When the first announcement telling us to “shelter in place” was delved out, doubt fell upon the future of professional sports. How would they get started with all the new directives? What will they do about fans in the stand? How can athletes stay 6 feet apart while playing? What happens if an athlete gets the coronavirus? Needless to say, there were far more questions than answers about sports.
I remember watching the San Antonio Spurs game late one March evening. DeMar DeRozan had possession, driving down in open coverage. It was just him and the rim; everyone else on the court was blocked out and he was basically alone out there, driving for a dunk. As I watched with excitement, I noticed a breaking news blurb on the ticker at the bottom of the screen: “Breaking News: Commissioner Adam Silver has canceled the remainder of the NBA season.” My heart sank. All the questions had been answered, it seemed. Our sports were doomed.
Fast forward a couple months, and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that he implemented a 60-game season for baseball, with empty stadiums and plenty of different rules and guidelines for play. As an avid baseball fan, I was ecstatic; the unwavering July heat seemed as cool as Christmas to me. Through all of the unknowns that came along with COVID-19, we were still going to have a baseball season.
Now, here we are, at the end of the most unusual baseball season we’ve seen since the 1994 strike, and it’s postseason time — kind of. Many baseball purists are arguing that, because of the state of the season, the various accolades that come with a season should not count. After all, the season was basically created from scratch from the most confusing chef in the business, Rob Manfred. Nevertheless, we’re at the end of the regular season, and it’s playoff time. Here’s how the race to the fall classic will look like at the starting line.
The Wild Card Series is the first checkpoint, pinning the eight preliminary teams against each other. In the blue corner, we have the Tampa Bay Rays against the Toronto Blue Jays, and the infamous New York Yankees against the Cinderella-storied Chicago White Sox. We also see the shamed Houston Astros against the Oakland Athletics, and the Cleveland Indians against the Minnesota Twins, otherwise known as the “Bomba Squad.” The Twins led the major leagues in home runs last season, which is the first time the squad has done that in franchise history.
In the red corner, we’ve got the big, bad Los Angeles Dodgers against the Milwaukee Brewers and the surprising San Diego Padres against the St. Louis Cardinals. We also see the worst two contenders that are the Miami Marlins against the Chicago Cubs, as well as the Cincinnati Reds against the Atlanta Braves.
By the time you read this, the Division Series brackets will already be set in stone. The first divisional playoffs begin Monday, Oct. 5. Log on to MLB.com to follow all of the action all the way to the World Series.