Hope springs eternal on Opening Day in Major League Baseball. All 30 teams are tied in the standings and everyone has an equal shot to grab the glory. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday will not be the first day of the MLB season.
We’ll have to wait for memorable moments, such as Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ hitting the very first pitch of the 2018 season out for a home run off of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena.
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw gave us a show in 2013, throwing a complete game shutout against the San Francisco Giants. Kershaw punctuated the 4-0 victory by also breaking the scoreless deadlock with a homer off reliever George Kontos.
Toronto Blue Jays outfielder George Bell, the reigning AL MVP in the designated hitter role, terrorized Kansas City Royals starter Bret Saberhagen for three home runs on Opening Day in 1988. He became the first player to go deep three times in the first game of the season and helped lead the Jays to a 5-3 victory.
Opening Day will have to wait, but here are some of the storylines that would have been on display had MLB began the 2020 season:
The Toronto Blue Jays got their man on Dec. 27, signing former Los Angeles Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year, $80 million deal to be the ace of their staff.
While the team never officially named Ryu as the Opening Day starter, GM Ross Atkins did indicate the direction the team was leaning.
“It's going to be hard to see a scenario where it's not Ryu,” Atkins told the media during spring training.
Late Hall of Fame starter Roy Halladay is the franchise leader in Opening Day starts, having thrown the first pitch of the season seven times, and last season’s incumbent Marcus Stroman is now pitching for the New York Mets.
Ryu is no stranger to the Opening Day start as he took the ball last season for the Dodgers against the Arizona Diamondbacks, surrendering one run over six innings in a 12-5 victory.
TRASHING THE ASTROS
After an off-season of revelations and a spring of mostly avoided questions, Thursday would’ve been the first time the Houston Astros would have to face the baseball world in a game that counts since their cheating scandal made headlines.
The 2017 World Series Champions were slated to open the season at home against the Los Angeles Angels in a game that surely would’ve drawn national attention.
An MLB investigation during the off-season revealed that the Astros were using video equipment at Minute Maid park to steal signs and then relaying them to hitters by banging on a trash can in the hallway leading to the clubhouse during their World Series championship season.
No players were suspended as a result of the investigation, but manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were both banned from baseball for a year and fired by the team.
The Astros were leading the league in getting hit by pitches before spring training was shut down, a possible harbinger of what is to come when the season finally gets underway.
BETTS GOES HOLLYWOOD
Los Angeles Dodgers were set to host the San Francisco Giants in the much-anticipated L.A. debut of Mookie Betts, acquired in what turned out to be a long, protracted deal that at one point was also going to involve the Minnesota Twins, but ended up as a two-team trade.
In Betts, the Dodgers have added a former MVP, World Series winner, four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger.
He is also 27-years-old and hit 29 homers with 80 RBIs and a .295 batting average last season.
Betts is in the last year of his contract and will earn $27 million before taking his shot at free agency, unless the Dodgers sign him to an extension.
He is simply one of the game’s best young players.
The Washington Nationals finally got over the hump in 2019, as the team that couldn’t win a playoff round won it all, claiming the World Series in seven games over the Houston Astros.
Now the hard part begins.
The 2000 New York Yankees are the last team to successfully defend a World Series title as they won the last of three in a row for the Bronx Bombers.
The Nationals would’ve opened the season against the New York Mets at Citi Field in one of the first two games of the day.
Max Scherzer, who also got the ball to begin the 2019 season, would likely have been on the mound to get things started for the defending champions.
PUJOLS SAYS HEY!
Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols enters the season with 656 career home runs, which places him four behind “The Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time list.
The 40-year-old hit 23 homers last season in 131 games, and while his production has slowed since his days with the St. Louis Cardinals, a few more consistent seasons will put him in line to pass Alex Rodriguez (696) and Babe Ruth (714) on the all-time list.
Pujols has not announced how long he plans to stay in the game, but we should see him tipping his cap to the former New York and San Francisco Giants legend at some point this season.