What lies ahead

These are the upcoming plans for Baseball’s Best (and Worst)

Welcome to the new year.

Yes, 2021 actually started with last Friday’s exciting screed about Arizona’s retired numbers, but that was a special occasion, a holiday. This is the first full week of the year, a time to take stock of what lies ahead. The perfect opportunity for a planning session, if you will.

Baseball’s Best (and Worst) is in the midst of two series that appear on alternate Fridays. My rundown of the best players of the 21st century (so far) will continue until early March, while my look at the uniforms retired by each franchise has advanced only as far as the Diamondbacks in alphabetical order. It will run until the fall.

And there’s a third series ahead, albeit a much shorter one. I have developed a formula to forecast the results of the 2021 season, based on recent outcomes. I will begin to roll out my predictions next Tuesday, focusing on one division at a time.

You’ll find the relevant schedules below, as well as links to the installments that have already been posted. I also intend to produce dozens of freestanding features in the months to come, but these series will dominate what remains of the 2020-2021 offseason.


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2021 previews

You’ve seen the fine-print warning on every television commercial and print advertisement for a stockbrokerage or a mutual fund: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

It’s something we all know to be true. Yet we’re also aware that stocks with successful records are more likely to do well in the future. They’re not guaranteed to prosper, but the odds are in their favor. Stocks that have struggled, on the other hand, will probably keep struggling.

I have developed a formula that extrapolates past performances to future results. It analyzes the 2018-2020 records of all major-league franchises, then compares them against the three-year marks for every club since the advent of free agency in 1976.

My aim is to identify teams from the past that endured the same three-season arcs being traveled by present-day clubs. I will then use the subsequent records of those old teams to predict the future courses of their 2021 equivalents. I offer no guarantee — there’s that word again — but I think you’ll find the results interesting, if nothing else.

And I promise to come back at the end of the season to match the accuracy of my formula against the predictions made by the experts.

Here’s the division-by-division schedule:

  • January 12: American League East

  • January 19: American League Central

  • January 26: American League West

  • February 2: National League East

  • February 9: National League Central

  • February 16: National League West

Best of the 21st century

I have been issuing my position-by-position rankings of the best players of the 21st century — the first 21 seasons of it, anyway — since mid-October.

If you missed any of the previous installments, here are the links:

That leaves five positions to be covered, beginning with center fielders this Friday. The series will wrap up just as spring training gets in gear — if, of course, spring training starts on time. Here is what lies ahead:

  • January 8: Center fielders

  • January 22: Right fielders

  • February 5: Designated hitters

  • February 19: Starting pitchers

  • March 5: Relief pitchers

Retired numbers

My third and final series is already almost four months old, and it is nowhere near completion. I’m writing about the uniform numbers retired by each franchise, while offering my (modest) suggestions of additional players and managers who deserve similar honors.

I have covered nine of the 30 franchises so far. Here are the links:

I’m proceeding in alphabetical order of team nicknames, as you’ve probably noticed. That means the Los Angeles Dodgers are next up, appearing in the middle of the month. We should be on the cusp of the World Series when the final entry is posted.

This is the remaining schedule:

  • January 15: Dodgers

  • January 29: Giants

  • February 12: Indians

  • February 26: Mariners

  • March 12: Marlins

  • March 26: Mets

  • April 9: Nationals

  • April 23: Orioles

  • May 7: Padres

  • May 21: Phillies

  • June 4: Pirates

  • June 18: Rangers

  • July 2: Rays

  • July 16: Red Sox

  • July 30: Reds

  • August 13: Rockies

  • August 27: Royals

  • September 10: Tigers

  • September 24: Twins

  • October 8: White Sox

  • October 22: Yankees