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While some analysis suggests that the trash-can-banging scheme (words I still can’t believe are being written in 2020) didn’t actually help them that much, if it didn’t work to some degree, they wouldn’t do it. And if the MLB investigative report into 2019 is to be believed, the Astros weren’t up to no good last season, a year in which they made it to the World Series again.There are just way too many factors here. The whole cheating thing will be a cloud that hangs over their heads this season and in the future, no doubt. But everything about the Astros is going to be worth watching this year. Whether they’re good or bad, whether they get plunked or not, whether they regress, whether they progress, whether they’re contrite or vindictive. This also includes Dusty Baker at the helm, presumably in his last ride as a major league manager.Just who are the Astros? 2020 is going to provide a pretty clear answer on that. Opening Day is just around last bend of the winding, crooked, zigzaggy road of this offseason.Just take a deep breath and realize the storylines that were born over the winter: Mookie Betts is now a Dodger, Nolan Arenado is still a Rockie, Luis Severino won’t be pitching for the Yankees in 2020 but Gerrit Cole will. FAGAN: Spring training overreations still cause us to hope The Astros were cheating, the Red Sox were too, supposedly. AJ Hinch was fired! So was Carlos Beltran! AND Alex Cora! Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!And that’s just a small, quick window into the bonkers offseason we had. So with those stories and more in mind, let’s look ahead to the 2020 season, which has more questions to be answered than we’ve had over these last few months.1. How will the Yankees fare without Luis Severino?The early expectation is that they’ll be OK — after all, the Yankees didn’t have Severino for the majority of last season and still won 103 games. Also, they didn’t have Gerrit Cole last year.But here’s the kicker: They not only won’t have Severino for the year, but they’ll be without James Paxton for the first few months of the season. The Yankees are still going to be the favorites to win the AL East, maybe even the AL pennant and the World Series, but having a rotation without Severino is worse than having a rotation with the two-time All-Star.It’s going to be imperative for the Yankees to get off to a good start. Lest we forget, the Rays were a 96-win team last season even in a division that has more down teams than up teams. But more on the Rays later.Relying on baseball the gods and good juju for a repeat of what happened last season, when the Yankees sent 30-plus players to the injured list, seems like a difficult ask. But Yankees fans better get their prayer beads out, because there’s no guarantee another 100-plus win season happens.2. How will Mookie Betts acclimate to his new team?Adjustment periods are to be expected when players switch from one team to another, one league to another, one coast to another. Betts is a top-five player in baseball at the moment, but changes of scenery can both be welcoming and a major adjustment.The Dodgers are absolutely stacked, so Betts landing in a lineup that features Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner and others is much different than if he were to go to, say, Seattle. (Sorry, Mariners fans). So Betts should stick the landing but it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he scuffles out of the box. He’s still a great player, even if that were to happen.3. Can the Twins do it again?Pitching, pitching and, oh, yeah, pitching will be the key for Minnesota again in 2020. There’s not much question that they’re definitely one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the AL Central (does anyone know what the Indians are?), so expecting them to repeat as division champs isn’t a stretch. Which is why the pitching matters so much, because that’s what still wins in October.The Twins landing Kenta Maeda this offseason was huge. Make no mistake about it: WIth Maeda, they now have a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy (and potentially a No. 2), with José Berrios primed to take the next step as he enters his age 26 season. They’ll be able to bludgeon teams in the regular season, but if they give up 23 runs again in the ALDS, then it’ll be a tall task for even their offense to match that.Minnesota added Josh Donaldson this offseason, and he’ll likely make Target Field’s dimensions look like Williamsport, because that’s what he does. But a lot of the Twins’ success through the summer and the fall will be their pitching.4. How will the Red Sox rebound?With Alex Cora out, Mookie Betts and David Price traded and the weird 2019 season still hanging over their heads, the Red Sox will be one of baseball’s more fascinating stories in 2020. The Sox are still a talented team on paper; their core features Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Michael Chavis and newly acquired Alex Verdugo. Chris Sale is dealing with an injured elbow, which means the Red Sox are, in a technical term, kinda screwed.They only have Eduardo Rodriguez and oft-injured Nathan Eovaldi as locks for the rotation right now. (Wait a minute! That’s Martin Perez’s music!)Interim manager Ron Roenicke is going to have his hands full in 2020, fighting off controversies and whatever the fallout is from MLB’s investigation of the Red Sox, but in a few ways this feels like a lost season for Boston. But it wouldn’t be surprising if they’re in the wild-card hunt later in the season.5. Can the Reds pull off the (somewhat) unthinkable?For the past three seasons, the talk in the NL Central has surrounded the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers. After a pretty monster offseason, the Reds could be in position to overtake them all.Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos will certainly help an offensively thin team. The biggest question is which Joey Votto will show up, after a season in which he didn’t showcase his signature patience. Could this be the beginning of the end for the Canadian Baseball Destroyer? We’ll see. Reports of Votto’s demise are likely greatly exaggeratedStill, the Reds get more offense to help with a rotation that was sneaky good in 2019. Cincinnati was No. 5 overall in xFIP at 4.01 and No. 5 in K Rate (25.7 percent). Those numbers will certainly play.Now, they have a full season of Trevor Bauer, sub in Wade Miley for Tanner Roark and can expect another big year from Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. They’re legitimate. They’re the most improved team in the NL Central. Now can they finish off the job, overtake the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers to win the division?6. Who will win the NL wild card?There are going to be a lot of teams vying for the NL wild card spots: 12 teams are going to be in a fight for five playoff spots in 2020, unless something goes very wrong. That means the wild cards will go down to the wire.Think about it: It’s probably easier to predict who won’t make the playoffs in the NL than who will: The Marlins, Giants and Pirates are probably going to be on the outside looking in. I don’t think that’s too hot of a take.7. Can the White Sox step forward?The Sox made two very good signings this offseason: lefty pitcher Dallas Keuchel and catcher Yasmani Grandal. That pairing alone sounds really sweaty, but their impact will go beyond what they do on the field. The White Sox were in need of a little more veteran infusion, and Keuchel and Grandal will both help with that.Their young, talented core features Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada, with top prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal ready to be contributors at the major league level. They showed flashes in 2020, and a lot of their success this year will rely on Lucas Giolito repeating what he did last season and Keuchel having a serviceable-to-good season.The glow-up is coming, and 2020 could be the year for the South Siders. Could be.8. How will the three-batter rule affect strategy?There are two ways to look at the three-batter minimum rule change: Managers are handicapped because they can’t play the matchup game; or managers are forced to be more selective about when they go to the bullpen.Well, they’ll have no choice now, with the three-batter minimum rule officially in place. On a grand scale, it means LOOGYs are potentially out of jobs, unless they learn to get out both righties and lefties. It’s a tough break for the players.Really, pitching changes are a small reason why pace of play and time of game is suffering in baseball. It’s not something that’s really a problem until rosters expand in September, which isn’t even going to be that drastic of a thing anymore.Don’t be surprised if managers are vocal about it — some have been vocal about it already — throughout the season as a way to combat it. They’re creatures of habit after all, and certain strategies have been ingrained in their baseball DNA. It’s tough to change that.9. Will Joe Maddon be able to work his devil magic on the Angels?Brad Ausmus was one-and-done as Angles manager because Joe Maddon was meant to fulfill his destiny, ending up managing the team with whom he spent 30 years of his baseball life. On its surface, it’s a great hire because Joe Maddon is a great manager. There shouldn’t be much debate surrounding that.That said, the Angels still aren’t without their flaws, namely in the rotation. Should Shohei Ohtani return to form as a starter and Griffin Canning continue to progress, they’ll be two solid answers in the rotation. Also, Dylan Bundy makes for a very intriguing piece for new pitching coach Mickey Callaway this season. Maddon has always gotten the most out of the rosters he’s been given, so seeing him with Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Anthony Rendon and others in LA is going to be fun to watch. But are playoffs a possibility? At this point, why not?MORE: 30 teams, 30 grades: Assessing every MLB team’s offseason10. Is Jayce Tingler the right guy for San Diego?The Padres are one of the darling teams of baseball right now, and with good reason; their first half in 2019 kind of showed they were arriving ahead of schedule, but their second-half swoon quelled thoughts of competing last year. They finished 72-90 after a 45-45 first half. Not great!But with another year of experience — and the young players growing accustomed to the major league grind — the Padres should be improved in 2020 and in the running for a wild-card spot. They’re that talented, and with the key acquisitions they made this offseason, they’re better on paper. Tommy Pham will now be patrolling the outfield, Drew Pomeranz could play a key role out of the bullpen (or the rotation) and Zach Davies was a low-key, decent trade for the Dads.We know the role of a manager in MLB has evolved, with analytics departments more involved than ever in day-to-day operations, so it’s unsurprising to see more teams take the risk of hiring first-time and inexperienced managers to head up operations.This raises the question: Even though the Padres are talented and improved on paper, is Jayce Tingler going to be the guy to bring them to the postseason? While the Padres’ window for contention is just opening (and will stay stuck that way for a while), Tingler, a first-time manager, has to show he’s the guy sooner rather than later so San Diego doesn’t waste valuable time over the next few years wondering whether they got the hire right.11. Can the Rays push the pace in the AL East?With the Yankees reeling from injuries again — Luis Severino gone for the year and James Paxton out until May or potentially June — can Tampa Bay get hot and challenge the Yankees for the AL East?Save the jokes, because the Rays were very good in 2019 despite dealing with some big-time injuries of their own. And lest we forget, they took the Astros to Game 5 of the