Job well done by 30 MLB teams playing during a pandemic before only TV cameras and cardboard cutouts. Empty stadiums from coast to coast through tornadoes, wind storms and brush fires and seven million cases of the coronavirus, taking 204,361 lives and many American fans. Sixteen teams have survived, including the Miami Marlins, the only team with a Black team president, Derrick Jeter, the legendary New York Yankee.
Last year the Marlins lost 105 games. They have been in the playoffs only twice in their previous history, both times winning the World Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers had MLB’s best record, 43-17, and are the clear favorite. They have two MVP players and are managed by a Black man, Dave Roberts. They are the National League’s number-one seed and my pick to win the World Series this year.
In the American League it’s the Tampa Bay Rays, 40-20, the number-one seed. What a year for the city of Tampa Bay. They are hosting Super Bowl 55 in February 2021, hopefully by then with fans. And of course they signed Tom Brady as quarterback.
As if that’s not enough excitement, Tampa Bay’s hockey team the Lightning leads Dallas 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Twins are back-to-back Central Division Champions at 36-24. They were pushed to the wire backing in as champion and losing on the final day of the regular season 5-3 in 10 innings to Cincinnati. The Reds are a number-seven seed in the National League.
Here are matchups and seedings for the first-ever 16-team MLB playoff. My picks to win each best-of-three series in the Wild Card round are in bold.
National League number-one Los Angeles vs. Milwaukee. The Brewers and Houston are the first MLB teams in the 100-plus year history to have a losing record, 29-31, and make the playoffs.
Number-two Atlanta (35-25) vs. number-seven Cincinnati (31-29). Number-three Chicago Cubs (34-26) vs. number-six Miami (31-29). Number-four San Diego (37-23) vs. number-five St. Louis (30-28). The Cardinals did not finish the 60 games schedule because of COVID-19.
In the American League, number-one Tampa Bay vs. number-eight Toronto (32-28). The Blue Jays, because of COVID-19, played 30 home games outside of Toronto in Buffalo, New York.Number-two Oakland (36-24) vs. number-seven Chicago White Sox (35-25). Number-three Twins vs. number-six Houston managed by Dusty Baker is coming to Minneapolis. Baker is the first manager to guide five different teams to the playoffs. Number-four Cleveland (35-25) vs. number-five New York Yankees (33-27).