10 Ways MLB Has Drastically Changed in the 20 Years Since the 1994 Strike
Baseball has changed in all sorts of ways since the MLB strike in 1994.
The game is now an absurdly lucrative business both for the players and the owners. Over the past two decades, a number of teams have moved to new stadiums, and new technologies have transformed the way that fans follow their favorite clubs.
On the diamond, it's still the same game, but nobody has come close to accomplishing what Tony Gwynn did in the summer of 1994.
The Rise of the Defensive Shift
Defensive shifts are everywhere.
This new phenomenon has become so widespread that Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci suggested that the shifts should actually be outlawed, as you can watch in the MLB Network video above. Such a rule is unnecessary.
Against a hitter like Brandon Moss of the Oakland Athletics, a shift makes all sorts of sense. Just take a look at Moss' spray chart on Brooks Baseball. However, in general, shifts underestimate the bat control of big leaguers and their ability to hit to all fields. A player can also choose simply to drop down a well-placed bunt.
The Demise of the 20-Game Winner
There's no question that there are better ways to judge a pitcher than simply looking at wins and losses. But a starter doesn't hit the 20-win plateau by accident. To achieve that feat, a pitcher has to be consistently dominant over the course of the entire campaign.
In 1992, two years before the strike, five different starting pitchers accomplished that milestone. In 1993, five pitchers did it again (including three 22-game winners).
In recent seasons, the 20-win mark has proven far more elusive.
Last year, Adam Wainwright, who piled up 21 wins for the St. Louis Cardinals, was the only player to do it. This year, no pitcher has recorded more than 14 wins, which means there's a chance that nobody will join the exclusive club at all.
The Increased Policing of Performance-Enhancing Drug Users
It's difficult to pinpoint just when exactly performance-enhancing drugs began to flood into baseball. However, their usage definitely hit a high-water mark in the years immediately following the strike.
The great Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run battles and Barry Bonds' race to No. 73 were some of the top storylines that helped revitalize the game after the work stoppage.
Then, of course, came the backlash with many of those players' achievements questioned due to allegations of steroid use.
The Mitchell Report came first and later the Biogenesis scandal. Wave two of the Biogenesis mess could be looming. According to T.J. Quinn of ESPN, the DEA has been investigating five players who could be in violation of MLB's drug policy.
Admittedly, the league has moved at a glacial pace on this topic. However, baseball has gradually been policing what has been a rampant issue within the game.
The Wave of New Stadiums
There has been a lot of building going on since the strike.
Over the past 20 years, 60 percent of major league teams have moved into a new building, according to Irving Rein, Ben Shields and Adam Grossman of Forbes. As you can see above, the Atlanta Braves are the most recent club to begin working toward opening a new stadium
The team is set to move into a park in Cobb County at the start of the 2017 season, per HomeOfTheBraves.com. The Braves have only been playing at Turner Field, their current home, since 1997.
The Implementation of Instant Replay
The introduction of instant replay sure has been polarizing.
One of the most controversial aspects of the new system is how lengthy many of the replay reviews have been. That was certainly the case back on July 31, when a review involving the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins dragged on for six minutes and ten seconds, according to Marissa Payne of The Washington Post. The play, which was ultimately ruled in favor of the Reds, can be seen in the MLB.com video above.
Instant replay is here to stay, but baseball still has lots of work to do as it looks to perfect the new system.
The End of Work Stoppages
Under commissioner Bud Selig's watch, work stoppages have become a relic of the past.
From 1972 to 1995, baseball endured five strikes, per ESPN.com. However, over the past 20 years, there have been no such interruptions.
Part of the credit for that peace between the players and the owners goes to Selig himself. Another key factor is that baseball has become such big business that nobody is willing to let a strike or lockout get in the way of everybody cashing in.
According to FanGraphs, the current collective bargaining agreement runs through December 1, 2016. One of the early priorities for Selig's successor will be to broker a new deal.
The Astronomical Growth of Baseball as a Business
Business is booming.
MLB's revenue has shot up by 400 percent since the end of the strike, according to Irving Rein, Ben Shields and Adam Grossman of Forbes. As Maury Brown, who is also of Forbes, explains, baseball enjoyed a record revenue of over $8 billion in 2013, and this year that number should hit the $9 billion mark.
There are all sorts of reasons for the monstrous rise including the skillful marketing of stars like Derek Jeter, the influx of big-money TV deals and record attendance numbers. It also hasn't hurt that the league has done an impressive job of utilizing new technologies.
The Development of MLB Advanced Media
Take a trip over to the video section on MLB.com, and there's no end to the highlights you can watch. You can see Yoenis Cespedes smashing home runs or Andrew McCutchen running 20.2 mph to leg out an infield single.
It's all courtesy of the magic of MLB Advanced Media, which the league founded in 2001. MLBAM, which runs all of baseball's digital and mobile activities, is also a seriously profitable business. Accoridng to Maury Brown of Forbes, MLBAM will rake in $800 million in revenue this year and could top one billion by 2016
The Earning Power of the Players Has Gone Way Up
The players are also getting their share of the profits.
In 1994, the top earner in baseball was Bobby Bonilla, who was making $6.3 million for the New York Mets, according to SABR. This year, there are 180 players who make more than that figure, according to the calculations of USA Today.
The highest-paid player is Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who checks in with a salary of $28 million. His teammate Clayton Kershaw and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers will surpass that number when their new contract extensions kick in.
No More Assaults on .400
Tony Gwynn was hitting .394 on August 12, 1994 when the MLB season came to a crashing halt.
As Hall of Fame left-hander Tom Glavine explained to Bleacher Report's Scott Miller, Gwynn had the potential to hit .400 that year: "If anybody was going to do it, it would have been him. There was still a good chunk of the season left. That's one of the byproducts of the whole thing that you wish you could have seen play out."
Of course, Gwynn never got the chance to finish his run toward the milestone. Since then, no one has come near Gwynn's .394 mark. Larry Walker hit .379 for the Colorado Rockies in 1999, but his numbers were inflated by his .461 average at Coors Field.
The last major leaguer to hit over .400 was Ted Williams in 1941. There likely never be another player who comes closer to matching that than Gwynn did in 1994.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
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