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Sunday, November 6, 2011
The MLB Season In Review Has Been Posted (From An Unlikely Source)
In the past I've posted season in reviews from ESPN and MLB. This time I found it from Bleacher Report. Thanks to Bleacher Report! Enjoy:
The 2011 MLB season officially came to an end with the St. Louis Cardinals beating the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.
It was a series that will undoubtedly go down in the annals of baseball history as one of the most intense and exciting ever, and it was a very fitting end to a year of baseball that is definitely worth remembering.
The final out marked the end of a great season that featured more than one memorable moment. Even though the play on the diamond is done, the memories will stick with us baseball fans for a very long time.
2011 was a season that saw incredible performances from some big name pitchers, hitters and teams.
We saw no-hitters, record breaking moments, walk-off home runs and games that will forever go down as classics.
More than one young star was born, but even the veterans stepped up to show us that the old guard is still alive and well.
One thing we do know is that if 2012 is anything like the 2011 season, we are in for quite a treat.
As a service to you, the reader, we here at the Bleacher Report Sports Writing Internship have reminisced about some of the greatest moments of 2011.
Whether it's Derek Jeter or Jim Thome setting records with their bats, Justin Verlander dominating the league with his rocket arm or one of the most exciting and dramatic finishes to the season we have seen in a long time.
There was a lot to love about the 2011 MLB season.
On August 19, 2011 Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts finally made the move that all of Cubs nation was waiting for:
He fired General Manager Jim Hendry. Hallelujah!
That day was when the speculation would begin. Who was next? It has to be Theo Epstein, Andrew Friedman or Brian Cashman, right? They are going to want to come to Chicago, no doubt about it.
For about two months speculation grew. The New York Yankees were dominating the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays were catching up and the Boston Red Sox were having turmoil September.
Then on the last day of the regular season, the Boston Red Sox lost to the Baltimore Orioles while at the same time the Rays had just beaten the Yankees. That was it; the Red Sox were out of the playoffs.
A few days later, Terry Francona was dismissed as manager and the speculation about Epstein was growing. As soon as anyone could say it, Tom Ricketts and the Cubs had already begun to make their move.
Many things were coming together at once. The Cubs pursuit of Epstein had just begun. While in Boston, news was being released about the fall of the Boston Red Sox, relating to issues of beer and fried chicken in the locker room. Honestly, not a huge deal, but it looks like The Colonel was the scapegoat of 2011. It was only the beginning of the downfall that surrounded what was known "KFC-gate."
With all the negative news surrounding the Red Sox in the media, they were looking to shake things up, and the first thing they did was they "mutually" parted ways with their longtime manager. Following Francona’s dismissal; they allowed Epstein to talk with the Cubs.
Were the Red Sox critics and possibly even ownership blaming the beer and fried chicken on the guys who were essentially running the team? It looks like it. The Red Sox were not going to make it easy though, considering Epstein was still under contract for 2012.
After discussing things with the Cubs’ organization, Epstein agreed to a five-year deal on October 12, 2011. While Epstein officially resigned from the Red Sox on October 21, discussions are still going on between the Cubs and Red Sox in terms of compensation.
At the end of the day, the Chicago Cubs got their guy. Hopefully that guy will make a dramatic change on the North Side for 2012.
Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals gave their fans an exciting ride on the way to winning the 2011 World Series. One of these games will go down in the history books as a baseball classic. This was the fifth and deciding game of the National League Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
In poker, four aces beat one ace, but this is not always the case in baseball.
It was widely anticipated that the Philadelphia Phillies with their four aces: Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hammels and Roy Oswalt would dominate through the initial playoff rounds and again make it to the World Series.
Lee has one Cy Young award, Halladay has two, Hammels was the MVP of the 2008 World Series and Oswalt had 150 career wins before joining the Phillies.
But the Cardinals one ace, Chris Carpenter, pitched a gem in that deciding game and outdueled Halladay.
This game was reminiscent of the classics of the past, involving Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson or Juan Marichal.
Rafael Furcal led off the game with a triple and scored on a double by Skip Schumaker. Lance Berkman reached base on catcher's interference as the Cardinals threatened to score more. But Halladay retired the next two batters to end the inning. Halladay and Carpenter matched each other for the next two hours of work.
Carpenter retired the Phillies in order in four of the first eight innings and the tension mounted as the game progressed. During the regular season Carpenter had led all pitchers with 237 innings pitched. At age 36, it was not clear how much gas was left in his tank in the cool fall evening.
The Phillies had the meat of their order due up in the ninth: Utley, Pence, Howard and potentially Victorino. Utley and Victorino between them had the only three hits the Phillies had managed to get off Carpenter.
