We renew our annual series, where we examine the main storylines heading into the upcoming MLB season. So for this piece, we will discuss 21 storylines for the year 2021 MLB season.
Storyline #1: CBA Negotiations!
Conversations between MLB and the MLBPA through the pandemic have not been gracious. Bickering and an overall lack of awareness have been put on full display. And it’s a bad look for both sides. Baseball, while being America’s Favorite Pastime, is also in the business of entertainment. So the last-ditch scrambles to figure out a deal with only minutes to spare isn’t going to work after this season. A new agreement must be made between the two sides because another work stoppage/strike is not an option. Baseball will likely not survive another self-imposed shutdown.
Storyline #2: Will Kris Bryant be traded?
For the last few seasons, this has been an ongoing storyline, whether or not Kris Bryant would remain a Chicago Cub. And now more than ever, it seems as if his time on the Northside is coming to an end. Some rumors have been swirling about the New York Mets’ interest in him. However, nothing concrete has been reported about any negotiations. So as the 2021 season progress, this will be an ongoing topic for discussion.
Storyline #3: Will the Astros face league-wide punishment for their crimes?
The Houston Astros would escape impending peril and doom in the pandemic shortened season of 2020. But with the 2021 season set to be a normal season by all current estimations, the Astros may face that long overdue punishment for their sign-stealing scandal. Whether or not this becomes a reality, we will have to wait and see just how things shake out in 2021. ￼￼
Storyline #4: Who will be the next superstar to sign a massive extension?
We have recently heard reports of both Francisco Lindor and Carlos Corra being “open” to extension discussions with their current ball clubs. However, neither man is looking for the distractions of such things to hamper and plague the upcoming season. So the storyline we will have to watch this season is who is the next superstar to get that big contract.
Storyline #5: Will this be the last we see of Future Hall of Famers Albert Pujols & Miguel Cabrera?
Father Time catches up to everyone. And even more so when you are an athlete. Your body is unable to maintain the same vigorous workout schedule and your skills diminish. And for Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, we may be seen the end of their historic careers. Thus far, neither man has announced that they would be retiring at the end of the campaign. However, it would be an easily acceptable assumption that they wouldn’t stick around long because of not wanting to tarnish their legacy.
Storyline #6: Will the Los Angeles Dodgers be able to repeat as World Series Champions?
There has not been a repeat World Series champion since the 1999-2000 New York Yankees. But the Los Angeles Dodgers seem poised to try and accomplish that very feat. No team since the 99-2000 Yankees has seemed so capable of repeating. However, the level of competition in MLB compared to other major sports is why we haven’t seen this be accomplished. The grueling grind of a 162 game Major League season is a team of endurance and fortitude. As well as needing a little bit of luck to go your way. So the question of whether or not the Dodgers can repeat will be one of the ongoing storylines in MLB in 2021.
Storyline #7: Trey Mancini’s Return to Baseball!
One year ago, Trey Mancini was battling for his life against colon cancer. This year, Mancini has beaten that and has rejoined the Baltimore Orioles and the game of baseball. Everyone in and around the game of Major League Baseball is pulling for Trey Mancini in 2021.
Storyline #8: How Will the Shohei Ohtani Experiment Fair in 2021?
When Shohei Ohtani came over to Major League Baseball from Japan, he was billed as the Japanese Babe Ruth. And while we’ve seen small glimpses of that in action, it hasn’t been done exactly as baseball fans pictured it. So now, heading into another season where the experiment should once again be attempted, we have to watch closely as Ohtani and the Angels try to navigate this experimental procedure.
Storyline #9: The Effect Shortened 2020 Season on Pitchers in 2021?
Coming off of the shortened 2020 campaign, MLB teams are going to be very cautious with their pitchers. Many of the league’s top pitchers who would be at or approaching the 200 inning mark are likely not even to sniff that innings limit. MLB teams will be extremely protective when it comes to the arms of their most valuable assets. But how the shortened season innings limitations will affect all pitchers in MLB will be one of the on-going season-long storylines.
Storyline #10: Who Will be the Breakout Team of 2021?
Going into the 2021 season, many intriguing teams could breakout. However, which team will be the standout will be the on-going question. The San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, and the Miami Marlins could all breakout in big ways this season. Or could it be another team entirely that makes themselves known as the breakout team of the 2021 season?
Storyline #11: How Will the “New” Baseballs Affect the Game?
Earlier this Spring, we would get reports about new baseballs being used this season. And these new baseballs were designed to reduce the surging homerun rates across Major League Baseball. Now, after years of being told repeatedly that there was nothing different about the balls being used in MLB, despite evidence to the contrary, this year, MLB officials made some changes. This begs the most obvious question: if nothing was done differently to the balls to make to fly further, why would you have to alter them now to make them fly less? This is just one of the storylines we’ll have to wait and see play out this season.
