Last season saw the Boston Red Sox win their third World Series in ten years, helping to heal a city shaken from the tragedy of the Boston Marathon. With David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava the Sox were able to out-hit the young, talented pitching of St. Louis.
This year, things will be different.
Major League Baseball, which has begun its spring pre-season, is clamping down on steroid use. The steroid era has dissipated, and so have the gargantuan slugging numbers of hitters like Bonds, McGwire, and now Rodriguez.
Baseball’s newest weapons are pitchers. Young, talented, raw, and fearless, stars emerged in last year’s playoffs.
Oakland’s 24-year-old gem Sonny Gray put on a show against one of the best offensive teams in the league in last year’s ALDS. Gray struck out 9 Detroit Tigers over eight innings of scoreless ball.
Then there was Michael Wacha of the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA last postseason.
Young pitchers like these are now dominating the scene of Major League Baseball. Clayton Kershaw, arguably the best the sport has to offer from the mound, is only 25.
This offseason Kershaw signed a 7-year contract for $215 million, which includes an opt-out clause after five years.
Kershaw told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick: “Anything longer, I would be overwhelmed to put up to the expectations of that. I want to know I will be at my absolute best.”
At 30.7 million a year, it’s the richest contract for a pitcher in the history of baseball, and it compares to what the LA Angels are reportedly offering 22-year-old Mike Trout, considered the best young hitter in the game.
According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN, after Masahiro Tanaka signed with the Yankees (for $155 million), owner Hal Steinbrenner commented, “We needed another quality starter.”
Even with all the money the Yankees have, they’re being hard pressed to win the arms race. There’s so much young pitching talent Steinbrenner cannot monopolize it.
Stephen Strasburg, Jose Fernandez and Chris Sale are a few other names that have now broken into the top 20 ranking of major-league pitchers. Each of them is 25 or younger.
Keep an eye on the young pitching talent throughout the majors this season. Look for the deepest starting rotation with the most young talent to take this year’s championship.