While some are still shovelling driveways, baseball is right around the corner. Spring training gets underway February 28th. The "real thing" begins April 1st.
So, what will baseball look like in 2021?
Though they hope to play a full 162 games, doubleheaders will still be two seven-inning games. Each offense will get a runner on second to start each extra inning. However, there will be no universal designated hitter.
What about the fans?
Everyone hopes for there to be fans in the stands. When and where fans return to the ballparks, however, remains to be seen.
Before the exhibition season starts, I find it helpful to see what the oddsmakers are projecting for each team. Looking at the division odds (courtesy of Pinnacle) gives an idea of which clubs are expected to compete. I've provided the National League below and will check back soon with the American League.
The NL Central appears to be up for grabs with any team, except Pittsburgh, capable of winning. The Dodgers are heavy favorites in the West, the Padres their only possible competition.
You'll see that the NL East is expected to be a 2-team race between the Mets and the Braves. Fans of the Nationals and the Phillies probably feel differently. Bryce Harper, reportedly healthy and excited about his team, surely does.
Harper had this to say of Philadelphia's offseason: "We needed to be able to spend money, because we don't have the prospects to actually trade and do that. We were kind of in a predicament of, 'What can we do right now, but how can we prolong this for the next four or five years and not just one year?' So being able to kind to get a new GM, get a new president of baseball operations and kind of go from there. I mean, when Dombrowski came in, I was really excited, because I saw what he did in Boston, what he did in Detroit. I was sitting there thinking to myself, 'Man, well, yeah, we can possibly spend money. But do we have the prospects to kind of get the guys that we need to?' And I mean, I trusted so much in what Dombrowski was going to do, what Sam Fuld is going to do for us. I know how smart Sam is. I know how smart Dombrowski is. So I knew they were going to be able to do what they did. But I didn't know they were going to be able to do what they did like this. I was really pumped about it. And I was, quite frankly, a little shocked that they were able to do what they did."