ALDS in the 2019 postseason. They also went 7-12 vs. the Yankees last year in the division, which isn’t great but isn’t terrible.The Rays might not sell as many tickets as they’d like or move the needle when it comes to national conversation, but they’re just a damn good baseball team that isn’t afraid to whip out the slingshot. They’re ready to win now and built to last. Don’t be surprised if they’re in the thick of things come August, but the first two months of the season are going to really tell us how legitimate Tampa Bay is.12. Does the home run boom continue?In 2019, the baseballs were more juiced than Arnold Schwarzenegger in the ’70s — whether or not MLB is ever going to come clean and admit it. For some reason, though, we saw baseballs that would normally be hit a mile in the regular season die at the warning track during the playoffs, which could change the forecast for 2020.Whether it’s launch angle, juiced baseballs, manufacturing inefficiencies, quality control problems, weather, jet streams, voodoo or baseball deities, it’s going to be worth watching to see whether a team hits more than 300 dingers again this season, or whether some funky stuff that affected the baseball in 2019 was exorcised by witch doctors during the offseason.13. How does Luis Rojas handle the Mets?This offseason has been particularly Mets-y for the Mets. Carlos Beltran was hired, then he was un-hired. The Mets were sold, then they were un-sold. It was reported that Yoenis Cespedes fought a wild boar and lost.So what exactly is new manager Luis Rojas walking into?To this point, Rojas has done and said all the right things, and Mets players — many of whom have a prior relationship with Rojas from his minor league managing days — have embraced the new hire completely. There’s not much room for doubt or debate that the Mets are a very talented team top to bottom, with bullpen issues totally derailing their 2019 playoff hopes. A rookie manager taking a seat in the manager’s office in Queens can make for a tumultuous season, but Rojas’ royal baseball blood could prove to be a great hire for the Mets. 14. How does the Nolan Arenado saga end?The Rockies entertained trade talks surrounding third baseman Nolan Arenado this offseason, which is pretty dumb considering they just paid him all that money. Now, it seems Arenado is unhappy (he walked back some comments) which means the clock could be started on the end of the Arenado Era in Denver.Even with their offensive firepower, it doesn’t look like the Rockies are going to compete for a division crown this year unless something goes very, very right for Colorado and very, very wrong for the Dodgers. They compete for a wild-card spot, but their lack of trying to improve this offseason makes it seem like the Colorado front office is not all that interested in competing.If the Rockies are totally out of it by the deadline, could trade talks for Arenado heat up again? Moving that much money and a player of Arenado’s caliber would certainly feature a lot of moving parts, so a deal would be complex and likely be in the works well beforehand. These deals typically don’t come together quickly, which means the Rockies must get out to a good start to fend off those trade talks — but that doesn’t seem all that likely.15. How close will Albert Pujols get to 700 home runs?Albert Pujols is in the penultimate year of his contract with the Angels. He has 656 home runs, 44 shy of 700. (I did the math for you.)In baseball history, there have only been 15 seasons (12 different players) in which a player, age 40 or older, has hit 20 or more home runs. If Pujols is going to reach 700, he’s going to have to do something pretty historic over his next two seasons.The juiced baseball could aid him in that quest (but see question No. 12): In his age 39 season, Pujols hit 23 home runs. So just how close is Pujols going to get? The race for 700 is going to be really close. It might not be a question answered in 2020, but it’ll be one for which we’ll get more clarity.16. Can Vlad Guerrero Jr. achieve his destiny?The Blue Jays in general are going to be a super fun team to watch in 2020. Their core of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a very good trio of young players that matches up against many across the league.While Guerrero showed flashes, his debut season was a little disappointing overall, aside from his Home Run Derby performance. Disappointing doesn’t mean “bust,” though, and Guerrero still has plenty of talent and time to get right. While he wasn’t the Rookie of the Year 2019, he still has enough baseball acumen and potential to put himself in the MVP race in 2020. That’s just how good this kid is.MORE: 20 reasons why baseball will be awesome in 202017. Will there be a headline better than this one?Well, no, probably not.But even through its uniformity, routine and occasional blandness, baseball always has a way of surprising us, so the door is always open for wackiness to ensue. 18. Who are the Cubs?Really. Who are the Cubs?When Chi-Town North won the World Series in 2016, there was some thought of a dynasty. A few years later, it’s been nothing but regression.The Cubs are still über-talented. Just look at the lineup: Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras are five of their eight projected starting position players. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be in contention in the division this year, or even for the NL pennant.Will David Ross be the guy to get Chicago back on the playoff track? The players love him, and not just because he was “Grandpa Rossy.” Ross was a guy who knew when to put his foot down and put boots to butts when he was a player, so that’s something that could be expected as he heads up the Cubs in 2020. A manager’s touch can go so far. There are few in MLB whose presence is felt and can truly change the outlook of a team. Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon are two (must be something about the name). We’re still unsure whether Ross will be that kind of manager.MORE: 20 things wrong with baseball in 202019. What will Trevor Bauer say next?This has been the most bizarre offseason storyline.Trevor Bauer turning face is as shocking as Hulk Hogan dropping a leg on Randy Savage’s head and joining the nWo. In the past, Bauer has been a lightning rod for controversy, but his public statements have always been more unwieldy than measured.This offseason, Bauer has been unleashed: He took shots at the Astros for their cheating stuff, he put pine tar on blast and he’s even put Rob Manfred in his crosshairs (well, who hasn’t, to be fair?). So expecting to go a full season without Bauer saying something else that’ll grab headlines, make us scratch our heads and furiously tweet our displeasure would be unwise. Bet the house on Bauer saying something else — but what will it be?20. Who are the Astros?This is it. This is the question of questions. The whole megillah. The whole ball of wax. The bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas, the whole shebang.No one — no one — can say with 100 percent certainty that they know who the Astros are and what they will be in 2020. On paper, they’re still a talented group; after all, guys like Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer don’t get drafted high if they suck.
…backed by FITUG, GTUC…no plans to attend conciliation talksBy Rupadai SeenaraineInfuriated by the remarks recently made by the junior Social Protection Minister Keith Scott, the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) is demanding an apology, adding that it confirms their conviction of the Labour Department’s position on the salary increase situation. It was reported in sections of the media that the Minister blatantly referred to the teachers as being “selfish and uncaring” because of their decision to strike for better wages and benefits. This remark triggered a response from the GTU, demanding that the Minister apologise for his choice of words.Speaking to a large gathering of teachers on Monday, GTU General Secretary, Coretta McDonald stated that this comes in light of the fact that the Union had expressed their uncertainty towards the Labour Department last week when asked to be the mediator in their dispute with the Education Ministry.“We serve an Almighty God and did you recognise what he did. He confused the Honourable Keith Scott and allowed him to make a statement in support of us. We said to them on Friday and Thursday, we have no faith in the Department of Labour and they were upset with us. They said we were disrespectful,” said McDonald as she charged the teachers to stand by their decision.She explained that the action by the Minister proves that their suspicions were accurate, and any decision taken by the department would have been biased or in favour of the Education Ministry during the process. Loud cheers emanated at GTU headquarters as the teachers pledged their support and acknowledged what was said.“Imagine the people who want to mediate in between this story already taking sides and then they want us, the teachers who would’ve created all professions to trust them,” the General Secretary added.At that time, McDonald sought to point out that they will uphold their decision towards the continuation of the strike with no intention or interest in attending the conciliation talks which were organised by the Ministry. It was further indicated that they have “forgiven” the Minister for his comments.“The Minister himself said it. So what else do we want? Do we want to go to conciliation? No, we’re not silly people. We are the educated ones. We’re teaching them. We will not retreat until respect is given to us. Teachers have always been caring but the boy get mix up with the words. We’ll forgive him. We understand that process.”Defending the actions to strike for increased salary and better benefits, it was repeated that educators are being subjected to minimal wages while performing beyond the call of duty. Additionally, the “selfish and” uncaring” remark does not mirror the performance of the students in both the primary and secondary levels.“We are being paid the lowest of the scale and imagine we’re ‘selfish and uncaring’ and every year Guyana topping at CSEC? This year we would’ve had improvements in Maths and English at CSEC and at the CSEC level,” the General Secretary posited.“Imagine our Labour Department will turn to say that teachers are selfish and uncaring. Where is our Minister Keith Scott when our nursery school teachers are present at 06:30h in the mornings? Where is the Honourable Nicolette Henry when our teachers are at school at 03:30h in the afternoon?” she questioned.Meanwhile, calls for an apology on the part of the Minister were also echoed from the Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Guyana (FITUG) and the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC), who asserted that Minister Scott’s statement required an apology.“This most astonishing statement by the Minister, who incidentally is responsible for the Department of Labour, is a clear demonstration of the Administration’s concern for the workers plight and troubles that have beset them in the era of the ‘Good Life’ coalition. The statement by the Minister, in our view, further unmasks the APNU/AFC Government and it reveals its true colours,” FITUG stated on Monday.An appeal was also made for the President David Granger to give ‘serious consideration and profound thought’ as to whether Scott is suited to serve as the political head of the Labour Department.Meanwhile, the GTUC said this is not the first time such utterances were made by the Minister and further sought to ask the perceptible question as to whether this is also a representation of the Government’s position on the matter.Educators from all corners of the country are currently protesting for ‘a liveable wage’ and they were seen protesting in front of schools, ministries and education departments on the first day of the academic year.