MLB Opening Day 2021: Five things to know, including Dodgers repeat chances and best pitching matchups – CBS Sports
Major League Baseball will begin its new regular season on Thursday, April 1. The Opening Day slate will get underway just after 1 p.m. ET, with the Toronto Blue Jays taking on the New York Yankees in an American League East battle. Every team is scheduled to play on Thursday, and the action is likely to stretch past 1 a.m. on the east coast thanks to a late-night docket that includes contests between the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels and between the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics.
It’s been a long, and at times eventful offseason. As such, we here at CBS Sports decided everyone could use a refresher course on what happened over the winter. Our method of providing one is to highlight five things worth watching for on Opening Day, ranging from the return of crowds to the best pitching matchups on the docket. But first, let’s take a look at the slate of games:
You can find all five items below, listed in no particular order.
1. Creeping closer toward normalcy
Let’s face it, last season’s Opening Day didn’t feel like Opening Day. This year’s might not either, but it’s a step in that direction.
Every team is expected to play a regulation-length season, meaning 162 games. They’ll play those in front of crowds, as fans will be permitted back in the stands for the first time in the regular season since 2019, mostly at capacities that allow for social distancing. (The Texas Rangers, who unwisely plan on having a full house for their home opener, are on the road.) Additionally, many of the rule changes from last year, like the universal DH and the expanded postseason, have been scratched, barring a last-minute agreement between MLB and the Players Association.
It’s not quite going to be like the pre-COVID times, but it’s going to resemble those days more than what last summer did — and that should be a positive.
2. Lindor, Arenado lead old faces in new places
One of the neat things about Opening Day is getting to see players who changed teams over the offseason for the first time in their new gear. (We’re not counting the spring training threads that a lot of teams wear during the exhibition season.)
Perhaps your team doesn’t play until late, or perhaps you’re one of those fans who just wants to watch the best pitching matchup available at any given point in the day. What games should you be checking out?
The last time we saw a meaningful MLB game, it ended with the Los Angeles Dodgers lifting the championship trophy. After a winter that saw them sign Trevor Bauer, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, it’s fair to ask: are the Dodgers set up to become the first repeat champion since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees?
The Dodgers would appear to be the team most likely to win the World Series in 2021. SportsLine projects them to notch 111 victories and gives them a 99.9 percent chance at making the postseason. The improved San Diego Padres, seemingly the Dodgers’ toughest threat in the West, are projected to win 89 games, for comparison.
The pandemic season wreaked havoc on everything, baseball-related or otherwise, including the Rookie of the Year Award eligibility standards. As a result, individuals like Ke’Bryan Hayes, Ian Anderson, and Sixto Sanchez — each of whom played a sizable role for their respective teams last season — are once again eligible to receive consideration.
If, somehow, you’re already bored of those players and you want to catch a glimpse of the next wave of youngsters, then Opening Day should still have something for you.