With the flipping of the calendar on this debacle of a year, the SSG baseball league is quickly approaching the beginning of it’s SEVENTH season. That is truly hard to believe. As GM of the Colorado Rockies since the league’s inception, it seems like only a few years ago I drafted a can’t-miss prospect, William MacLaine, with the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. How could I pass him up? My scout had him slated for the Hall of Fame! I have yet to read that since about a player in any scout evaluation. Not to mention MacLaine went to MY own high school???? The reason most of you have never heard of MacLaine (no relation to the character in the Die Hard Action/Xmas movie) is that he ended up being a bust, playing a handful of September games for the parent club. So much for the Hall of Fame and so much for that scout who has since “moved on”.
So with the memory of the Boston Red Sox (and AL’s) first World Series championship fading into the background what can we expect in SSG Baseball in 2021? If the last few months are any indicator it should definitely be fun and have a new look in many ways.
You will notice a change before a pitch is even thrown in the 2021 season. That glorious opening day when all teams are tied for first at 0-0, the standings will still show one of SSG’s biggest changes. I’m pretty sure 3,500 miles qualifies as a big change. Gone is baseball in South Beach. No more Miami Marlins. You will now find them in the beautiful mountains of British Columbia as the Vancouver Aurora. Nate Wedge will guide his team into new territory and into a new division in the AMERICAN league. Coming the other way into familiar territory will be the Houston Astros as they re-enter the NL Central Division that they left in 2013. Some interesting new and not so new rivalries will definitely come out of the move, including the battle for the Cascadian Mountain Range between the Seattle Mariners and the new Aroura.
What about the DH change for the Astros and Aroura you say? No longer an issue! One of the other big changes in SSG will be the Universal DH!! (I can hear the groan of traditionalists everywhere). SSG NL GMs have been scrambling all off-season to set their plans for the new addition to their lineups. Is the art of the sacrifice bunt and the double switch going to go by the way-side? We’ll find out soon enough. A few more players will be able to keep their jobs that’s for sure.
So what about the league itself? Will we see any significant changes in the group of usual suspects for playoff spots? One downside of SSG in it’s six seasons is the top third of the league has been pretty solidified for a bit too long. Some big players are throwing their weight around in the off-season though between trades and free agency and look to break up the “good-ol’ boys” group that usually battles for the title in the fall.
One of those teams is the San Francisco Giants. A quick look at the Off Season moves list on the league page and you’ll see that they have added over 25 WAR to their roster!!! Perennial MVP candidate Nolan Arenado was added a few weeks ago in free agency and through trades with both Chicago teams, the new Aroura, and the LA Angles they also added names like Garrett Richards, Leury Garcia, Dominic Smith, Ty Blach, and Aaron Judge. Oh and also throw in bringing back crowd favorite Pablo Sandoval as icing on the cake. Combine this with the fact that Arenado is coming FROM the five-time defending division champion Colorado Rockies and you will probably have a huge shift of power in the NL West.
The Cascadia match up mentioned above between Vancouver and Seattle will already be interesting as both teams were very busy this off-season, even including a huge trade with each other! Christian Yellich went to the Aurora in a trade and they also signed former Mariner SP Taijaun Waker in free agency. The Mariners received five players from Vancouver in their deal, including RPs Vlad Guitierez and JR Bradley. Both teams will be desperately trying to unseat the power house Angels in the AL West.
Under the category of the rich getting richer the Boston Red Sox signed Japanese FA starting pitcher Ryoma Endo in a bid to catch the Toronto Blue Jays to add a division title to the World Series they just won in October. The other team that will need unseating in the AL is the Detroit Tigers. Can teams like the Twins, Royals, Spiders, White Sox, Yankees, O’s, and Rays make headway and bust up the group of AL dominance?
In the NL the Reds spent money for the second consecutive winter signing SP Shawn Tolleson, SS Rob Refsnyder, and RP Jesus Mejia in their continued quest to beat out the Cubs and Cards in the NL Central. The Brewers even added a few big names in Matt Davidson and CJ CRon to improve their chances of getting back in the discussion. As mentioned earlier, the Astros will come to the NL to join that fight. Out east the newly added Pittsburgh Pirates will join the Atlanta Firebirds and New York Mets to try to make a dent in the annual Nats and Phillies colossal battle. Neither of those teams looks to be losing a step.
No matter which way you look at it I feel a seismic shift in the SSG battleground coming, and it’s not just because I’m in Colorado.
But wait. There’s more! Is this still not enough to pique your interest in SSG Baseball 2021 version? Maybe you’re just watching from afar, have your name on the waiting list, or want a new challenge. Well this is your year! Coming this spring SSG will be adding a new league! Sometimes joining an existing league can be tough if another GM has had his hands all over your team and you don’t recognize the players. This is your chance to start from scratch with 29 other GMs and take on a new challenge. Get those applications in and join the fight. I’ve been here since 2015 and I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had and how many new friendships I’ve made and enjoyed. I even met a few SSG members this summer here in Pittsburgh as they made their way from the UK to visit some ballparks. It’s truly a special community. Join the fun or maybe even double up.
It’s going to be a great year (even if the window is closing for the Rockies). Let’s do 2021 in style. I already think I smell the freshly mown grass – not my own of course.