Would Tony La Russa stick with Carpenter, or turn to his bullpen?
This bullpen almost cost the Cardinals their playoff spot by blowing a four-run lead against the Mets in the ninth inning two weeks earlier.
Utley brought the Philly crowd to their feet with a long drive to center field, but it was hauled in short of the fence. Pence grounded out weakly to third.
So it was all left up to the Phillies' super star Ryan Howard, with 286 career home runs and more than 100 RBI in each of the last six years.
Power on power, this is what makes baseball history. With a flick of the bat or a check swing, Howard could easily launch the ball into the seats in right field. Howard works the count to 2-2. Carpenter has to come in with a strike so he doesn't fall behind 3-2.
The crowd is on their feet and waving the white rally towels. Carpenter delivers the pitch, and Howard hits a ground ball to second and in the process of running to first rips his Achilles tendon and collapses in the base path.
So there you have it: one ace beats four aces.
Before the movie Moneyball came out...
Before second baseman Jemile Weeks got called up...
The Oakland Athletics manufactured their own excitement.
The “Gold Jersey Win Streak.”
From June 15th to June 21st, the A’s put together a six game win streak that started and ended with their brand new gold jerseys.
At the start of the 2011 season, the A’s unveiled a new bright yellow retro-style jersey. Lefty All-Star Gio Gonzalez quickly became a huge fan of them and had the team wear them for almost every start he made this past year.
On June, 15th lefty Josh Outman, one of the few players in the league who still wears traditional stirrups, decided to wear the gold jersey. He beat the Kansas City Royals 2-1.
The next night, Gonzalez had the team wear the gold jersey again, and the A’s won again.
The next night, another gold jersey and another win, and then another, and another.
The A’s had swept the World Champion San Francisco Giants in the Battle of the Bay.
But a road trip began the next day—the A’s were heading to New York to face the Mets. The gold jerseys hadn’t made a road trip and everyone on the team wanted to know if they would get to New York.
As a surprise, the equipment manager unveiled them in the locker room on the 21st and Outman, being a typical superstitious baseball player, had the team don the uniforms yet again.
He led the A’s to a 7-3 victory.
But just like all streaks, this one had to end at some point. The next night, the A’s fell to the Mets 3-2, gold jersey and all.
The pitching wasn't the only part of the team that was golden—they outscored their opponents 28-13.
The A’s were running on all cylinders.
For those six games, the A’s were as exciting as ever.
hey bought into themselves as a team and played great baseball. If they can stay healthy and do that for a whole season, look out for the A’s in 2012.
Gold jerseys or not.
The Los Angeles Dodgers 2011 season was a great year for individual accolades and a disastrous one for the organization.
The team was dragged through the media mud this season due to the divorce between owner Frank McCourt and his now ex-wife Jamie, who is also the former Dodgers' CEO. What a mess this continues to be, but it appears to be coming to an ugly end.
The Dodgers took another hit from the media on Opening Day after an opposing fan, Bryan Stow was beaten by two Dodgers' fans outside of Dodgers' Stadium. Stow, a San Francisco Giants' fan, was beaten so badly he remained in a coma for months.
This story is still making news, most recently because Dodgers' lawyers, paid by owner Frank McCourt, are trying to argue that Stow is partly in fault for his near fatal beating.
It's somewhat of a miracle that the Dodgers finished the season with an 82-79 record.
The only positive press the Dodgers received all season was on the field. MLB was the mediator in the McCourt’s dispute and actually took over custody of the orphaned franchise. With the divorce now finalized, the question now turns to whether or not McCourt will remain owner because of monetary reasons.
Despite this brutal divorce and negative attention in the press with the Stow case, there were plenty of Dodgers' moments in 2011 that impressed.
For starters, right fielder Andre Ethier made his best attempt at dethroning Joe Dimaggio for all-time longest MLB hitting streak. While Dimaggio's 56-game streak may never be touched, Ethier made a valiant effort with 30 straight games that ended in early May.
While Ethier looked like an MVP candidate at the time, it's center fielder Matt Kemp who should take home the honors when announced.
Kemp ended the season with a .324 batting average. His 39 home runs, 126 RBI, 115 runs and 353 total bases were all first in the National League. Kemp also led all MLB players in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 10. He also had 40 steals on the season.
This shows his worth, as without him the Dodgers would've easily have been under .500.
Another bright spot for the Dodgers was 23-year-old left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw. He finished tied for first in the NL with 21 wins, sported a 2.28 ERA, which was best in the bigs, and struck out 248 batters.
