For many sports fans, the unofficial start of spring is almost here as the MLB season begins Thursday after possibly the most unorthodox season in history.
30 teams. 162 games. 1 champion.
— MLB (@MLB) March 31, 2021
In the 60 game 2020 season, the best division in terms of record was the American League Central. Three teams, the Twins, Indians and White Sox, finished with at least 35 wins and all three made the playoffs. Now, two teams-the White Sox and Twins-seem to be the crème of the crop, but nearly all teams are in contention in what is arguably the best division in baseball.
Here is a look at each midwestern team:
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox finally broke through in 2020, earning a playoff berth for the first time since 2008. They followed that up with some splashes in the offseason. First was hiring a MLB legend as manager. Chicago hired Tony La Russa on Oct. 29. The Hall of Famer won three World Series titles in 1989 with the Oakland A’s and in 2006 and 2011 with the St. Louis Cardinals. He hasn’t managed, however, since 2011. The White Sox also added Lance Lynn to a rotation that includes Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel.
The defending division champions, Minnesota made the playoffs for the third time in four seasons in 2020. However, it faced an early exit as Houston swept the Twins in two games. Minnesota enters having not won a playoff game since 2004, 18 straight postseason losses. Byron Buxton leads the charge for the Twins. The center fielder finished with a .577 slugging percentage and could be an MVP candidate this season.
The standard bearer for the AL Central in recent years has been the Indians. The Tribe qualified for the playoffs four of the last five seasons, including last season when the Yankees swept them. This season, Cleveland is expected to take a step back after trading pitcher Carlos Carrasco and All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor to the Mets. Despite the departures, the Indians still maintain defending Cy Young winner Shane Bieber along with Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals are hoping this is the year they finally break through after a long rebuild. Kansas City has not finished with a winning record since its World Series title in 2015. But this season, KC brings in a team loaded with young talent such as Adalberto Mondesi, Andrew Benintendi and former Gator Brady Singer. Singer is 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA in Spring Training so far.
While the White Sox and Twins top the division, and the Royals and Indians hope to land in contention, the Tigers expect to rebuild this season. The biggest acquisition Detroit made in the offseason was hiring AJ Hinch, the embattled manager of the Astros. Hinch was suspended last season for his involvement in the Astros cheating scandal. He is back and leads a group filled with young pitching prospects and an aging Miguel Cabrera. Hinch never had a losing season in Houston and takes over a team that’s had the third worst winning percentage in baseball over the last four seasons.