Major League Baseball fans are in for a treat.
Like the year 2020 itself, this MLB season will be simply unforgettable. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of the campaign by three-plus months, setting the stage for a shortened season in which anything can, and probably will, happen.
With the agonizing uncertainty over whether the season will take place now behind us, and teams’ schedules for their 60-game regular seasons set, let’s look forward to what America’s pastime has to offer in the coming months.
Here are nine reasons to be excited about the 2020 MLB season.
1. (Not the best of) unique circumstances
The absence of fans from stadiums will create sights and sounds to which baseball fans aren’t accustomed. Like them or not, hearing mic’d-up players/coaches, pumped-in crowd noise or any other broadcast innovations will represent new experiences for fans.
2. Opening Day starts the sprint
Regardless of when it takes place, baseball fans love Opening Day. Although teams won’t begin their regular seasons until July 23 or 24, a frantic sprint for playoff spots will follow, with clubs determined and largely healthy enough to compete to the bitter end of their respective roads.
3. Special stats
Baseball fans have waited since 1941 for a player to hit .400 or better. Will this be the year someone finally follows Ted Williams in that hallowed company? Although the curtailed season might require an asterisk on a player’s .400 season, such an historic feat will represent something around which fans of all teams can rally and appreciate.
4. Dodgers’ lineup
Los Angeles’ lineup likely will include 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger and a host of other stars. The Dodgers are among the World Series favorites, and they might fulfill that promise if their run production meets expectations.
5. Wrath of/against the Astros
Players haven’t forgotten Houston’s central role in MLB’s sign-stealing scandal, and if spring training is anything to go by, pitchers might spend much of the season retaliating against the Astros. Doing so only will add some spice to each game Houston plays.
6. Shohei Ohtani returns to the mound
Ohtani has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is expected to return to the mound, where he went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings in 2018. Oh, and he also can rake at the plate, giving fans a chance to watch one of the top two-way players baseball has produced in generations.
7. Prime Mike Trout
Speaking of generational talents, the Angels center fielder remains the best player in the game. The three-time AL MVP is 28 years old and at the peak of his powers. Enjoy watching him, as he already is among the all-time greats.
8. Gerrit Cole in the Bronx
The Yankees signed the American League Cy Young runner-up to a record-setting contract in December. The megadeal only will add to the scrutiny Cole will face in New York, a place that rarely forgives players who fail their price tags.
9. Baseball is happening!
A pandemic, strife between players and owners and other factors threatened to prevent the season from taking place. The fact that it will happen, albeit in an abbreviated fashion, will offer fans a taste of what they have sorely missed in recent months. That alone is a reason for excitement.