One of the most memorable Dodgers’ moments for the season came on May 29 versus the Florida Marlins. Ethier and Kemp combined for four hits and two runs while Kershaw threw a complete game shutout as he only allowed two hits and struck out 10 Marlins’ batters. The best part, Kershaw himself went 2-for-4 at the plate and added an RBI. The Dodgers won 8-0 that day, as Kershaw beat the Marlins by himself.
Kershaw recently won the Warren Spahn Award for being baseball's best lefty and will most likely be named the NL Cy Young winner. At only 23, Dodgers fans have to be excited with their future with their young stud.
For better or worse, 2011 was a memorable season for the Dodgers, and 2012 is something to be excited about.
For years, everyone in around the MLB knew it was coming, and in 2011 it finally happened. The Chicago Cubs’ eccentric starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano finally officially broke down and got out. It was only a year ago that Zambrano beat up an innocent Gatorade machine and took shots at his innocent teammate and fan favorite Derrek Lee. In the end though, we all saw this coming. The Gatorade machine raised so much craze that the Cubs actually had to have the machine removed from the dugout.
You may be asking yourself, how does the mental collapse of a “star” player qualify as one of the Chicago Cubs’ greatest moments of 2011? Well, let me tell you why. Zambrano was clearly unstable, and I wish him the best, but there was nothing positive about the guy. Sure, at times he was a great pitcher, but more times then not he was a head case that continually put the Cubs’ into the headlines negatively.
I mean the guy had to go into anger management last year. Not to offend anyone, but obviously it shows how stable the guy is. I give him all the kudos in the world for trying to make an effort to better himself and his teammates, but ultimately it just wasn’t going to happen. Even after the therapy, he continued to insult in 2011 teammates, calling them worse then minor league players.
How do you trade a guy like this? You can’t! Nobody is going to want him, even if the Cubs were to eat up a good portion of his salary because he is just pure poison to any clubhouse.
On August 12, 2011, Zambrano finally took his last bow. After being ejected from a game against the Atlanta Braves, Zambrano went ahead and told many people that he was retiring and went on to empty out his locker and leave the Cubs’ locker room.
Remind you of anyone?
Yep, that would be the great Sammy Sosa. Sosa made the same move back in 2004. Ironically, it was against the Atlanta Braves. Sosa never played for the Chicago Cubs again. The same is likely for Zambrano. That incident resulted in the suspension of Zambrano, and the last anyone had ever seen of him on the North Side.
Luckily for the Cubs, one guy may be willing to take on Zambrano. That would be the recently hired Marlins’ manager and long time nut case Ozzie Guillen.
Hopefully if Guillen takes Zambrano, we will see the return of the Cubs stability and perhaps the return of the Gatorade machine.
Travis Hafner’s walk-off grand slam against the Toronto Blue Jays truly epitomized the 2011 Cleveland Indians. On July 7, 2011, the Tribe was riding a hot hand consisting of come-from-behind victories, excellent pitching and solid offensive production.
Like Hafner’s memorable blast, it was all too good to be true.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Indians trailed the lowly Blue Jays 4-0. Following an RBI single by Asdrubal Cabrera, the bases were loaded and the stage was set for a miraculous end to an otherwise dreary evening in Cleveland, Ohio.
The fans had, for the most part, already cleared out of Progressive Field after eight innings of uninspired baseball by the Cuyahoga warriors.
My friends were among those departed.
Sitting in my bedroom while deployed overseas, I relished I was able to watch the game at all and didn’t abandon hope.
Next up for the Tribe, now trailing 4-1 was designated hitter Travis “Pronk” Hafner. Hafner took no time, driving the first pitch deep into the right field seats.
The blast was coined “Pronkslam” by a Tribe fan and lives on as the most memorable moment of 2011.
Cleveland Indians’ broadcaster Tom Hamilton’s call of the play will go down as one of the all-time best calls in the game.
Hamilton’s reaction sparked a flurry following the game. Fans took to Twitter and many other social media outlets, describing it as “chilling” and as Hamilton’s “best ever.”
I saw it and listened to it live, then watched the clip 20 more times the next day.
The 2011 MLB season produced a number of memorable moments cemented in history. From Albert Pujols’ three home run World Series game, to a multiple of no-hitters and even a 19-inning game, none top the single most memorable moment of the 2011 MLB season
To be honest, it had been a long time coming-and everybody knew it was coming. In his chase for his 3,000th career hit, Derek Jeter had been riding a rough road.
