The biggest surprises of 2021 in Major League Baseball
This year’s MLB season has been filled with unexpected twists and turns
Many of us would agree that watching our favorite team win at home is among the most memorable things that can happen in sport. Such occurrences are a personal matter, however – fans of the opposing team, many of whom will have travelled a significant distance to see their heroes in action, would probably much rather forget the defeat their team suffered on the field that day.
As far as wider communities and the history books are concerned, it is the huge upsets which are most likely to be remembered far into the future. Who could forget Mike Tyson’s shocking loss to James ‘Buster’ Douglas in 1990, Leicester City’s victory in the English Premier League in 2016, or Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan’s unbelievable defeat to unknown amateur James Cahill in the 2019 World Snooker Championships?
Although we have yet to see anything quite as shocking as these examples from the 2021 Major League Baseball season, several teams and players have already produced results that nobody saw coming. With the Trade Deadline now crossed, let’s take a look at the biggest upsets of the first half of the 2021 season.
San Francisco Giants take on the Dodgers & Padres
The Giants are one of three founding members of the National League West who have remained in the division since it was first created in 1969, right up to the present day. The two other active founding members are of course the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, both of whom received far more attention during the offseason than San Francisco.
That’s unsurprising considering that San Diego made two major signings, Yu Darivsh and Blake Snell, and Los Angeles were the winners of last season’s World Series title. The Giants, on the other hand, made almost no changes to the makeup of their team. As a result, the entire league was expecting great things from the Dodgers and Padres this year, and yet it is the Giants who are currently dominating with a stunning record of 53-30.
Let’s not forget, San Francisco have failed to find a winning record for the past four consecutive seasons. This year, the team is running amok over the NL West despite having few “big names” on their roster. Without question, nobody saw this one coming as a quick browse of the odds offered by Unibet Sportsbook proves.
The Dodgers and Padres continue to dominate the headlines along with many of the betting categories, suggesting that a significant number of gamblers still believe the Giants have a battle on their hands to maintain their lead for the rest of the season. Considering their performance so far though, the smart money could well be on the Giants this year.
Boston Red Sox shock their critics with stunning performances
One of the most exciting teams to watch this season has been Boston’s Red Sox. The team has been surprising the pundits in the best possible way, game after game, and was sat atop the American League East with an enviable record of 53-32 at the time of the trade deadline. Their total number of runs was similarly impressive at 435, with only the Houston Astros ahead in this metric with a count of 474.
The Tampa Bay Rays have since edged ahead, but the Red Sox continue to come out swinging every game and still look sure to find a place in the postseason for the first time since their league win in 2018.
Even those who aren’t fans of the Red Sox have admitted that they have been one of the most exciting teams to watch this year so far. If they can maintain their current level of performance, we should be in for some thrilling matchups towards the end of the year.
Alas, for every winner there must be a loser. Over in the American League Central, the Minnesota Twins have been struggling to find their feet this season, in a scenario that could be described as the polar opposite of what we have seen from Boston. The Twins were widely expected to be strong competition in their league this year, perhaps even among those most likely to collect a pennant.
Instead, Minnesota have put on one lackluster showing after another, leading to a bottom place position and record of 34-48 as of the mid-season. Their woes have only continued since then, with current standings of 51-66 placing them only two points higher than the Royals. I guess they could take comfort in the fact they are no longer bottom of the table – for now.
Whist the Twins will surely point to a recent spate of injuries as the reason for their less than stellar performance, that alone isn’t enough to justify such a weak showing. After two back-to-back American League Central wins, fans of the Twins could never have predicted such a poor showing in 2021.
Story by Catalin Constantin