Baseball is back, America. After a 60-game season in 2020, this year's complete 162-game schedule begins this afternoon in the Bronx.
Driving the news: MLB saw just 17 positive tests out of 72,751 conducted (0.02%) last Friday. But five Nationals are currently in quarantine due to a positive test — a reminder of how fragile any sense of stability will be.
The state of play:
- New ball: MLB is debuting a new ball that's supposed to decrease flight distance and possibly limit home runs. But based on spring training data gathered by The Ringer, it still seems juiced.
- CBA negotiations: The collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players' union expires on Dec. 1, and they'll need to agree to a new one to avoid a lockout. Negotiations should begin soon and will be a storyline all year.
- Changes that remain: Some of the changes MLB enacted in 2020 remain in effect, including seven-inning double-headers and placing a runner on second base to start each extra half-inning.
- New-look Minors: Dozens of minor league affiliates were eliminated or rearranged this offseason (see map). MLB will also test potential rules changes in the minors, including larger bases (Triple-A) and defensive shift restrictions (Double-A).
- Dodgers repeat? MLB hasn't had a repeat champion since 2000 (Yankees). That kind of parity is part of what makes baseball great, but the Dodgers are heavy favorites (+300) to win another World Series.
The big picture: Between the new ball, the new rules carried over from 2020, and the experiments being conducted in the minors, the push to evolve — and improve — the game of baseball has never been stronger.
66% of Americans say they feel comfortable attending an outdoor sporting event such as baseball, according to a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.
- Meanwhile, just 32% percent say they feel comfortable attending an indoor event such as basketball or hockey.
Opening Day schedule: 15 games
Early afternoon: The season gets underway at Yankee Stadium, which will continue to operate as a vaccination center through at least April 30.
- 1:05pm ET: Blue Jays (Ryu) vs. Yankees (Cole)
- 1:10pm: Indians (Bieber) vs. Tigers (Boyd)
- 2:10pm: Orioles (Means) vs. Red Sox (Eovaldi)
- 2:10pm: Twins (Maeda) vs. Brewers (Woodruff)
- 2:20pm: Pirates (Kuhl) vs. Hendricks (Cubs)
- 3:05pm: Braves (Fried) vs. Phillies (Nola)
Late afternoon: Five games, all starting at the same time. Make sure you power up the iPad for prime multi-screen viewing.
- 4:10pm: Diamondbacks (Bumgarner) vs. Padres (Darvish)
- 4:10pm: Dodgers (Kershaw) vs. Rockies (Marquez)
- 4:10pm: Cardinals (Flaherty) vs. Reds (Castillo)
- 4:10pm: Rays (Glasnow) vs. Marlins (Alcántara)
- 4:10pm: Rangers (Gibson) vs. Royals (Keller)
Night: The nation's capital will play host to the day's best pitching duel, with two multi-Cy Young winners facing off at Nationals Park.
- 7:10pm: Mets (deGrom) vs. Nationals (Scherzer)
- 10:05pm: White Sox (Giolito) vs. Angels (Bundy)
- 10:05pm: Astros (Greinke) vs. A's (Bassitt)
- 10:10pm: Giants (Gausman) vs. Mariners (Gonzales)
Fun fact: Max Fried, Jack Flaherty and Lucas Giolito were all high school teammates at Harvard-Westlake in 2012. Nine years later, all three are Opening Day starters.
- Fauci says going to a ballgame is "the one fun thing I can't wait to do" (WashPost)
- 21 dates to remember (USA Today)
- 21 bold predictions (CBS Sports)