By Kevin White
Back in February of 2017, the beginnings of the new Major League Baseball (MLB) season were only in the early stages of development. The Grapefruit league in Florida brought together the powerhouse teams of the east, including the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals. The Cactus League in Arizona brought the previous World Series contenders, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, back together to play just three months after the Cubs historic season ended with a title.
Back in February, little speculation was offered as to what 2017 would bring. Another Cubs championship? A pitching-dominated league? A new rookie to wow both young and old lovers of the game? No one could give certainty to any of these speculations back in Florida and Arizona. No one could guess the record-setting year that 2017 would bring to Major League Baseball.
2017 was a year of records for both home-runs and strikeouts in the league. According to MLB.com, 6,105 home runs were hit throughout the entirety of this past season. In addition, pitchers this year amounted to 40,105 strikeouts. Both statistics were records for the league, and both shed light on the growing strength of the hitters and pitchers in the league.
“The 2017 season was a fantastic season if you are a fan of the long ball,” sophomore Destin Newfont (Barnardsville, North Carolina) said. He offered insight into the historic rate of home runs hit this season, a rate that shocks both long-time and newly-minted watchers of the game. “There were many impressive pitching performances this year, but you have to acknowledge that the damage done by the major league mashers this year outshone those pitching performances,” he added.
The success of teams throughout the season also added to an exciting season full of wins and records for some teams in the league. The Cleveland Indians, back from a loss in the world series last year, won 22 games in a row. They captured the all-time record for most consecutive wins and ended the season with a league best 102-60 record. In addition, two other teams (Houston and Los Angeles) both had over 100 wins on the season. The ability to win games has certainly been increasing as a commonplace accords the league.
In addition to some great team success, the league saw popular rookies jump into the spotlight with their power and success at the plate. Most notable was Aaron Judge, who set the record for most home runs by a rookie in a season with 52. Not to mention his destruction in the Home Run Derby back in July, down in Miami. The likes of Cody Bellinger, who hit 39 homers and ended the season with an On Base + Slugging (OPS) of .933 deserves equal recognition as a talented young gun in the league.
“Especially from this season, there is a lot of young talent around the league. Getting to watch Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger and et cetera,” Sophomore Ryoto Nishino (Seattle, Washington) said. The dominance of the young players in the league is certainly something that has a strong hold on the game for the coming seasons.
In other storylines, the Houston Astros continued their dominance in the American League by starting the season 42-16 and cruising to an ALCS appearance. The Arizona Diamondbacks surprisingly won 93 games after losing that many last season, and are back to play October baseball this season. The Colorado Rockies, for the first time since 2009, also made playoff appearance.
In addition to the success of hitters and individual young players, the game of baseball sent some great players to Cooperstown. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez were all inducted into the halls of history in New York this season.
As for the local baseball pride on campus, the Mariners provided an entertaining season amounting in frustration and disappointment.
“Unfortunately, we did not make the playoffs again. I really did think we had a great chance to make the playoffs before the season began, but losing major pitchers in the rotation hindered our chances,” Nishino said.
With this year’s hopes dashed, it’s never too early to look towards the future, as Nishino added. “I do believe though, that with some healthy arms in the rotation, and a solid lineup, we do have a chance next year.”
As for fans reaching to the east for a team to throw their support behind, junior Ben Shapiro (Rancho Palos Verdes, California) was pleasantly surprised by the New York Yankees season and their postseason prospects. “Being a Yankee fan I want to see them take the world series. People thought it was a rebuilding year for them, but they have definitely proved everyone wrong so far,” Shapiro said.
Despite all the excitement surrounding the game and the players as the season draws to an end, MLB is facing concerns with regards to game length and especially fan safety. “I’d love for the MLB to continue to tinker with ways to shorten games,” Newfont said, acknowledging a popular sentiment of not wanting to constantly sit through three-hour affairs in front of the TV or perhaps from the nosebleeds up at Safeco Field in Seattle.
As for the remainder of the season, both Nishino and Newfont have differing opinions as the playoffs progress. Nishino sees the Houston Astros as contenders, with a competitive NL race between the Dodgers and Nationals. Newfont sees a repeat of last year’s series, with the Cubs once again taking the title from the Indians.
“I like the Cubs to repeat in a rematch of last year slightly more efficiently. I think Cubs in six this year with starting pitching ultimately giving them the edge,” Newfont said.
Whether or not the 2017 postseason lives up to the excitement of October and November baseball, the season that preceded it gave avid fans and casual watchers something to cheer about for months on end. More home runs, more wins and more fun being had both on the field and in the stadium can only lead to great things in the future of the MLB.