One year from now, baseball fans on this side of the Atlantic will converge on London to take in the historic first MLB series on European shores.
Even with a year to go, excitement is at a major high as we anticipate the arrival of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees at the Olympic Stadium.
Between innings, attendees will be able to converse with other like-minded fans from this region rather than watching cats running wild, Prince Fielder the nacho thief, Ichiro Suzuki climbing the mountain or a multitude of other ‘popular clips from MLB.com’.
As with anything, 12 months is a long time so what could be different in the game that we love a year from now as we *hopefully* take our seats in England’s capital? Let’s take a look.
We will see the reigning champions up close
I’m calling it now that when the plush private jets of the Sox and Yankees touch down in London, they will do so with the Commissioner’s Trophy in tow.
There will be photo opportunities for fans in town for the big games to be captured alongside the most prestigious trophy in baseball.
Sadly, I’m neither bold, brave or clever enough to make the call as to who exactly it is who will ride into England with the mantle of your ‘defending World Series champions’ but the victors will come from the American League East.
The Yankees and Red Sox were both beaten by the Houston Astros en route to their triumph last year but both teams ran them close.
It is easy now to forget just how close the BoSox came to sending their ultimate excruciating Game 4 loss to a decisive fifth game, while their hated rivals took the Texans all the way to a Game 7 before eventually being beaten in an epic series.
This year, one of them will have the measure of the defending champions and dethrone them before overcoming their National League opponents to come to London as the trophy holders.
The Marlins won’t be picking first in next year’s draft
Fans in London who wish to discuss the stars of the future may see the conversation turn to the 2019 draft, which will take place shortly before the standout series.
The worst team this season is in line to secure 2019’s biggest prospect at that time and for many observers before this year started, that was supposed to be the Miami Marlins.
MVP Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich were all shipped off as Derek Jeter made his presence felt and they were slated for a win total of 64.5 with oddsmakers, comfortably the lowest in the big leagues.
But they have somewhat surprised to an extent by not quite being as bad as anticipated, in spite of some pre-season predictions even suggesting that they could trouble the all-time loss record, so futile would they be.
One team who weren’t really in that reckoning as far as plunging to the depths go were the Baltimore Orioles and after a 75 win season, they are in serious danger of picking first next year due to their futility.
They will be the team I’m picking for it as a combination of disastrous pitching in both their rotation and bullpen, a worrying ability to shoot themselves in the foot and a subpar offensive showing as well as the impending loss of their biggest star in Manny Machado before the trade deadline means they are likely to finish as baseball’s worst side.
The NL East can still enjoy Bryce Harper‘s talents
Come June 29, 2018, the off-season’s most sought after free agent Bryce Harper will still be in his current division, although things may have changed somewhat for him.
The Washington Nationals right-fielder has been building up to this winter for many years, with plenty of speculation leading up to this point suggesting he could be in line for a $400 million pay day and definitely baseball’s biggest contract ever.
In a pre-season ESPN poll of 43 MLB executives, the slight majority went to Harper opting to remain in DC and, if he doesn’t do so this season, help end Washington’s long wait for any kind of playoff success.
He may feel he owes it to the fans and the club who have already given him so much but then again, he may feel the need for a fresh challenge and if he does, I don’t think he’ll stray too far from the NL East.
The Phillies have plenty of cash available to them to commit to a mammoth Harper contract, thanks to lucrative TV deals and other forms of big revenue.
He would be the bonafide star and the poster boy for Philadelphia’s resurgence, pinned as the man to lead them back to World Series glory.
Or he could fulfil a similar role by opting for the Atlanta Braves, whose already impressive outfield could be strengthened even further by bringing in the Las Vegas native.
Of course, there are other big suitors such as the Cubs, Yankees, Dodgers and Giants but for the fun of it, I’ll say he stay in his current division… You never know, could Derek Jeter even pull off his biggest swoop since diving into the crowd in the 2001 ALDS?
Thankfully, Ohtani won’t be lost to us
When the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way star went down with a blister in early June followed by a grade-2 UCL sprain, the frightening early reports suggested that Shohei Ohtani may not be back until the 2020 season.
It was awful news to any fan of baseball and who was rooting for the Japanese star to fulfil all of the hype that surrounded him.
While we are unlikely to see Ohtani on the mound again for quite some time, thankfully we shall not be deprived of his talents whatsoever until long after the London Series.
Angels GM Billy Eppler has hinted that he expects Ohtani to return in a hitting capacity in some form before the end of the season.
That appears all but a certainty now. So despite initial fears, we will see Ohtani back in action before London. How do you say ‘hunky-dory’ in Japanese?
We’ll witness perfection
It is coming.
We haven’t had a perfect game in baseball since Felix Hernandez ascended to the throne with a spotless performance in August 2012.
As Tom outlined, this is the sixth longest wait we’ve ever went through for a perfect game but as the average waiting time goes, we should not only see one before next June, the numbers suggest it could happen before the end of this season.
By the time we arrive in London town for the Red Sox-Yankees showdown, we will have witnessed baseball’s 24th piece of perfection from the mound.