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Is Major League Baseball’s Longevity in Question?
2013 will mark the first time in 17 years that not a single player received the required amount of votes to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and the first time since 1965 that none of the inductees will be living for the ceremony. This year's ballot included 2 players who hold home run records in Bonds and McGwire, and a 7 time Cy Young winning pitcher in Roger Clemens, who all could have arguably been passed over due to suspected ties to performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), but also included a member of the 3,000 hit club in Craig Biggio who has never been linked to PEDs in his carrier. This begs the question, are the voters just angry with the PED era athletes and taking it out on the rest of this inductee class, or has even those closest to the game become bored with the accomplishments of the best the game has to offer?
The emergence of PED era athletes has certainly dealt a damaging blow to opinions of many of the games older fan base, who cannot see the use of a controlled substance as anything other than to gain a competitive edge by cheating. But even the younger fans have begun to shun these pharmaceutically enhance players as cheaters thanks to a concerted effort by the MLB to take a strong stand against its use. The publication of the Mitchell Report in 2007 and the federal indictment of Roger Clemens in 2010 seem like it would all but assure that baseball would lose its title as Americas past time. The fact that the MLB viewership has seen a constant decline since the 2007 report was released seemed to support this hypothesis.
It seems however, that despite all this negative publicity and lack of television viewers has not driven the fans away from the stadiums. The MLB announced that 2012 saw a 2 percent increase in game attendance from 2011, and that 9 teams drew in more than 3 million attendees. The Yankees were the AL attendance leaders which could be expected, but the Texas Rangers saw a franchise record and the Reds, Pirates, and Nationals all saw the best attendance numbers since their stadiums opening seasons.
It seems then, that even with teams like the mighty New York Yankees attempting to cut payrolls and remain under the $189 Million luxury tax line in 2014, fans will go to games. What they are going to see may not be the same as it was in the old days. Defensive states and good games being valued above all else slowly give way to alcohol fueled cheers for more runs and long balls into centerfield, but the fans are there for another generation. So maybe it is not baseball's longevity, but its integrity that will suffer, but only time will tell.