With a full MLB 2021 season upon us, there is once again the anticipation of the unknown. Here are a few things to think about, though…
The MLB 2021 season will be off and running in seven days when MLB, local outlets, and ESPN will run full schedules day and night to capture the once and always thrill of Opening Day in the major leagues.
In theory, all thirty teams begin the day with an 0-0 record, each believing they have as good a chance as any other team to win a World Series title at the end of the season.
Logic and simple baseball reasoning tell us otherwise, though, and even from a distance, many of us can tell the pretenders from the “real thing.”
The unknown, though, that team or teams that capture the magic of a golden season where everything clicks remains the reason why we are fans and anxiously waiting for them to appear even if they are not the team we root for.
At the outset, though, it’s always best to look at the favorites in a race before placing a bet on the alluring long-shots. So, with that in mind, here are some (hopefully original) thoughts on the MLB 2021 teams deserving our attention – before others.
MLB 2021: San Diego Padres
There’s such a thing as doing too much, and it seems to be the Padres have crossed that line during the past offseason. If so, this raises the likelihood the team will be rudderless during the 2021 season while adjusting to the addition of several key components in their arsenal.
The addition alone of Blake Snell (a steal from the payroll-striking Tampa Bay Rays) and Yu Darvish showed that this was the moment the Padres meant business.
Not gone unnoticed either was the signing of IF Ha-Seong Kim, one of the most sought-after free-agent infielders on the market this winter.
Woelessly pitted against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West; it’s commonly assumed the Padres’ best hope in the MLB 2021 season is to be there as the number one Wild Card when all is said and done.
I’m not sure that’s a given Wild Card outcome for the Padres this year. For one thing, the NL East is, far and away, the strongest division among MLB 2021 teams.
From the Braves, Mets, and Nationals, one will win the division while the other two scramble for one of two Wild Card spots in the playoffs, and god forbid, the Phillies get their act together will add a fourth team into the fight.
Watch them closely, but the Padres can easily shape up to be the biggest duds (think Washington Nationals following a World Series title with a major disappointing 2020 season).
Prediction: The Dodgers are too much for the Padres to overcome to win the NL West, but they are in line to qualify as the number one Wild Card seed in the National League. After that, it’s anyone’s game in a crapshoot that defies logic of any kind.
MLB 2021: The New York Yankees
The perennial favorite to win everything, the MLB 2021 season has the Yankees in direct competition to face the Dodgers in this year’s World Series.
But don’t hold your breath because regardless of what comes out of the Yankees camp, this is no sure thing, except to say the Yankees will (as they always do) make the 2021 postseason.
However, there is a caveat to this, and it’s that the Yankees have a powerhouse everyday lineup that is virtually assured of leading the league in runs scored as they did last season.
But when you talk Yankees, the conversation of necessity always comes down to starting pitching.
This year, and to his credit, Brian Cashman saw two bonafide starters, one a two-time Cy Young winner, with questionable health reports and performances over the past two seasons.
Cashman said – “Go,” signing both Corey Kluber and Jamison Taillon to join the Yankees rotation for 2021. So far, so good, but time has yet to tell as each is pushed to as many as thirty starts (plus the postseason?) over the course of a six-month 162-game season.
Despite Zack Britton‘s loss indefinitely, the Yankees bullpen remains intact, with Aroldis Chapman showcasing a brand-new addition to his arsenal. After that, it will once again up to Aaron Boone to figure out the best means to use the team of relievers Brian Cashman has provided him with efficiently, and therefore effectively..
Moving to the Yankees position players, you have a still struggling Gary Sanchez as their number-one catcher, a veteran (now), who, despite repeated and ad nauseous votes of confidence, still manages to underperform both on offense (Strikeouts!) and defense.
Much hyped Gleyber Torres is also under the gun following a season last year that was pretty much “thrown away” when he reported to camp out of shape, causing his numbers to plummet until a surge saved his day in the postseason. Even so, Torres is not automatic in the Yankees’ future.
Much to the chagrin of the anti-Yankees force so prevalent among fans today, rest assured Aaron Boone will lead his team to a division title – but from there – who knows what?
This is it for the Yankees and Aaron Boone. Their inability to capture that elusive 28th World Title has reached the point of embarrassment. Boone, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aroldis Chapman, and Aaron Hicks all have put up or shut up seasons facing them. As always, the talent is there, but…
MLB 2021: The Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers always seem to be the team that does what they have to do to manage their way into the postseason – even though that’s when their season comes to an early close.
