June 3, 2010 will always stand out in my mind.
It was the day that Ken Griffey Jr. retired from baseball. Griffey was the last guy who, in my opinion, was a real star in baseball. Don’t get me wrong, Derek Jeter is still the biggest star in the sport. Albert Pujols can put some butts in the seats. Josh Hamilton is a paralyzing story that is hard not to follow. Miguel Cabrera seems to be on pace to run the major leagues for the next decade.
Baseball has it’s share of “baseball stars” but right now, nobody is touching Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. There is no LeBron James or Kevin Durant, whose jersey you see in every state of this great country. Even in hockey, non-fans know Sidney Crosby is the best player in the league.
That is where baseball is hurting — stars.
Think about this: Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown for the first time since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. I will do the math for you — that is 45 years since that has ever been done. It was a story, but it sure wasn’t the kind of story as it would be if Griffey did it a decade earlier. Why is this? Why are the stars not as popular today as they were in the late 90s and early 2000s?
The big names of the 90s caused much of us to watch them on television. No offense to him, but Chris Davis is not must-watch TV, no matter how close to Roger Maris he gets to. Barry Bonds is a player I hated, but I watched. Every home run he hit was something almost magical.
Put the whole “steroid era” aside, and it’s not hard to see that these players were something more than that. The Mark McGwires, the Sammy Sosas, the Griffeys and Bonds were the kind of stars that the public needs to see. If baseball want people to tune in, then they need these kinds of players.
They’re coming. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are already superstars, and they are 22 and 20 years old respectively. Andrew McCutchen has single-handedly brought the Pittsburgh Pirates franchise back from the dead.
Manny Machado just became old enough to drink, yet he is astonishing in his ability. Wil Myers is making the Kansas City Royals look silly for trading him for James Shields, who is pitching very well. Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler have New York Mets fans talking about how they can’t wait for the future. Yasiel Puig just took the league by storm with his Los Angeles Dodgers and their epic turnaround.
That is only the beginning of the influx of serious talent coming into the league. Baseball is in some very good hands. In due time, it will once again be must-see TV. When the World Series is underlined by the Trout and Jered Weaver vs. Harper and Stephen Strasburg, that will be the height of this sport. The day is coming soon when baseball will rival basketball, and even football, in the amount of airtime they receive on the big networks.
MLB is almost on its way back, and they have the upcoming clean stars to thank.