With Christmas morning in the books and Santa back safely in the North Pole, it’s time to start reflecting on the previous year and look ahead to 2017. From a baseball perspective, there was both sadness in 2016 and hope for 2017 and the future of the sport.
No doubt the worst part of the MLB season was hearing about the death of rising star Jose Fernandez and two of his friends.
We were treated to one of the best World Series if not of all time, at least since the 2001 World Series. The Chicago Cubs won for the first time since 1908 of course, and with their victory gave hope to many other franchise’s who hope to turn the tide themselves.
As a San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves dual-fan, I suffered through easily the lowest combined season record of both teams. Yet even that saw glimmers of hope (particularly for the Braves) at least. Dansby Swanson made his MLB debut, alongside a career year of franchise cornerstone Freddie Freeman, and this off-season securing CF Ender Inciarte for at least five more seasons. With young pitching up their ears, the Braves NOW could be at worst in 2018, at best 2017 could see them competing with Washington and New York as they open up new SunTrust Park.
Meanwhile the Padres debuted ballyhooed prospects Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe first at the Futures Game at Petco Park and then in September cups of coffee. The Padres managed to damper that optimism early in the off-season when General Manager A.J. Preller was suspended a month for tampering with injury reports used in trades to help build up that farm system. The long term ramifications remain to be seen – but early on teams seem a little more reticent to trade with the team south of Los Angeles.
On the positive side, MLB and their players came to terms on another Collective Bargaining Agreement. Despite some concerns about just pushing some items forward to the future than actually dealing with now, it is definitely a good time as the sport sees attendance, viewership, and overall revenues continue to increase.
Baseball continues to rid itself of steroid stigma and has also taken a leading role in its domestic violence program – showing no discrimination in how it is applied and to whom. Star player or not.
The balance between the rich markets and poor markets is still certainly there, but the Indians made it to the World Series with a very modest payroll and teams are getting more creative. MLB continues to bring up young rising stars, and Mike Trout continues to show at a young age that he could become one of the all time greats. The Cubs won the World Series, and have a strong young core that looks to make another run in 2017 and well beyond.
It’s a good time to be a baseball fan. Spring Training will be here before we know it!