D.A.: The 10 Biggest Questions For MLB's Return

Baseball is finally back after a four-month hiatus, but as D.A. observes, plenty of questions remain unanswered

Damon Amendolara
July 24, 2020 - 11:47 am

After a fourth-month hiatus, baseball has finally risen again. MLB's reboot has been met with enthusiasm, due mostly to a dearth of live sports for so long. The labor battle, which gobbled up so much of the spring, will have lasting effects, but for now the nation seems ready for its summer sport to take the field. With this in mind, let's tackle the most pressing questions of 2020. 

10) Where will the Blue Jays play? 
We've never seen anything like this, at least not in modern times. Yeah, 120 years ago the Cleveland Spiders drew so few home fans they actually stacked the schedule with road games to hedge financial losses. These Blue Jays would prefer to play at home, but their government is telling them it would be unsafe for all of Canada. On the road they go, and now the secondary option of sharing a ballpark with the Pirates got nixed too. Will it be Buffalo (with makeshift lighting)? Will it be Dunedin (with a makeshift ballpark)? Will it be some other city altogether with no connection to the Jays? One thing is for certain: an already bad team is going to have a really long season. 

9) Can you play a baseball season in a mask? 
Clint Frazier and Didi Gregorius are the first players to don a protective covering while actually hitting and fielding. With the turf war over masks boiling nationwide, it's going to be real tough for the anti-maskers to argue it's too physically demanding. Yeah, walking from your Civic through the Target parking lot with a mask on leaves you short of breath. "It's annoying." But major league baseball players are hitting 98 mile-per-hour fastballs with it on, so what's your excuse again? 

8) Will Mookie Betts live up to the money? 
The Red Sox deemed one of the best players in the game, still in his prime, unworthy of the long-term numbers he wanted. The Dodgers were more than happy to give it to him. Boston's attempt at playing the "small market" card is laughable. Sure, they have other bad money wrapped up in contracts. But the Sox are worth $3.3B. The Dodgers are worth $3.4B. Those are two of the top three valuations in the game. Boston can pay the other contracts, the luxury tax, and have paid Mookie and they still would've been financially solvent. Now we see if Betts rewards the Dodgers with the type of season they expect. L.A. hasn't won a World Series since '88. If Betts delivers one, every cent will be worth it. 

7) Will empty ballparks stay empty? 
There's a chance some fans are allowed back in the park as the season wears on. We're learning that without the crowd the games still have interest and meaning, but it's really bland. Baseball's pace is already slow and plodding. Add silence and remove ancillary action of fans moving about and the game feels REALLY stagnant. The artificial crowd noise has seemed muffled in some parks. ESPN has experimented with in-game interviews with players on teams not playing. That's been distracting and annoying. The cardboard cutouts look juvenile, with different lighting and cropping that's disjointed. FOX will experiment with digital fans and their promo looks really good. It may be our only hope in jazzing up the feel of these sleepy games. 

6) Will 60 games be exciting? 
This regular season will represent a mere 37% of the normal slate. The sprint may be fun, with mediocre teams staying afloat for far longer than they could've ever hoped for normally. But does a stretch of losing eight of nine permanently sink the season? An 80-game schedule that began on July 1st would have been so much more satisfying. Alas, MLB preferred to fight over decimal points and waste the extra three weeks. Maybe this 60-game dash will be a thrill, but it could also be unfulfilling.  

5) Will anyone hit .400? 
The stats are going to look ridiculous, and baseball is a sport where the numbers are magical. Someone will win the home run crown by hitting 26 homers. The best starting pitcher in the league may only tally 10 wins. At least we have .400. No one has done this since Ted Williams in 1941. Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew and George Brett have hunted it. Hopefully one hitter will at least make things interesting, because it's the only stat with the potential to be exciting this summer. 

4) Has the Astros hate disappeared? 
The biggest beneficiary of the shutdown has been Houston. Pummeling the 'Stros for cheating is so pre-pandemic. The national distaste vaporized as far bigger things consumed us over the last four months. There's no fans in the stands to boo them. There's fewer media at the ballpark to interview them. And banging on trash cans somehow feels quaint nowadays. The Astros are like the kid who gets suspended for a month the day before summer break. 

3) Will America finally experience Mike Trout? 
The short season gives the Angels hope of a deep playoff run. That's never happened during the Trout Era. The Angels have only played in one postseason since their superstar began terrorizing the league. They got swept in that series. For as historically incredible as Trout is, the country still doesn't realize it. The baseball community does, but Trout is nowhere near LeBron, Tiger or Brady as a cultural icon. Part of that is a quiet, reserved personality. Part of that is the sport he plays. But most of that is because he doesn't win like those other guys. Add multiple rings to his shelf, and the country would understand just how special Trout is. 

2) Will a terrible team crash the party? 
The 60-game sprint opens the door for just about any team to sneak into the playoffs. But now the expanded postseason throws that barn door open wide enough for a stampede of cattle to run through. Eight teams in each league will make October: two from each division and two more Wild Cards. So now more than half the league (16 of 30) will be in the postseason, with a regular season at just 37% of what is normally played. The first-round is now just a best-of-three, so literally any team can hold out hope that with a hot streak and a little luck they can end up in the Divisional Series. 

1) Will the champ be forgotten? 
This is the biggest meatball hanging over the league. If the Yankees or Dodgers dominate the regular season going 45-15, then bash their way to a World Series victory, most will probably consider them a legitimate champion. But what about the inverse? If the White Sox meet the Diamondbacks for the crown, after each went 31-29 in the regular season, then poked their way through a bizarre postseason, few will be satisfied. We're a long way from that, however, and for baseball fans the season has finally arrived. No matter how strange it all seems. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 6:00AM-10:00AM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.