Craig Counsell may well be the most underrated manager in the big leagues today, but as they say – so what?
But with the addition of Jackie Bradley Jr., a last-minute and well-advised signing, the Brewers have solidified themselves with Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich making (arguably) the best defensive outfield in baseball today.
The rotation is sketchy at best, with Brett Anderson installed as their ace by default. But this a team that Craig Counsell delights in managing with the challenge to get the best of every player thrust his way.
With the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds still in the middle of a rebuilding program and the Chicago Cubs in-between and seemingly in nowhere land, the always-ready St. Louis Cardinals offer the most serious challenge to the Brewers.
Split with the Cardinals and destroy the rest of the division during nineteen times of play this season, and that can well be the ticket for the Brewers to upset the Cardinals.
Any appearance in the postseason will be brief without a sturdier starting rotation. Still, the Brewers are one of the more interesting teams to watch during the regular season – due mostly to Craig Counsell‘s ability to rally his team against all odds regularly.
MLB 2021: New York Mets
The vibe surrounding the Mets has been on high volume since the transfer of ownership to Steve Cohen. A prime energizer himself, Cohen has been seen meeting casually with fans at Citi Field and mingling with his troops in Florida.
But there comes a time when the dress rehearsal has passed, and it’s time to meet expectations with wins on the field.
To be sure, the Mets are an improved team from last year’s disappointing season. The starting rotation is still in flux, but it looks like Joey Luchessi has won the fifth spot. He will be working behind the Mets true superstar Jacob deGrom, and followed by Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker, and David Peterson.
Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard are both working their way back from injuries, and they’ll give second-year manager Luis Rojas plenty of room to maneuver by taking the hot hand(s) and running with them.
The Mets remain defensively challenged, committing eighteen errors in 20 Spring Training games to date. After one particularly leaky day in a game, the Mets felt compelled to set up a drill in which they duplicated all 27 outs in the final game of their last World Series title – a feat they happily managed flawlessly!
Replacing Wilson Ramos, the Mets brought in James McCann as their full-time catcher. He’s not Mike Piazza or Gary Carter, but he will handle the staff and contribute somewhat with his bat.
The main attraction this year is, of course, Francisco Lindor, who was obtained in a trade with the disassembling Cleveland Indians. Lindor is on absolute fire this spring – and not only with his play on the field – but also as an effervescent presence in the clubhouse.
Whether signed before Opening Day or after this year’s World Series when Lindor reaches free-agent status, the young man is a keeper and there’s no way Steve Cohen will let him escape from New York as the budding face of the Mets.
Pete Alonso remains the Mets’ primary power bat in their lineup. During the offseason, Alonso shed all of his social media accounts, claiming they took too much of his time and energy. His introspective approach is real and appears to be working as his play on the field recalls the out-of-this-world season he had in 2019.
Ensconced in what is arguably the most competitive division for MLB 2021, the Mets will have their hands full with the Atlanta Braves (almost everyone’s pick to win the NL East) and the Washington Nationals, who sport that one-two punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburgh to lead off any playoff series.
With MLB’s decision to return to a regular playoff format with only two teams earning a Wild Card plus the Division winners, the Mets will be part of a dogfight among several teams as qualifiers for a Wild Card spot. They also promise to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch during MLB 2021.
Quick Hits On A Few Other Teams:
The Los Angeles Dodgers won the 2020 World Series, but they still have to do it all over again over the course of a full 162-game season to make it “real.” My biggest worry about the Dodgers is the addition of “I, Me, Mine” Trevor Bauer, who already is making unnecessary noise on a team that doesn’t need it and may soon need to put a muzzle on him.
The Kansas City Royals have the best preseason winning percentage of any team in the American League. We all know what that means once Opening Day arrives, but the point is they are getting used to the feeling of winning. The Royals had a good rally at the end of the season in 2020, and with a young team of wannabees, they should be fun to watch and follow this year. Ditto the Florida Marlins.
The Toronto Blue Jays insisted on making a lot of noise this winter but in the end, all they took home is George Springer. “Home” is a relative word for this team due to COVID imposed border restrictions that force the Blue Jays (and don’t forget their opponents too) to play in a minor league ballpark, at least to open the season. They have a good group of talented young sons of former big leaguers – Cavan Biggio (Craig Biggio HOF), Bo Bichette (Dante Bichette), and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – but their pitching is wanton and they are in the same division of the Yankees…