By Michael Burgner
The 2016 Major League Baseball season is almost to the halfway point and I think it’s high time to acknowledge all the young players rising to stardom this year. It seems as if for the first time in a long time there are a plethora of young players doing exceedingly well and taking the league by storm. There is new blood in the MLB led by the young arms and bats of players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Kris Bryant.
It seems there hasn’t been this great of an influx of talent since I was a young fan about 15 years ago. Back then there was Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Andy Pettite, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, and many others. Of those famed players I just named half were named and accused of taking PED’s. The best in the game, the heroes of baseball but most could not be trusted. Rodriguez and Pujols are still in the league but the others have since retired and moved out of the spotlight making way for the new age of baseball.
The steroid era plagued baseball for a long time because the stars of the game could not be trusted to be honest and play the game with the same respect the fans gave it. Now it appears most if not all of that bad blood and poor mentality are out of the league and in the past of America’s Pastime. A few may remain but the main focus now is on the new talent. It’s a class of players that young fans can be excited about, and it’s not just a couple of players it’s a wave of new players for fans to look up to.
This is exactly what baseball as a sport needs to grow and engage it’s young fans. Like all sports baseball is very much generational with everyone loving the top players of their time and passing down stories. The unfortunate issue with this for baseball is that, a generation of players is longer than in any other sport. The average career length is longer and those who are at the top typically have at least a 10-15 year career. People do not have great stories from the past generation and if they do it’s not unusual to hear “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was on steroids.”
That steroid generation or era of baseball has come to pass. Yes, people will always try to cheat the system but it appears that these new stars along with the new stricter policies in place by the MLB are prepared to play the sport with respect and heart and show the fans how baseball can be fun again. I wouldn’t be surprised if in another 5-10 years midway through this new generation of players baseball’s popularity resurges and once again becomes America’s pastime. That’s what I would like to see and I know I’ll be telling my kids about these guys for a long time.