As we look back at the year that was and ahead to the year that is to come, we begin to think of some of the top moments in various fields. For the MLB season, there were plenty of those, however, we’d like to focus on the things that surprised fans and media the most this year from the MLB.
5) New CBA Bans Smokeless Tobacco
This one came down recently after the MLB and its players’ association finished negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that will extend the labor peace between the two sides into the next decade. While much of the language in CBA’s is generally Greek to fans and media alike, this particular report of a new aspect of the CBA was immediately seized upon.
Understandably so. You can see what the MLB is trying to do here. They recognize that tobacco presents health risks and they don’t want the young fans who grow up watching the game to see their favorite players chewing tobacco. It’s essentially an attempt to keep the league’s image clean and family friendly.
On the flip side, there are many who say that the MLB shouldn’t have the ability to tell its players what they can and cannot do with regards to their own body and health as long as said products/choices are legal. It makes for an interesting study in the value of making the right PR-move versus fighting for labor rights. Here, the players essentially conceded the ability to make their own choice about tobacco in order to promote the league’s image. This was one of the more surprising developments to come out of the league this year.
4) Rick Porcello Wins AL CY Young Award
If you had told me at the beginning of the season that Porcello would win the Cy Young I would have said you were nuts and needed to lay off the coffee. Porcello has been a solid pitcher, but nothing more in his career. Then, suddenly, this year, his ERA drops nearly 50 points and he wins 20 games for the Red Sox. Every once in awhile we get these out of nowhere stories from certain pitchers with the game and that is certainly the case with Porcello who is unlikely to repeat his performance next season.
3) Andrew McCutchen’s Sudden Drop-Off In Performance
The Pirates missed out on the playoffs finishing 78-83 and a big regression in performance from their star center fielder was one of the main reasons why. Cutch had been performing at an MVP-level over the previous four seasons (he won the award in 23) and, at age 29, seemed to still be in the prime of his career. However, his numbers fell off a cliff as he hit just .256/.336/.430, which were all career-lows. He did hit 24 homers and recorded 79 RBI, but overall, it was a bad year. There were no reports that he was hurt or struggling through injuries either, which made the performance all the more odd.
2) Cleveland Indians Win AL, Fall Just Short of World Series
These next two spots are reserved for the teams that played in the World Series. While both are undeniably talented and among the best teams in the game, the history of the two franchises would, under normal circumstances, seem to suggest that they would fall short of the ultimate prize. The Indians, in the end, did, but man they made it entertaining. Terry Francona’s group was sustained in the first three quarters of the season by a starting rotation that was lights-out. Once a couple of their key starters got hurt, they shrugged it off and turned to a bullpen filled with the newly-acquired Andrew Miller along with mainstay Cody Allen to shut down games. For the most part, the Indians were expected to be a Wild Card team in spring training before dominating the AL and winning the AL Central.
1) Chicago Cubs Win The World Series
You can’t tell me you weren’t surprised to see the Cubs finally break their curse. Sure, they were loaded and looked to be the favorites coming into the season, but, they’re the Cubs. They would find a way to screw it up. It looked like they were about to in the World Series when they got down 3-1 to the Indians. The old “wait ’til next year” phrase was being dusted off by parents throughout the Chicago area. Then, the magical happened and they came back to win three straight games to win the World Series leaving the city in a state of prolonged euphoria and the rest of the sports world wondering if life even made sense anymore.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.