He had been in a slump the majority of the first half of the season and had missed 20 games after being placed on the disabled list on June 13th. Pressure had been building on Jeter, who had wanted to reach the record in the Bronx, for the hometown fans and family.
On July 9th in the Bronx, Jeter wrote his name in the record books. Derek Jeter joined the 3,000 hit club. He became the 28th player in baseball history to complete the milestone and surprisingly, the first Yankee to reach the plateau.
The milestone and his performance throughout that July 9thgame made it even more of a memorable moment. Jeter went 5-for-5 in the game, as he hit No. 3,000, a home run, against Tampa Bay’s David Price. Eventually, Jeter recorded the go-ahead base hit to secure the 5-4 victory against Tampa.
Being the first New York Yankee to achieve the 3,000-hit club, the Bronx stopped the game for four spectacular minutes to salute their captain. One of the most consistent and clutch players of all time, Jeter competed with one team, in one position, for his entire career.
The unfortunate thing about the Jeter moment? It truly didn’t receive the national respect and notoriety it should have. Sure, we saw the highlights on ESPN, but was the moment really captured and revered?
No, but it should have. Reaching 3,000 hits with one team and one position for almost 20 years? Going 5-for-5 while hitting 3,000 with a home run? Reaching 3,000 in the Bronx in front of his fanbase? It sounds like Derek Jeter’s 3,000th career hit is the single most memorable moment of the 2011 MLB season
One game this MLB season reminded me of the uniqueness and beauty of baseball. While in the thick of the NL Wild-Card race, the eventual World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals blew a six-run ninth-inning lead to lose to the New York Mets.
You can't take a knee to run out the clock, you can't just keep flipping the puck out to the mid-ice, you have to record all 27 outs to get the win.
This game occurred on Sept. 22. The St. Louis Cardinals were playing at home against the New York Mets, who were eager to wrap up another dismal year.
The Cardinals were riding a four-game winning streak, had won the first two games of the series and were in a tight battle with the Atlanta Braves for the wild-card spot.
Heading into the ninth inning, the Cardinals had a six-run lead. Closer Jason Motte was brought in to get the last three outs, but a funny thing happened on the way to a quick finish.
First there is a walk, an error and then a fly-ball out. Jason Pridie is up next and walks to load the bases. The tieing run at the plate is Justin Turner, who has been pretty good in clutch situations this year. Turner walks to drive in a run and Motte heads to the showers. Marc Rzepczynski is brought in to face Jose Reyes, but he only lasts two pitches, as Reyes singles to make the score 6-4.
Next Fernando Salas is brought in to pitch to Ruben Tejada, who should be overmatched in this situation. But, instead Tejada rips a double deep down the left field line to tie the score. Jose Pagan gets the free pass to load the basis for David Wright.
As a clear sign of how the Mets' season has gone, the opposition walks someone intentionally to get to the cleanup hitter. So appropriately, of course, Wright strikes out. Up comes Willie Harris, who has bounced around six teams in the last decade and is batting under .250 this year for the Mets. Harris works a 2-2 count, then smacks a single to center field, scoring Reyes and Tejada, giving the Mets an 8-6 lead.
The Cardinals are so stunned they go down feebly against Bobby Parnell in the bottom of the ninth. The Cardinals, of course went on to win the Wild Card anyway, and then eventually the World Series.
Games like this keep baseball fans coming back for more each year. A hockey team rarely comes back from a three goal deficit in the seventh game of a playoff series, unless it is the Philadelphia Flyers against the Boston Bruins.
A football team rarely comes back from a 21-point deficit, unless it is the Philadelphia Eagles playing a team whose punter does not understand what it means to kick the ball out of bounds. But in baseball, things like this can happen any day.
Somehow I think if Ernie Banks were playing in this baseball game, despite the lateness of the hour, he might have exclaimed, "Let's play two!"
Despite not being playoff teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants played four of the best games of the 2011 season.
The Dodgers had many problems throughout the year, headlined by the divorce of owners Frank and Jaime McCourt. But there were four very bright spots during the season for the Boys of Summer.
Four times in the past year, lefty Clayton Kershaw faced off against Tim Lincecum.
They are two of the best pitchers in the game. Lincecum already has won the Cy Young award twice at the age of 27. Kershaw is only 23 and is the favorite to win this year’s Cy Young.
Their four battles this year lived up to their pedigrees.
Both pitchers threw spectacularly in their four starts. Lincecum posted a 1.24 ERA and Kershaw had an amazing 0.30 ERA.
In four picture-perfect pitcher’s duels, the final scores were 2-1, 1-0, 2-1 and 2-1. Kershaw and the Dodgers won each of those games—bolstering Kershaw’s record and helping his cause for the 2011 Cy Young.
