Major leagues start Thursday; it’ll be a unique season. Here are some of the story lines I’ll be following:
13) Games without fans; they’re piping in crowd noise, but it does look strange seeing an empty stadium with a game going on.
Some teams are putting cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands; Dodgers covered the seats right behind home plate with a tarp. In the Bronx, those seats are just empty.
12) The extra inning rule will be interesting; each half-inning from 10th inning on starts with a runner on 2nd base, no one out. Teams are going to approach this differently; it’ll be fun to track who does what, and who does it better than other teams.
Good tidbit here: the runner on 2nd in extra innings will be listed as having reached on an error; if the run scores, it will be an unearned run.
11) There are 10 new managers; four have never managed in the majors before:
Cubs, Mets, Pirates, Padres all have rookie managers.
10) Joe Girardi taking over the Phillies from Gabe Kapler is a huge upgrade; if Zack Wheeler pitches well, the Phillies will be a contender.
9) Angels added 3B Anthony Rendon, manager Joe Maddon, but neither one of those guys pitches; former Mets manager Mickey Calloway is the new pitching coach in Anaheim, and he has his work cut out for him. Sounds like Shohei Ohtani will pitch every Sunday.
One thing about Ohtani’s starts; do they let him bat? If they do, they once he leaves the game, they’ll have to pinch-hit for the pitcher. Angels won’t have a DH in games Ohtani’s pitches, unless the DH hits for Ohtani, also.
8) Is Yoenis Cespedes healthy? Mets figure to score a lot of runs, especially if Cesepdes can go 100%; he ht a slow roller Saturday, but looked like me running to first base, so it is unclear if his legs are 100% or not. Mets need him to at least be able to run the bases.
7) You listen to MLB Network, and the Reds/White Sox will be like the 2001 Mariners, who won 116 games. Everyone is picking the Reds to win the NL Central; we’ll see how that goes.
6) Will teams that get off to a slow start dump contracts and start planning for 2021, or will they stay in it for the long haul? I’m thinking of the Indians and Francisco Lindor, in particular.
5) Texas Rangers have a new ballpark this season; early reports was that right field was less of a hitters’ field than the old ballpark. Left-center has shorter dimensions; will be curious to see how it plays, starting on Friday.
4) What the hell are the Blue Jays going to do? Canada won’t let them bounce in and out of their country, so where will they play their home games?
Buffalo is a last resort, and Pittsburgh is a possibility for 23 of their 30 home games. The other seven- Nashville? Tampa? Buffalo? Canada’s team could, for one year, become America’s team.
3) Definitely going to have to chart bullpen usage for every team; starting pitchers aren’t ready to go full-tilt yet. Pitching depth will be huge; some teams may go four innings with two guys each, then go to their closer. This will be handled in many different ways.
2) Astros lost Gerrit Cole, get Lance McCullers back from arm surgery; is their rotation deep enough to defend their AL West title?
1) 34-year old Josh Donaldson is on his 4th team in three years; he’s making a fortune from the Twins. Can he lead them to the playoffs?
TV highlights of the day: Live baseball games on TV; real games start Thursday.