Here's to you, 2015, the start of the new baseball era
By JON ALBA
College Contributor Network
The baseball season is among the longest in professional sports, yet every year seems to float by. Opening Day is broken up by the All-Star break, and before a ball can sail into McCovey Cove, the world champion is celebrating on parade floats.
Make no doubt about it, 2014 was a special one for Major League Baseball. The cementing of a new legacy, a passing of the torch from one departing pinstriper to an Angel in the outfield. We saw perhaps the single greatest postseason performance ever, by a Bum nonetheless, and the latest installment of the Sabean dynasty.
But 2015 turns the page in the ever-growing book of baseball. As Robert Manfred steps into the box as the next commissioner of Major League Baseball, Allan Huber "Bud" Selig rides off into the farms of Wisconsin at the tender age of 80. And with Selig goes one of the most controversial eras in the sports' history.
While Selig may not have "owned up" to his blunders, his legacy changed the course of the game forever.
There will never be another commissioner like Selig, for better or for worse. In Selig's tenure, the game flourished to unprecedented levels of popularity and revenue. Two teams were threatened with contraction, one of which ended up relocating from an area to which baseball now wants to return.
And then there were the steroids.
But this piece is not to critique Selig. Instead, it is to bring forth the notion it is time to accept this period as what it was. And even with its mistakes, it gave us some special things too.
Speaking of the steroids, like it or not, there is no indication of a boom period for hitters in the new era, or at least, anytime soon. While we blast and become outraged in hindsight, without the home run explosion, many fans of the game today would not be here. There was perhaps never a more enjoyable time for the casual fan to catch a glimpse of a seemingly average-size man blasting a ball 500 feet into the abyss. And its frequency is something that will be hard to come by going forward.
The San Francisco Giants have come close, but no team is currently built to recapture the dynasty success of the 1998-2000 New York Yankees. No cavalry of players assembled in today's game will be put to the test with a Hall of Famer manager like Joe Torre. For that matter, there may never be another group of three managers assembled for one Hall of Fame ballot like seen this past year.
The Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera retirement tours may have had more stops than the Eagles' "Farewell I Tour" (still waiting for "Farewell II," by the way), but that is more indicative of the respect the two men earned from others in the game. Some could argue Jeter maintained a near cult-of-personality-esque mantra in a way never seen before: through silence and humbleness. Rivera on the other hand, became a trailblazer for relievers, and while others like Trevor Hoffman came close to his prowess in that era, Rivera set a standard those in the future will have a difficult time following.
During Selig's time as commissioner, four men won their 300th game. I say emphatically and confidently that amount of players completing such a feat in one tenure will never be seen again, and some would argue 300 wins is a dying statistic. In the new era of specialized relievers and shifts, would it be crazy to suggest a Hall of Fame-monitored statistic become one's WHIP? What about ERA+?
And of course, who could forget Moneyball? While Brad Pitt played a great Billy Beane, Beane's 2014 season wasn't exactly made for Hollywood.
In controversy, the past 22 years have seen a growth in new stadium output as well, often at the expense of the taxpayers. As the owners during Selig's run places an emphasis on aesthetics and luxury, with modern marvels like PNC Park, AT&T Park and Oriole Park at Camden Yards coming to fruition, others have bid farewell. Though the departures of the multi-purpose stadiums of yesteryear may not upset all that many, the ruins of Yankee Stadium and Tiger Stadium tell a different story.
In this era, a World Series drought dating back to 1907 was broken, and a curse cast upon one squad in 1918 was lifted. Yet still, one exists. Maybe 2015 or 2016 will play favorites for them, though.
So a toast to you, Major League Baseball. An entire generation has grown up in the shadow of scandal, tragedy and triumph. Like it or not, change is in the air, and 2015 will ring in not just unfulfilled new year resolutions, but thankfully, promises of a new era for the sport. One dominated by names like Trout, Abreu, Bryant and Castillo.
Let's play ball.
Jon Alba is a senior at Quinnipiac University. There he serves as general manager of the school's television station, Q30 Television. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAlbaSFC