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Major League Baseball’s Opening Day Comes And Goes

Major sports leagues like the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) have been on hold for two weeks with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing across North America.

When this shutdown happened, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced on March 12th that the season would be delayed a few weeks for Major League Baseball (MLB) as well. 

Today is March 26th, Opening Day for MLB, didn’t happen. 

Social media, particularly Twitter, was full of messages and hashtags regarding #OpeningDay  #OpeningDayAtHome but there were no games. Parks and their stands stood empty with no dramatic fastball’s or swings of the bat that knocked the ball out of the park.

2020 Season Story Lines To Watch

There are still some interesting stories that should unfold when baseball does resume though. Here are a few of those:

Houston Astros

We saw how the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal unfolded after their World Series loss against the Washington Nationals last year.

We wrote about their hiring of new manager Dusty Baker replacing the fired Art Hinch and what effect that move does for the Astro’s image going forward.

The Astro’s faced a barrage of fan feedback and heckling in the games they did play in spring training and that won’t let up in the regular seasons when it starts.

Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals, 2019 World Series Champions, should have a chance to defend their title, albeit in a shortened season. They are without Anthony Rendon, who went to the Los Angeles Angels, a separate story line in itself.

The Nationals have retained the majority of their 2019 team but won’t surprise teams like they did last season. A Wild Card Team that needed a 19-7 August amongst others to stay in contention, their pitching staff Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin should feel fatigue from their innings pitched in October.

Teams will also know what to expect from them now as well both on the mound at at the plate.

Anthony Rendon

Anthony Rendon’s move to the Angels is an interesting one because of the complement he provides to Mike Trout.

The Angels have finally found a piece that can give them a serious one two punch. An aging Albert Pujols is still a threat but not enough.

Trout was the American League MVP in 2019 with 45 Home Runs, and a .291 Batting Average but his OPS of 1.083 was a really telling stat to go along with his WAR of 8.2.

Anthony Rendon’s .319 batting average, 34 Home Runs and 126 RBI’s to go with a 6.4 WAR did not garner him an MVP but he did win the World Series as we mentioned.

With him and Trout in the same lineup, the Angels look dangerous at the plate!

Albert Pujols

We mentioned the aging Albert Pujols and his role on the Angels might be limited, but he is closing in on 700 Home Runs and 700 Doubles. That’s a huge milestone.

He’s already a career .300/.379/.549 hitter with over 3,200 hits and 2,000 RBI. Those are Hall of Fame worthy stats alone.

Pujols has a legitimate chance to be the first 700/700 player in baseball history. It could be tough though as the 2020 season won’t be 162 games as expected. Even with a full 2021 season, his age and health will also play a factor in getting to this accomplishment.

Toronto Blue Jays

As a Canadian, I follow the Toronto Blue Jays naturally and while they aren’t likely to make the playoffs this season, they were scheduled to start their season against the Boston Red Sox today.

https://twitter.com/BlueJays/status/1243260697091465216

The Blue Jays have some of the best young talent in the game in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Danny Jansen also show promise in the outfield and at catcher.

They also signed Hyun-jin Ryu to a monster 80 million dollar four year deal in the off season with the hopes of boosting their pitching staff.

They are in tough in the American League East with The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. The Yankees won 103 games last year and Tampa won 96. Tampa lost to the Houston Astros in the divisional round while the Yankees lost to the Astros in the American League Championship.

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Sports

Astros hire Dusty Baker as their new Manager

The sign stealing scandal that has rocked Major League Baseball over the past few months took an interesting turn last week as The Houston Astros hired Dusty Baker to replace fired manager Art Hinch.

Dusty Baker is the new Manager of the Houston Astro’s

The scandal has had far reaching implications for the Astros especially their 2017 World Series win. 

Astros Owner Jim Crane fired Manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow for their involvement despite punishment the team received from Commissioner Rob Manfred. Manfred handed out year long suspensions to both men, took away the organization’s first- and second-round draft picks for 2020 and 2021 and fined them $5 million.

The Boston Red Sox, who were managed by Alex Cora and the New York Mets who hired Carlos Beltran have both parted ways with their managers for their involvement as well. Cora and the Red Sox won the 2018 World Series, leaving many to speculate that that is how Boston won as well. 

Baker’s hiring represents a first step in attempting, and it may be too early yet, to repair some of the damage caused by the scandal. Baker has no connections to the organization and has a long successful resume despite never winning a World Series. 

He has managed The San Francisco Giants, the Chicago Cubs, the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals winning Division Titles and has the 9th best winning percentage among league managers at .532. He has 1896 wins as well.

Baker has the integrity and the respect of league and its players and managers. The Astro’s have little if any left of that and have become a laughing stock. How they move forward with repairing their image will be one of the more interesting story lines of the 2020 Major League Season.