Hoornstra: The moments that will define baseball in the 2020s
This month has brought us scores of end-of-decade retrospectives, spanning everything from sports to music to movies to politics. Rather than look back on the 2010s, I wanted to look forward to the 2020s. What are the baseball moments that will define the next decade?We begin with 2020.Feb. 1, 2020: Having interviewed another 60 witnesses, and read another 76,000 emails, MLB’s department of investigations concludes the Astros illegally stole signs en route to their 2017 championship. The penalty? A one-year postseason ban.March 26, 2020: It’s Opening Day for all 30 teams. Did spring training provide enough time for 30 managers to adjust to the new three-batter minimum for all pitchers? Sure. Among those cut from major-league rosters in spring training: Oliver Perez, Andrew Chafin, Alex Claudio and Adam Kolarek, all of whom had valuable roles in the 2010s but struggled to adjust to baseball’s new LOOGY-less reality. March 31, 2022: Tom Hallion’s earpiece stops working for an inning in Cleveland. No one notices.June 3, 2023: On the same day he hits his 400th career home run, Mike Trout passes 100 Wins Above Replacement for his career.Sept. 24, 2023: Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera hits the 521st and final home run of his career, tying Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams. He officially retires after the season.June 15, 2024: Justin Verlander, 41, throws the fourth and final no-hitter of his career, tying Sandy Koufax for second place on the all-time list. He will retire at the end of the season with 299 career wins, leaving some voters to question his Hall of Fame credentials.Dec. 12, 2024: The sports cable bubble officially bursts when expansion teams in Charlotte and Portland agree to televise their entire 162-game schedules on Amazon in 2025.Jan. 21, 2025: In his first year of eligibility, Ichiro Suzuki becomes the first player of Asian descent to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.March 2, 2025: Ground breaks on a new ballpark for the Oakland A’s on the site of the present-day Howard Terminal, to be completed in time for the 2027 season. Parking spaces are scant, so Lyft assumes naming rights and becomes the preferred method of transportation to and from the ballpark.July 5, 2026: The San Diego Padres’ Manny Machado completes the 16th unassisted triple play in major league history, and the first ever by a third baseman.July 25, 2027: Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, having been chosen by a veterans’ committee the previous December. Their plaques do not include an asterisk.Sept. 30, 2027: Christian Yelich, 35, wins his 10th consecutive batting title, breaking Ty Cobb’s all-time record. The accomplishment passes quietly, as batting average is now considered a fringe statistic.Aug. 7, 2028: Mike Trout hits his 600th career home run on his 37th birthday. He’s the only player to hit a home run on eight different birthdays, an all-time record. Two years remain on his contract after the season. Improbably, he never receives an endorsement opportunity from Jersey Mike’s subs.June 1, 2029: Bryce Harper, 36, hits his 600th career home run. Two years remain on his contract after the season. He continues to receive endorsement opportunities from shampoo manufacturers. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Sept. 7, 2020: It’s Closing Day for 42 minor league teams slated for contraction. Thousands of seasonal jobs are lost overnight, from players to broadcasters to ushers to mascots. Not even the Save America’s Pastime Act could save them.Sept. 24, 2021: Albert Pujols passes Babe Ruth with his 2,215th career RBI – on his 700th career home run. Angel Stadium pauses to reward Pujols with a standing ovation. The Angels relief pitcher who caught the ball in the bullpen receives a steak dinner in exchange for the small piece of history. Pujols, 41, officially retires the following week.Nov. 18, 2021: MLB and the MLB Players’ Association ratify a new collective bargaining agreement. As part of the agreement, players with one or two years of service time will now have their salaries determined by a Wins Above Replacement-based formula. Thus ends the days of MVP award winners making anywhere near the league-minimum salary.Feb. 16, 2022: Spring training camps open, and the great shortstop diaspora of 2021-22 is complete. Javy Baez, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Trevor Story all leave for greener pastures as free agents. They were a small slice of a stacked free-agent class that included Christian Yelich, Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Noah Syndergaard, Roberto Osuna, Salvador Perez, Miguel Sano, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and Eduardo Rodriguez.March 30, 2022: Another facet of the new CBA: The electronic strike zone arrives. On Opening Day, 15 home-plate umpires are outfitted with earpieces relaying the “ball” or “strike” call from a computerized voice. Players who listed their heights incorrectly are dismayed by the results. Everyone else is mostly satisfied.