MLB’s biggest losers, and even bigger losers

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Major League Baseball, along with every other major and amateur sports league, was thrown into limbo in March. The excitement of spring training turned into nervous anticipation of what could be a fully canceled 2020 season.  

There will be very few winners in Major League Baseball amid the calamity — even a potential champion would inevitably look back upon this season and ponder the validity of their ring. The 2020 season, if it happens, already has a major asterisk on it. 

Professional baseball may be in a better position than most other sports, however, considering that the regular season had not yet started when lockdowns began, giving the league more options to keep the playoffs even with an abbreviated season. Yet, many questions still remain regarding the 2020 season, if there were to be one. 

While a shortened or canceled season won’t be ideal for any team, some clubs will be hurt more than others will be. Here are the losers, and even bigger losers, from MLB’s delayed start.  

 

Losers 

New York Yankees: At first glance, it may have looked like the New York Yankees had the most to lose from a canceled season. The Bronx Bombers were coming off a 103-win 2019 season and had just signed Cy Young runner-up Gerrit Cole to a massive nine-year, $324 million deal. On top of that, the Yanks finally looked primed to knock the Houston Astros from the top spot in the American League, after nabbing Houston’s ace and returning nearly their entire starting core.

Yet, amid the pandemic, another dangerous plague arose in the Yankees spring training camp: the injury bug. The Yankees have seemingly suffered from more injuries than any other team in the American League in recent years. Last year, New York had a league-record 30 players on its injured list, including former All-Stars Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez. During the offseason, starting pitcher Luis Severino, who won 19 games in 2018 but only pitched in three games last year due to injuries, underwent Tommy John surgery and is out for the year. Starting outfielders Judge and Aaron Hicks went down next, leaving the Yanks with what would have been a haphazard opening day lineup.

A silver lining to the pandemic, however, is that Judge and Hicks have the chance to get healthy — with their return set for early summer, they should be able to play by opening day of a potentially shortened season. As a whole, the Yankees squad will have a much-needed opportunity to regroup and rest up for what could possibly be its first championship season since 2009.

Houston Astros: Remember when everyone hated the Astros? Well, they still do, but you haven’t heard about it in two months. The ’Stros deservedly had an extremely rough offseason amid the cheating scandal and the poaching of their top pitcher, Cole, by their biggest competitors in the AL. Yet, much of this has been overlooked during the chaos of 2020. 

With the largest hindrance to the team’s success quite possibly erased, Houston will be able to better focus on its on-field play whenever the season resumes. The Astros will still return a stacked team that includes stars such as Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and ace Justin Verlander, and with this core, they are set to have a successful season — assuming that they are capable of playing well without cheating. 

 

Big losers

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers can’t seem to catch a break. They made the World Series in 2017 and 2018, but both times lost to teams later revealed to have cheated. The team was set up for another World Series run in 2019, but injuries and a Cinderella Washington Nationals team swiftly derailed that hope. The Dodgers then went out and traded for former AL MVP Mookie Betts, signing him to a one-year, $27 million deal. They seemed to have it made — nothing could stop them from their quest to end their 32-year-long championship drought now.

Well, shoot.

Now, Clayton Kershaw is on the couch during lockdown for what could be the last few productive starts of his career, while the Dodgers’ front office is nervously checking how much money and talent the Betts signing may cost the team. Against LA’s best effort, the squad’s window for winning a championship may be closing soon. The Dodgers still have a fantastic team and will compete for a title in the years to come, but this couldn’t have come at a worse time for the boys in blue. 

Oakland A’s: On the other side of the spectrum, the Oakland Athletics were jumping at the bit for a 2020 run. The A’s are coming off two 97-win seasons, but two straight losses in the winner-take-all wild-card games. With their entire core returning and the Astros susceptible to losing their grip on the division, the A’s were in a prime position to become the class of the West. Now, Oakland might have to wait until 2021 to see its team and its up-and-coming young pitching core, starring A.J. Puk, Jesus Luzardo and Cal alum Daulton Jefferies, take the field again.

Los Angeles Angels: The delayed season has spared no team, especially in the Golden State. Angels fans have been waiting for nearly a decade for a glimmer of postseason hope, and the last thing they wanted to do was wait longer. The Halos had signed former World Series champion Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245 million contract during the offseason to join Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons in a high-powered offense. The Angels are still plagued by one of the worst starting rotations in baseball, but it would have been interesting to see if the team could compete in the AL West with some added firepower at the plate. Instead, the baseball world is just looking at another wasted year of Trout’s generational talent in Anaheim.

Cincinnati Reds: While the Dodgers were looking to stay afloat atop the National League, the Cincinnati Reds were anticipating a run for the throne in 2020. The Reds signed veterans Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas to four-year deals in the offseason, joining the likes of Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Aristides Aquino in a formidable lineup. On the mound, 2019 additions Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer unite to form a competitive pitching staff.

Although still a team with a lot yet to prove, the Reds seemed primed to make a run at the NL Central title. The boys from Cincy will have to wait a bit longer for that chance — though aging Votto and Moustakas make that a tough pill to swallow. 

Noah Parker covers women’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].