We’re into May, which means we’re only a bit more than one-sixth of the way through the baseball season. Every team will play a full 162-game schedule, unlike last year with the pandemic-shortened sixty games. That means there are all kinds of fun storylines to watch with nearly five more months to go before the playoffs.
Here are a few baseball topics to keep an eye on as we venture further into the 2021 baseball season.
Fans Can’t Agree on the New Extra Innings Rule
Some people call baseball America’s pastime, but the reality is that football dominates in the US. The NFL gets consistently higher ratings than baseball, with some college football games beating out professional baseball games as well.
The NFL just had their draft, which garnered plenty of attention. Players like Trevor Lawrence might turn around a franchise’s entire future, and these young men are eager to show what they can do. Never mind that Boston University states that every year a player stays on the field increases that individual’s chances of developing CTE by 30%.
Most people consider baseball to be safer, but every year, the league and the MLBPA try to develop new rules to make it more fan-friendly. Some fans complain that games are too long since a tie ball game can lead to a fifteen or eighteen-inning marathon spanning five hours or more.
Last year, when the pandemic hit, the league decided to try out some new rules. One of them was to start every tie ball game that went into the tenth inning with a runner on second base for each team. This often led to shorter games, since many times, that runner scored either in the tenth inning’s top or bottom.
They brought back that rule this year, even though they got rid of some of the others, like the universal DH for both the National and American leagues. The problem is that some fans seem to love it because of how it makes games shorter, while others can’t stop complaining about it on social media or radio call-in shows.
It’s unclear whether the league will continue with this new rule past this year. Generally, younger fans seem to like it, while older, traditionalist fans despise it. Maybe if the league wants to make it a permanent rule, these disgruntled fans will come around in time.
Ronald Acuna Jr. is Fun to Watch
The Braves are one of the more exciting teams in Major League Baseball right now. They have some veteran players, like last year’s National League MVP, Freddie Freeman. However, they also have some stud players in their early twenties like Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr.
It’s hard not to look at Acuna and see the face of Major League Baseball going forward. Acuna plays the game with energy and heart. He’s a five-tool player, equally capable of making a dazzling defensive play or launching a ball five hundred feet to dead center.
The problem is that the Braves remain inconsistent, currently sitting at four games under five hundred. Nobody seems ready to run away with the National League East, though, with the Nationals presently leading with a 12-12 record.
That division should be a dog fight for most of the year. If the Braves can get more consistent starting pitching, they might be able to ride Acuna, Albies, and Freeman to a postseason berth.
The Cubs and Reds Still Don’t Like Each Other
Every year, it seems like the Cincinnati Reds get into a benches-clearing brawl with one or another National League Central Team. It might be the Pirates or Cardinals, but this year, the Cubbies have been in their sights.
The NL Central is another division that doesn’t seem to have a clear favorite. Milwaukee leads at five games over five hundred, but the rest of the four are close behind. That means that like the NL East, no one should be out of contention for most of the year, except perhaps for the mismanaged Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Reds and Cubs usually have problems when Amir Garret pitches. The big left-hander tends to be demonstrative when he gets a key strikeout, and the Cubs didn’t like it too much when he did that last week.
Considering that the Reds dropped seven games in a row at one point and we’re hardly into May, Garret should probably keep his head down and do his job. Getting suspended for inciting a brawl is hardly going to do Cincinnati any favors.
Mets Fans Demand Immediate Results
The Mets brought in Francisco Lindor during the offseason. That’s noteworthy because he’s a power-hitting shortstop with great defensive capabilities. The Mets gave him the biggest contract in the team’s history, and he should be there for many years to come.
The only problem is that he’s hitting under .200 for far this year, and his home run and RBI totals are nothing noteworthy either. The team’s fan base forgave him for the first couple of weeks, but now they’re booing him at home with each strikeout or weak ground ball that he hits.
Lindor came over from Cleveland, and even though the fans there enjoy baseball, they’re not going to make you feel the same type of pressure that New York fans bring to the ballpark every day. New York is a baseball hotbed with knowledgeable Yankee and Met fan bases that demand excellence. Lindor hasn’t shown them that yet, or even competence.
It seems likely that Lindor will snap out of his funk sooner rather than later. In the meantime, he’s learning what so many before him have: once you put on a New York baseball team’s colors for the first time, the expectations change, and you’d better produce. The Mets have decent starting pitching, so if they can get a little more offense from Lindor and others, there’s no reason to think they can’t contend in the NL East this year.