Sports

The Fatal Four-Way by Scott Lewis

It’s my favorite time of the year; winter is over, and the weather is getting better. It means one thing, it’s time for some baseball. The crack of the bat, smell of grass on the field, optimism...

Apr 7

It’s my favorite time of the year; winter is over, and the weather is getting better. It means one thing, it’s time for some baseball. The crack of the bat, smell of grass on the field, the optimism for your team in the air, I love it. Last year MLB fans were robbed of an entire 162 game season due to the pandemic hitting the country right in the middle of last year’s spring training. All the players were sent home and wouldn’t pick up a bat or glove for another four months before a truncated 60 game season started, which eventually led to the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the World Series for the first time in 32 years. As the Dodgers begin their quest to defend this title, there are so many storylines, but I want to focus on not just the Dodgers but the three teams that are the most equipped to derail them.

Let’s start with the team in the Dodger’s backyard, the San Diego Padres. Last season the Padres were one of the most exciting teams, led by superstar shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr.

The Padres made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 last year, running into their division rival, the Dodgers, short-handed with injuries in their starting rotation.

The Padres got swept at the hands of the future defending champions—Padres general manager A.J. Preller went to work this past winter by adding not one but two former Cy Young pitchers in Yu Darvishsefa and Blake Snell. Darvishsefa is coming off a big comeback season last year with the Chicago Cubs, where he posted a 12-3 record with a 3.33 ERA. Blake Snell was the ace of the American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays; he was also the focus of the considerable World Series controversy. He was pulled too early in game six after shutting the Dodgers down just for the Dodgers to feast on that Rays bullpen and eventually win the championship.

With newly acquired pitcher Joe Musgrove, a healthy bullpen, and one of the most explosive offenses in the majors, the Dodgers are going to have their hands full with not just winning the division against the Padres but a potential first-round matchup.

Now let’s head to the Bronx, home of the New York Yankees, aka the “Evil Empire,” aka “the Bronx Bombers,” aka those damn Yankees! The Yankees are coming off a disappointing 2020 campaign filled with injuries to key players, leading to them finishing 2nd in the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Yankees had a late-season push, getting them one of the final AL Wild Card spots where they would sweep the Cleveland baseball team—following that, they lost a very hard-fought division series to the Rays. The Yankees are coming into this season healthy for the most part, led by MVP candidate Aaron Judge; the Yankees are supposed to have one of the league’s most potent offenses that can carry them to a pennant and maybe even a World Series.

The Yankees Achilles heel this season will be their starting rotation. The starting rotation consists of perennial Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, and Deivi García.

There are a lot of questions about the Yankees’ rotation and just how bad or how good this unit will be outside of Cole. Former Cy Young winner Kluber was signed this winter after spending a season with the Texas Rangers where it was cut short due to a tear in his throwing shoulder. The Yankees are hoping for Kluber to return to his old form when he was dominant in Cleveland.

One can only hope that Taillon finds his old form after coming off Tommy John surgery. Severino is not coming back until mid-summer because of the same injury; this may derail the Yankees’ chances of not only beating the Dodgers but even coming out of the American League.

Now I want to take a trip to my favorite place globally, the South Side of Chicago. The Chicago White Sox are coming off a season where they made their first playoff appearance since 2008, led by the reigning AL MVP José Abreu and 2019 AL batting champion Tim Anderson.

The White Sox were eliminated in the Wild Card round by the Oakland Athletics due to the lack of a consistent third starting pitcher and a manager who could not manage a bullpen to save his life. Despite White Sox fans’ claims that the front office doesn’t spend money, White Sox GM Rick Hahn went to work to address the three main issues that led to elimination. The White Sox hired Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa to lead this young ball club. Hahn also acquired All-Star pitcher Lance Lynn from the Rangers to solidify that 3rd starter spot in the rotation and signed the closer who ended their season, Liam Hendricks from the Oakland A’s, to give them a bonafide closer in that bullpen.

The South Siders now have former Cy Young winner Lucas Giolito, World Series Champion Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn, and the promising Dylan Cease. Cease is a pitcher who can be solid if healthy in Carlos Rodon and stud prospect Michael Kopech.

On paper, the White Sox have the best bullpen in baseball with young flame throwers Garrett Crochet, Codi Heuer, Aaron Bummer, and Liam Hendriks. Despite the White Sox losing stud left fielder Eloy Jiménez for most of this upcoming season, the White Sox have one of the best lineups. José Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yasmani Grandal, Yoan Moncada, and the guy many refer to as the Cuban Mike Trout, Luis Robert, the White Sox are the best equipped to come out of the American League and challenge the Dodgers.

Last but certainly not least, let’s talk about the defending Champions. The Dodgers begin this season with the monkey off their back after failing in October and keeping the core pieces that won the championship. They added 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer this winter to bolster that already deep rotation of Walker Buehler, David Price, Julio Urías, Dustin May, and the future walking Hall of Famer, Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers have the best offense in the entire major league, lead by former MVP Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and the returning Justin Turner.

There will be many challenges to the throne, especially the three other teams I highlighted and the yearly surprise teams that nobody saw coming. When it’s all said and done in late October, the Dodgers are best equipped to become the first team in over 20 years to repeat as champions and have a party that Los Angeles has been on hold for 33 years.