No Mets, Braves, or Nationals this season for the Cardinals? That’s going to be weird. We continue Playing Pepper 2.0 by checking out those teams with National League ties on the East Coast.
|Atlanta||Kris Willis||Talking Chop||Kris_Willis||2020 Pepper|
|Miami||Sean Millerick||Call To The Pen||miasportsminute||2020 Pepper|
|New York||Greg Prince||Faith and Fear in Flushing||greg_prince||2020 Pepper|
|Philadelphia||David Esser||Section 215||DavidEsser_||2020 Pepper|
|Washington||Justin Howard||Half Street Heart Attack||HalfStreetHeart||2020 Pepper|
C70: Does the shortened season work for or against your team?
Kris: Originally, I would have said that the Braves were one of the teams that were built well for the shortened 60-game season. Then word came that Freddie Freeman and closer Will Smith were among four players that have tested positive for COVID-19. Provided that both Freeman and Smith don’t miss much time, I think the Braves have the necessary pitching depth to get the job done over a 60-game season. However, I am not sure that any team is prepared if their star players suddenly test positive and have to miss time. That is a dynamic that we have never had to deal with before.
Sean: Tough question to answer. Ultimately, a small sample size levels the playing field for every team. Couple hitters, pitchers get hot at the right time, and some team is making the playoffs in 2020 that would have been ten games out of the second wild card in 2019. For the Marlins, if Jonathan Villar and Caleb Smith can match their two best months from 2019, Miami could be in the race. But on the other hand, the Marlins will spend all season playing the NL East and AL East. The Fish were 24-52 in their own division last year, and went 0-4 against Tampa Bay. However many times the Marlins play the Orioles could be the number of times they are actually favorites to win. Win-loss wise, I think you have to say it hurts. But long-term? Miami should have a Top 3 pick again in a very deep 2021 draft, and most Marlins fans will be so happy to see baseball, they won’t even care about the losing it took to earn it. If I have to pick one, I’ll say it hurts because of the lack of a true minor league season. But you can really argue it either way with a rebuilding club- just depends what you’re prioritizing.
Greg: I honestly don’t know, but it will be nice to not be told to not overreact to a given game or series because it’s a long season. We’re fans. We love to overreact, and now we have every reason to.
David: 100% helps the Phillies. In fact, I’d go as far as to say the Phillies might be the team that gets helped out the most by a shortened schedule in 2020. The Phils were absolutely decimated by injuries last year. Andrew McCutchen went down early, Jake Arrieta went down early, David Robertson went down early, Jay Bruce missed some time late, and starter Zach Eflin missed a chunk of starts later in the season due to wear and tear. Instead of all these guys needing to be healthy for 162 games, they can focus on just staying in shape for the 60 game sprint that is approaching.
Justin: A shortened season is a talent equalizer, so you’d think the defending World Champions would be hurt by 100 fewer games (did I mention that the Nationals are the defending World Champions?). Having said that, this team went through a grueling October, and Max Scherzer barely survived the season in one piece. If we get a healthy Max, that reason alone makes a short season an advantage for the Nats.
C70: What are you most looking forward to seeing?
Kris: I am looking forward to just sitting back and watching baseball. This shutdown has shown me that I have taken the game for granted. The labor negotiations that we all went through just to have a chance to get back on the field in 2020 are another reminder that I need to enjoy this no matter what it looks like. So I am most looking forward to watching the Braves again but also watching the league. This is a sport that I enjoy and one that I rely on to take my mind off of more stressful things. I am going to try to worry less about wins and losses and to just sit back and enjoy the game.
Sean: Small sample size chaos. I’m looking forward to that one week where Miami goes 5-2 or 6-1, while the Braves and Nationals both struggle, and speculation begins. Are the Marlins a contender? Maybe they should trade for “hot reliever of August”. Give me that hot streak with overstated importance. With only 60 games, Miami might be a technical threat for half the season. Beyond that, reason to be excited about even one of the Marlins hitting prospects and no clear regression from anyone more firmly on the MLB roster would be great. If I get those three things, I’m beyond happy with the 2020 season.
Greg: From a curiosity standpoint, what the heck this will look, sound and feel like. I mean, geez, Major League Baseball with no fans in attendance, under an ever-present cloud, is so weird to contemplate. Throw in the sinful addition of the DH to the NL, the runner on second in extras affectation, no home team announcers on the road, everybody keeping their distance…dystopia or doable?
From a baseball standpoint, Jacob deGrom’s long-delayed first pitch of 2020. Over the course of those sixty feet and six inches, everything will feel proximate to normal.
David: Any sort of whacky statline. With just 60 games being played, it’s totally possible that we could see a .400 hitter or even a sub-1.00 ERA. If a guy like Cody Bellinger comes out scorching hot, we could totally see some absolutely bizarre numbers in 2020. Something that fans in 20 years will see in the record books and say, “Oh yea, that was that COVID year.”
Justin: Everything has been so negative lately, let’s discuss the positives for a minute. A 60 game season is incredibly exciting. Every game is automatically three times as important. There’s no “wait until later in the season” because we’re already there, baby. It won’t take long to see managers start to manage like the postseason. All of these division races will be decided by a few games, and managers will quickly figure that out.
C70: Do you believe the season will be fully completed? How about the playoffs?
Kris: This is a difficult question and I am not sure anyone knows the answer. I think MLB will try its best to complete the season but the reality is that it just depends on how the COVID numbers look. Right now things are certainly trending in the wrong direction. I think baseball will make every effort to complete the season but I would say that the odds are no better than 50/50.
Sean: To be honest, part of me still doesn’t even think it’s going to start. And I promise that isn’t lingering labor war disgust, just Covid concern. The weekend before the season was announced, I even wrote an article predicting both a deal and a canceled season. The gist was all these efforts to play are about saving face after months of fighting over money, before calling it on account of the pandemic. At this point, I’m willing to admit the season probably does get under way, but finishing it just seems unlikely. Neutral site playoffs if playoffs are played.
Greg: I’m back to I honestly don’t know. I change my mind several times a day.
David: I’m an optimist, so I do believe both the season and the playoffs will be completed. Not only is there a ton of money (and I mean a TON of money) wrapped up in a MLB season, but baseball seems like one of the safer sports to be playing right now. Players aren’t crashing into each other or constantly touching, and wearing a mask during a baseball game is possible. Soccer has seen some success in its return, and I feel like baseball will follow a similar path.
Justin: Nobody should make predictions. Not in 2020. Aliens could land in centerfield in opening day and I’d only be mildly surprised. But if I had to guess, I’d guess we finish the season. Look, I don’t know nothin about viruses, but if the players quarantine properly and then avoid high risk activities like bars and clubs, there’s no reason they all can’t stay COVID-free. But these are all dumb jocks and entitled millionaires, so I wouldn’t bet any money on it (but I’d throw a few bucks on the alien thing if you see a casino willing to take that action).