Storyline #12: Minor League Rule Changes
We would also learn this Spring of some changes being made in the Minor Leagues to experiment for the Majors. Many of these changes could have adverse effects on the game of baseball. From changing the size of the bases to limiting the shift to limiting the number of pickoffs attempted during a given at-bat, these changes could dynamically harm the game. So this will be one of the storylines for which the most attention must be paid. Altering the game with some of these changes would directly and adversely affect teams and their chances of winning.
Storyline #13: Are PEDs Still a Major Problem?
The punishment policy implemented by Major League Baseball to combat the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs has seemingly worked. Each year we are faced with fewer and fewer cases of players using PEDs. From what was a huge black cloud and scandal just seven years ago with the Biogenesis clinic, baseball has relatively been cleaned up. Yes, Robinson Cano was popped for the second time in his career, and there are usually a few lower-level prospects that get caught as well. However, the overwhelming majority of players aren’t being suspended from the game. So the question must be asked, are PEDs even a problem anymore in MLB?
Storyline #14: Playing Baseball Under the “NEW” Normal
One thing that we have seen play out about the beautiful game of baseball is that it’s resilient. Baseball has suffered through multiple strikes and stoppages. However, none stranger than in 2020 and leading into this season. So as the 2021 season quickly approaches, players, coaches, teams, front offices, reporters, and fans alike wonder about the guise of navigating this new life, this new terrain. Watching how players and teams choose to approach the early part of 2021 will be something to watch. And as the season continues, such storylines become more intensified, leading to the observation of the “NEW” normal in baseball.
Storyline #15: Can Mike Trout Make it Back to the Postseason?
When it comes to Major League Baseball’s best player, there’s little debate; that player is currently Mike Trout. However, sadly Trout has not been able to be showcased or featured as he should. And that reason for the lack of exposure for the game’s best? His team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, have only made the postseason once in Trout’s DECADE in the Majors. Fernando Tatis Jr, who some would argue is the new face of baseball, already has doubled the number of games that Mike Trout has played in the postseason in just 2020 alone. So a season-long storyline and question will he can the Angels and Mike Trout make it back to the postseason?
Storyline #16: Young White Sox + Old Manager =????
One of the most intriguing teams heading into 2021 is the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox would make a few moves this offseason to bolster their team and improve their postseason odds. But one of the most interesting moves that the White Sox made was not actually on the field but in the dugout. The Chicago White Sox would hire the legendary Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to be their new manager. The last time Tony La Russa managed a game, Albert Pujols was still a St. Louis Cardinal. And Albert’s been in Anaheim for nearly a decade now. So it will be an interesting season in the Southside of Chicago and one of the season’s storylines to watch for in 2021.
Storyline #17: Without a Minor League Season in 2020, How Will MiLB Players Fair in 2021?
Due to the global pandemic, the 2020 Minor League season was scrapped. And with that stoppage comes the lack of development for the next wave of Major League Baseball’s future stars. This season we are expected to have a Minor League season that will begin about a month after the Major League season. The lack of a MiLB season in 2020 will affect the board. But the depth of regression and setbacks won’t be assessed until this year once Minor League games begin.
Storyline #18: What’s Going on with the Colorado Rockies?
This offseason would see the dramatic saga known as the Colorado Rockies reach fever pitch. Colorado would trade Nolan Arenado away to the St. Louis Cardinals. The return they received is honestly an underwhelming package given the elite level of play of Nolan Arenado. However, for Colorado, this is just another strange move. From the lack of urgency in resigning DJ LeMahieu several years ago to the front office and the owner seemingly not having a contention plan in the NL West. This Colorado Rockies organization has been an absolute train wreck, and it doesn’t seem like the train is getting back on that track any time soon.
Storyline #19: Last Year of Pitchers Hitting in the NL?
With the looming CBA negotiations at the end of the season, one aspect of baseball seems to be on its way out the door, pitchers hitting. And I, for one, can not be more excited about this fact. Over the Laracuente Ledger Network’s existence, both in print and on-screen, I have made my feelings abundantly clear about my disdain for pitchers hitting. However, there is about half of the baseball community that “enjoys” watching pitchers hit. And they always cite pitchers like Madison Bumgarner as their reason for keeping the antiquated style of play. But it seems as if the new CBA will come with the Universal DH.
Storyline #20: Can Aaron Judge & Giancarlo Stanton Surpass the M&M Boy’s Teammate Season Homerun Total?
Since Giancarlo’s acquisition in the offseason prior to the 2018 season, Yankee fans and baseball fans have been hoping for a homerun barrage. Not since the M&M Boys or Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris have two teammates been so capable of chasing down homerun history. One of the on-going storylines of this season will be if Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton can surpass the 115 homeruns that Mantle & Maris combined for in 1961.
Storyline #21: Who Will Win the World Series
Every season this is one of the ongoing storylines as the season begins, who will be crowned as the World Series champions. As new teams emerge as contenders and perennial favorites strengthen their cases for the crown, we have to ask the question Who will win the World Series?