While fans in Philadelphia may wish to hold on to the feeling, the 2008 MLB season can be slipped into the history books, and the rest of the baseball world can focus on the 2009 season.
And, truth be told, any person working in MLB will tell you, the season never really ends, it’s just that its internal seasons shift, much like winter to spring.
This off-season and coming year are going to offer up some things that are different – that exciting “different” you get when you sell off the old car for new. Call it that “new MLB season smell.”
So, while you stare out the window like Ray Kinsella waiting for something to happen over the winter to your field of dreams, here’s a list of items that will make you say that 2009 will be great for Major League Baseball.
Ticket Prices – If you haven’t noticed already, Bud Selig and the owners aren’t poo-pooing the economic downturn and are scaling ticket prices to try and get you to keep coming to the games. That could give you a reason to say that saving for a couple of games in 2009 is worth it. Now, if only we could get Bud and the owners to work on lowering the price of beer.
GMs Using Their Poker Faces – It will be hurry up for some, and sit back and see who’s left over for others, but there will be more strategy involved in trades and FA acquisitions this season due to the economy. Some clubs will certainly be taking a wait-and-see approach to deals, looking to see how paid attendance turns out. As one long-time baseball executive said, “Forecasting how attendance will be in June is like trying predict the weather 6 months out. You pray for sunshine, but prepare for rain. If a good deal is there, we’ll chase it. But, we may be less likely to do so early in the off-season, and wait to see how our season is progressing and whether we’re in a better position to make a move after the All-Star break.”
Rays Watching – Some will say that the Rays were this year’s version of the Rockies. Others say that they’re more than just a flash in the pan. Regardless, the AL East has suddenly become more than just the Red Sox and Yankees. Heaven forbid, baseball fans, the AL East may no longer be two-dimensional.
The MLB Network will give fans
something to root for in 2009 before
a single pitch has been thrown.
I Want My MLB Network! – Before the 2009 season even starts, we'll get more baseball than ever on television. January 1, rain, snow, or shine, baseball fans will get a 24/7/365 dose of MLB, and on basic cable, no less. The new MLB Network will get you 26 more games a season on the net, plus historical footage that has never seen the airwaves. Baseball junkies, unite!
Out with the Old New York, In with the New New York – MLB will role out more pretty shiny playthings in 2009 when both the Yankees and Mets unveil new stadiums. How many camera views will there be of the Hard Rock Cafe in new Yankee Stadium? How many references to Ebbets Field will there be when Citi Field opens? While the passing of history, especially for Yankee Stadium, is bitter sweet, admit it: These will give us something new to talk about long before any possible Mets season collapse, or wheelbarrows full of cash are thrown at free agents that pan out or crash for the Yankees.
Baseball and the World Look to Get Classic Again – The 2006 inaugural World Baseball Classic wound up being more than a hokey marketing ploy, it really did wind up living up to the hype, and became “classic” in a metaphorical sense while still in its infancy. Fans loved it, so much so that tickets were hard to come by and merchandise sold out. This year, the WBC will give baseball fans something exciting to watch early in the year when the MLB season is just coming out of its slumber.
Every Movie Needs an Antagonist – Forget George Steinbrenner and the Yankees, the real Evil Empire is the Florida Marlins. Okay, maybe they're not worthy of the “Empire” moniker, but they certainly know how to make you want to hiss. It wasn’t bad enough that the Marlins posted a ridiculous $21,811,500 in Opening Day payroll this year, they get to host the second round of the WBC, which means more revenues that will most likely never get spent on player payroll. Add in a grievance filed by the Players Association against the Marlins for reportedly not paying the full per diem to 13 players on the DL in spring training in Jupiter, FL, this past year. Reportedly, the Marlins called Jupiter their “home market” and worked the loophole so that players were only paid the full per diem when on the road. It will be interesting in 2009 to see if hissing at the Marlins becomes a national pastime.
The Sale of the Cubs – Will Mark Cuban storm the castle? Will the sale be over $1 billion? Probably no on both, but that doesn't mean that the sale of one of MLB's most storied franchises won't be something to watch in 2009... and maybe 2010... or maybe...
Less of the Blackout Blues? – Don’t hold your breath, but maybe, just maybe, those arcane blackout restrictions that have made Las Vegas a Dodgers, Angels, A’s, Padres, Giants, D-Backs market might be addressed at the local and regional level, and the chorus of cursing by those who purchase MLB Extra Innings may die down a bit.
Obama, the White Sox, and the Nationals – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that a new president will take the helm of the country on Jan. 20. Barack Obama may be more of a basketball lover than a baseball lover, but the truth is that he loves sports. Eyes will undoubtedly be fixed to televisions when he throws out the first pitch at U.S. Cellular Field, and, hopefully, Nationals Park to see if he throws a strike or a ball and creates a metaphorical debate about how he will run the country.