When will baseball begin, and what can we expect when it does?
Could Major League Baseball lead the charge of sports mercifully returning in the world? There is no guarantee when anything will happen amidst the ongoing coronavirus crisis, but there does appear to be a good chance that baseball will be the first sport or one of the first sports to resume whenever something does materialize.
According to reports, Major League Baseball and the players union are zeroing in on a plan that would have the 2020 season begin with all 30 teams playing games in the Phoenix, Ariz. area, which is one of the two spring training hubs. Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and other spring training venues would be used. Fans, of course, would not be part of the picture in the near future. Although the best-case scenario calls for an Opening Day in May, it is widely believed that a June start would be more likely.
The league confirmed that this one-location idea has been discussed, but it would not confirm that anything is close to being set in stone.
“MLB has been actively considering numerous contingency plans that would allow play to commence once the public health situation has improved to the point that it is safe to do so,” MLB stated. “While we have discussed the idea of staging games at one location as one potential option, we have not settled on that option or developed a detailed plan. While we continue to interact regularly with governmental and public health officials, we have not sought or received approval of any plan from federal, state and local officials, or the Players Association.
“The health and safety of our employees, players, fans and the public at large are paramount, and we are not ready at this time to endorse any particular format for staging games in light of the rapidly changing public health situation caused by the coronavirus.”
What can we expect to transpire this season if and when the 2020 campaign gets underway? Well, two of the game’s most renowned franchises are likely to be the cream of the crop. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are +400 co-favorites to win the World Series and they are +150 and +140 favorites, respectively, to capture the American League and National League Pennant. The Dodgers were one of the most active teams during the offseason, landing both Mookie Betts and David Price from the Boston Red Sox.
Despite their well-documented and controversial offseason woes, the Houston Astros are tipped to be the Yankees’ biggest threat in the American League. Houston is a +400 second choice in the AL and it is a -175 favorite to get the job done in the AL West. The defending World Series champion Washington Nationals are +800 second choices along with the NL East rival Atlanta Braves to triumph in the NL.
Washington and Atlanta boast two of the brightest young stars in baseball. Nationals left fielder Juan Soto is +900 to earn National League MVP honors. Braves center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. is a +550 favorite. Acuna, 22, is coming off a season in which he hit 41 home runs, stole 37 bases, scored 127 runs, and had 101 RBIs while batting .280.