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Here’s to 2017

by Matt Smith

I’ve been on a writing hiatus since October, leaving the incredible World Series to speak for itself, allowing the Collective Bargaining Agreement process to play-out and letting the first couple of months of an underwhelming free agent class pass by without comment.

It’s tough when the baseball season comes to an end because it’s such an all-encompassing endeavour, watching games every day, that the absence of any action really hits hard and all of the transaction rumours feel like a very poor substitute.

It’s a hard stretch of cold turkey, but things always seem brighter once we’ve enjoyed the hot turkey at Christmas and the calendar flips to a new year. We’re in 2017 now and that means the 2017 baseball season is officially on its way.

I’ve put together some plans to get the website back into fighting shape so that there will once again be regular features on MLB and British baseball, in a way that I haven’t been able to dedicate myself to for the last two or three seasons, and I’m really excited about all that there will be to enjoy this year.

So, why not start off 2017 by looking at things we won’t enjoy this year?

No Great Britain team in the World Baseball Classic

Watching Great Britain in the WBC qualifier last September was one of my baseball highlights of 2016. It would have been brilliant to be sat here now looking forward to Liam Carroll’s team heading to Seoul, Korea, competing in the WBC full tournament for the first time.

Unfortunately, despite a great effort to make the final, Israel were worthy winners of the qualifying tournament and it is they who will be joining South Korea, Chinese Taipei and the Netherlands in Pool A.

However that tinge of disappointment won’t stop me enjoying the WBC event. Every year we all get a week into Spring Training and then remember how long a month March always feels waiting for the ‘real’ games to get going. The WBC provides genuine passion and excitement and gives the month a completely different tone.

Anticipation for the event really starts to escalate at this time of year as the rosters start to take shape, with the United States team in particularly looking to have more leading players (at this stage at least) than in previous tournaments. It’s sure to be another thrilling event and one that will kick off the baseball season in style.

No MLB game in London

The high hopes that MLB games would be played in London during 2017 were dashed in the middle of last season when it was announced that this would be postponed. It was easy to be despondent and to wonder if the dream would ever become a reality.

Thankfully, the Collective Bargaining Agreement concluded in December eased those fears with a clear commitment from MLB owners and players in respect of playing games outside of the U.S. and with London being specifically mentioned.

Reports just before Christmas put forward the tantalising prospect of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry heading to London in 2018. Logic suggests that east coast teams are more likely to make the trip and bringing across a ‘big’ team or two would be important in selling the event from a public relations point of view (much as us baseball enthusiasts would love any MLB teams to come here).

My guess is if there are games played here in 2018 then they will be Tampa Bay Rays home games against a team like the Yankees or Red Sox, purely on the basis that they have the lowest home attendance in MLB (an average of 15,878 in 2016), with a potential Yankees-Red Sox match-up (or Mets-Nationals) as a follow-up event a year or two later.

No 100+ year Cubs World Series drought to write about

Where there is a pleasure there is pain and sadly for Chicago’s north-siders the joy of their World Series win in 2016 means they can no longer embrace their ‘lovable losers’ status.

I’m sure their fans are absolutely devastated by that!

As I write this, the lead story on ESPN’s MLB page is a fun open letter to Cubs fans speaking for Yankees and Red Sox fans.

The Boston comparison is the most meaningful because they were similarly under the fabled spell of a curse. The long wait for a World Series was a part of being a Red Sox fan, just as it was for the Cubs, and whilst Boston fans no doubt will be quick to confirm that winning isn’t all bad, it will take some adjusting to for fans in Chicago.

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