2010s A Call to Arms
For nearly a generation, major league pitchers found themselves out of luck as they dealt with synthetically enhanced sluggers, shrinking ballparks and chicks who dig the long ball.
The 2010s would be their time for vengeance.
The balance was restored and, as the decade progressed, tipped in favor of the pitchers as baseball’s crackdown on steroids and amphetamines made mortals of once-fearsome sluggers now striking out at near-epidemic proportions, walking less and hitting at the lowest levels seen since before the designated hitter. The new kings of the hill weren’t just limited to the aces, though they’re was plenty of representation to be found with the baffling Clayton Kershaw, the majestic Felix Hernandez and the tireless Adam Wainwright, to name just a few; even when opposing teams managed to break these guys down, they’d still have to scratch and claw their way through a seemingly endless line of relievers dialing up a mix of high-90s heat and slick off-speed deliveries that often made them look clueless.
Whether baseball would tweak the rules to jumpstart the offense remained in question by mid-decade, but the inclination to change was more alive than ever as the Lords began taking the rulebook off read-only mode. The most assertive alteration came with the arrival of comprehensive video review, which essentially left every close call on the field (sans balls and strikes) subject to replay. Halting the action to get it right only exacerbated baseball’s other growing problem of the decade, that of longer games as the average time per contest breezed past the three-hour mark.
The rules of chasing revenue off the field also changed. With all but a handful of teams having been content maximizing profits in their modern ballparks, a new edge was sought; it was found in massive regional television pacts that guaranteed copious annual payouts. The Los Angeles Dodgers, sold in 2012 for a record-smashing $2.15 billion, quickly justified the expense by reaching agreement on a long-term local TV deal averaging over $300 million a year. On a league-wide basis, baseball’s other cash cow was provided through its self-created MLB Advanced Media, which centrally controlled all 30 team web sites, provided coverage of all games through its popular mlb.tv streaming service and, after ten years of operation, was said to be worth well into the billions.
Between the lines, the early-decade success of the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals underscored the current-day ethos of mind over batter. Within these organizations, the star boomer was eschewed and egos checked at the clubhouse door; it was all about carefully crafted roster chemistry, cultivated from the top amid the shrewd sages of the front office down to the dugout and the street-smart guidance of the managers. Just as importantly for the Giants and Cardinals—who combined to take four of the first five World Series in the 2010s—it was also about exceptional pitching that helped make their victory parades possible. For it was the hurlers, not the hitters, who now hogged the limelight.
Back to the 2000s: Driven Deep to Disgrace The new century gives Major League Baseball a decidedly more international flavor with a healthy rise in foreign-born talent—but a disturbing pall is cast over the sport as one megastar after another is exposed for using steroids.
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