MLB: Six Things to Watch for on Opening Day

Photo Credit: USA Today

Baseball is back.

In its play through a worldwide pandemic-sort of way.

As the 2021 Major League Baseball season attempts to return to normalcy there are several things to watch for.

RULES

The MLB season is anticipating a 162-game season. This will include the Designated Hitter for only the American League. Other changes include the following:

Doubleheaders will be two seven-inning games. Each offense will start with a runner on second every extra inning until a winner is determined.

The active roster limit is 26 and will expand to 28 in September.

All clubs are permitted to carry up to five additional players on a Taxi Squad on all road trips.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have agreed on COVID-19 health and safety protocol rules for the 2021 season, the league announced Tuesday. They have agreed on terms for both spring training and the regular season, and the protocols will impact players on and off the field.

Impact of the Virus

Last year MLB played 60 games because of the coronavirus and barred all ticket sales until the championship series and World Series in Texas. Fans will return but how many? And what kind of impact will they have on the game itself? Many questions are surrounding each team and how varying state regulations will impact attendance and team revenues.

Related Article – MLB: Top 5 Pitching Rotations Ahead of the 2021 Season

Fan interaction has always been an important staple to the game. Whether it’s playing catch in the outfield, signing autographs, or taunting the opponent, MLB fans are unique. Cardboard cutouts were cool for a bit. Surely nothing’s better than in-person whistles, high-fives, chants, and yelling at umpires.

Another question. How will stadiums accommodate fans and their experience? The Atlanta Braves have introduced cashless payments and will allow fans to order from their seats using credit cards. Other teams will have to abide by state regulations as people continue to get vaccinated.

The same could be said for the media. Will players and coaches continue to do Zoom interviews or will the league be innovative?

Innings Limits

Starting pitchers’ workloads have been declining for years so how will managers handle a 162-game season? Will there be a continued trend of using an opener? Teams will likely be very cautious in reacting to any discomfort. Health will play a vital role in the success of teams — whether a pitcher or player contracts the virus or gets injured. Depth and the number of quality arms will be critical for contenders. And on top of all of that, MLB still has the three-batter minimum rule in place.

Houston Astros

Four years removed from its 2017 championship season where fans and opponents were livid at the team for stealing signs, how will fans treat the Houston Astros this year? The pandemic gave the Astros some relief. The team advanced to the ALCS before the Tampa Bay Rays advanced to the World Series. It will be an interesting dynamic to see how the team is treated both at home and on the road. A better question might be what happens if they continue to have success?

Related Article – MLB: Top 5 “Worse Than You Think” Teams in 2021

NL West Race

The Los Angeles Dodgers will attempt to defend last year’s World Series title. They’ll do so with perhaps the most pitching depth of any team in the league. In the offseason, they added reigning NL Cy Young award winner Trevor Bauer to the rotation. They also have Clayton Kershaw and former AL Cy Young award winner David Price.

The San Diego Padres loaded up in the offseason in attempts to compete for their first World Series title. They traded for pitchers Blake Snell and Yu Darvish while giving Fernando Tatis Jr.‘s baseball’s longest deal in history at $340 million for 14 years. They also added closer Mark Melancon to the bullpen.

Aces Wild

Opening day is Christmas for baseball fans. That means every team will throw its ace and there are some intriguing matchups to open the new season. In the NL East, Washington Nationals Max Scherzer will face New York Mets Jacob deGrom and Atlanta Braves’ Max Fried will battle Philadelphia Phillies Aaron Nola. Darvish will make his debut for the Padres facing Arizona Diamondbacks’ Madison Bumgarner. In an AL East showdown, Toronto Blue Jays’ Hyun Jin Ryu opposes New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole.

No matter your team or reason, make sure you check out the 2021 MLB Opening Day.

Don’t agree with Michael’s ideas on what to watch for on Opening Day? Let us know.

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Follow Michael Christopher on Twitter @chop2datop.

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