Your squad isn't going to the MLB playoffs? The No. 1 offseason question for each eliminated team

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

In life, "E" sometimes is the symbol for effort. In the MLB standings, an "E" stands for something you don't want, that you don't brag about and in which you get no solace: elimination. When the 2021 regular season ended on Sunday, 20 of the 30 teams across the majors donned that "E" on their standings line, and they've headed home to watch the postseason with the rest of us.

When the World Series is over, questions about the expiring collective bargaining agreement will loom over teams, players, fans and reporters alike. They will loom over any of the fun baseball stuff that we usually love to track over the hot stove season. This year's hot stove might heat up like normal, or it may be slow to reach a serviceable temperature, or it may end up on the fritz. We just don't know.

Eventually, we hope, all of that will get settled and there will be a 2022 season, and teams will have to prepare for it. For the clubs that missed the playoffs, those preparations will begin this week, if they haven't already. At the center of each team's scheme will be a plan, a list of objectives, and atop of all those lists will be an item No. 1 -- the most important question that will chart the offseason course for that team.

For the teams sporting the dreaded "E," here's a glimpse at how those top-line questions might read.