SI is proud to announce the addition of veteran baseball writer Ian Casselberry to the "Inside the Dodgers" team. Please see his author bio at the end of his debut piece.
Opening Day 2020 was already weird enough with the shortened 60-game season and COVID-19 hovering over baseball. (Also, count me among those who still isn't accustomed to an MLB season starting on a Thursday night.)
With a baseball season beginning, it felt normal for any baseball writer or fan to share his or her 2020 picks. Get 'em on the record, especially if a bold prediction looks astute. Three division winners and two wild cards in each league. Add ALCS and NLCS picks, along with the World Series matchup and winner, and it's go-time, right?
Not so fast, said MLB. Just hours before the Yankees' Gerrit Cole threw the first pitch of the 2020 season, the players' union approved the team owners' proposal for an expanded postseason format. Eight teams from each league! All second-place clubs are in. And the two remaining teams -- presumably those are the Wild Cards now -- with the best records join the playoff party too.
That seems to undercut a lot of potential suspense, yet also increases the chance of a lesser team getting hot at the right time and making an improbable World Series run.
So how will this 66-day dash shake out? Here's one set of predictions that probably could be bolder, but the new format doesn't require risky picks:
Yankees - Looking like the AL's best team.
Rays - They would've been a playoff club in the old format.
Twins - How many 20-homer sluggers will they have?
White Sox - Popular sleeper pick, should be very fun to watch.
Astros - Too good not to win and want to prove they're legit.
Athletics - Can't start slow this season.
Wild Card: Indians - Don't sleep on them with their pitching.
Wild Card: Rangers - Starting pitching should get them in the mix.
Braves - The best in what should be MLB's toughest division.
Nationals - Will the 60-game season help cover up a still-weak bullpen?
Reds - Many flashy additions, and the rest of the division is sliding.
Cubs - One last run before the core needs to be broken up?
Dodgers - The best roster in baseball, but another starting pitcher would help.
D-Backs - Second-place teams get in, so... (but maybe overlooking the Padres).
Wild Card: Mets - Sneaky good offseason, and major benefit from Universal DH.
Wild Card: Phillies - Too much talent not to get in with this expanded format.
ALCS: Yankees over Astros.
NLCS: Dodgers over Reds.
World Series: Dodgers over Yankees - No, not a bold pick at all. But the bet here is that great teams will dominate more.
Ian Casselberry watchdogs sports media for Awful Announcing. He's covered baseball for SB Nation, Yahoo Sports and MLive, and was one of Bleacher Report's first lead MLB writers. Please follow Ian on Twitter @iancass and give him a listen at The Podcass.