Good, Bad, and In Between: The State of Baseball Entering 2018
The Yankees are back, the Marlins are in the midst of another organizational fire sale, and baseball has globalization in their sights. 2018 looks to be another interesting year in Major League Baseball featuring some good, some bad, and some in between.
As 2017 comes to a close, it is time to begin looking forward to Spring Training and the upcoming season. The game of baseball is at a crucial point in its history- never before has it been this different. So, as the calendar turns, what is the state of baseball heading into the new year?
The Yankees are BACK
The Bronx Bombers last won the World Series in 2009, which is roughly an eternity in Yankee Years. This year’s Yankees team has already brought back vibes of the Evil Empire, and the club should contend for the World Series behind the power bats of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
Love them or hate them, there is no in between. But one thing is certain: baseball is better when the Yankees are good. More eyes will be drawn to the game in order to cheer on or root against the most iconic franchise in North American sports. This set of youthful Yankees has quickly lost their innocence. Now, it’s time fulfill their role as the villains of baseball.
Stars are Shining
For a long time, it was well recognized that baseball needed to do a better job of marketing its stars. Its best players often got lost in public attention behind basketball and football players, even though the game is considered in the same tier of popularity. But as the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers continue to win and launch absurd amounts of home runs in the process, we are now seeing the sport better present us its greatest players.
The new crop of stars, like Judge and Cody Bellinger, are set to explode. Bryce Harper is emerging as one of the most recognizable athletes in the country. It’s imperative that the game takes advantage of these players and the impact they can have on growing the game both globally and domestically.
Mike Trout Will Finally Be Given a Worthy Stage
By re-signing outfielder Justin Upton, trading for second baseman Ian Kinsler, and adding prized free agents Zack Cozart and Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have finally complemented Mike Trout with adequate talent to compete for a postseason berth. In his career thus far, Trout has appeared in just three postseason games and won none.
Trout is undoubtedly the best player in baseball and deserves an opportunity to compete for a championship. It will be tough to top the defending World Series champion Houston Astros in the AL West, but perhaps the revamped Angels can give them a run for their money.
The Miami Marlins
Derek Jeter’s early tenure as an executive has been…questionable. Jeter has been mostly unavailable for the media, is shopping the team’s best players in an effort to shed payroll, and has already dealt reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton for seemingly pennies on the dollar. This is not what we expected from the Yankee legend.
In time, Jeter will need to prove that he has what it takes to run a baseball team. He is not there yet and it is quite apparent to all who are watching. Unless Jeter can bring back impressive hauls for Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto, this winter will mark a disastrous start to Jeter’s run as the man calling the shots in Miami.
Miguel Sano’s Sexual Assault Scandal
It was only a matter of time before the same rumblings of sexual misconduct in Hollywood entered the sports world and Minnesota Twins star Miguel Sano seems to be the first major case of such behavior in baseball. Sano has adamantly denied the accusations to this point, but it is tough to see the infielder not receiving a major hit to his public image moving forward.
Hopefully, Sano’s transgression is an isolated incident, but if we are to take away anything from the firestorm that is shocking the acting world, it’s that these cases are far too common.
Pace of Play
If Major League Baseball is ever to take a significant step forward and compete with the NBA and NFL, commissioner Rob Manfred needs to find a way to speed up the pace of play. Average MLB game length rose to 3 hours and 5 minutes in 2017, an all-time record.
A pitch clock, reduction in mound visits, and a limit on the number of pitchers a team can use in an inning are all worthwhile changes that Manfred could consider making. Baseball purists loathe discussion of such moves but should appreciate the places baseball could go if they are implemented.
To Be Determined…
Rumor has it baseball is considering putting teams in Montreal and Mexico City in an effort to increase the scope of the game globally. Manfred should take a page out of the NBA’s book and make an all-out effort to make sure MLB is consumed outside of the United States. Speeding up the pace of play and better marketing its stars would help with this dilemma.
With that said, it would not be in baseball’s best interest to expand. If anything, MLB would be better off by reducing the number of teams in each league, especially in markets such as Oakland and Tampa Bay that have consistently shown they are incapable of properly supporting a professional baseball franchise.
If the number of teams were to be reduced, it would shed some of the lesser talent that is flooding into the game’s highest level, especially in terms of pitching.
Bringing in the Younger Audience
And of course, all of this leads to the most important aspect of MLB’s agenda: bringing in the younger audience. Baseball is known to have the oldest core fan base of any major American sport, meaning that young people do not often flock to the game. It is up to Manfred to decide the future of the sport and implement strategies that will make kids fall in love with baseball once again.