MLB Post-Mortem: What Worked This Year, and What Can Work Better in ’21?
The Los Angeles Dodgers ended the World Series in Game 6, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to earn a 4-2 series victory. Here are some reflections on 2020 and projections for 2021.
Major league baseball completed its season Tuesday night as the L.A. Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays for their first World Series title since 1988. The Dodgers took it all in Game 6, beating the Rays 3-1 for a 4-2 series victory.
If you’ve been living on Mars for the last year, all this may have seemed normal. For those who live in the Covid world—and for sports bettors—the season was something of a horror movie, albeit with a happy ending. But nobody wants a sequel of 2020.
Here are some takeaways on a most unusual season:
- The biggest victory? Getting to the finish. Back in July, when the Miami Marlins became the first of several teams to disrupt the season with multiple positive Covid-19 tests, the whole MLB season was in jeopardy. But baseball did what it had to do in order to survive, and the big news is that baseball beat the pandemic.
- Some season adjustments were good. The decision to expand playoffs from 10 to 16 teams created additional interest, and it did no harm, as Los Angeles and Tampa had the regular-season pedigree to make the World Series. Baseball will probably expand the playoffs slightly next year, although not to the level we saw here.
- Thumbs down on seven-inning games. In order to complete the schedule, MLB added a slew of seven-inning games for doubleheaders. But long-term, seven-inning games stink. For one thing, they take the eighth-inning reliever out of play. For another, they confuse bettors in terms of over-under run totals. The iGaming apps and the sportsbooks aren’t designed to denote seven-inning games. Bettors took over 6.5 runs on games without realizing they were scheduled for seven innings. The league and iGaming providers that list the games also fumbled this. No big deal to them, but a major deal for bettors.
- What to do about empty stands. With no fans, canned noise is better than nothing, but how about putting a mic on the players? That would bring a perspective to the game that we never get to see (or hear). But players did benefit from the no-spectator mandate in one respect. In the case of rain delays, teams simply rescheduled until the next day. There were no fans to disappoint, and players didn’t have to wait around for hours only to find conditions unsuitable.
- Pros and cons of expanded playoffs. Disregard any sentiment about it being a shortened season. Playoffs were expanded, even some weak teams got in, and the champions had to give up the first-round bye they received in other years.
- And how about extra innings? Starting every inning from the 10th on with a runner on second base is a good innovation for these times for the regular season, but not the post-season.
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Congrats to the Dodgers for ending a decades-long draught and collecting their rings. And a pat on the back to the Rays for giving it their all, though Manager Kevin Cash’s decision to send starter Blake Snell to the showers arguably put the victory out of their reach.
Better luck to all the teams, the fans and the bettors in 2021.