LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The start of the 2020 baseball season is just two days away and the Los Angeles Dodgers enter as the co-favorites to win the World Series with the New York Yankees. Considering that the franchise made consecutive Fall Classic appearances in 2017 and 2018 before falling in the divisional round to last year’s champions, the Washington Nationals, their favorite status shouldn’t surprise.
But, this year will be vastly different. 60 games instead of 162 offers for much more of a wide open season because one good or bad five or ten game stretch can make or break your season. Still, CBS2’s Kristin Smith isn’t worried about the Dodgers chances pointing to the team’s talented outfield as the main reason she’s confident they will live up to their favorite status.
“The Dodgers would contend whether it was a 60 game season or a 162 game season just because they’re that good,” said Smith in an interview with CBS Local’s Katie Johnston. “I mean sure they shipped off some young talent, get Mookie Betts for only 60 games now but the good news is they get Mookie Betts for 60 games. So we’ve got Mookie, Joc Pederson and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers may have the best outfield trio in all of baseball.”
That outfield trio backs up an infield featuring sluggers Max Muncy (25 HR), Justin Turner (27 HR) and young shortstop Corey Seager. The rotation took a hit when David Price announced he would be opting out of this shortened season due to health concerns, but it should be fine. The group still has a wealth of riches with Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Julio Urias and Walker Buehler.
There is one other big wrinkle with the 60 game season, the Dodgers will face only their division and the AL West in order to keep travel to a minimum. That means matchups against the Oakland A’s and Houston Astros along with the crosstown rival Angels in addition to the normal slate of NL West foes. Still, Smith doesn’t see that causing too much trouble for the men in blue.
“They would have been the heavy favorite anyway regardless of the schedule change so I think they end up with a really easy schedule because they’re clearly the best team in the division,” said Smith. “I don’t foresee any problems there. I would say that Angels take more of a hit, the Dodgers definitely have the advantage.”
The Angels may find themselves with the tougher road to the postseason, but both teams, and all of MLB will be playing in this new normal. No fans will be in attendance this season, though several teams have allowed for fans to purchase cardboard cutouts to be placed in the stands to somewhat replicate at “crowd”. But it won’t be the same without the rise and fall of a crowd as a pitcher faces a 3-2 count with 2 outs in a clutch situation. That said, Smith is optimistic that the season will still feel like baseball because the players themselves will have that same level of intensity.
“These athletes are fighting something fighting for something bigger than just wins. At this point I think everything depends on the health of the league so these guys are are literally playing as if every game could be their last,” said Smith. “I think these players are really going to be leaving it all out there on the field for the fans at home but I think we might be able to feel that tenacity, when we watch these games. So will it feel like baseball. It’s gonna be super different. We’ll be able to appreciate the newness of it I think there’s going to be a camaraderie with the players, and all of us fans at home.”
The Dodgers begin their season on Thursday, July 23 against the San Francisco Giants with first pitch set for 7:08 PDT.