Where have you gone Tuffy Rhodes and Kosuke Fukudome? If these former Chicago Cubs are on my mind it must mean Opening Day is nearly upon us. It also means it is about that time of year when baseball fans everywhere attempt to convince themselves this is the year their favorite ball club will come good and win the World Series. To use the phrase coined by Alexander Pope, hope springs eternal, although any fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Baltimore Orioles knows better than that. As the 2021 baseball season is upon us, I am relieved to have a season at all, since this was far from guaranteed given where we were as a world.
Every season presents new opportunities to see things in the game we have never seen before. I am keen to keep my eye on how the game will be played, as this may be the last season of baseball as we know it. The current collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the season, this means a lot of the rules changes which will be experimented with in the minor leagues will be coming to the big leagues in 2022 (Pitch clocks and electronic strike zones, anyone?). If we are to believe what MLB is saying, there will be a less lively baseball in play this season, which should make teams less reliant upon home runs. Casual fans love home runs, so you can pardon my incredulity on this one. The league intends to crack down on foreign substances being used by pitchers; who will be the first guy suspended when he gets popped by the pine tar police?
Hopefully this year will mean the last season of service time manipulation. We can thank the Seattle Mariners for saying the quiet part out loud. Baseball fans have grown accustomed to having to wait a month into the season before they get to see the best new talent the game has to offer. It is a welcome sight to see the Chicago White Sox bringing Andrew Vaughn north with them, unfortunately Jared Kelenic will have to pretend like he has something to prove in the alternate site, since minor league games won’t start until May. The young players are the true lifeblood of the game, so we fans would not be playing owner or general manager by rooting for teams to game the system in an effort to gain an additional season of team control over the player’s contractual rights.
Who will be the team that takes down the juggernaut known as the Los Angeles Dodgers, or will they meet their projections and be an all-time great team? Can Shohei Ohtani become the Babe Ruth for the 21st century? This is going to be a drama played out over 162 acts, and I am here for all of it; I cannot wait to find out who will be the heroes and villains in the tale of 2021.