From crude version of rounders and cricket, to the more sophisticated transformation, the game of baseball has seen many lows and highs. Major Leagues have a steady statistical data that allows managers and players to formulate best winning strategies for their leagues.
Mid-80 to 1990s: Highs and Lows
In 1985, there was a two-day strike over sharing out of television revenue money. A long 32-day boycott during spring season took place in 1992. The protest was for renewal of salary structure and benefits. The owners held negotiations but it led to little success. The crucial point was reached with the extended standoff with the agreement expiring. There was no new agreement to replace the same.
In 90s, baseball entered a new era. It had become a new game. A player strike in 1994-95 resulted in two jumbled seasons and for the first time since 1904, the cancellation of a World Series in 1994. Following in the steps of professional football leagues, we saw Major League Baseball provided for a wild-card team to compete in the divisional championship series of each league (1994) and experimented for the first time in its history with inter-league play (1997).
The baseball world witnessed Major League Baseball expand into new markets in 1990s with four new teams joining them. Major League Baseball followed the steps of professional football and experimented with inter-league play for the first time in 1997.
The Florida Marlins became the first wild card team to win the championship. Players from Latin America found their way to the league contributing to more than 20 per cent from Latin America, Mexico and the Caribbean basin. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks were brought together in 1998, the Arizona Diamondbacks being the younger generation franchise to win the championship
Late 90s saw the game conquered by Yankees who won a spectacular four out of the five World Series from 1996-2000. In the 1998 and 1999, the high home run sum of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa broke records of seasonal barriers established by Babe Ruth and Roger Maris.
A Game of Shadows?
Growing competitions and big advertisement and money lead to high pressure and stress for players to perform their level best. The unfortunate history points towards some Major League players who turned to drugs like ephedra and steroids for performance. Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent circulated a memo banning drugs in 1991.
Major League Baseball was believed to be lenient with anti-drug policies, especially steroids. Baseball was doing well in records and it did not intend to bring bad name to the sport again. Most players refused harsh testing, common in other major league sports as well as in the international sports society.
Commissioner Bud Selig forced a severe anti-drug policy upon its minor league players. To discourage the practise, indiscriminate drug testing, and strict penalties were imposed for those caught. In 2002, retired Ken Caminiti confessed use of steroids during National League winning 1996 season and later as well. He died due to heart attack in at the age of 41in October 2004. Jose Canseco in 2005 published a book admitting steroid usage. He mentioned the prevalent use of drugs all through Major League baseball. After the Congress decided to investigate the matter, big names such as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, and Mark McGwire have come forth.
The era of allegations are marked with depression. The spirit of the game lies in baseball being a sport that brings the Americas together on a common ground.
While playing for power and money have added to some inglorious moments, there are many starry events attached to the game that keeps it alive and beating.