Not only will the 2020 Major League Baseball season be short. It also will be can’t-miss.
Offseason storylines carry into every big league campaign, but the unprecedented nature of this season — a delayed start due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 60-game schedules, universal designated hitters, extra innings beginning with runners on second base, etc. — has overshadowed talking points that previously would have dominated the build-up.
Here are six storylines to follow in the 2020 MLB season.
1. Will champions be recognized as such?
One team will win the World Series later this year, but how will history remember that triumph? A 60-game sprint replaces the traditional 162-game marathon, and Hall of Fame reliever Mariano Rivera believes the winner of a short season shouldn’t call itself the “champion.” Others surely share that strong opinion.
2. Can the Washington Nationals repeat?
No team has won consecutive World Series titles since the New York Yankees did so between 1998 and 2001. Regardless of how you feel about the previous storyline, the Nationals are the defending champions and have set out to win back-to-back championships.
3. Who’s in or out?
Some big names have decided against playing in 2020. Among them are Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. Positive COVID-19 tests undoubtedly will sideline others for at least part of the season, so expect rosters to be in flux from start to finish.
4. Unique schedule/format
Divisional and regional play will determine which teams reach the playoffs, and the new format and rules definitely will favor some teams while hurting others.
5. Service time (is up)
The 2020 season will count as a full campaign in players’ contracts, and some players are entering the final year of their respective deals. Mookie Betts has enjoyed his brief time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he remains determined to test free agency after the season.
Other stars like Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado are under contract but have made clear their desire for a change of scenery. What the future has in store for them will come into better focus in 2020.
6. Changing times
Much of the world has been reckoning with racial injustice in recent weeks, and the sports landscape is doing so, too. The Cleveland Indians already have moved on from their “Chief Wahoo” logo, and pressure is building on them to consider changing their name.
Will players and other teams address racism, among other ills, in the coming months? The safe answer is “yes,” though it remains to be seen how they’ll do so.