The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
COVID won't impact the Hot Stove season

COVID-19 put a real damper on the 2020 baseball season. The after-effects will be felt far beyond last season. Teams lost serious money. Player development, particularly in the minor leagues, was put on hold. Fans had to learn to engage differently, and unfortunately many lost interest. I don’t know about you, but Korean baseball at 4:00 AM on ESPN and stadiums with cardboard fans in the seats didn’t help me at all.

But all is not lost. For those with optimism that the impending vaccines will help mitigate the situation, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And I’m betting that baseball will pretty much be back to normal, if not in the early spring, by the start of summer.

In normal times, this time of the year for baseball fans is mostly about discussion and debate through various sports talk shows, blogs, and baseball websites. The good news is that we can participate in these media without the personal interaction requiring masks, social distancing, and washing hands. Long gone are the olden days when baseball enthusiasts gathered around the wood-burning stove in the general store during the wintertime to hash over last season and opine about the upcoming year.

So, what will baseball fans be talking about over this Hot Stove season?

Hall of Fame voting. There won’t likely be a first-ballot election in the voting that will happen later this year. I doubt that any of the new entrants will ever get serious consideration. Therefore, this could be the “make or break” year for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to get elected. Will the shortage of other serious candidates be the catalyst for these two guys finally getting elected?

Rules changes. The pandemic forced numerous changes in the game last season. We experienced expanded playoffs, neutral sites for the playoffs, universal use of the DH, and new rules for extra-inning games. Which of these will be carried over into the 2021 season if indeed we are back to normal?

Future of minor leagues. Major League Baseball is forcing fundamental changes in how minor league baseball will operate. There will be fewer teams and thus fewer players, although there seems to be a movement to offset the reductions with the creation of more independent teams (who, by the way, won’t be able to pay its players a decent salary). Is college baseball really the future of player development for entry-level professionals. Will the minors evolve to encompass only Triple-A and maybe Double-A levels?

Free agency. Aside from the top five or ten “game-changer” free agents this season, MLB will likely wait out the rest of the field. The teams’ dire financial situations from COVID-19 are partially the cause, but there is also a general trend toward limiting long-term deals for players who are into their thirties. How will aging players like Nelson Cruz, Jake Arrieta, Yadier Molina, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jon Lester fare over the winter?

Women in baseball. Kim Ng broke one of the highest glass ceilings in all of professional sports when she was recently named the general manager of the Miami Marlins. (Take note, NFL and NBA: the “lowly” MLB was the first to do this.) That being said, there is a general shortage of women in the front offices of most major-league teams. Will Ng’s appointment have an impact on that situation?

Future of the Mets franchise. New Mets owner Steve Cohen said his goal was to develop an “iconic” franchise. I suppose he meant iconic like the Yankees or Dodgers, who spend a lot of money on player salaries. Will his fat wallet cure a lot of the Mets’ past ills? How active will the Mets be in this winter’s free agency race?

Kyler Murray and baseball. The idea is not that far-fetched. After all, Murray was a Number 1 draft pick of the Oakland A’s in the 2018 MLB draft. However, as a rising NFL star, he’s proving he made a good decision by choosing football. He’s been able to make an immediate impact in football, whereas he would likely have spent a few years in the minors before getting a shot to play in baseball’s big leagues. But does that rule out the possibility Murray wouldn’t eventually make a Tim Tebow move?

Theo Epstein’s next job. Epstein resigned from the Cubs organization last week. Was he burned out, or does he already have his eyes on his next job? He’s a likely Hall of Famer down the road, having won world championships in Boston and Chicago. Only 47-years old, what’s his next gig? Could it be the Mets or Phillies who are in the market right now?

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