Two of the biggest matchups between them came on March 31st and Sept. 20th—their first and last games against each other in 2011.
Both were memorable wins for the Dodgers.
The first, on Opening Day, gave the Dodgers a sense of hope for the new year by taking down their hated rival, the reigning champions. The season didn’t turn out the way that they wanted it, but it was an exciting start.
Kershaw’s last win against the Giants’ lefty was a big personal victory for the young Dodger. It was his 20th victory of the year—seven more than his previous career high. The win kept him on pace to be the leader in wins in the National League and he finished the year on top with 21 wins.
The four wins didn’t end up mattering a whole lot in the grand scheme of things for the Dodgers. But on those two afternoons and two nights, fans were treated to some of the best baseball around.
A good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander's 2011 season was one for the ages. The 28-year-old right-handed pitcher annihilated the competition this season.
2011 was the year that Verlander went from a very good pitcher to a great pitcher. Truth be told, he made it look easy, but what he did was anything but simple.
Verlander's stats for the season are somewhat mind boggling. Watching him pitch this year was like stepping into a baseball time warp for three-plus hours every five days. He is truly a classic throwback MLB player.
For starters, Verlander made 34 starts in the regular season, each of which he threw 100-plus pitches. That is unheard of these days. He presents a certain aura about him that commands attention. He gets thoroughly upset with himself every time he allows a base runner, hates to lose and expects nothing less than the best out of himself every trip to the mound.
Verlander finished the season with the most wins, 24, best win percentage, .828, most innings pitched, 251, most strikeouts, 250, lowest ERA, 2.40, lowest opposing batting average, .192, and best WHIP, .92. Verlander even impressed in the new-age baseball stats, leading the American League in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at 8.5.
This impressive list seemingly goes forever. Then again, he seemingly never came out of a game.
Verlander's shortest outing on the year was six innings, in which he did this eight times, but only three times after the All-Star break. He pitched eight-plus innings a remarkable 14 times. If one were to look up the definition of "workhorse" in the dictionary, pitcher of Justin Verlander would be present.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland hardly managed Verlander. Most days he let his ace call the shots.
Most impressively, Verlander lost his first game after the All-Star break on July 15—he didn't lose another game for the rest of the season. The Tigers have been known to struggle in the second half of the season, but behind Verlander they flourished to a 46-24 record.
He's one of those guys that his teammates never want to let down—they can sense they're playing with greatness.
Verlander's most memorable moment in 2011 was his no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 7. His performance that day proves his dominance. It was the second no-hit effort of his six-year career. To go along with his no-hitter, he allowed three hits or less in eight other outings. Wow.
He's a shoe-in for AL Cy Young this year and has made his case for AL MVP. If he wins MVP, he'll be the pitcher since Dennis Eckersley in 1992 to do so.
Verlander took his game to a level rarely seen in baseball this season—he also took his team to the playoffs. Although he and the Tigers were washed out before they accomplished their ultimate goal, that's all the motivation Justin Verlander needs to continue his domination for years to come.
This was the greatest day in regular season baseball history.
We as fans are often accused of forgetting the context which events take place in, but it is hard to argue that Sept. 28, 2011, was not the greatest day in any MLB season.
All the Boston Red Sox had to do was beat Baltimore.
Being a Tampa Bay Rays fan, my outlook was bleak. We were facing the Yankees while the Sox got lowly Baltimore.
As the Red Sox made it through each inning with their one run lead, time was seemingly running out for Rays’ fans. With two innings left, the outs were quickly piling up.
But then the Rays offense, which had been anemic all season, exploded for six runs. We were back in it.
The sports world’s attention turned to “The Trop” as Boston and Baltimore were stuck in a rain delay. At least if the Sox won, they would be tired the next day due to playing so late.
In Baltimore, Red Sox Nation already began to think about playing a tie-breaker the next day as Jonathan Papelbon struck out the first two batters he faced. Then things began to fall apart.
A pair of doubles tied the game up. Robet Andino ended the game and Boston’s season with a bloop single that fell just out of the reach of Carl Crawford.
Minutes later Evan Longoria was up to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning. Nothing seemed special about the at-bat. Longoria didn’t seem to be under any sense of urgency, and if you wouldn’t have known about the situation, you’d guess this was just another at-bat.
Almost as if he knew the world was watching, Longoria blasted a line drive over the short left field wall that sent into the postseason.
The Rays came back from a seven run deficit, scored the tying run on their last strike and won on a homerun in the 12th inning. A fitting end to baseball’s biggest comeback.