It is July 10th, 2013. I’m sitting in my basement watching ESPN’s edition of “Wednesday Night Baseball” between the Oakland A’s and the Pittsburgh Pirates. You read that right. You’re probably thinking two things right now. First thought is why, of all things am I watching these two teams and second, why would ESPN want to feature the A’s and the Pirates? 4 years ago if I told you I was doing the same exact thing you’d probably recommend your family’s psychologist to me for torturing myself by watching these two teams. Ah, how the game has changed.
Now the Pirates have one of the best records in the league and are trying to erase a quarter of a century’s worth of losing in one year. The A’s on the other-hand, have done nothing but win with a TEAM Payroll that earns less than most of the the stars in the league. If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball then you know that Billy Beane is the most genius GM this game has ever seen. To simply put it, the game has changed and for the better. No, we don’t see the long ball as often as we use to, or pitchers hitting triple digits on the radar gun consistently. Instead the league has an abundant amount of young stars across the country that once again make Baseball interesting again. The Steroid Age might not be fully over thanks to Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez among others, but a step in the right direction, absolutely.
Major League Baseball for the past 20 years garnered the reputation of huge, bulky men that could hit 50 plus home runs in a season. Guys like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds etc. were the face of the league for better or for worse. Sure it was entertaining but now that the public has learned so much about performance-enhancing drugs, that decade is frowned upon and has an asterisk next to it. Here enters the new age. In this age, the great players are five tool players. Guys who can hit for power and average, run, field, throw better than everyone in the league. Every decade or so, Baseball will get two or three of these guys. Now it has at least ten. Bryce Harper,Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, Andrew McCutchen, Yoenis Cespedes, Adam Jones, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, David Wright and Carlos Gonzalez are just a few of many. Franchises used to draft First Baseman who could hit it a mile and do nothing else. Now, if you want to be great you have to do it all and then some.
There’s no doubt the best player in the game is Miguel Cabrera who once again could win the triple-crown for the 2nd year in a row, that is after it hadn’t been won 50 years before him. This year he’s hitting .366 with 29 home runs and 93 RBI’s before the All-Star Break. Put that into perspective for a moment, those numbers are better than most guys career years and he has done all that before the All-Star break. But he isn’t alone. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout came into the league together and in 15 years will leave as future Hall of Famers. Yeah they’re that good. Trout almost won AL MVP as a rookie last year and Bryce Harper might go down as one of the best left-handed batters the league has seen. Too far? Maybe when you’re considering Griffey, Ruth and Williams, but he has the potential. Then there is Yasiel Puig, or in other words L.A.’s savior from the Lakers for awhile.
He blasted on to the scene on June 3rd and since then has completely changed the Dodgers and Baseball. He is 6′ 4″ and every bit of his 235 pound frame, doesn’t speak a lick of English but is fluent in everything Baseball. His numbers up to this point have been unreal. He has 55 hits in 34 games, batting .394 with 8 homers and 19 batted in. But that’s not what makes Dodger fans put down everything they’re doing to watch every single one of his At bats. It’s the fact he has 5 tools in his Arsenal and each are all Hall of Fame material, so far. Of all the great stats that he has recorded in just a month and change, none mean more to the Dodgers than this. Since he arrived on June 3rd, the Dodgers were 8.5 games out of 1st place and were headed for one of the most disappointing season in their storied History. Today the Dodgers are one of the hottest teams in Baseball and are only a game out of 1st. Here is what he did in the month of June alone…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xYwQTjWwNU. Even though he sadly did not make the All-Star team (a damn shame) he will enjoy plenty in what looks to be a very long and highlight filled career, L.A. or America for that matter, can only hope.
Baseball is on the long road to recovery. After all the dark years of PED and drug usage, Baseball is getting back to what it made it great. 5 tool players who are as charismatic as the cities they live in. From Cano to Puig, Cabrera to McCutchen and everywhere else in between, Baseball is back from the past and has a bright future.