2016 was quite a year for Major League Baseball.
To recap, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last fall, breaking a historic 108 year drought; elite relievers became baseball’s hot commodity at the trade deadline, with Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller fetching monster prospect packages; the Cubs and Indians utilized Chapman and Miller in nontraditional ways during the playoffs, potentially leading to a change in how the game is managed; Bartolo Colon hit his first career home run; and three teams were sanctioned for cheating over the course of the last season, bringing about heavy penalties.
And that is not it. For the first time, a game was played on a military base and active veterans were invited to the game free of charge; Red Sox legend David Ortiz played his last season, while future White Sox star Yoan Moncada played his first; Zach Britton went 43 games without allowing an earned run, the longest streak since earned runs became an official, recorded statistic; former NFL Quarterback Tim Tebow was signed to a minor league contract by the Mets; star pitcher Jose Fernandez passed away in a boating accident; and Jenrry Mejía, was banned permanently from baseball after failing a third test for performance-enhancing drugs.
Needless to say, this last year in baseball was full of intriguing storylines with highs and lows. This past Sunday was opening day for baseball, and things are already off to a hot start.
Madison Bumgarner became the first pitcher to hit two home runs on opening day. Home runs and strikeouts have the potential to reach all-time highs this season, and Rob Manfred has expressed interest in downsizing the strike zone to combat baseball’s strikeout problem.
One thing to watch this season will be the Mets star-studded rotation. Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Jacob DeGrom, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey are all potential aces. However all five of the players also present injury concerns, with Matz already on the disabled list. With health and all five playing up to par, the Mets could have a historically good rotation. On the other hand, the Royals and Marlins will enter their first seasons without stars Yordano Ventura and Jose Fernandez, both whom were killed in accidents in the past year.
Also of note: the MLB is continuing to regulate pace-of-play rules and will further this by allowing automatic intentional walks; the Indians look to seek redemption for losing the World Series; the Cubs look to repeat; and this will be the first season with new rules surrounding free agent compensation picks, making impending free agent players less valuable to rebuilding teams and more likely to be dealt at the trade deadline.
Another exciting season is on its way, with many surprises yet to come. Injuries, breakout seasons, rule changes, shocking trades and new management trends might be in 2017’s future. Hopefully, this season will be as entertaining to fans as 2016 was, although it will admittedly be difficult to live up to.
Personally, I will be looking forward to three hours of entertainment a night watching my hometown Padres struggle their way through the season and hopefully lock up the first overall pick. On the bright side, young players like Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe and Austin Hedges will be playing their first full seasons. That and the fact that there is just something about sitting down and watching a baseball game just can’t be beat.