by Hannah Begay | Crack open a cold one, grab a hotdog and take your seat! Baseball is back! Now while that seat won’t be in Section B Row 3 Seat 7 down the third baseline, the couch will have to suffice. Each game will be broadcast live on local and national stations so fans can still cheer for their teams.
After months of negotiations, teams have resumed practice as most have deemed this time “summer camp.” Strict COVID-19 practices are in place to ensure player and support staff safety. No more big wads of chew spit out in the dugout and no more mouthfuls of sunflower seeds only to be spit out faster than an Aroldis Chapman fastball. What they’re left with is good ole fashioned gum. There will be no more around the horn after a strikeout and there certainly won’t be the smiling kid collecting a home run ball from Pete Alonso this year either.
COVID testing will take place regularly. As we’ve seen in the NBA bubble in Orlando, each person was required to show two negative tests after a 48-hour quarantine in order to resume practice. The MLB players are being tested daily. Some teams, however, have complained of testing barriers. Test results are delaying practice start and end times as they are taking way too long to analyze. Sound familiar to anyone? Needless to say, there is no doubt games will be delayed due to testing. The real question is will inadequate and untimely testing impact player opt out decisions?
While players and coaches are disappointed there will be no roar of the crowd, they’re excited to get back to baseball. The Angels and Shohei Ohtani are looking to dominate the AL West, although not without concern. Three-time MVP Mike Trout is considering opting out of the 2020 season. The Angels as a team are stepping up precautions to ensure his safety. There is heavy emphasis on masks and players are policing each other. They are doing all they can to show Trout he will be safe this season with them. His wife is about to give birth and risking the life of his child for baseball is something he is just unwilling to do. He wouldn’t be the first star to do so either. Buster Posey and David Price among others have all chosen to opt out due to health concerns regarding the Coronavirus.
If Trout chooses to opt out for the season, the Angels have some work to do. How do you fill the void of a player like Mike Trout? Simple. You don’t. You find another way to win. Doesn’t have to be pretty but you find a way to win. It is also important to remember that Ohtani is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Even if Ohtani pitches the 60-game season with an ERA under 3, he cannot pitch every game. He only pitches once a week on the same day every week. The rest of the pitching staff of the Angels must come through and deliver. The good news is the team acquired Anthony Rendon in the off season. He’ll provide power throughout the lineup alongside Trout. Bad news, he’s currently out with an oblique injury and may not play in the season opener. Either way, the veteran manager Joe Maddon like all managers, has a tough task ahead of them during this unprecedented season.
As for the Angels crosstown counterpart, the Dodgers, they come into the 60-game season ranked 2nd in the MLB Power Rankings. They fall just below the New York Yankees who reign at the top spot. Of course, we all know rankings mean nothing. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts has lost newly acquired David Price for the season as he has chosen to opt out. Reigning MVP Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts are a dangerous combination. The key for the Dodgers is to have the lineup continuously support not only Kershaw but every man in the starting rotation. Playoff format is still up in the air. During the playoffs it’s all hands-on deck but you want your best guys for those games. That best guy for the Dodgers is Clayton Kershaw. Roberts must figure out how to strategically use Kershaw throughout the 60-game regular season so that he can continue to dominate in the unexpected playoff format.
Alongside Kershaw are Max Muncy and AJ Pollock who are the depth of the Dodgers. Each can play pretty much any position and right now they are both listed as day-to-day. Muncy and Pollock are the must-haves in order to win. Roberts says the expectations out of Dodgers Summer Camp is quite simple: lots of winning.
Bellinger has served the attitude and mentality of the team up on a silver platter by describing the team very simply as “ready.”
After months of watching reruns and binging Tiger King on Netflix, America’s favorite pastime is back.
The season officially kicks off Opening Day on Thursday, July 23, with the Yankees vs. Nationals at 7 PM EST on ESPN.