to make the playoffs fairly easily whether the season is 162 games or 60, so playing fewer games might be a good thing for the club. Key players like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton and Aaron Hicks are all back at full strength for Opening Day, while they all would have missed the original Opening Day in March.
Of course, shortening the season means there’s less time for course-correction after an ordinarily-normal cold stretch. If the Yankees start off slow for whatever reason, there’s much less time to make it up, which could provide more opportunity for other AL East teams. But, seeing as the Yankees will now play a higher percentage of games with their players at full strength than they would have before, I’d lean towards the shortened season helping the Yankees.
Mat: IMO, for the Rays it’s good either way, because I expect all teams will have to deal with COVID cases, players opting out, or players getting injured. With them being so deep at all positions, if a season is played to the post-season they should have the team to take one of the top spots.
Kate: Probably for. The Jays weren’t a team likely to make the playoffs this year, but I’ve seen mentions of them being a team to keep an eye on now. In a shorter spurt that would likely now include Nate Pearson for the vast majority of it, anything can happen.
C70: What are you most looking forward to seeing?
Domenic: Probably just baseball in general. It’s amazing how the virus zapped sports overall. Late winter/early spring is such an exciting time in the sports world between March Madness, the NBA/NHL finishing their regular seasons, and baseball starting. To not have that experience this year was devastating to a lot of fans. So just seeing live games that mean something as opposed to recycled games from previous seasons on television will be refreshing.
Ruben: Eduardo Rodriguez looked like he finally put it all together last year, and finished very strong, going 11-2, with a 2.56 ERA from July onwards. I had been looking forward to seeing if he could maintain that pace, and become a trusted ace-level pitcher. Hopefully his recent positive COVID test is something that he will recover from quickly and not affect his playing.
Tom: Yankees fans have longed for Gerrit Cole ever since the team drafted him in 2008 (he didn’t sign). Then, the team sat on its hands when he was traded from Pittsburgh to rival Houston after 2017. Now the Yankees finally have their ace, and a global pandemic delays the season.
It will have been over seven months since the Yankees signed Cole when he finally suits up on Opening Day. Yankees fans shouldn’t ever have much to complain about, but they have waited a long time to see Cole pitch. Hopefully he’s the missing link the Yankees need to get over the hump.
As an aside, the start of the season marks the first prolonged time that Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez will all be healthy at the same time since the very end of 2018. If they’re all healthy, they could finally put up the massive numbers expected of them together.
Mat: Honestly, Baseball with fans in the stands – but I don’t see that happening in 2020. So I guess what I’d like to see most is Wander Franco forcing his way into some games as the Rays 3B, Hunter Renfroe stepping up to become a top 3 slugger in the AL, and Charlie Morton leading the Rays to their first title – even if in a shortened season.
Kate: Nate Pearson making his major league debut is at the top of my list of things I’m looking forward to. A close second is (hopefully) a brewing lethal offense. We’ve watched and heard so much about this young core as they rose up through the minors, and I’d love to see them find some synergy and show us what they’re capable of.
C70: Do you believe the season will be fully completed? How about the playoffs?
Domenic: I’m optimistic that both the regular season and playoffs will be completed. I don’t know why I am, I just am. Now whether fans are admitted is another story. But I have a hunch that everything will progress from this point as it should.
Ruben: No. In fact, I’m not even convinced it will start. I really hope I am wrong. Not because I don’t miss baseball (I do!), but because if it doesn’t finish it means that the COVID situation will have only become worse, and that has repercussions that are much more far-reaching than just baseball. As most pre-2004 Red Sox fans would say, “I’m hoping for the best, but expecting the worst”.
Tom: Maybe I’m just being optimistic, but I think the season and playoffs will be completed. Players will get the virus, but MLB and the players have set up as good of precautions as they possibly can given the circumstances. Preventing the spread is the key now, and the players seem to understand that and are wearing masks and socially distancing when possible.
Several prominent players are opting out, but those who remain won’t play the regular season only for the playoffs to be canceled. It’s going to be a strange season, but it’ll be a baseball season nonetheless!
Mat: Sadly, I don’t expect it will and it really is because of this: once players, coaches, umpires or staff members die from the virus, it will change the tune of the conversation significantly. Should that happen, I really can’t see MLB (or the players) going through with the season. Crossing my fingers that I’m wrong and that MLB will somehow avoid that kind of tragedy.
Kate: I do, surprisingly. With so much fear and despair reigning these days, I would think having something to distract everyone and lift spirits will remain a priority (especially if there’s significant financial incentive too). If they’re moving forward now with things as bad as they are, it seems likely to continue as planned. However, I am fully supportive of anyone pulling the plug on this season if need be.